Police in Egypt this week seized a stash of more than 1,500 ancient artifacts believed to have been illegally excavated by armed gangs, authorities said.
Political turmoil and social unrest since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 have allowed for an increase in antiquities thefts and illegal digging in the country, home to a rich trove of some of the world’s oldest works of art.
Ancient statues, amulets and limestone false doors – found in some tombs as gateways to the afterlife – were among the pieces seized Monday in a raid on a house in the Zawiyat Abu Musallem suburb of Cairo.
The 1,524 objects sized had important archaeological value and spanned several eras of ancient Egyptian civilization, according to a statement issued by Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim.
"The variety of the seized antiquities indicates that they are the result of illegal digging by armed gangs," Ibrahim said.
He said ammunition found on one of the suspects underscored “the danger of these organized gangs that carry out digs in secret and trade illegally in Egyptian antiquities.”
Thieves broke into a museum in southern Egypt in August and made off with more than 1,000 artifacts.