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Tourists look at artefacts inside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Hundreds of ancient artefacts returned by Italy after they were recovered from smugglers in May went on display at the Egyptian museum in Cairo on Wednesday.

The relics date to different eras, suggesting that the smugglers were well organised, according to museum curator Ahmed Samir.

"They researched Egypt from north to south to extract these artefacts. Thank God they were returned to their country," he said.

Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, head of the Department of Recovered Antiquities at the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, said Naples police seized a collection of parcels in May dating back to several civilizations, stolen from illegal excavations.

The treasure haul included 19,000 coins from the Greco-Roman period, 151 small statues and 175 other artefacts, which were returned and displayed. Some required restoration but most were intact, museum director Sabah Abdelrazek said.

"The restoration did not take long. The coffin was separated. It was repaired by the museum and there was a bronze statue which was also separated. It was repaired as well. We have pictures from before the restoration displayed here."

Antiquities theft has flourished in Egypt in the years of chaos since the 2011 uprising, with relics stolen from museums, mosques, storage facilities, and illegal excavations. Egypt's Pharaonic heritage is not only a source of immense national pride, but also a source of income from tourists.

(Reporting by Mostafa Salem; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Peter Graff)

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Reuters