Everything You Need To Know About Collecting Ancient Egyptian Artifacts

Collecting allows you to celebrate your curiosities, and very few ancient civilizations have piqued the world's curiosity like ancient Egypt. How did they build pyramids, and why? They are a fascinating part of the earth's history, and wanting to own a piece of it, however small, is understandable. Adding ancient Egyptian artifacts to your collection of antiquities and focusing exclusively on ancient Egyptian artifacts are both worthwhile pursuits. 

Is it legal to own artifacts?

While it is perfectly legal to own artifacts, they must be purchased from a reputable dealer. Reputable dealers have a chain of custody or a record of how, where, and when the artifacts came into their hands. This helps prevent the pilfering of artifacts from countries without their knowledge. It can happen to anyone. In fact, Hobby Lobby recently had to pay a $3 million fine for purchasing illegally smuggled artifacts, which highlights why working with a well-known and reputable dealer is so important. 

Can you buy ancient Egyptian artifacts?

It is possible to purchase ancient artifacts, however. Many reputable collectors and dealers have legally come into possession of ancient Egyptian artifacts that can be bought and sold, including:

  • Ushabtis. The Egyptians, as you probably know, were very focused on burials and the afterlife. Ushabtis are Egyptian funerary figurines believed to help the deceased with menial labor in the afterlife. The wealthier you were, the more would be buried with you. Ushabtis were made from glazed pottery, carved wood, stone, and even glass.  
  • Jewelry. Ancient Egyptians were fond of wearing amulets around their neck. They were said to ward off evil and to act as a good luck charm. 
  • Coins. The ancient Egyptians started minting coins around 360 BCE. The coins, called gold staters, were made from gold as there is not a good source for silver in the area. Bronze coins were also made during this time and are available for interested collectors. 

Less inexpensive investment pieces are also available, like broken pieces from larger statuary, as well as reproduction art on papyrus. 

Are ancient Egyptian artifacts collectible?

Ancient Egyptian artifacts are very collectible. Their society existed over 5,000 years ago and only so many items were created. Grave robbers, archeologists, and even everyday travelers have been discovering and collecting artifacts for literally thousands of years.

What happens if you find an artifact while traveling?

If you are traveling and find an artifact, you are not the rightful owner. It is not a game of "finders keepers." If you find something that is large, leave it undisturbed and notify a local university or museum. If you find something small while traveling, turn it in to the nearest U.S. embassy and let them turn it to the proper authorities.

In fact, the United States Department of Justice calls any found objects like this 'cultural property'. This means that the piece belongs to the country or ethnic group of origin. The Justice Department polices domestic grave robbers stealing Native American objects, international criminals who have taken objects from other countries, and even documented Nazi theft of fine art during World War II.

How should ancient Egyptian artifacts be stored?

When you invest in ancient Egyptian artifacts, you should be careful how you store them in order to not only maintain their value but also to preserve the items for future generations. Your collection should be stored in a dry location that has relatively stable humidity and temperature, both of which can damage artifacts. Keeping your collection out of direct sunlight can also help preserve the items in it. The sun's ultraviolet rays can be extremely damaging to ancient Egyptian artifacts. 

Investing in ancient Egyptian artifacts is an exciting way to build your collection, provided you purchase from a reputable dealer and keep your items in a stable, dry location. 

To learn more, contact an ancient Egyptian artifact dealer.