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Art museum will not return mask

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By Maria Hickey, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – The St. Louis Art Museum will not turn over a disputed mummy mask to the Egyptian government by the Monday deadline.

Earlier this month the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities sent a letter to the museum demanding the mask by May 15th.

Secretary General Zahi Hawass charges the mask was stolen from near an Egyptian archaeological site in the early 1990s.

But St. Louis Art Museum director Brent Benjamin says the museum thoroughly investigated the mask when it bought it in 1998.

"You know the museum did very careful research before it made its acquisition and you know the provenance was not complete and so it contacted the officials in Egypt to ensure it was appropriate to proceed with the acquisition and no concerns were raised at that time," Benjamin said.

Benjamin says the museum has received no documentation from Hawass supporting his claims.

He says the museum would not retain stolen artwork but must review documents backing such a charge.

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