1,834 smuggled historical objects back home in 4 years

April 21, 2021 - 21:0

TEHRAN – A total of 1,834 historical objects have been returned to the country over the past four years, deputy tourism minister Mohammad-Hassan Talebian said on Wednesday.

In December 2020, a total of 49 glazed bricks attributed to the Qalaichi archaeological site in West Azarbaijan province, which had been looted and smuggled out of Iran some four decades ago, were returned home with the aid of Swiss officials. 

The exhibit will be running for a month as of May 18. And the event is intended to highlight the history and culture of the region to the visitors, the provincial tourism chief, Jalil Jabari, said on Tuesday.

Situated about nine air km northwest of Bukan, Qalaichi (or Ghalay-chi) is an ancient settlement that so far yielded a large number of glazed objects. Some of which are monochrome and the others show complex compositions. The glazed objects from the regular excavations were curated in Urmia Museum and Tehran National Museum.

The artifacts are connected to the Mannai civilization, which was once flourished in northwestern Iran in the 1st millennium BC. Mannai, also spelled Manna, was an ancient country surrounded by three major powers of the time namely Assyria, Urartu, and Media.

In July 2020, a batch of Iranian ancient relics, which had been smuggled to Austria, was recovered and surrendered to a representative of the Islamic Republic in Vienna.

“A number of antiquities belonging to Iran that were illegally smuggled into Austria were handed over to our country’s representative in Austria flowing a series of legal investigation and as the result of judicial assistance between the two countries and in cooperation with Interpol departments in the two countries,” ISNA reported.

Among the seized objects, there are examples of bronze objects known as Lorestan’s pins, similar examples of which are being kept at the museums of Reza Abbasi and the National Museum of Iran.

Tourism minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan has said more than 3,000 historical objects that had been looted and smuggled out of Iran decades ago have been returned home since August 2017, when Presiden Hassan Rouhani began his second administration.

The twelfth government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has set a new [national] record for the repatriation of once smuggled historical relics by the means of cultural pursuits, [effective] diplomacy, and legal actions, Mounesan explained.

Only in one case, over Achaemenid-era clay tablets, which were on loan from Iran to the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago since 1935, were returned home in 2019, the official added.

In December, 49 works of ancient art that had been smuggled out of the country some four decades ago were brought back home with the aid of Swiss officials. 

In February 2018, and following years of ups and downs, the fate of those ancient Persian artifacts, was left in the hands of a U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Iran.

Archaeologists affiliated with the University of Chicago discovered the tablets in the 1930s while excavating in Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire. However, the institute has resumed work in collaboration with colleagues in Iran, and the return of the tablets is part of a broadening of contacts between scholars in the two countries, said Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

The tablets reveal the economic, social, and religious history of the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC) and the larger Near Eastern region in the fifth century BC.

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