CHICAGO: A sudden concern about an Egyptian sarcophagus owned by Exelon Corp. CEO John Rowe threatened briefly to disrupt the long-standing relationship between the Field Museum and Egypt s Supreme Council of Antiquities.
A settlement of the spat announced Thursday evening means the lakefront museum will obtain the sarcophagus for its permanent collection, and Rowe, 61, will lose his distinction of being probably the only major utility executive with an ancient sarcophagus in his corporate offices.
Council secretary-general Zahi Hawass sent a letter to the museum earlier Thursday saying that if the museum did not remove Chicago-based Exelon as a named sponsor of the new King Tut exhibition, the agency would never deal with the Field again. The Chicago Tribune first reported about the letter on its Web site Thursday.
The council is part of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture and is responsible for the conservation, protection and regulation of all antiquities and archaeological excavations in Egypt, including King Tut.
The threat came only a day before the scheduled opening of Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, which is expected to draw an estimated one million visitors to the lakefront museum before it closes Jan. 1, 2007.
Hawass said he would not interfere with the exhibition s run in Chicago or its last American showing, at Philadelphia s Franklin Institute beginning Feb. 1, 2007.
He did say, though, that the Field, which has an extensive Egyptian collection of its own, might no longer have the council s cooperation.
This doesn t belong to a person, it belongs to a museum and to the public, Hawass said late Thursday afternoon of Rowe s 2,600-year-old sarcophagus. He should give it to the Field Museum.
Hawass withdrew his threat a short time later when he learned that Rowe had indeed offered the museum the sarcophagus as an indefinite long-term loan, said Field spokeswoman Pat Kremer.
It s going into our permanent Egyptian hall, Kremer said.
Exelon spokeswoman Jennifer Medley said she hadn t seen Hawass letter, and she called the dispute a simple misunderstanding.
Mr. Rowe has several times offered to loan the sarcophagus for an indefinite period, Medley said.
Rowe is an avid amateur student of history and several years ago donated $1 million to endow a chair in Byzantine history at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. Reading history has taught me how to handle the human things in business, he said at the time.
Rowe is also a collector of Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities. The sarcophagus is said to date from Egypt s 26th Dynasty (664-525 B.C.).
Medley said she was not sure just when and where Rowe acquired the piece, or whose tomb it was from.
About all I can tell you is that it isn t made of stone, she said. It seems to be of wood and some sort of plaster, and you can see that it s been touched up a lot over the centuries.