The coffin was made between 150 and 50 B.C. and is worth some $4 million. It was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Thursday.
"Coming as we do from all over the world, New Yorkers place a strong value on cultural heritage, and our office takes pride in our work to vigorously protect it," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said. "Returning stolen cultural treasures to their countries of origin is at the core of our mission to stop the trafficking of stolen antiquities."
ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York unit and the Manhattan DA executed a search warrant at the museum in February. The museum fully cooperated when it was informed the coffin had been pilfered, ICE said.
Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Hassan Shoukry accepted the artifact's return during a repatriation ceremony on Wednesday. It will be on public display in Egypt.
The highly ornamented coffin is inscribed for a high-ranking priest of the ram-headed god Heryshef of Herakleopolis, a Met museum website said. It was stolen from the Minya region in Egypt after the Revolution in October 2011, according to officials. It was later smuggled out of the country, restored in Germany and taken to France, where it was purchased by the Met in July 2017.
“The high-profit business of smuggling and trafficking antiquities has been around for centuries,” HSI Special Agent Peter Fitzhugh said. “But it is the responsibility of a buyer to confirm the proper provenance of a piece of art or antiquity."