The Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask is a funeral mask of the Egyptian noblewomen of the same name from the nineteenth dynasty. In 1998 the mask was purchased by the St. Louis Art Museum from the art supplier, Phoenix Ancient Art of New York and Geneva. The art supplier stated that the mask had been found in an excavation at Saqqara in 1951 and 1952 and was on the market by 1952. Ton Cremers of Museum Security Net questioned the legitimacy of the mask in 2006. Cremers suggested instead that in 1985 the mask had been stolen from storage in Saqqara. Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities asked that the mask be returned to Egypt and produced documentation which showed that the mask had been registered as property of the Egyptian government in 1953. The director of the St. Louis Art Museum, Brent Benjamin, rejected Hawass’ request stating that the museum had contacted the Art Loss Register, Interpol, and the Egyptian Museum prior to acquiring the mask and received no notification suggesting that the mask had been stolen.
This story was of particular interest to me because I am a huge fan of ancient Egyptian history and it is a shame to see pieces of it being taken away from its home country. The theft of Egyptian antiquities is a concern to many people and is a major concern to Egypt as a whole. The past theft of Egyptian antiquities must still cause much distress throughout Egypt, especially since the uprisings and the ‘Egyptian Revolution’ of January 2011. Egypt is struggling to protect its heritage in the midst of violence and the robbery of antiquities is making it virtually impossible for the country to protect its history. I believe that it is not only Egypt’s responsibility to track down the lost antiquities, but also a responsibility to the rest of the world. Although it is important to spread the history of a country throughout the world, it is necessary to attribute the artifact to the country of origin.