The nearly 4,000 year old Harageh treasure of Egypt was withdrawn today at the last minute from an antiquities auction held at Bonhams in London.
The treasure consists of 37 pieces from the Middle Kingdom’s 12th Dynasty (1897-1878 BC) found within the burial tomb of an elite woman from that period. The treasure had been excavated between 1913 to 1914 by the British School of Archaeology in Egypt, under the direction of famed Egyptologist William Matthews Flinders Petrie, and was then passed on to the Archaeological Institute of America St Louis Society as consideration for the latter’s financial contribution towards the excavation. It has been said that the St Louis Society was to receive the items on the condition that they always be shown in a public collection.
For a century, the treasure had been held at the St Louis Art Museum until very recently when the St Louis Society decided to sell the pieces at auction in London. The treasure was included in Bonham’s catalogue for its antiquities auction of 2 October 2014 and featured prominently on the company’s website, but was withdrawn before the lot came under the hammer. The catalogue listed the estimated price for the treasure as between £80,000 and £120,000 (US$ 130,000-200,000)
It is unclear what caused this change of plan. There had been pressure on the St Louis Society from the national office of the Archaeological Institute of American, the UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Egypt Exploration Society, urging the Society not to sell the treasure because the sale would contravene the public display condition in the original agreement.
Perhaps it was this pressure that prevailed in the end – although we may never know.