CAIRO - Egypt sent an archaeological team to France today to retrieve 3200-year-old strands of hair from the mummy of Pharaoh Ramses II, who presided over an era of great military expansion in Egypt, state media said.
The existence of the hair came to light last year when some of the strands were offered for sale on the internet for between 2000 and 2500 euros ($3800 and $4760), in addition to tiny pieces of resin and embalmed cloth taken from the mummy.
The seller had said he obtained the relics from his deceased father, who had worked in a French laboratory entrusted with analysing and restoring the body of Ramses in the 1970s. He had offered to provide certificates of authenticity to buyers.
French archaeologists had reacted with horror to news that the hairs were on sale and French authorities arrested the suspected seller in November.
Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass praised the efforts of French authorities to stop the sale of the hair, and said that the "theft of the mummy's hair was not appropriate behaviour", state news agency MENA said.
Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great, was born around 1304 BC and ruled Egypt for more than 60 years during the 19th dynasty of pharaohs.
He is a popular feature on Egyptian postcards and is traditionally believed to be the pharaoh mentioned in the biblical story of Moses.
Ramses' mummy was discovered in 1881 and shortly afterwards moved to Cairo's Egyptian Museum. In the early 1970s authorities noticed his body was deteriorating and sent it to Paris, where it was treated for a fungal infection.