Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 October 2020

Britain returns 2000-year-old Afghan sculpture stolen during civil war

The British Museum has returned more than 2,300 antiquities to Afghanistan since 2009

Many artefacts were stolen, damaged or destroyed during the Afghan civil war. British Museum 
Many artefacts were stolen, damaged or destroyed during the Afghan civil war. British Museum 

The British Museum has returned an ancient limestone sculpture believed to be almost 2,000 years old to Kabul after it was stolen during the Afghan civil war three decades ago and put up for sale in the UK.

It shows a reclining humped bull and the front of a second bull. The sculpture was discovered during a French archaeological expedition in the 1950s in northern Afghanistan.

The British Museum said it was probably originally used to decorate the inner part of the sanctuary of a temple. The site dates back to about the second century AD, when the region was part of the Kushan empire, which stretched to northern India.

“The identification, return and display of this sculpture to Kabul is another very important step in the reconstruction of the rich cultural heritage of Afghanistan after decades of conflict, destruction and loss,” said Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum.

Between about 1992 and 1994, during the post-Soviet phase of the Afghan civil war, the sculpture and other objects were stolen from the National Museum of Afghanistan as warring factions clashed in Kabul. Many other artefacts were damaged or destroyed.

“As the result of our cooperation, many lost objects from Afghanistan have been recovered in the UK and I hope that not only customs, but also museums and other private collections, will continue to help us return objects from Afghanistan in this way,” Fahim Rahimi, director of the National Museum of Afghanistan, said.

The British Museum said that since 2009 it has identified and returned more than 2,300 antiquities, of all periods, that were excavated illegally at sites across Afghanistan and trafficked abroad.

“Unfortunately, there are many other artefacts that are still missing and we encourage anyone with knowledge of the whereabouts of stolen property to contact the police,” detective inspector Jim Wingrave said.

Updated: January 20, 2020 06:29 PM

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