Reuters | | Posted by Krishna Priya Pallavi, Cairo

Egypt welcomed home a 3,400-year-old statue depicting the head of King Ramses II after it was stolen and smuggled out of the country more than three decades ago, the country’s antiquities ministry said on Sunday. The statue is now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo but not on display. The artefact will be restored, the ministry said in a statement.

A section of a limestone statue of Ramses II unearthed by an Egyptian-US archaeological mission in El Ashmunein, south of the Egyptian city of Minya, Egypt in this handout image released on March 4, 2024. (Reuters)

The statue of the head of King Ramses II was stolen from the Ramses II temple in the ancient city of Abydos in Southern Egypt more than three decades ago. The exact date is not known, but Shaaban Abdel Gawad, who heads Egypt’s antiquities repatriation department, said the piece is estimated to have been stolen in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

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Egyptian authorities spotted the artefact when it was offered for sale in an exhibition in London in 2013. It moved to several other countries before reaching Switzerland, according to the antiquities ministry.

“This head is part of a group of statues depicting King Ramses II seated alongside a number of Egyptian deities,” Abdel Gawad said.

Ramses II is one of ancient Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs. Also known as Ramses the Great, he was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt and ruled from 1279 to 1213 BC.

The size of the statue when combined with its lower section, which was unearthed decades ago, would reach about 7 metres.

Egypt collaborated with Swiss authorities to establish its rightful ownership. Switzerland handed over the statue to the Egyptian embassy in Bern last year, but it was only recently that Egypt brought the artefact home.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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