King Tut Sculpture Sells For $8.5 Million Amid Controversy

A sculpture of King Tut's head was sold at Christie's for $8.7 million Thursday. However, Egypt claims the relic of the famed pharaoh was stolen.

After 3,000 years it's showing some wear and tear, but it's definitely the face of the world's most famous pharaoh.

"As you can see here, the eyes, the eyebrows, are completely carved and the lips are extremely sensual," said Laetitia Delaloye of Christie's.

Photo: Reuters

If only those lips could talk. Maybe he could explain how he found himself on an auction block at Christie's.

"They never tell us about the origin, about how they bought it from Egypt, who has ownership of this piece. They have no evidence of that but we do think that this is a part of our heritage," said former Egyptian antiquities minister Zahi Hawass.

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The story begins in the 1920's, when British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered King Tut's tomb. Christie's contends the bust has been under the ownership of a private collection in Germany since 1985 after passing through several hands since the 1960's.

Up close it's exquisite, and instantly recognisable as the face of King Tut. Christie's says ancient objects like this, by their nature, are impossible to trace back thousands of years. Delaloye said the auction house has done everything it could to prove its provenance.

"Christie's is at the forefront of the protection of historical objects. This piece has been widely published and exhibited, it's a very well-known piece so there hasn't been any claim on the piece, and we haven't received any evidence from the Egyptian authorities about a problem," she said.

But while Egyptian authorities have failed to stop the sale, they haven't stopped their battle.

"We will fight until the head of Tutankhamun, our great famous king should come back," Hawass said.

The great famous king won't be coming back anytime soon. Now, Egypt's child king is under new ownership.