An export ban preventing a £15 million statue once displayed at Northampton Museum from leaving the UK has been extended for a month to allow a bid to be put together.
The Sekhemka funerary monument was sold at a Christie’s auction to an as yet unnamed Qatari millionaire in July last year with the profits split between Northampton Borough Council and the Marquis of Northampton.
But the 2,400 BC Egyptian artefact was blocked from being exported by the Department for Culture Media and Sport earlier this year as it was believed to be one of the finest examples of its kind.
That export ban was to allow any potential UK buyers to put forward a “serious” bid to keep Sekhemka in the country.
It was due to run out on July 29, but The Department of Culture Media and Sport has now decided to extend the embargo until Friday, August 28.
A spokesperson for the government department said: “We have decided to allow a final opportunity for a buyer to put forward a serious expression of interest to raise funds to keep the Sekhemka statue in the UK.
“The deadline has been extended to midday Friday 28th August.
“As previously announced, this period may be extended until 29th March 2016 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the statue is made.” The Save Sekhemka Action Group, which formed in Northampton and fought hard to keep the item from being sold, has released a statement to say it is “cautiously delighted” of the extended ban.
Chairman Gunilla Loe, said: “This shows that the UK government is thinking seriously about the implications rescinding the ban would have on the international reputation of the UK, especially in Egypt and the Middle East.
“The action group therefore urges the Government to initiate negotiations between the anonymous buyer of the statue, the Department for Culture Media and Sport, Christie’s Auction House, The Museums Association and Arts Council England for the statue to be lent or given to one of the major museums in the UK.”
The action group also claims to have been in contact with academics from Cairo, who they say are urging the Egyptian government to pressure the UK authorities into “negotiations on the future of Sekhemka.”