Egyptian bid to stop Northampton's ancient statue sale

Statue of Sekhemka Image copyright Northampton Borough Council
Image caption The limestone figure stands 30in (76cm) high

Egypt's Antiquities Ministry has challenged the sale of a 4,000-year-old statue by Northampton Borough Council.

The Sekhemka statue of a priest - or court official - said to be worth up to £6m, is due to go for auction at Christie's in London on Thursday.

The Cairo-based ministry, dedicated to recovering antiquities, has collected petition signatures from Egypt, the UK, Belgium and Canada, to stop the sale.

The council said Egypt had no claim on the statue and the sale would go ahead.

The sale of the statue is to help fund a £14m extension to Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.

The proceeds will be shared with Lord Northampton, whose family gave the statue to the museum in 1880.

The council said it wanted to double the exhibition space at the museum, as well as creating new galleries and teaching facilities.

Antiquities minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said he was "astonished" the sale was going ahead and urged all those interested in Egyptian antiquities to join the campaign to save it from sale.

He has also addressed the International Council of Museums to stop the sale, which he said "breaches all museum ethics".

A spokesperson for the borough council said: "We contacted the Egyptian government two years ago regarding our plans to sell Sekhemka.

"According to Unesco's 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, Egypt has no right to claim the recovery of the statue.

"The statue left Egypt before this convention was put in place and this was confirmed by the Egyptian government on 15 June."

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