The Spanish government will return to Egypt eight items dating back to the time of the pharaohs – the 6th Dynasty, which lasted from 2374 B.C. to 2192 B.C., to be precise – and which had been taken illegally from the Arab country in 1999, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced Sunday.

The story of the objects goes back to 1999, when nine limestone reliefs were reported missing from their original location on the walls of the sixth dynasty tomb of a nobleman called Imep-Hor, located in Kom Al-Khamsin area in Saqqara, 15 miles south of the Giza plateau.

The reliefs are engraved with hieroglyphic texts showing different names of the tomb’s owner and religious chapters from the Book of the Dead.

Ahmed Mostafa, former head of the return antiquities department as the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA), told Ahram Online that one of these reliefs was found three years ago on the list of a well known auction house in Spain. The Ministry, which was then called the Supreme Council of Antiquities, asked the Spanish government to stop the auction as the relief was an Egyptian possession that has been stolen and illegally smuggled out of the country.

A year later, the eight other reliefs were taken from the possession of an antiquities dealer in Barcelona. Egypt’s envoy to Spain, Ayman Zein el-Din, learned in September 2010 that police in Barcelona had seized the eight ancient Egyptian artifacts. An Egyptian archaeological committee travelled to Spain to inspect the items and showed all the required documents to prove Egyptian ownership of the artefacts.

According to the communique released Sunday by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, the date has not yet been set on which Spanish authorities will turn over the items to the Egyptian Embassy in Madrid.

The Egyptian government said that the agreement to recover the antiquities was reached after a series of legal and diplomatic contacts between the Egyptian diplomatic legation and Spanish judicial and governmental officials, based on UNESCO’s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.