Stolen Egyptian Art Returned

Stolen Egyptian Art Returned
Stolen Egyptian Art Returned

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Stolen Egyptian Art Returned

Part 1

Charlton, A. (2011). France to return “stolen” Egyptian art after Louvre row. Huffington Post

This article reports on how the culture minister of France agreed to give back a total of 5 painted wall fragments to the North African nation of Egypt following a row regarding their ownership which prompted Egypt to cut links with France’s Louvre Museum. The painted wall fragments were initially obtained from a tomb aged about 3,200 years close to Luxor, the ancient temple city (Charlton, 2011).

Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s antiquities chief, severed links with Louvre Museum until this Museum returned those stolen artifacts as he had vowed to restore links only after the 5 artwork pieces were taken back to Egypt by the Museum. This was one of most insistent and hard line efforts by this Egyptian official aimed at reclaiming stolen Egyptian antiquities and bought by major museums across the globe (Charlton, 2011).

The 5 wall fragments had been stolen by thieves from the tomb and sold to Louvre Museum in 2000 and 2003. After ties were cut by Hawass, France’s minister of culture and Louvre Museum both agreed to take the artwork pieces back to Egypt. However, it is important to note that France’s Louvre Museum had acquired the art pieces in good faith and the decision to take them back was a reflection of the Museum’s and France’s commitment to firm action against unlawful trade of cultural goods (Charlton, 2011).

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Part 2

The returning of the pieces of fragments by Louvre Museum to Egypt is without doubt the ending of a chapter for those stolen Egyptian artifacts. Even so, this could as well be the start of several other restitution claims by other countries that have seen how Egypt was able to successfully get back its stolen artifacts from a leading museum in France (Bailey, 2011).

Art theft is a highly profitable crime. Even though comparatively few art thefts actually make headlines internationally, Interpol (2016) reported that every year, hundreds of thousands of art crimes are reported globally. It is notable that some art thefts are more prominent than other art thefts because of the motives behind the art theft, the immense size of the value, or because of how the theft occurred.

The illegal trading in artworks is sustained by the opening of international borders, the demand from the artworks market, the political instability of some nations, as well as the improvement in transportation systems (Interpol, 2016). 

The theft of significant pieces of art usually robs a social group, a family, a church or a country of invaluable piece of its cultural heritage. Nonetheless, stolen artwork has at all times been a big seller on the international black market – secretive and unlawful selling and trading of different goods. The trade of stolen artwork is a huge business which has in fact generated in excess of $1 billion annually in sales over the last decade (Interpol, 2016).

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Only an estimated fifteen percent of stolen artwork is ever recovered, usually very many years after its disappearance. Since the robbers, traders and buyers of the looted artwork usually cover their actions in great secrecy, it is often very hard for law enforcement agencies to recover looted art and restore them to their lawful owners. Difficulties in getting a stolen piece of art are made worse given that antiquities and arts can be easily smuggled across international borders.

Thanks to such transfers, tracking the transport is usually hard for law enforcement agencies. Cases of looted pieces of artwork usually drag on for long time periods, and in fact, 90% of all looted artwork cases remain unsolved because of the secrecy which cloaks trading of stolen art in the global artwork world (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 2016).        

Returning a country’s stolen artwork or looted cultural heritage serves to promote goodwill with foreign citizens and governments, whilst safeguarding the world’s cultural heritage as well as knowledge of previous civilizations (Archaeological Institute of America, 2011). The crime of stealing and trafficking artworks and cultural heritage is essentially a practice that is as ancient as the cultures which they represent.

The only thing that has changed is the capacity of cultural pirates to get hold of valuable cultural property and art, transport and sell them stealthily, without difficulty and quickly (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 2016). Art criminals operate on an international scale without any regard for nationalities, borders, laws or the worth of the treasures which they smuggle.

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In conclusion, the illegal trafficking of cultural heritage and artwork is a transnational crime and only an estimated 15% of the looted artwork is ever recovered and taken back to their rightful owners. Stolen cultural objects and artworks should be returned to their original countries since they are invaluable pieces of the country’s cultural heritage.

Taking them back will also help in promoting goodwill with foreign governments. When cultural property and artworks that are reported as stolen in other countries are brought into the United States unlawfully, they need to be seized according to the United States customs law.


Archaeological Institute of America. (2011). AIA joins the international coalition to protect Egyptian antiquities. AIA.

Bailey, M. (2011).  Egypt: Looting headaches for promoted Hawass. London, England: Umberto Allemandi & Co. Publishing.

Charlton, A. (2011). France to return “stolen” Egyptian art after Louvre row. TheWorldPost. Retrieved from

Interpol. (2016). Works of art. Retrieved from

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (2016). Cultural property, art and antiquities investigations. Retrieved from  

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