Egyptian authorities have issued an international alert after the statuette of Tutankhamun's sister was stolen along with hundreds of other priceless exhibits when a museum was looted amid clashes between police and Islamists this summer.
The limestone carving – called Daughter of the Pharaoh Akhenaten – was stolen along with 1,000 other exhibits during the violent dispersal of protests in Cairo on Aug 14 and the killing of hundreds of Islamist supporters of the president, Mohammed Morsi.
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Experts fear that the exquisite statuette, carved in the 14th century BC, was stolen to order under the cover of the riots and could now be sold abroad.
It was the museum’s most prized exhibit and was due to be transferred to a new museum dedicated to the family of Akhenaten – Tutankhamun’s father.
More than 600 valuables have been returned or seized by police, but a collection of gold coins, statues of sacred ibis birds and the statue have still not been found.
Archaeologist Monica Hanna said: “I think the looters knew what they were taking.”
Relics of the Akhenaten era, source of the most celebrated finds of ancient Egypt, fetch the highest prices on the international black market and families of antiquities smugglers are known to operate in the area.
Robbers left just 46 items in the museum that were too heavy to carry off.
In the first days of the revolution in 2011 looters stole treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb on display at the Egyptian National Museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Intruders also broke apart two mummies, removing their heads, while the bones and even parts of mummies were left scattered where they had been dropped.