US museum ordered to return Egyptian death mask

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The US government has stepped into a row over an ancient Egyptian death mask, ordering the St Louis Art Museum to hand over the artefact.

Egypt claims the 3200-year-old mask of 19th Dynasty noblewoman, Ka-Nefer-Nefer, was stolen.

The museum paid $500,000 (£310,000) for the mask in 1998.

It has already sued the US government to try and block seizure of the object, stating they do not have enough evidence that it was stolen.

However, the federal complaint says the government is "certain" the mask was stolen and has traced its path from its discovery by an Egyptian excavator in 1952.

The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities began its attempt to recover the piece in 2006, after discovering it had been purchased by the St. Louis museum.

US Attorney Richard Callahan said the dispute was "unfortunate" and would be "resolved by the courts."

The museum was not available for comment.

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