Smuggled ancient sculpture returns to Egypt
A priceless sculpture which was expertly smuggled out of Egypt disguised as a cheap souvenir of itself is to be returned home.
By Sarah Knapton.
19 Dec 2008.
The Head of Amenhotep III, a pharaoh who died in 1375BC, was stolen 18 years ago by a British smuggler.
Jonathan Tokeley-Parry disguised the stone head as a souvenir, coating it in plastic and painting it black to make it appear to be a tacky copy of a historical artefact.
The antiques restorer, renowned in the art world for his skill, later removed the plastic with acetone.
Now, more than 10 years after Tokeley-Parry was jailed for his activities, the head is be returned to Egypt at a ceremony at the country’s London embassy.
The sculpture’s removal from Egypt in 1990 breached the country’s law banning the export of antiques more than 100 years old.
It was taken to Switzerland and illegally imported into the UK, before being given a false provenance dating back to the 1920s, slashing millennia from its true antiquity.
The head was marketed through a New York dealer who in 2002 was jailed in the US for conspiring to receive stolen Egyptian antiquities – and was bought and sold on at least two occasions.
Tokeley-Parry was caught in 1994 when an assistant tried to sell stolen papyrus texts to the British Museum, which called in the police.
He was convicted in Britain in 1997 of illegally selling stolen archaeological finds and jailed for three years.
The head was recovered in 1999 by the Met Police’s art and antiques unit.