A collection of 5,000-year-old antiquities looted from a site in Iraq in 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and then seized by the Metropolitan police from a dealer in London, will be returned to Baghdad this week, the Guardian reported.
It comes after experts at the British Museum identified not just the site they came from but the temple wall they were stolen from.
The eight small pieces had no documentation of any kind to help the police, but the museum experts could literally read their origin. They included cone-shaped ceramics with cuneiform inscriptions identifying the site as Tello, ancient Girsu in southern Iraq, one of the oldest cities on earth recorded in the earliest form of true written language.
The inscriptions named the Sumerian king who had them made almost 5,000 years ago, the god they were dedicated to, and the temple. And by an extraordinary coincidence the museum had an archaeologist, Sebastian Rey, leading a team of Iraqi archaeologists at the site, uncovering the holes in the mudbrick walls of the temple they were torn from, and the broken pieces the looters had discarded.
On Friday the museum will present all the pieces, including carved seal stones and a tiny marble amulet of a bull, packed into a handsome red velvet case recycled from the museum stores, to the Iraqi ambassador Salih Husain Ali.
He said the protection of antiquities was an international responsibility and praised the British Museum and its 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 of Iraqi heritage”.