Norway seizes 100 artefacts claimed by Iraq

Origin and authenticity of the Mesopotamian objects being assessed

Norwegian police have seized nearly 100 Mesopotamian archaeological artefacts, claimed by Iraq, from a collector.

"The seizure involves what are presumed to be cuneiform tablets and other archaeological objects from Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq ... considered important to the world's historical cultural heritage," the police said on Friday.

The objects were seized during a search of a collector's house in south-east Norway.

They are the subject of a restitution request from Iraqi authorities to the Norwegian Ministry of Culture.

"A restitution procedure has been initiated, but an expert review must first be carried out to determine the origin and authenticity of these objects and the Iraqi authorities must document their request," prosecutor Maria Bache Dahl said.

She said the collector in question is contesting the Iraqi request is not suspected of a crime and had not been arrested.

Iraq, once home to Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians, is a prime location for smugglers of ancient artefacts.

According to Iraqi officials, trafficking feeds criminal networks in the country where armed groups have considerable influence.

When it occupied large parts of Iraq between 2014 and 2017, the extremist group ISIS demolished dozens of pre-Islamic treasures with bulldozers, pickaxes and explosives, but also used smuggling to finance their operations.

Updated: September 3rd 2021, 1:28 PM
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