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Sotheby’s auctions off ancient Egyptian artifacts

The ethics of private collections and ancient works of art sold at auction has long been a source of controversy, and Sotheby’s latest offerings in London are no different.

At its Ancient Sculpture & Works of Art event on Dec. 4 in London, Sotheby’s auctioned off 59 antiquities. The vast majority of these antiquities were Graeco-Roman with price tags in the thousands of pounds, but the star of the show was a Roman marble funerary portrait statue, which was auctioned for 4.1 million British pounds ($5.2 million).

However, the top five objects listed were ancient Egyptian — perhaps a nod to the enduring popularity of everything Egypt, a modern hint of “Egyptomania.” The objects had been dated to the Pharaonic dynasties: a fragment of a basalt bust of a man dated to the 26th Dynasty (664-525 B.C.), or earlier; an almost-complete limestone block statue of a man dated to the early 18th Dynasty during the period of Amenhotep I (1539-1493 B.C.); a fragment of a limestone relief dated to the 19th Dynasty, early in the reign of Ramesses II (circa 1279-1250 B.C.); a polychrome wood mummy mask dated to the 25th/early 26th Dynasty (circa 750-600 B.C.); and a bronze figure of Osiris dated to the 26th/30th Dynasty (664-342 B.C.).

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