CBP Seizes 3,000-Year-Old Egyptian Artifact At Port Of Memphis

CBP Seizes 3,000-Year-Old Egyptian Artifact At Port Of Memphis

Customs officials seized a 3,000 year-old ancient Egyptian artifact at the port of Memphis last week.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Thursday that they had seized the artifact, a lid from a canopic jar used in ancient Egyptian funerary rites, at the port of Memphis, Tennessee. According to CBP, the item is protected by federal law and several bilateral treaties. The shipper claimed it was an antique stone statue and made conflicting statements.

“On Wednesday, August 17, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the port of Memphis, TN intercepted an ancient Egyptian artifact shipped from Europe,” CBP said in a press release Thursday. “The shipment was manifested as an antique stone sculpture over 100 years old, and sent from a dealer to a private buyer in the U.S.”

“CBP worked with subject matter experts at the University of Memphis Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology to determine that the artifact was authentic,” the agency added. “It is an Egyptian canopic jar lid of the funeral deity named Imsety.”

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, canopic jars played an important role in burial rites throughout ancient Egypt, storing the internal organs of the mummified person. There was also a period in history where the organs were not stored in jars, but placed back into the mummified body; the jars were still stored with the mummy to give protection to the deceased person. The jars came in sets of four, and the most notable ones had ornate lids that took the shape of protective deities called the “Sons of Horus.” Imsety, who was depicted with a human head, was the guardian of the deceased person’s liver.

“The lid is likely from the Egyptian Third Intermediate Period, 1069 BC to 653 BC, making it potentially 3,000 years old,” CBP added in its press release. “The artifact is on a list of items protected by bilateral treaties and falls under the CPIA 19 USC 2609; designated archaeological materials of cultural property imported into the U.S. subject to seizure and forfeiture. CPIA is the congressionally passed Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act of 1983, and restricts importing some archaeological and ethnological materials into the country. The shipper also made contradictory statements regarding the declared value of the item, and CBP seized it. It was turned over to Homeland Security Investigations for further examination and to determine it’s provenance.”

Earlier this year, archaeologists at an ongoing dig site in Saqqara, Egypt, discovered a massive trove of artifacts, including 250 painted sarcophagi and 150 bronze statues of Egyptian deities. The archaeologists also discovered a statue of the famous ancient Egyptian priest and architect Imhotep, and hoped they could find his tomb in the near future.

Other artifacts uncovered included a nine-meter papyrus scroll, the first intact papyrus discovered in more than 100 years, thought to contain passages from the Book of the Dead, the ancient Egyptian book of rites and spells believed to assist the dead soul in navigating the afterlife.

Earlier this week, a man pleaded guilty to smuggling and animal trafficking charges after he was caught trying smuggle reptiles into the country. Authorities said the man had smuggled over 1,700 reptiles across the southern border over a period of six years.