New Historian

Stolen Iraqi Artefacts Returned

Ancient Assyrian Lamassu

<![CDATA[Dozens of stolen Iraqi cultural artefacts have been returned. More than 60 Iraqi treasures, illegally smuggled into the USA, have been returned to the Republic of Iraq this week. The artefacts, including gold-plated items from the palace of Saddam Hussein and a limestone head of the Assyrian king Sargon II, are vitally important pieces of Iraq's history. Experts believe that the head was removed from one of the lamassu - an Assyrian protective deity, often depicted with a bull or lion's body, eagle's wings and a human head - at Sargon II's palace in Khorsabad, the 2,700-year-old Assyrian capital in northern Iraq. The recovery of Sargon II's head is of particular importance, as it was believed that Khorsabad had been razed and looted by Islamic State militants. Iraqi cultural heritage has been suffering brutal attacks by IS: the ancient city of Nimrud has been bulldozed and the Mosul Museum has been looted, according to Iraq's Ministry of Culture. Attempts to return the head of Sargon II began back in 2008, after the US Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) received a tip off about its location. The limestone head was seized after it had been shipped from Dubai to New York. Working as part of 'Operation Lost Treasure,' ICE has been trying to break up illegal antiquities-trafficking groups. Also returned were 37 Iraqi bronze objects, 21 clay reliefs and 18 glass artefacts. One bronze axe was located after it had been advertised on Craigslist in 2012. Gold-plated items believed to be from Saddam Hussein's palace, including a water-urn and a soap dish, have also been recovered. "These ancient treasures we are returning do not belong in the hands of any private collection or any one owner," said Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security and ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña. "They belong to the people of Iraq where they will be displayed and protected. ICE will not allow the illicit greed of some to trump the cultural history of an entire people The repatriation ceremony occurred in Washington DC this week, where the priceless items were returned to Iraq. "While we stand here united with our friends and allies, we send a strong message to Daesh (the Arabic term for IS) and its destruction that we are committed to defeating the terror, rebuilding our country and preserving its cultural heritage," Lukman Faily, ambassador to the Republic of Iraq, said in a statement. "The return of our looted archaeological items is a national project and we call upon all countries to help us in preserving this heritage which is not only valuable for Iraq but for all mankind." Since 2008, ICE has been responsible for returning more than 1,200 items to Iraq. More than 7,800 artefacts have been returned to over 30 countries since 2007, including paintings looted during the Second World War. The artefacts are likely to be displayed in Iraq's recently-reopened National Museum. They will hopefully provide the people of Iraq with items which trace the history of their country. For more information: Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons user: Flickr upload bot]]>

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