ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A British border officer foiled an attempt to smuggle a Babylonian relic through London’s Heathrow Airport, and the treasure is expected to be handed back to Iraq later this month.
The artifact is a 30cm-high inscribed stone that dates back over 3,000 years ago, and it had been looted from the southern part of Iraq, according to The Guardian Newspaper.
The officer’s suspicions were raised after being told the cargo crate contained a “carved stone for home decoration” made in Turkey and valued at “300”, with no specified currency.
After contacting the British Museum, the officer discovered that it was one of the few surviving examples of a Babylonian kudurru, “an official document drawn up on the instructions of the Babylonian king to record the gift of lands or other benefits bestowed on particular individuals.”
The object is believed to date from the reign of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar I (1126-1103 BC) and valued at hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“Importantly, this kudurru has been neither previously recorded nor published and must, therefore, come from illicit digging at a site in southern Iraq,” Dr. St John Simpson, a senior curator at the British Museum, told The Guardian.
The artifact, along with many other looted antiquities, would be returned to Iraqi authorities.
Last August, the British Museum announced they would return a number of ancient artifacts looted following the fall of the Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship system back to Iraq.
Editing by Nadia Riva