Where did the looted Egyptian treasure go?

What happened to all the looted artifacts from the ancient Egyptian tombs of the pharaohs? I’ve read crazy conspiracy theories about King Solomon taking it all for reparations for Jewish slavery (crazy shit), but I’ve always wondered if it’s stored in private collections or is it lost to history forever?

I would like to think it still exists somewhere but that’s probably the optimistic “National Treasure” part of me. In gold bars in Ft. Knox or else where seems more likely.

There is little preserved in museums around the world but I’m wondering where you think the rest of it rests. (cue Indiana Jones theme)

Gold was melted down and re-used as jewelry and coinage, glass breaks, wooden things rot or are burned, carved stone things are often only useful as doorstops.

When things are stolen they are usually not cared for, cherished or preserved but are repurposed as quickly as possible make the theives some money.

Just to be clear, are you talking about tomb robbers hundreds or thousands of years ago, or do you mean more recent museum looting?

The most likely scenario is that most of it was stolen not long after the pharoes were buried there. Which explains why the ancient Egyptians stopped building large, conspicuous monuments.

When it’s well known that fantastic fortunes are buried in the ground, it doesn’t take people long to decide that they can put it to better uses.

Anything metal gets melted down. Jewelry broken apart. Everything else rots over time.

Are there any chances for another Tutankhankamen-like find today? King Tut was a very minor king-but his tomb was packed with neat stuff. Like the pure gold mask-has anything like it ever been found?
King Tut’s tomb wasn’t looted because it was never found-presumably, his heirs had learned that pyramids were not good places to stash loot.

The Mummies from the tombs were often ground up and used as medicine.

Damn it, Fry! I was going to eat that mummy!

Possible. However, one has to take into account that the majority of thievery happened in ancient times, and often by some of the same people who were paid to bury the stuff in the first place. Tut’s tomb survived because it was very soom after his burial covered with debris from another tomb’s construction (and even so, it was in fact robbed in antiquity - it just wasn’t cleaned out).

What you need for a tomb’s survival is:

  • Inconspicuous tomb
  • Quickly obscured or forgotten about by the people who built it
  • Not found since

A goodly portion of the pharohs are already accounted for, though. I dunno what percentage are left.

Or paint pigment.

Moving from IMHO to General Questions.

I’m not sure what you mean by that. Are you under the impression that the decision not to mark Tut’s tomb with a pyramid was a departure from normal practice? It wasn’t. By the time of Tut’s death, no pahroah had been buried in or under a pyramid for more than 200 years.

The switch from pyramids to rock-cut tombs was driven by location (of the capital) and theology, not by desire to protect the grave goods. One rock-cut cache, and no pyramid caches, survived relatively intact, so I suppose rock-cut did end up with a better record. But as Malthus says that was due to happenstance after Tut’s death.

In one respect it was intended to protect the remains - centralizing burials in the Valley of the Kings was supposed to make them easier to guard. Of course, that didn’t work out too well! Pretty well all of the tombs were plundered, if not by robbers then by the Egyptian state itself.

In desperation at the constant, unstoppable plundering, the ancient authorities moved the remaining mummies to make them yet easier to guard - first to concentrate them in royal tombs, and finally to a more hidden cache, where they were discovered in the 19th century (by tomb robbers, naturally). The authories became aware of the cache when high-quality stuff came on the market; one of the robbers, pissed off about the division of the spoils, turned informer.

More than 50 assorted royals were found in that cache. Another, still in a royal tomb, contained a further 13.


In the book Complete Valley of the Kings, the author quotes letters between a priest/warlord running the area of Luxor toward the end of the new kingdom. Don’t have the references handy, but the implication is that this guy turned grave robbing from a fly-by-night operation to a mining indstry. he had his priests going around looking for any indication of a grave.

Since he was one of the high priests, the bodies were rewrapped, properly labelled to explain who they were, and buried in collective stashes. It wasn’t “concern for the thievery”, they were the ones doing the theiving and rewrapping, according to some theories. SO we find a dozen or more royal mummies in one of the VoK tombs; we find a huge collection in an unmarked cave on the far side of the mountain. They even slit open the wrappings, and dug inside the empty body cavity, to ensure they got all the gold they could. (Modern X-rays show they missed a few minor pieces of jewelry in the wrappings.)

King Tut’s grave was robbed at least twice by fly-by-night thieves. In each case, it appears the robbers were caught and the damage repaired before they got much. The implication is that this happened not long after his death, while the location was known but guards still wandered the area. A bit later his non-descript tomb entrance was covered by debris from a dig above his and forgotten. As a result, it was missed in the wholesale robbery that happened later.

We have no idea what was in the great tombs or pyramids. We have some hints - IIRC, there is furniture still intact (but no fancy painting or gilding) from one of the satellite pyramids of the great pyramid. There is the Solar Boat (and a second one, not yet unearthed) beside the Great Pyramid. yet the interiors are sigularly unremarkable. VoK is a great sight - 3500 years old, and all those tombs are full of paintings and heiroglyphics, many as fresh as the day they were painted. Even nearby nobles and commoners have decorated tombs. But the Giza pyramids don’t appear to have had any decorations inside. (Although there was an article afew weeks ago that one of the queen’s tombs, a mastaba nearby, had been opened and had carvings and artifacts but no gold.)

There is a gold-gilded wood sarcophagus in the Cairo Museum for Ankhaten - so some things survive by being lost by mistake.

Sadly, we have no idea what was in some of the other tombs, especially the pyramids.

Will they find more? I don’t recall the count, but it seems they have accounted for almost every pharoah from the era of the New Kingdom when these tombs were dug. However, on the other side of the ridge are tombs of Nobles, the Valley of the Queens, and tombs of rich commoners and VoK workers (including there’s a whole workers’ village where the foundations are still visible). They might not find tombs of the highest and mightiest, but they could find tombs from many of the lesser folk that somehow got forgotten and missed by the robbers.

I’m talking about the artifacts never found. They say when they found King Tut’s tomb, it was one of the last burials found intact. I was referring more to all the other tombs they found empty.

When the “high quality stuff” came on the market, didn’t someone have to buy it? It would be worth more being a 2500 year old artifact and solid gold rather than being gold melted down into bars. I’m wondering if anyone has been busted trying to sell these artifacts on the black market? If robbers are switching teams, then one has to know the stuff is being sold somewhere?

it was one of the ONLY royal burials found intact. Certainly the tomb robbers and anyone else who came into gold, spent it. it all got recycled pretty quickly.

Of course, since most of the tombs were looted relatively soon after burial, it’s probable that a certain amount of the loot was resold to someone else, reburied and then re-looted.

I always imagined it went something like this:

New Pharaoh and trusted advisor watching old Pharaoh get planted.

New Pharaoh: Well that’s it. I’m Pharaoh now!

Trusted advisor: Yes your highness. It’s time for you to start building your own glorious tomb.

New Pharaoh: Where the heck am I going to find that much gold?

Trusted advisor: Whispers into New Pharaoh’s ear.

New Pharaoh: Oh yeah, huh.

I think this is key - are all pharoahs’ tombs accounted for, or almost all? Does anyone have any more information on this?