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History & Heritage


Iraq: UK to return Sumerian artifact

A very old Sumerian artifact dating from 2400 BC was “found” at an online auction. Experts were able to determine its provenance and obtain the piece’s return to Iraq, where it originally came from.

Experts at the British Museum believe that the piece was stolen from Tello in southern Iraq, from the site of the ancient city of Girsu, before being brought illegally to the United Kingdom.

It is a Sumerian plaque, a remnant of a temple on which a priest or ruler of the time was carved in limestone.

Prior to this discovery, there was no record of the collector’s item, suggesting that it was indeed stolen from its country of origin. It is a very rare piece, as Dr. St. John Simpson, Chief Curator of the British Museum, explains: “There are only about 50 of these ancient Mesopotamian pieces in the world. This puts them immediately on a scale of very great rarity,” he said, praising the quality in passing.

The seller immediately relinquished all rights of possession on the coin and expressed the wish that it be returned to its country of origin.

It will be on display for two months at the British Museum before being repatriated to Iraq.

See also

Saudi Arabia to open its own museum of contemporary art

Published on 1 October 2020