Trove of missing ancient Mesopotamian artefacts found in Norway

© Okokrim/AFP via Getty Images

Norwegian police said they had seized nearly 100 Mesopotamian archaeological artefacts, claimed by Iraq, from a collector

– Okokrim/AFP via Getty Images

A large number of archaeological artefacts reported missing by Iraqi authorities have been seized in Oslo, Norwegian police have said.

The objects are presumed to be cuneiform tablets from ancient Mesopotamia, and were seized during a search of a collector’s house in southeast Norway.

Several witnesses were questioned but there have been no criminal charges, a police spokesperson told Reuters.

“In total, almost 100 objects of significance to the global cultural heritage have been seized,” a statement by the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (Oekokrim) read.

“They are now being examined by experts to determine their authenticity and, if possible, establish their provenance.”

The police did not provide any details as to how or when the artefacts may have arrived in 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 told Agence-France-Presse.

Earlier this month, more than 17,000 looted ancient artefacts recovered from the United States and other countries were handed over to Iraq, in what described as “the largest recovery in the history” of the country.

The majority of the artefacts dated back 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia and were handed over to the Culture Ministry in large wooden crates. A few were displayed but the ministry said the most significant pieces will be examined and later displayed to the public in Iraq’s National Museum.

Speaking in a joint conference with Iraq’s PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Culture Minister Hasan Nadhim told reporters: “There’s still a lot of work ahead in this matter. There are still thousands of Iraqi artefacts smuggled outside the country.”

Iraq’s antiquities have been looted throughout decades of war and instability since the 2003 US-led invasion.

Iraq’s government has been slowly recovering the plundered antiquities since. However, archaeological sites across the country continue to be neglected owing to lack of funds.

Iraq is the site of ancient Mesopotamia, a region home to many ancient civilisations. The Cuneiform is considered one of the world’s oldest writing systems, developed by the ancient Sumerians.

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