A relief of the cartouche of Amenhotep I, second pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, has been found in London and is on its way back to Egypt. The relief was looted in 1988 from the Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor, an open-air museum so huge that it is conceivable someone could snatch a piece of limestone inscribed with the birth name of a pharaoh.
The object was rediscovered by an unnamed archaeologist who spotted it at a London auction a few months ago. He recognized it as the relief stolen from Karnak 30 years ago and alerted the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. The Ministry stopped the piece from being auctioned and worked with British authorities to arrange for its repatriation. The relief was officially returned to the Egyptian embassy in London on Friday.
Very little information about the reign of Amenhotep I (r. 1526-1506 B.C.) has survived. There are only a few relevant inscriptions, one of which was found in the tomb of his architect Ineni. Ineni’s biographical inscription records that Amenhotep ordered the expansion of the Temple of Karnak with the construction of several new structures. None of them stood for long. The remains of some of them were found in the fill of later construction from the reign of Amenhotep III (ca. 1386-1349 B.C.).
On a personal note, it just so happens that I was at Karnak in 1988. I swear I didn’t swipe any cartouches, though. I didn’t even buy my mother a pendant cartouche of her name from the local souvenir shop, something she was bummed about for 25 years or so until she and my father finally went to Egypt and she bought for herself the cartouche pendant I had so brutally denied her when I was a dumb teenager. (It was expensive! I didn’t want to spend such a large amount of my cash at the beginning of the trip! I thought I’d have another chance! Reasons!)