Some manuscripts among artifacts repatriated to Egypt Image Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism

Cairo: Egypt has recovered about 5,000 artifacts, which were earlier smuggled from the country. The pieces, which were in the possession of the Holy Bible Museum in the US, were handed over to Egypt after efforts from the ministries of tourism and antiquities as well as foreign affairs in conjunction with US authorities, according to Egyptian officials.

The collection includes manuscripts and pieces of papyrus with texts written in the Coptic language, hieratic and demotic script, and the Greek language.

They also include manuscripts of Christian religious prayers written in Arabic and Coptic together or Arabic only, the Egyptian officials added.

The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities succeeded in retrieving the pieces after efforts made since 2016 to repatriate the items that were illegally smuggled out of Egypt, Shaaban Abdul Jawad, the supervisor-general of the retrieved antiquities department said.

Negotiations between Egyptian and the Holy Bible Museum officials ran for two years, in coordination with the US Department of Homeland Security. They culminated in an agreement that the museum would return all Egyptian artifacts in its possession to Egypt, Abdul Jawad added.

The returned pieces also include a number of funerary masks, parts of coffins, heads of stone statues, and a set of portraits of the dead, according to Abdul Jawad. The artifacts will be put on display at the Coptic Museum in Cairo.

The repatriated pieces were not originally smuggled from Egyptian museums or the government’s archaeological warehouses, but resulted from illegal excavations, said Hisham Al Laithi, the head of the Egyptian central administration of the antiquities registration centre.

US Ambassador in Egypt Jonathan Cohen hailed the return of the pieces.

“The United States is pleased to return these artifacts to Egypt as part of the joint cooperation between the two countries in the field of protecting Egypt's rich cultural heritage, and we look forward to continuing this cooperation in the future," he said.

In recent years, Egypt has announced a series of archaeological discoveries and revamped antiquity attractions in a bid to rejuvenate its vital tourism industry hit by militant attacks and repercussions of the novel coronavirus