The 2,100-year-old coffin of a priest called Nedjemankh was featured in an exhibit housing artefact from Egypt.
The stolen antique was sold to the museum by a global art trafficking network, which used fraudulent documents, officials said.
The gilded coffin was looted and smuggled out of Egypt in 2011. “Thus far our investigation has determined that this coffin is just one of the hundreds of antiquities stolen by the same multinational trafficking ring,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said, quoted by Reuters news agency, at a repatriation ceremony in New York on Wednesday, adding that there could be more similar seizures.
The coffin, which dates back to the 1st Century BC, was bought by the prestigious museum for $4m (£3.2m) from a Parisian art dealer. It was first shipped to Germany where it was restored before being transported to France.
The museum was given a forged 1971 Egyptian export licence, among other false documents, prosecutors told US local media. Officials said the grand and ornate coffin had been buried in the country’s Minya region for 2,000 years before it was stolen in 2011.
“This is not only for Egyptians but this is for our common human heritage,” Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Hassan Shoukry said, quoted by Reuters.
It will next be on display in Egypt in 2020.
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