British Museum Returns Looted Artifacts to Iraq

In a ceremony in London on Friday, August 10, the British Museum restituted several artifacts that had been looted from Iraq more than fifteen years earlier. Palko Karasz of the New York Times reports that the authorities seized the works from a local dealer, who has since gone out of business, in 2003 and only passed them on to the British Museum for analysis earlier this year.

The eight works, some of which date back to five thousand years ago, are from the archaeological site of Girsu, a Sumerian city in Tello in southern Iraq. They include three fired-clay cones that feature cuneiform inscriptions, which aided archaeologist Sebastien Rey at the British Museum in the process of identifying them; a fragment of a white ceremonial weapon made of gypsum; a white marble pendant depicting a four-legged animal; and a quartz seal with an engraving of a sphinx. “The objects may be small,” Rey told the New York Times, “but they have important symbolic value.”

Commenting on the museum’s decision to return the artifacts, Salih Husain Ali, Iraq’s ambassador to Britain, said: “Such collaboration between Iraq and the United Kingdom is vital for the preservation and the protection of the Iraqi heritage. In Iraq we aspire to the global cooperation to protect the heritage of Iraq and to restore its looted objects.”

The objects will soon be displayed at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad.