Egypt demands justice to recover its antiquities

The archaeologist Vassil Dobrev in the tomb of the priest Haou, on the necropolis of Tabbet el-Guech, in 2003, from which had disappeared blocks engraved with hieroglyphs.

Didier Wormser, Parisian merchant who appeared for concealment and laundering of Egyptian antiquities, on August 30 and 31, before the Paris Criminal Court, should have meditated on the threat of the priest Haou engraved more than two thousand years before Jesus Christ on a lintel from the necropolis of Tabbel el-Guech, on the site of Saqqara: “Whoever seizes or destroys a stone or a brick from this tomb of mine, I will plead against him in the judgment seat of the Great God and he will have his account thereon, in the sight of the living who are on earth. » This sexagenarian, respected in his profession, expert with customs, is accused of having sold objects looted from this archaeological site, including the threatening lintel…

If the case is large, it is because, for the first time, Cairo has brought a civil action in a trial in France. A sign of the current increased vigilance around the origins of antiquities, the former president of the Louvre Jean-Luc Martinez having been indicted last May in the scandal of Egyptian objects of dubious provenance purchased by the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Egypt could also become a civil party in this case as well.

The intentional destruction hypothesis

The climate was very different in the year 2000 when Vassil Dobrev, an archaeologist commissioned by the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology, was commissioned to explore the burial site of Tabbet el-Guesh. At the time, his excavations brought to light the tomb of the priest Haou and his wife, Khouti. The discovery caused a stir in the international press and the Discovery channel recounts it in a catchy title documentary, In search of the lost pharaoh.

A year passed and Dobrev resumed the excavations in October 2002. He then noticed that the frame of the exterior door of the tomb as well as the facades of several chapels had been stripped of the usual stones engraved with hieroglyphs. It forms the hypothesis of a “damnation memorial”in other words a common voluntary destruction in Antiquity, probably perpetrated by a rival wishing to erase the memory of the Haou priest and his family.

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Except that, ten years later, in 2012 then 2013, stones appear in Paris, in the Pierre Bergé et Associés auction room, precisely from the necropolis of Tabbet el-Guech and provided with apparently authentic invoices dating from 1974 and 1975 The seller is none other than Didier Wormser, an uneventful merchant who has set up shop in the 6e borough. One of the stones will be bought by the merchant David Ghezelbash, who in turn sold it in 2013 for 360,000 euros to the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest.

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Egypt demands justice to recover its antiquities


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