A common myth is that many Egyptian antiquities seen on the market today have been looted and that there is a thriving 'black market' in these objects. But in reality huge quantities of antiquities were sold quite legally and openly by licenced dealers in Egypt and even by the Egyptian Antiquities Service (which sold surplus items) prior to 1983.
In the 19th and early 20th Century Egypt was a favoured destination for cultured Europeans and a large number of licenced dealers supplied tourists, collectors and museums with genuine artefacts, quite legally under the laws of the time. There were over 100 dealers, with well-stocked shops and officially licenced by the Egyptian government, selling artifacts in Alexandria, Cairo and Luxor from 1912 to 1983. It is this long-standing, open and legal trade in Egyptian artifacts that is the ultimate source of most of the Egyptian antiquities seen on the market today.
Fredrik Hagen, Associate Professor of Egyptology at the University of Copenhagen and Kim Ryholt, Professor of Egyptology and Director, The Papyrus Carlsberg Collection, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, have published a comprehensive study of the antiquities trade in Egypt during its ‘golden age’ in the late 19th and early 20th Century, detailing the immense volume of the legal trade and export of antiquities to western museums, collectors and homes. This fascinating work is now available as a free download from here
An excellent reference for collectors of Egyptian antiquities and a revelation on why so many Egyptian antiquities have reached private collections today, and quite legally too!