Iran’s history comes under hammer at Christie’s again

September 2, 2007

TEHRAN -- London-based Christie’s auction rooms are scheduled to resume the sale of a collection of Iran’s historic artifacts in September and October.

The collection includes a bas-relief of an Achaemenid soldier which had been withdrawn from the April 2005 sale after Iran filed a lawsuit claiming ownership in a London court against the auction house.
The limestone bas-relief depicting the head of an Achaemenid soldier has been severed from the eastern staircase of the Apadana Palace, which was built by Xerxes I in Persepolis near the modern-day city of Shiraz in southern Iran’s Fars Province. The valuable relic was smuggled from Iran about 70 years ago and was purchased for the first time in 1971 at Sotheby’s, another London-based auction house.
The London court ordered the bas-relief to be withdrawn from sale to enable Iran to put forward evidence in support of its claim to ownership.
The court rejected Iran’s claim, arguing that the artifact had previously been sold in an auction without any objection from Iranian officials.
Iran is currently engaged in another legal battle with London’s Barakat Gallery over a collection of 5,000-year-old artifacts smuggled from the ancient site of Jiroft in southeastern Iran.
Iran sued the Barakat Gallery, which specializes in antiques, and also has an office in Beverly Hills, in an attempt to recover the collection, but London’s High Court made a decision in March allowing the gallery to auction the items.
Iran has appealed against the court decision.
In March 2005, some 118 ancient artifacts, which had been smuggled to Britain from Jiroft, were returned to Iran. The items had been confiscated by customs officials at London’s Heathrow Airport in summer 2004.
Jiroft came into the spotlight nearly five years ago when reports surfaced that local people had begun extensive illegal excavations and were plundering priceless historical items