News Column

OPINION: The government gives up on returning Ka-Nefer-Nefer to Egypt

July 29, 2014

By Kevin Horrigan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

July 29--FOUL -- There are precisely the same number of letters -- 12 -- in the name Ka-Nefer-Nefer as there are in the name Yadier Molina. Coincidence? Or the Curse of the Mummy?

Aw, never mind. Like the U.S. attorney's office in St. Louis, we're tired of trying to get the St. Louis Art Museum to return the 3,200-year-old funerary mask of the Egyptian noblewoman Ka-Nefer-Nefer to Egypt. We've tried ginning up bogus outrage with bogus curses, like blaming the mask for the injury to the Cardinals catcher (though you'll have to admit it's curious that both catchers and mummies wear masks).

The Post-Dispatch's Robert Patrick reported Tuesday that U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan had decided to drop its pursuit of the mask under the federal antiquities law. Monday was the last day to object to an appellate court decision saying that the government had never presented evidence that the mask was stolen. The appeals court suggested that Mr. Callahan's office hadn't put a whole lot of effort into its case.

The art museum has continued to view the mask in the same way Ronald Reagan viewed the Panama Canal: "We bought it, we paid for it, it's ours, and we're going to keep it."

The museum did its due diligence before buying the mask in 1998 for $499,000 (marked down from $500,000, we presume) from a New York art dealer. At one point, it had been in the Egyptian government's possession, and then it wasn't, but no one could prove how it disappeared.

Mr. Reagan's objections notwithstanding, the canal eventually was returned to Panama in 1999. Now that that the museum has prevailed, it should follow the lead of other major museums: Return this piece of cultural history to the nation where it rightfully belongs.

-- Kevin Horrigan


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Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

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