UCC to repatriate Egyptian artefacts

3 Jan 2023

Following discussions between University College Cork (UCC), the Egyptian and Irish governments and the National Museum of Ireland, a number of artefacts are to be repatriated by UCC.

Comprising an Egyptian mummified body, a sarcophagus, a set of four Canopic jars and coverings (cartonnage), a plan has been devised for the safe transport of the objects in 2023.

UCC came into possession of the mummified remains through a donation in 1928. The set of four Canopic jars, purchased from the firm of JE and EK Preston, in England between 1911 and 1912, have an estimated date of between 945 and 700 BCE, while the set of cartonnage pieces in the collection date to before 100 BCE. There are no records indicating how the cartonnage made its way to the university.

Speaking on the impending transfer, UCC President Professor John O’Halloran said:

UCC takes seriously the care of its heritage assets and is pleased to be in a position to present these objects to the Egyptian State. I wish to thank all stakeholders for their assistance in developing a programme for the return of these items, particularly His Excellency Mohamed Sarwat Selim, Egyptian Ambassador to Ireland, Minister Simon Coveney and his officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the National Museum of Ireland.

Click here for more information on this announcement.

The decision will no doubt be of interest to other institutions seeking to address the legacy of their historic collections.

In November 2022, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) launched a formal process to review the university’s complex historical legacies and opened a public consultation to determine what should be done with 13 skulls illicitly removed from Inishbofin, Co. Galway, in 1890.

These human remains are believed to date back to the 1600s and were taken from the ruins of St Colman's Monastery by anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon and Andrew Dixon, an Irish medical student. They were later donated by Haddon and Dixon to the university’s Old Anatomy Museum, along with seven remains taken from the Aran Islands in Galway and St Finian’s Bay in Kerry.

Following a board meeting held 14 December, TCD stated “The board of Trinity College Dublin decided today to work with the people of Inishbofin and the statutory authorities to find a solution to the question of what to do with the crania that respects the wishes of the islanders”.