Eight looted objects from Iraq identified by British Museum

Objects from Tello handed to Iraqi Embassy last week
Patrick Steel
Last week the British Museum (BM) identified and formally handed over eight objects looted from Tello, Iraq, to the Iraqi embassy in London.

The objects were seized by the Metropolitan Police in May 2003 and passed to the museum for analysis earlier this year. Experts at the museum identified the objects as being from Tello in Southern Iraq, where the BM’s Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Scheme has been conducting archaeological excavations since 2016.

The eight artefacts consist of five Sumerian inscribed objects, two Jemdet Nasr stamp-seal amulets in the form of a reclining sheep or showing a pair of quadrupeds facing in opposite directions, and an Achaemenid stamp-seal showing a reclining sphinx.

“The British Museum is absolutely committed to the fight against illicit trade and damage to cultural heritage,” said Hartwig Fischer, the BM’s director. “This is an issue that 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.

“It is a symbol of the very strong working relationships we have with our Iraqi colleagues, developed over many years and extended through the British Museum-run Iraq Scheme. The return of these objects is particularly poignant given the connection to Tello, one of the sites currently being excavated by the Iraq Scheme.”

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

“Such collaboration between Iraq and the United Kingdom is vital for the preservation and the protection of Iraqi heritage. 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.”

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