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FBI Returns Cultural Antiquities to Iraq

In a private ceremony at the Embassy of Iraq in Washington, D.C., the FBI repatriated four cylinder seals to the Iraqi government. The stone seals are believed to date to as early as 2300 B.C.

Nov 06, 2013 04:00 PM


FBI Returns Cultural Antiquities to Iraq


In a private ceremony at the Embassy of Iraq in Washington, D.C., the FBI repatriated four cylinder seals to the Iraqi government. The stone seals are believed to date to as early as 2300 B.C. In ancient times, when rolled across wax or soft clay that later hardened, the seals formed an imprint or "signature" that marked a piece of property and uniquely identified its owner.

This is not the first time the FBI has played a role in the repatriation of Iraqi antiquities. In 2005, the Bureau returned eight stone seals that were believed to have been stolen. In 2011, terracotta plaques and other artifacts seized during a 2006 investigation were returned to the government of Iraq. It was the looting of the Baghdad Museum in 2003, where many of these items once resided, that led to the formation of the FBI’s Art Crime Team  in 2004.

At the time, Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, who manages our art theft program, said, “We realized then that we needed a group of agents who were specially trained in the area of stolen and looted art.” 

The seals returned on October 25 are small enough to fit in a person's palm. The Bureau's International Operations Division and Criminal Investigative Division delivered the seals to Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily.

FBI Art Crime Team