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Jordan Returns Artifacts To Egypt

August 18, 1999

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ Jordanian officials on Wednesday returned 28 stolen artifacts that had been stolen from Egyptian archaeological sites this spring.

Gaballah Ali Gaballah, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Antiquities, received the artifacts from Jordan’s Antiquities and Tourism minister at a news conference.

Gaballah called the retrieved items ``invaluable.″ He declined to estimate their worth, but Jordanian authorities have estimated the artifacts’ value to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Jordanian officials seized the artifacts in April from thieves trying to smuggle them into the kingdom through the Red Sea port of Aqaba.

The smugglers were apprehended for questioning and remain in custody, Jordanian security officials said on customary condition of anonymity.

Though the identity and number of smugglers were not disclosed, officials hinted they were Egyptians involved in several previous cases of art larceny.

The most significant piece returned was a 66-pound head of the statue of Serapis, an ancient god worshipped by the people of Alexandria, Gaballah said. He said the head dates to the 1st century A.D.

Among the other returned items are six turquoise and brown magic charms that date to 650 B.C. and were believed to have fended off illness, Gaballah said.

The artifacts also include 21 Pharaonic statues. The four-inch-high blue statues are called Shawabti, or The Answer, Gaballah said.

``The Shawabtis used to be buried with the dead in order to serve them in the other world,″ he said.

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