Egypt wants a 3,000-year-old coffin back from U.S.

CAIRO (AP) – Egypt will soon file an official request with U.S. authorities to return a 3,000-year-old wooden coffin illegally smuggled out of the country more than a century ago, the country’s top archaeologist said Sunday.

In a statement, Zahi Hawass said the nearly 5-foot-long coffin was taken from Egypt in 1884 after it was stolen from a tomb in Luxor, an ancient pharaonic capital in southern Egypt.

Hawass says the ornamented coffin belonged to Pharaoh Ames of the 21st Dynasty, which ruled over Egypt from 1081-931 B.C.

The coffin is currently in the hands of the customs authority in Miami, Florida, who confiscated it after it was shipped to the United States from Spain, added the statement.

U.S. officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Egypt has launched a drive to recover its antiquities taken abroad, including some residing in famous museums.

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AP-ES-03-22-09 1319EDT