A shamed collector’s Iron-Age spoon is the first stolen artefact that the United States has returned to Palestine

Date:

A shamed collector's Iron-Age spoon is the first stolen artefact

  • news by AUN News correspondent
  • Saturday, January 07, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • The Assyrian culture would have employed the cosmetic spoon, which dates to roughly 800 to 700 B.C.E., to pour incense.

  • According to experts, it was stolen from an ancient site in the Palestinian hamlet of Al-Kum.

  • The Manhattan District Attorney’s office seized 180 stolen artefacts from wealthy collector Michael Steinhardt, totalling $70 million in worth.

  • Only in January were 14 antiquities returned to Turkey, five objects valued at $688,500, and a marble head worth $1.2 million returned to Iraq.

  • The office’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit returned more than 1,100 artefacts worth around $115 million to 15 nations in 2022.

According to authorities, a roughly 3,000-year-old ivory spoon has been returned to Palestine after a repatriation ceremony performed in Bethlehem, in the West Bank. This is the first time the U.S. has produced a stolen cultural relic in a Middle Eastern country.

The Assyrian culture would have employed the cosmetic spoon, which dates to roughly 800 to 700 B.C.E., to pour incense. According to experts, it was stolen from an ancient site in the Palestinian hamlet of Al-Kum.

Rula Maayah, the Palestinian tourism minister, said in a statement that “this relic is essential since it gets its genuine scientific and archaeological significance in its authentic setting.” Based on evidence from the American side, their investigations revealed that the relic was taken from the Hebron neighbourhood of Khirbet al-Koum.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office seized 180 stolen artefacts from wealthy collector Michael Steinhardt, totalling $70 million in worth. Among them was an iron-age spoon. In January 2003, he bought the returned cosmetic spoon from Israeli antiquities trader Gil Chaya.

Michael Steinhardt at the Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala in New York City. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

At the Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala in New York City, Michael Steinhardt. Image courtesy of Getty Images and Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket.

Steinhardt received an unusual lifetime ban from collecting cultural treasures after the multi-year international investigations into him came to a close in December 2021. Since Steinhardt spent decades collaborating with smugglers to purchase stolen art intentionally, the severity of the punishment was appropriate.

According to a statement from the time’s Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, “His pursuit of ‘new’ additions to showcase and sell knew no geographic or moral boundaries, as reflected in the sprawling underworld of antiquities traffickers, crime bosses, money launderers, and tomb raiders he relied upon to expand his collection.”

Steinhardt was one of the top ancient art collectors in the world, and his illegal collection included relics from 11 different nations.

Michael Steinhardt purchased this pair of Gold Masks (ca. 5000 B.C.E.) from Rafi Brown, an illegal antiquities dealer, in March 2001. The U.S. repatriated the masks, now valued collectively at $500,000, to Israel in March. Photo courtesy of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. Michael Steinhardt acquired this pair of Gold Masks (ca. 5000 B.C.E.) from Rafi Brown in March 2001. In March, the United States returned the masks to Israel, now valued at $500,000 overall. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office provided the image.

The Manhattan D.A. has been busy returning them over the past year.

Only in January were 14 antiquities returned to Turkey, five objects valued at $688,500, and a marble head worth $1.2 million returned to Iraq. The United States sent 47 looted items to Greece the following month in addition to a helmet valued at $200,000 that was thought to have belonged to Alexander the Great’s father, Philip of Macedon.

Nine antiques (together with six from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) were returned to Egypt in September after the United States produced 39 items valued at more than $5 million to Israel in March. Additionally, Italy received two rounds of restitution: once in July and once in September.

Michael Steinhardt purchased this Stag’s Head Rhyton (ca. 400 B.C.E.), a ceremonial vessel for libations, from Merrin Gallery for $2.6 million in November 1991. The U.S. repatriated the it, now valued at $3.5 million, to January in January 2022. Photo courtesy of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

In November 1991, Michael Steinhardt paid Merrin Gallery $2.6 million for this Stag’s Head Rhyton (about 400 B.C.E. ), a ritual libation jug. In January 2022, the U.S. returned it to January, which is now worth $3.5 million. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office provided the image.

D.A. Alvin L. Bragg Jr. said it is impossible to quantify looted antiquities’ cultural and historical significance. “I thank our talented team of attorneys and investigators who are continuing their incredible work to return these objects to where they rightfully belong,” he added.

The office’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit returned more than 1,100 artefacts worth around $115 million to 15 nations in 2022.

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