A 4,000-year-old statue controversially auctioned off by a council for almost £16m has been stopped from leaving the UK for up to a year.
The limestone statue of Sekhemka was gifted to a local museum in Northampton in the nineteenth century but was last year sold by the borough council, sparking outrage from the Egyptian Government and campaigners.
Northampton BC retained £8m from the sale, which was due to help fund an extension to the local museum.
However the sale led to Northampton ultimately being barred from the Museums Association under claims it had breached the group’s code of ethics.
Culture minister Ed Vaizey has now placed a temporary export bar on the 75cm high figure, which dates back to 2,400 BC and is considered one of the finest examples of its kind anywhere in the world.
While transport of the object has now been blocked until the end of July, Arts Council England said this could be extended until March 2016 ‘if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the statue is made’.
The Save Sekhemka Action Group said they were ‘delighted’ by the decision and ‘fervently hope that this will be upheld as a permanent ban’.
A Northampton BC spokesperson said: ‘The temporary export bar of Sekhemka has no impact on the borough council’s sale of the statue and this is a matter for the current owner, Arts Council England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to resolve.’