Priceless ancient Egytian tomb carvings stolen from a 4,200-year-old grave have been returned to Cairo from France.
The relief wall carvings disappeared during the excavation of a priest’s tomb 20 years ago and disappeared onto the black market.
Now they’ve been returned by Egypt after being tracked down to a French auction house as they were about to be sold.
The two mudbrick slabs show intricate carvings of sixth dynasty hieroglyphics, believed to time to have helped the dead find their way to the afterlife.
They were originally unearthed by a French archaeological expedition at the Saqqara necropolis, near Cairo in 2001.
But when the expedition – led by celebrated Egyptologist Vassil Dobrev – took a break from the dig they found the tablets had disappeared.
Dogged Dobrev tracked loot from the raid through Europe for two decades until he spotted them for sale in a Paris auction house.
Egyptian justice officials became central to the case when the discovery led the to break up of an international art trafficking ring by French police,
Now the tablets have been returned to Cairo after Egypt’s attoreney general Hamada El-Sawy flew to Paris on 12th June to accept the hand over.
Egypt’s Public Prosecution said in a statement on 12th June: “The Attorney General witnessed the procedures of recovering two walls in an international case for looting and smuggling of artifacts, in the French capital.
“The Attorney General Hamada El-Sawy and a high-level delegation from his office today, took part in the ceremony of the recovery of the two murals to the Egyptian State as part of an important international issue involving looting and smuggling of monuments.”