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Iraq

5,000-year-old artifacts looted during Iraq invasion to be returned

By Rudaw 10/8/2018
A handout picture released by the British Museum in London on August 9, 2018 shows looted antiquities, which were confiscated by British police in May 2003 and are provenenced to the ancient city of Girsu, now known as Tello, in southern Iraq. Photo: AFP/British Museum
A handout picture released by the British Museum in London on August 9, 2018 shows looted antiquities, which were confiscated by British police in May 2003 and are provenenced to the ancient city of Girsu, now known as Tello, in southern Iraq. Photo: AFP/British Museum

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – After years in storage, looted artifacts, some of them dating back to 3000 BCE, will finally be returned to their home in Iraq on Friday.


Eight artifacts were suspected to be looted and seized in London by a now-defunct dealer in 2003, according to The British Museum.

"The dealer failed to supply proof of ownership, subsequently ceased trading and the objects passed to the Crown and then to the British Museum for analysis this year," the museum’s press release read.

After spending 15 years being held by the state, the items were then sent to the British Museum prior to being transferred back to Iraq.

Some of the items included an inscribed pebbles, three clay cones bearing Sumerian cuneiform script with identification of their origin coming from the Eninnu temple at ancient Girsu (current day Tello), two stamp seals, a gypsum mace head and a marble bull pendent.

"These objects were successfully identified as being from the site at Tello thanks to the British Museum's Iraq Scheme, as experts were able to link up investigations into suspected areas of looting in Tello with the objects brought to the Museum for identification in 2018," read the press release.

All of the artifacts will be sent to the Iraqi embassy in London on Friday, which will include a small ceremony to celebrate the return of Iraq's ancient artifacts. 

 


Photo: AFP/British Museum

Director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer, said: "The British Museum is absolutely committed to the fight against illicit trade and damage to cultural heritage. This is an issue which concerns us all. I am delighted that we are able to assist in the return of these important objects to Iraq, via the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in London."

Museum experts who analyzed the artifacts were able to determine not only sites in Iraq pieces belonged to, but even which parts from different buildings which certain remains came from, some of them at least 5,000-years-old.

"I would like to express my thanks and appreciation for the British Museum and the staff for their exceptional efforts in the process of identifying and returning looted antiquities to Iraq," said Salih Husain Ali, Iraq's ambassador to the UK.

The artifacts are due to be returned to Iraq by next week from the Iraqi embassy in London.

"The protection of antiquities is an international responsibility and in Iraq we aspire to the global cooperation to protect the heritage of Iraq and to restore its looted objects," he added.


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