Archaeological artifacts stolen from Lebanon have been seized in New York, in collaboration with US officials, New York’s Attorney General, and the US Embassy in Beirut, according to the Lebanese Ministry of Culture.
In a statement, the Ministry declared that a Greek head and several mosaic pieces are currently in the possession of the Lebanese Consulate in New York.
The circumstances in which they were stolen and recovered remain unidentified.
These are not the first archeological pieces stolen from Lebanon and ending in different parts of the world.
Lebanon, a land rich with archeological artifacts and lacking proper control and care by the state for its antiquities and ancient temples, has long been a target for thieves and smugglers of its rarities.
During the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), numerous ancient sites were subject to theft and/or vandalism. The Beirut Museum was also vandalized and many of its precious artifacts disappeared. Tremendous efforts were dedicated afterward to recuperate what was possible.
In 2018, thanks to global efforts, Lebanon managed to recover five archaeological pieces that were stolen from an ancient temple during the civil war.
They include a marble bull’s head dating to about 360 B.C. and four marble torsos excavated from the Phoenician temple of Echmoun, in 1967 in Sidon and stolen later in summer 1981.
In 2017, three other stolen artifacts from the Eshmun Temple were recovered, also in New York and returned to Beirut. These sculptures date back to the 4th century B.C. and the 6th century B.C and were estimated at more than $5 million back then.
Private foreign collectors previously owned these Lebanese treasures, which were part of 600 archaeological antiques.
The Lebanese Ministry has assured that it seeks to preserve the Lebanese archaeological heritage, retrieve all stolen antiques, and combat illegal artifact trades.
Mohammad Mortada, Minister of Culture, addressed the Lebanese Consulate in New York, asking them to repatriate the recuperated artifacts.