Judge rules mummy mask can stay in US

2012-04-05 20:46

St Louis - A 3 200-year-old Egyptian mummy's mask can stay at a US museum, a federal judge has ruled, saying the US government failed to prove that the relic was ever stolen.

Prosecutors said the funeral mask of Lady Ka-Nefer-Nefer went missing from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo about 40 years ago and that it should be returned to Egypt.

The St Louis Art Museum said it researched the mask and legitimately bought it in 1998 from a New York art dealer.

US District Judge Henry Autry in St Louis sided with the museum.

The US government "does not provide a factual statement of theft, smuggling or clandestine importation", Autry wrote in the March 31 ruling.

A message left with Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities was not returned.

The funeral mask was excavated from one of the Saqqara pyramids, just south of Cairo, in 1952. Ka-Nefer-Nefer was a noblewoman who lived from 1295 BC to 1186 BC.

US government investigators suspect the mask was stolen sometime between 1966, when it was shipped to Cairo for an exhibit, and 1973, when the Egyptian Museum discovered it was missing.

The art museum bought the mask in 1998 for $499 000.

US attorney Richard Callahan said a decision on whether to appeal has not been made.

Museum attorney David Linenbroker said the museum is confident the mask can remain permanently in St Louis.

"We don't have any interest in possessing a stolen object," Linenbroker said.

"We're confident we're the rightful owner."

Read more on:    us  |  egypt

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