US gives back stolen artifact to Palestinian Authority


Published: 2023-01-10 12:24

Last Updated: 2024-06-17 03:53

Photo Credit: Manhattan District Attorney's (DA) office
Photo Credit: Manhattan District Attorney's (DA) office

The US gave back a stolen artifact to the Palestinian Authority, according to a statement released by the US Office of Palestinian Affairs and Palestinian News Agency WAFA.

The 3,000-year-old Iron Age ivory "cosmetic spoon" was returned to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Bethlehem, which is a first-of-its-kind historic event, as reported by CNN.

According to the Manhattan District Attorney's (DA) office's press release, the ivory cosmetic spoon dates back to approximately 800-700 B.C.E and the repatriation marks the first time a cultural object has been returned to the Palestinian people from the US.

"The cosmetic spoon returned today was used to ladle incense onto fires as offerings to the gods or the dead and was found in El Kom," the press release read.

Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Rula Maayah, said that the artifact "acquires its real scientific and archaeological value in its authentic location."

She added that according to US investigation findings, the item was stolen from Hebron and was recently seized as part of a multinational criminal investigation into American billionaire, Michael Steinhardt.

Chief of the US Office of Palestinian Affairs, George Noll, said the return of this artifact is "a historic moment between the American and Palestinian people and a demonstration of our belief in the power of cultural exchanges in building mutual understanding, respect, and partnership."

Notably, this item was one of a total of 180 looted items, estimated to be worth USD 70 million, smuggled from 11 different countries with the help of 12 criminal networks, the DA’s office disclosed.

Among the stolen items was a USD 1.2 million artifact that belongs to Libya and two that belong to Iraq.

Special Agent in Charge for HSI in New York, Ivan J. Arvelo, said “Antiquities trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar business with looters and smugglers turning a profit at the expense of cultural heritage. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents are specially trained to track down trafficked antiquities with the safe return of these lost pieces being the ultimate goal of all of our investigations. We are honored to join our partners today in this historic repatriation of this artifact to the Palestinian Authority.”