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Export of Antiquities from Egypt

    Naturevolume 135page920 (1935) | Download Citation



    A REPORT from Cairo points to the possibility of further restrictions on the export of antiquities from Egypt. Under the existing antiquities law, which has been in operation for a little more than a decade, the rights of the State in the allocation of the proceeds of legitimate excavation have been well-indeed some would say too well-protected; but it has proved difficult to check clandestine digging. The finds from these illicit activities frequently, but not invariably, find a final resting place in the Cairo museum, but a considerable number still are smuggled out of the country. According to a dispatch from the Cairo correspondent of The Times in the issue of May 25, violent protest has been raised in the Arab newspapers as a result of reports of the value of papyri, and especially of the new fragments of a Gospel now in the British Museum, which have been sold at high prices to European collections. Inquiries by The Times correspondent have elicited the admission that sales by Cairo dealers to private collectors have been due to the fact that the Cairo Museum has not shown an interest in papyri except when of historical importance. As a consequence of this agitation, however, the Minister of Education, Nequid Bey Hilali, has appointed a committee to inquire into the question of illicit sales of antiquities. Although archaeologists may sometimes have felt the burden of the regulations imposed upon legitimate excavation to be unduly irksome, they will have no quarrel with any measure checking that destruction of scientific evidence which is the inevitable accompaniment of clandestine digging and illicit sales.

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