US returns looted artifacts to Libya

The New York Times revealed in its latest reports that some of the looted antiquities were returned to Libya by the Office of the  District Attorney in Manhattan.

The newspaper added that the looted antiquities are marble busts, including a statue of a veiled lady, that was stolen from the Temple of Cyrene, which was part of the ancient Greek civilization.

The statue is dated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 350 BC, and its value is estimated at 470,000 dollars. Investigators also confirmed that the statue that was seized from the museum was smuggled from Libya to Egypt by Emile Saad, who was sentenced in 2000 in Egypt for smuggling antiquities, and has since died.

One investigator adds that the statue appeared on the international art market in 1997 and shows signs of looting such as dirt on the surface and new chips at the base and in the veil.

The Department of Homeland Security had recently confiscated a funeral statue of a veiled female from a Manhattan gallery that had been listed for sale online for more than $500,000 to Libya.

Another bust of a veiled lady was seized from a dealer in 2008 and a second piece of a statue was returned to Libya. “Bearded Man” bust, which is valued at about $300,000 has been circulating in the art market for decades but has been confiscated this month, while the Manhattan District Attorney describes these artifacts as representing windows on thousands of years of culture and civilization and worthy of being returned to their country of origin.

Observers believe that the reason for the looting  and sale of Libyan antiquities is due to government neglect and a weak popular sense of their value, despite UNESCO’s keenness to include some Libyan sites within the World Heritage areas worthy of protection.

The last of these sites was the Cyrene cemetery in the eastern region, which suffers from continuous looting. The scientific work that was being carried out at the cemetery in the 1990s was halted due to government instability and the security situation in the country.

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