A mystery person bought the 3,000-year-old quartzite head of Egyptian “Boy King” Tutankhamun off for $6 million Thursday in London auction, despite accusations from Cairo that it was stolen.
Christie’s auction house sold the 28.5-centimetre (11-inch) relic for £4,746,250 ($5,970,000, 5,290,000 euros) at one of its most controversial auctions in years.
No information about the buyer was disclosed.
The famous pharaoh’s finely-chiselled face — its calm eyes and puffed lips emoting a sense of eternal peace — came from the private Resandro Collection of ancient art that Christie’s last parcelled off for £3 million in 2016.
But angry Egyptian officials wanted Thursday’s sale halted and the treasure returned.
About a dozen protesters waved Egyptian flags and held up signs reading “stop trading in smuggled antiquities” outside the British auction house’s London sales room.
“This should not be kept at home. It should be in a museum,” Egyptian national Magda Sakr said.
“It is history. It is one of our most famous kings,” the 50-year-old said.
Egypt’s antiquities ministry said it would hold a special meeting at the start of next week to discuss its next steps in the standoff.
“The Egyptian government will take all the necessary measures to recover Egyptian antiquities that left Egypt illegally,” it said in statement.
Former Egyptian antiquities minister Zahi Hawass said by telephone from Cairo that the piece appeared to have been “stolen” in the 1970s from the Karnak Temple complex just north of Luxor.
“We think it left Egypt after 1970 because in that time other artefacts were stolen from Karnak Temple,” Hawass said.
The Egyptian foreign ministry had asked the UK Foreign Office and the UN cultural body UNSECO to step in and halt the sale