German man under investigation over stolen Syrian artefact

A German national is being investigated by the Baden-Wurttemberg Police after being found having a stolen artefact from Syria, The Times of India reported on February 22.

The offending item: a rare tablet which was written using cuneiform, a system of writing used in the ancient Middle East, and dates back to 2350 BC.  

It was on show in a museum in the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib prior to being in the hands of the individual who is believed to be an avid collector of various historical pieces. 

The museum has numerous artefacts of the kind and in 2013, it was forced to close thanks to looting and airstrikes amidst the deadly and ongoing civil war. 

The police in Baden-Wurttemberg, a state situated in southwest Germany, noted that they found the tablet in the home of a man, who has yet to be named, living in the city of Heilbronn. 

Local authorities confirmed that, “During investigations, the Baden-Wurttemberg State Criminal Police Office came across a man who claimed to have purchased a cuneiform tablet from an old Bavarian collection,” 

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The man also had another cuneiform tablet in his collection stash as well as shabtis, a mummiform figurine less than 30cm in size found in many ancient Egyptian tombs. 

The authorities added, “The man’s information turned out to be incorrect. The investigation revealed that the artefact in question was allegedly illegally imported into Germany, circumventing embargo regulations, after it was stolen from the museum in Idlib, Syria, in 2015. 

“The man, who comes from the Heilbronn district, stated that he had purchased the board as an investment and for possible resale.” 

In 2015,  Syria’s head of antiquities and museums warned that roughly 15,000 antiquities locked away in safes in and around Idlib ran the risk of being sold on the black market. 

A similar controversy did the rounds, notably in 2021, in the United Kingdom and were surrounding Benin Bronzes which were stolen from Benin and put on display in a London Museum. 

Nigeria urged the Brits to return the items, despite the fact that they are safe there in the country, as they are stolen artefacts that “should have been returned to the communities that they belong to.”

The Times of India/ The National

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