art objects looted in Iraq and Afghanistan and seized by the United Kingdom will be returned to their country of origin after having been tested, has announced the london museum on Monday. “The British Museum has a lot of experience with uk customs, Scotland Yard and other government agencies to identify and return any objects looted in Iraq and Afghanistan during the recent conflict, explained Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum, to the journalists.
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sculptures of Gandhara (ancient name of a region in north-west Pakistan), illegally exported from Afghanistan and seized by the british authorities in September 2002, clay tablets dating to a period between the sixth and the Fourth century before Jesus Christ entered in February 2011, are part of the works that will be returned. On these small tablets, a few centimeters are 154 texts in cuneiform writing, including letters, text, mathematical or economic literature. Among the sculptures are a bust of bodhisattva (buddha) in slate gray and nine heads sculpted in clay and painted, dated between the Ivth and the vith century. These precious objects had arrived from Afghanistan in two wooden crates of bad invoice at Heathrow airport, which had attracted the attention of the authorities.
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Egypt and the Sudan, next on the list
most come from a place called Irisagrig, a site heavily looted after the u.s. invasion of Iraq and fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. These tablets will go to the national museum of Iraq in Baghdad. “With the permission of the national Museum of afghanistan, we will expose some to the British Museum before they are returned by the intermediary of the embassy,” said Hartwig Fischer. The museum has also developed a collaborative project with the collectors, of the bodies responsible for antiquities, and art vendors to identify and return looted objects in Egypt and the Sudan. In the past year, nearly 700 objects from these two countries have been identified through this program. Attended by over 6 million visitors in 2018-2019, the British Museum has priceless pieces, of which some have been requested for years by their country of origin as the Rosetta stone of Egypt or the friezes of the Parthenon in Greece.