In a stinging attack which has seen the Chief Executive of Northampton Borough Council, Mr David Kennedy, branded an “antiquities trader”, thePipeLine can reveal that Dr Zahi Hawass, the former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, is the latest high-profile figure from the international museum community to back the campaign urging the UK Government to extend the Temporary Export Ban on the statue of Sekhemka. The statue which had been on free public view in Northampton Museum for over a century was sold by Northampton Borough Council in 2014. The news of the intervention by Dr Hawass emerged yesterday [Sunday] as the UK and Cairo based “Save Our Sekhemka” groups drafted a fresh statement calling on the UK Government to work with the Egyptian Government to broker a solution which would see the statue of Sekhemka remain on public display.
In a statement reported later in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram online Dr Hawass stated
“The sale of the statue is a cultural crime against Egypt’s heritage and the world community should be hand-in-hand to stand against such a crime.”
Dr Hawass added “Guardianship of the statue is the right of the Egyptian government, which is responsible for preserving and protecting the country’s heritage, whether inside [Egypt]] or abroad,”
Dr Hawass announced that he plans to set up an international petition aimed at everyone “who are keen on Egypt’s heritage”.
A flamboyant and sometimes controversial figure, Dr Hawass is also one of the most recognisable and well connected Egyptologists in the World and is a very effective media operator. He has also campaigned consistently for the return of artifacts which were, in his view, exported from Egypt questionable or illegal manner, including the Rosetta Stone currently in the British Museum.
A Temporary Export Ban placed on the statue of Sekhemka by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, runs out on Friday 28 August and, unless it is extended, the anonymous buyer of the statue will be free to seek an export licence for the Old Kingdom statue which was sold at Christie’s in July 2014 for a World Record £15.76 million.