A painted limestone relief that was stolen in the last century from the tomb of 18th dynasty high priest Sobekhotep in the Nobles necropolis on Luxor’s west bank was returned to Egypt from Germany last Wednesday.

The recovery of the relief started a few months ago when Minister of Antiquities and Heritage Mamdouh El-Damati was Egypt’s cultural attaché in Germany.

The painted limestone relief was stolen and smuggled out of Egypt before 1986. A German couple had bought it from a collector in Britain in 1986 but learnt it was stolen and returned it on Wednesday. The item was part of the decoration of the much-robbed tomb (TT63 on the north flank of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna hill) of Sobekhotep (temp. Tuthmosis IV).

The relief had been spotted a few months ago by curators at Bonn University Museum while organising a temporary exhibition there. During preparations, a curator at the museum spotted the relief and it was confirmed that it was stolen and had been taken from the tomb of Sobekhotep.

The limestone relief is is 30cm tall and 40cm wide and in very good condition. It depicts two figures of Sobekhotep standing and making offerings to deities.

Egypt’s embassy in Germany stated on its website that Ambassador Mohamed Hegazy held a celebration on the occasion of returning the artefact and praised the couple for returning it. Hegazy called on antiquities collectors to return the Egyptian artefacts they own voluntarily to where they belong. He also called on German authorities to cooperate with Egyptian authorities to protect its cultural and archaeological heritage in accordance with the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing Illicit Import.