Three men were arrested in Egypt while allegedly attempting to excavate and steal a 10-ton statue of Pharoah Ramses II, police say.
The statue of Ramses II was located in a quarry in Aswan, just 400 miles south of Cairo on the Nile. The carved rock statue of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh is approximately 10 feet tall and three feet wide.
“Three people were arrested in possession of manual digging tools and heavy equipment, a crane,” in an attempt to “lift the statue and excavate the antiquities in the area,” the police said in a statement.
Police suspect that this is not the first time the three men have illegally excavated ancient Egyptian artifacts. The statement said that video footage and pictures of other “statues suspected to be archaeological and other clips of excavation work” were found on the defendants’ phones sent through social media.
The prosecuting attorney ordered the police to investigate others involved with the suspects. In the meantime, the defendants will be “held in custody for four days pending investigations,” the prosecutor’s office said.
The 34-acre lot surrounding the quarry is known to hold ancient artifacts and is protected under Egypt’s Antiquities Protection Law. If the defendants are found guilty of looting, they could face 25 years in prison and hefty fines.
Ramses II, also known as “Ramses the Great,” is one of the most famous pharaohs in ancient Egypt. He is known for being a fierce warrior and was captain of the Egyptian army by age 10. During his 67-year reign more than 3,000 years ago, Ramses II ordered the construction of many temples and massive statues of his likeness across Egypt.
Ancient Egyptian artifacts — mummies, statues, ornaments — are heavily sought after. Furthermore, the vast deserts of Egypt are difficult to police. Although exact numbers are unknown, the illegal sale of ancient Egyptian artifacts may be a billion-dollar global black market.
Some of these illegally sourced artifacts sit in plain sight. One was returned to Egypt just two weeks ago from the Houston Museum of Natural Science. For the past decade, the museum unwittingly kept a looted, ancient wooden sarcophagus known as the “Green Coffin.” Authorities discovered the coffin was trafficked through Europe before becoming one of the museum’s most beloved attractions.
The recent recovery from Houston represents just one of the 29,000 looted artifacts recovered by Egyptian authorities over the past decade.
The city of Dallas has had its own share of thefts recently, as a wave of crime surging since 2022. There have already been 79 property crimes reported since the new year, an increase of just over 8% compared to last year.
While city leaders continue to fail to protect citizens and their property alike, the Dallas Police Department’s “Operational Dashboard” can be monitored to track whether any progress is made.