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Abstract

The Saint Louis Art Museum, known as SLAM, acquired the mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer in 1998. Eight years later, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities called for its return on the grounds that it had been stolen from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. SLAM refused. In 2011, the case went before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri to determine the ownership of the mask. Perhaps to the surprise of many, the court decided that the mask belongs in Saint Louis.

This Article will explain how this case was properly decided, albeit on a legal technicality. It will also discuss the law surrounding different kinds of repatriation claims, and how foreign patrimony laws apply within the United States legal system. Finally, it will discuss the ramifications of the Ka-Nefer-Nefer decision. Given that the black market for art is estimated to be the third largest in the world, behind drug trafficking and arms dealing, proper understanding of the United States laws in the field of art law is important.