Thursday, September 25, 2014

SLAM and the SCA

It is now clear that curators at SLAM knew that the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask (but with name removed) was the one excavated (with name intact) at Saqqara when they were informed by an Egyptologist in February 1999. I remain puzzled by the apparent lack of contact with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). Why did SLAM contact the Cairo Museum in 1997 (prior to the purchase) in preference to the SCA?

Were the authorities at SLAM ever advised to contact the SCA? Was that advice heeded?


There are continuing questions about the depth of rigour in the due diligence process both pre and post the acquisition of the mask.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Roman Sarcophagus due to be returned to Italy

Source: ICE
Ric St Hilaire has written about the likely return of the Roman sarcophagus lid to Italy ("Stipulation Puts a Lid on Litigation Over Roman Sarcophagus Cover Featured in the Becchina Archive", September 22, 2014). The sarcophagus was recognised from the Becchina archive. The sarcophagus has been handled by Noryioshi Horiuchi.

Horiuchi has been at the centre of the the Italian Operation Andromeda. Some 20000 antiquities have already been seized from the dealer.

If the sarcophagus is indeed returned to Italy it will increase the pressure on the Miho Museum in Japan to resolve Italian claims on a number of objects that have also featured in the seized photographic archives.

But where are the antiquities that Horiuchi has handled over time? Who purchased them? Which other dealers are linked?

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Ka Nefer Nefer Mask: some clarification

I am very grateful to officials at SLAM for clarifying some of the collecting history of the Ka Nefer Nefer mask. It has now been confirmed that a SLAM conservator was informed by a European Egyptologist in February 1999 that the mask was the one excavated at Saqqara by Goneim (and subsequently published by him). It is not clear if curators at SLAM contacted the SCA immediately or if they waited seven years until they received a letter from Zahi Hawass in February 2006.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The identification of Ka Nefer Nefer

I have already reflected on the significance of 1999 for the collecting history of the Ka Nefer Nefer mask acquired by the St Louis Art Museum.

It now appears that a member of the curatorial team at SLAM was informed about the Saqqara link by an Egyptologist at a major encyclopedic museum less than a year after its acquisition.

This is correspondence that has not been mentioned in the discussion of the mask up to this point.

During the subsequent few months Sidney Goldstein seems to have been made aware of Charly Mathez's claim to have seen the mask in Belgium, and in late September 1999 Goldstein wrote to him for clarification. (Up to now it has not been clear what prompted Goldstein to write his letter.)

Did Goldstein write again to Mohammed Saleh in Cairo seeking further advice? Which Egyptian officials were contacted by SLAM curators in 1999 to check out the Saqqara story?

What additional due diligence steps did SLAM undertake to explore the emerging collecting history for the mask?

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Zakaria Goneim excavating in Egypt


Here is some archive footage of Zakaria Goneim excavating in Egypt.


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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Zakaria Goneim at Saqqara


Zahi Hawass discusses the excavations at Saqqara by Zakaria Goneim.

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The Ka Nefer Nefer Mask and 2005

Paul Barford has written about Michel van Rijn's public comments on the acquisition of the Ka Nefer Nefer mask by the St Louis Art Museum.

I am grateful to a reader of LM for sending me the archived link to van Rijn's post. Although it is not dated (there is an update on 18 December 2005), the correspondence confirms a date in December 2005.

Leaving aside style and presentation, what did van Rijn suggest and reveal?

  • the mask had been removed from the store at Saqqara
  • the name of the person responsible
  • the removal took place in the 1990s
  • the mask had been published by Goneim

In December 2005 this information had not been made public although it appears that SLAM curators had been advised of the Saqqara link and the Goneim publication some years before.

So how did van Rijn know this?

SLAM officials need to release documents that will outline what they knew and when.

And what did they do to investigate these claims?

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Monday, September 15, 2014

The Ka Nefer Nefer Mask and the Saqqara link

In the spring of 1998 the St Louis Art Museum acquired the Ka Nefer Nefer mask that is now known to have been excavated at Saqqara. In late December 2005 a notice on the Museum Security Network drew attention to that association of find-spot. In January 2006 Brent R. Benjamin, the Director of SLAM, issued a memorandum in which he stated:
The St Louis Post-Dispatch, the Riverfront Times, and the Art Newspaper have made inquiries regarding the provenance of the Museum’s Mummy Mask, acquired in 1998. These inquiries resulted from an allegation, posted on an internet website, that the mask was stolen from storage of a Museum in Saqqarah, Egypt. You may visit the site at http://www.michelvanrijn.nl/artnews/st-louis.htm. In our opinion, it speaks for itself. Michael van Rijn is the proprietor of this website, based in the Netherlands, which is devoted to art theft issues. Mr. van Rijn has supplied no information in support of his accusation.
It should be noted that this website is no longer available.

SLAM needs to release the full set of documentation that would reveal when members of staff in the museum first became aware of the Saqqara association.

Serious questions will need to be raised if it becomes clear that SLAM staff knew about the link months or even years before December 2005 but did not contact the Egyptian authorities.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Ka Nefer Nefer mask and 1999

In the fall of 1999 Sidney Goldstein seems to have been very concerned to clarify when the Ka Nefer Nefer mask had surfaced on the 'Belgian' antiquities market. What new information had been received by the curatorial team?

Earlier today I requested a series of documents from the curatorial team at St Louis Art Museum. As far as I can see these letters have not been released - or some of them only in part.

I hope that in the interests of transparency those documents will be made public (and in full).

There is a growing possibility --- and I stress the possibility, no more --- that SLAM officials could have been aware of the Saqqara and Goneim link for several years before the information became public in late 2005.

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