FBI returns stolen artifact to Iraq after finding it in Emory museum
Agents believe the artifact was stolen during looting of the Iraq Museum in 2003.
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The FBI on Wednesday returned a 2,700-year-old artifact believed stolen from a Baghdad museum in 2003 to the Iraqi government.
The artifact, “Furniture Fitting with Sphinx Trampling a Youth,” had been held and on exhibit at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University.
Atlanta-based FBI agents had been investigating the art crime since January 2022.
Historians date the artifact back to the Iron Age and 7th century BC. It stands only two and a quarter inch tall by one and a half inches wide and is made of ivory, pigment, and gold leaf.
Agents believe the artifact was stolen during looting of the Iraq Museum in 2003. The Carlos Museum purchased the artifact from a third party in 2006 after agents believe administrators were shown a fake provenance. The presented provenance stated the artifact entered the United States in 1969.
After consulting with experts, including one which took photographs of the item in the Baghdad Museum in 1983, agents determined the artifact belonged to Iraq. Carlos Museum personnel cooperated with agents, the FBI said, and voluntarily handed over the artifact to agents in December 2022.
“While realize there was no ill intent on behalf of Emory University, we are glad our agents could return a small part of history back to where it belongs in Iraq,” said Keri Farley, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta.
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