For the first time ever, the United States returns looted antiquity to Palestine, a "cosmetic spoon" that is almost 3,000 years old.
US officials repatriated a 2,700-year-old ivory object to the Palestinian Authority on Thursday after it was likely stolen from Al-Khalil, in the occupied West Bank.
The artifact was seized after a multinational criminal investigation by the Manhattan DA office into Michael Steinhardt, one of the world's finest collectors of ancient art.
The object, described as a "cosmetic spoon," was used to ladle incense onto fires and braziers at rites honoring the gods and the dead.
It dates to between 800 B.C. and 700 B.C. and is believed to be from the vast Assyrian civilization.
Steinhardt bought this cosmetic spoon in 2003 from Israeli antiquities dealer Gil Chaya who has been accused of selling hundreds of illicit items, according to The New York Times. The spoon’s seizure is part of an investigation into stolen antiquities valued at $70 million.
This comes after a years-long investigation into Steinhardt, who avoided charges after he surrendered 180 artifacts, worth an estimated $70 million, and agreed to what officials called an "unprecedented" lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.
This was the first time a cultural object has been repatriated to Palestine from the United States, a press release from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. said.
“This artifact is important as it acquires its real scientific and archaeological value in its authentic location,” Rula Maayah, the Palestinian minister of tourism and antiquities, said during a ceremony at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Bethlehem this week.
The repatriation is "a historic moment between the American and Palestinian people and a demonstration of our belief in the power of cultural exchanges in building mutual understanding, respect, and partnership," George Noll, Chief of the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs said.
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