Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Iraqi Artifacts Returned By Marine, FBI Updated

The FBI is reporting the return of some truly ancient artifacts to the Iraqi government.

::::::::John C. Eckenrode, Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, announces the recovery of eight ancient Iraqi cylinder seals that had been looted from an archaeological site near Babylon. On Wednesday, February 16, 2005, SAC Eckenrode will return these cultural artifacts to His Excellency Mr. Samir Sumaidaie, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Iraq. The return ceremony will take place at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Ambassador Sumaidaie has agreed to loan the ancient Iraqi cylinder seals to the Penn Museum for educational and awareness-building purposes. The Penn Museum conservator has created a display “Update on Iraq’s Endangered Cultural Heritage”, to be opened to the public, which will feature the cylinder seals, photographs of the seals and seal impressions.

The cylinder seals are small stones carved with designs that, when rolled across clay, left a design that identified the signer. The 8 stones are can be seen here at the Penn Museum site.

The stones arrived here in the States with a US Marine who had bought them from a street vendor selling trinkets while on duty in Iraq. Upon his return home, he had the stones examined by a University archeology professor who verified the stone's age and the fact that they were an Iraqi cultural treasure. The Marine, immediately upon hearing this, agreed to turn them over to the FBI so they could be returned to the Iraqi people. The stones themselves are dated from 3500-2500 BC and are estimated to be worth $30,000 for the 8 of them.

To that Marine, who remains unidentified, I salute you. This was the right and honorable thing to do and our friends in Iraq will appreciate them for generations to come.

Update: Well, my civie stripes are showing in that I completely goofed in identifying the member of the US Armed Forces as a "soldier" when, in fact, he's a Marine. Thanks much to Greyhawk and JarHeadDad for the correction, which I'm proud to make in this case.