Last updated at 12:33 BST, Monday, 14 July 2014

Egyptian statue sells for nearly £16m

Summary

11 July 2014

An Egyptian statue held in a museum in Britain has been sold for £15.76m at Christie's of London, despite protests by the Egyptian government and the Arts Council in England. Northampton Borough Council sold it to help pay for a £14m development of its museum and art gallery.

Reporter:

Nick Higham

Egypt

Egyptian treasures are known throughout the world

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The 4,000-year-old limestone statue of an official called Sekhemka is about 75 cm tall. It shows him sitting, reading a scroll with his much smaller wife kneeling beside him.

It's been sold to help fund an extension to the town's museum.

Those protesting at the sale included the Egyptian government. Egypt's ambassador to Britain told the BBC a museum should not act like a shop that sells items for profit. Others argue that the sale might jeopardise Northampton's status as an accredited museum and the grants which it gets as a result. But the council's leader, David Mackintosh, said the statue hadn't been on display for four years and no one had asked to see it in that time.

Museums generally fight shy of selling artifacts from their collections partly because sales might discourage people from donating items in future. But in recent years a number of cash-strapped council museums have sold things or tried to.

In this case, the Marquis of Northampton, whose family gave the statue to the town in 1890, argued that the sale would breach the terms of the gift. He's now reached a deal and will get just under half of the proceeds.

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Vocabulary

scroll

roll of paper, especially one with ancient writing on it

extension

extra part added to a building

jeopardise

to risk damaging something important

accredited

officially authorised or recognised

grants

sums of money given to an organisation for a particular purpose

on display

arranged for people to see in a place like a shop or museum

fight shy of

try to avoid

cash-strapped

lacking money

breach

break a law or rule

proceeds

money made by selling an item

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