Lebanon returns 337 artifacts of different eras to Iraq

BEIRUT (AP)

Lebanon’s Ministry of Culture handed over to Iraq on Sunday 337 ancient artifacts that had been on display in a Lebanese museum for years.

The items, which included clay tablets, were returned by Minister of Culture Mohammed Murtada to Iraq’s ambassador to Lebanon during a ceremony held at the National Museum of Beirut.

Murtada told Iraq’s state-run news agency in a Saturday report that a Lebanese committee had been investigating the items since 2018.

The artifacts had been stored most recently at the private Nabu Museum in northern Lebanon. The report gave no further details about the artifacts’ provenance.

“We are celebrating the handing over of 337 artifacts that are of different eras of civilizations in Mesopotamia,” Iraq’s ambassador to Lebanon Haider Shyaa Al-Barrak said at the ceremony. This will not be the last handover, he added, without elaborating.

Many of Iraq’s antiquities were looted during the country’s decades of war and instability, mostly since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Iraq’s government has been slowly recovering the plundered antiquities since then. Archaeological sites across the country however continue to be neglected due to lack of funds.

At least half dozen shipments of antiquities and documents have been returned to Iraq’s museum since 2016, according to Iraqi authorities.

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