Monday, 11 January 2021

Thousands of stolen archaeological artefacts recovered in Israel.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has reported the recovery of thousands of artefacts believed to have been looted from sites across the Middle East, southern Europe, South America, Asia and Africa, following a raid on a flat in Tel Aviv on Monday 4 January 2021. Three people have been arrested following the raid, described as two men in their fifties from Tel Aviv in their sixties, and a man from Holon in his forties. The artefacts were removed from the flat by truck, and are still being inventoried. It is thought that the men arrested were trading in artefacts looted by other people and smuggled into Israel to take advantage of the countries market in such artefacts, with numerous licenced traders in antiquities, something not found in any other country in the region, although none of those arrested was a licenced dealer.

 
Amir Ganor, head of the Antiquities Robbery Prevention Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority with a Red and Black Pottery Greek Urn, which had apparently been restored at some point. Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority.

The hoard includes hundreds of coins dating to the Seleucid Empire, which ruled much of Western Asia between 312 BC, when the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great broke up into a number of smaller units, and 63 BC, when it was absorbed into the Roman Empire. There is also a large amount of distinctive Red and Black Pottery, produced in Greece and southern Italy in the fifth and sixth centuries BC, much of which appears to have been restored (such objects are seldom found intact).

 
Seleucid Era coins recovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority during a raid on a flat used by illegal antiquities traders in January 2021. Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Israel Antiquities Authority also recovered large amounts of Roman era goods during the raid, including many bronze items, such as jewellery and lamps, glassware, stone heads, and statues, many of which are thought to have been looted from tombs across the Middle East.

 
Stone heads, thought to be mainly of Roman origin, recovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority during a raid on a flat used by illegal antiquities traders in January 2021. Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority.

A large number of Egyptian artefacts were also recovered, including sarcophagus lids, wooden boxes and statues. As well as the ancient artefacts, a number of African masks of uncertain origin were found; these are outside the usual remit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which generally only handles objects dating to before 1700 AD. The Authority is working with Interpol to try to locate the origin of objects from outside the region, with photographs being circulated to law enforcement agencies around the world.

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