British Museum confirms provenance of looted Afghan Bowl

Patrick Steel, 24.05.2016
Bowl returned to Kabul and will be displayed at National Museum of Afghanistan
A 17th century Safavid tinned copper bowl, which was looted from the National Museum of Afghanistan in the 1990s, will be returned following a confirmation of its provenance by the British Museum.

The looted bowl came to light when its owners, who bought it in good faith from an Afghan antique dealer in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, decided to sell it and contacted Christie’s for a valuation.

Christie’s identified the bowl as being a piece from the museum in Kabul and gave it to the British Museum for further examination. The museum confirmed the provenance and negotiations were entered into with the owners and with the National Museum of Afghanistan to return the bowl to Kabul.

Much of the Islamic metalware collection of the National Museum of Afghanistan was lost during a fire following a rocket strike on the museum in November 1995, so the return of the bowl holds a special significance. The museum has confirmed it will put the bowl on display.

“I hope returning this bowl will be a start for more artefacts to be recovered, not only those looted from museums but also those looted from archaeological sites in Afghanistan,” said Fahim Rahimi, the director of the National Museum of Afghanistan.

“I ask those collectors who keep artefacts from Afghanistan to help us return them and encourage the auction houses to always check their collections for looted objects from Afghanistan.”

St John Simpson, the assistant keeper in the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum said: “This is another important step in the rebuilding of the National Museum of Afghanistan and we are delighted to have played a small part in the return of this important object to Kabul.”

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