A 2,000-year-old statue looted in 2011 and believed to be of the Greek goddess Persephone was returned to Libya, according to a report by The Guardian on Monday.
The British Museum facilitated the return of the supposed statue of Persephone, who was the queen of the underworld and wife of Hades. The marble is believed to have been taken from the ruins of Cyrene, an ancient Greek city and UNESCO World Heritage Site in eastern Libya.
British Museum officials consider the figure to be among “the rarest of Cyrenaican funerary statues.” The statue depicts a woman carrying a small doll, possibly a votive offering and flaunting snake-adorned wrists.
How was the statue returned?
In 2013, officials seized it in UK customs at Heathrow airport. The artifact was found in the hands of a dealer and officials asked specialists to help identify it.
In 2015, the museum and Libyan and British experts presented evidence backing the artifact’s origins, noting that its fresh surface is characteristic of marble that could have only been recently excavated.
A UK court ruled that the statue belonged to Libya, and discussions with the nation’s embassy in London ensued to coordinate its return.
British Museum Director Hartwig Fischer told The Guardian that this case was a “good example of the benefits of all parties working together to combat looting and protect cultural heritage.”
But the museum has received widespread criticism for its vast holdings of looted cultural artifacts, including the infamous “Elgin Marbles,” whose theft began in 1801 when Scottish-born Lord Elgin began dismantling the statues that had adorned the Parthenon for thousands of years.
All images courtesy of the British Museum
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