“The seizure consists of what are believed to be cuneiform tablets and other archaeological objects from Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq… that are considered to be significant to the world’s historical, cultural heritage,” police said in a statement. The items were seized during a search of the home of a collector in southeast Norway. They are the subject of a restitution request made to the Norwegian Ministry of Culture by Iraqi authorities.
“A restitution procedure has been initiated, but an expert review of the objects’ origin and authenticity must first be conducted, and the Iraqi authorities’ request must be documented,” prosecutor Maria Bache Dahl told AFP.
She stated that the collector in question is contesting the Iraqi request, stating that he is not a suspect in any crime and has not been arrested. Once inhabited by Sumerians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, Iraq was prime for ancient artifact smugglers.
According to Iraqi officials, it was trafficking fuels criminal networks in the country, which has seen a rise in the influence of armed groups. Between 2014 and 2017, the Islamic State group occupied large swaths of Iraq, demolished dozens of pre-Islamic treasures with bulldozers, pickaxes, and explosives, and financed its operations through smuggling.