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Iraqi Artifacts Seized

In July of this year, the United States Attorney’s Office, the FBI Wilmington Resident Agency, and the FBI Art Crime Team seized a multitude of ancient artifacts originating in Mesopotamia, in present day southern Iraq. The artifacts are pictured below. Most of the seized items are cuneiform tablets which were used in Mesopotamia for record keeping. The tablets were made by using a reed stylus to write in the cuneiform script on softened clay, which was then hardened. Three of the seized artifacts are inscribed foundation cones that were embedded in temple walls to dedicate the building to a divinity. The artifacts were looted from present day Iraq by persons unknown and smuggled into the United States unlawfully. The government of Iraq asserts ownership over them. The U.S. Attorney’s Office learned that these artifacts were held by an antiquities dealer in California, who was offering them for sale, and the artifacts were seized. The California dealer has surrendered any right he had in the artifacts, which have been forfeited to the United States government to be removed from the stream of commerce.