U.S. to return 19 items from King Tut's tomb

This bracelet inlay in the form of a sphinx has been identified as originating from the tomb of King Tutankhamun, and will be returned to Egypt along with 18 other artifacts held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
This bracelet inlay in the form of a sphinx has been identified as originating from the tomb of King Tutankhamun, and will be returned to Egypt along with 18 other artifacts held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.MMA via AP
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Egypt's antiquities authority says the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will return 19 artifacts taken from the tomb of the famed boy-pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Antiquities chief Zahi Hawass says the trove is made up of small figurines and jewelry, including a miniature bronze dog, a sphinx-shaped bracelet trinket and a necklace.

"This is a wonderful gesture on the part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," Hawass said in a statement Wednesday. "For many years the museum, and especially the Egyptian art department, has been a strong partner in our ongoing efforts to repatriate illegally exported antiquities."

The antiquities authority said the Egyptian government's agreement with British archaeologist Howard Carter and his team, who discovered Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922, called for Egypt to retain ownership of the artifacts found there. After Carter's death, some of the high-quality Egyptian objects bequeathed to the Met came under scrutiny — but at the time, their origin was not determined.

The pieces were sent to New York in 1948 when the Metropolitan Museum closed its expedition house in Egypt, the antiquities authority said.

The decision to repatriate the objects came after an extensive examination of the validity of their origin. Thomas Campbell, the Met's director, said that all of the items were from the Tutankhamun tomb and that Egypt's claim on the antiquities was justified.

"Because of precise legislation relating to that excavation, these objects were never meant to have left Egypt, and therefore should rightfully belong to the government of Egypt," he said on the museum's website.

Hawass said the 19 artifacts would be put on display in a New York exhibition titled "Tutankhamun and the Goldent Age of the Pharaohs," which runs through Jan. 2. "The addition of the artifacts for the final weeks will make this the largest collection of objects from King Tut's tomb ever assembled in the U.S.," James Sanna, president and executive producer of Running Subway Productions, which operates the exhibition venue, said in a statement.

After six additional months of display at the Met, the 19 pieces would then be sent back to Egypt, Hawass said. Ultimately, the artifacts will become part of the permanent King Tutankhamun collection at the new Grand Egyptian Museum, scheduled to open in 2012.

King Tut is one of history's most famous pharaohs because archaeologists found his tomb full of glittering wealth of the rich 18th Dynasty (1569-1315 B.C.). This year, DNA tests and CT scans on Tut's 3,300-year-old mummy confirmed that the pharaoh died of a broken leg complicated by malaria at the age of 19.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and msnbc.com.