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updated 6/30/2008 1:50:11 PM ET 2008-06-30T17:50:11

Egypt said Monday that it retrieved a 2,500-year-old limestone relief from London after its sale was blocked by Bonhams auction house there because it had been looted from a pharaoh's tomb.

A team of Egyptian archaeologists traveled to Britain to retrieve the artifact, which bears hieroglyphic text engraved in six rows and a cartouche of an ancient Egyptian queen, according to a statement issued Monday by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. It did not say when the carving was brought home.

The stone slab had been removed from a tomb discovered in 1969 in the Egyptian temple city of Luxor, the statement said.

A spokesman for Bonhams auction house in London confirmed that the relief had been listed for sale in May, but was withdrawn after experts discovered it had been looted.

"We were alerted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (in New York) that this item had apparently been seen in a tomb that someone at the Met had been involved in the excavation of," spokesman Julian Roup said Monday.

"It has now been repatriated, as we always try to do in these situations," he said.

Roup would not identify the seller who tried to put the artifact up for auction, but said it appeared to have been bought "in good faith."

The archaeologists also retrieved from London two human skulls from dating back to Egypt's Greek-Roman era, the Council statement said.

The remains were believed to have been taken by a British doctor during a visit to Egypt in 1988, it said. The man buried the skulls in his front garden in Manchester after his wife refused to allow him to bring them to a new house they bought earlier this year, the statement said.

The garden's new owner found the skulls and informed police, who had them examined by Oxford University archaeologists. They were discovered to be more than 2,000 years old, and were subsequently handed over to the Egyptian Embassy in London, the statement added.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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