The "Miami" Coffin
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Date: Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 21, ca. 1070-975 BC
Material: Cedar, plaster, paint
Provenance: Unknown; possibly Thebes
Excavated: most probably excavated illegally

Status: Returned to Egypt

On October 1st, 2008, United States customs officials at Miami International Airport detained a shipment from Spain that contained a 21st Dynasty Egyptian coffin. The importer, Felix Cervera of the private gallery Arqueologia Clasica S.L., had no documentation whatsoever to demonstrate that the coffin had left Egypt legally. The American authorities were concerned that the coffin might have been stolen and illegally exported to Spain. Cervera told investigators from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that he had purchased the coffin from the “Buendia Collection.”

The earliest available record of the coffin dates to 2007, when it was exhibited at theAlexandra Irigoyen Galleries in Madrid and well at Cervera’s Gallery in Barcelona. None of the experts consulted by the SCA had seen the coffin before, suggesting that it was excavated illegally and smuggled out of Egypt relatively recently.

At the request of the SCA, the US Department of Homeland Security seized the coffin on October 1, 2008. Notice of the seizure was sent to the interested parties on February 26th, 2009. All parties had 30 days from the date of the seizure notice to respond; the American buyer of the coffin has already abandoned his interest, leaving only the SCA and Mr. Cervera as potential claimants. The SCA petitioned DHS to return the coffin to Egypt without bringing the matter before a court; Cervera contested this, and counsel for the SCA filed a claim before the court on November 10, 2009. Cervera failed to file a counterclaim before the deadline, so the most likely next step will be for the coffin to be forfeited to the US authorities. On March 12, 2010, Dr. Zahi Hawass traveled to Washington, D.C. The US authorities handed the coffin to him in a ceremony held at the National Geographic Society, and Dr. Hawass brought the coffin home on March 12, 2010. It is currently at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

The Mask of Ka-nefer-nefer, stolen from Egypt and currently in the possession of the St. Louis Museum of Art (St. Louis Museum of Art)

Third Intermediate Period coffin (Homeland Security)