The United States has repatriated 77 looted artifacts to Yemen, including dozens of ancient funerary stones linked to a disgraced New York art dealer and 11 folios from early Qurans.
But as part of a landmark agreement announced Tuesday, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, DC will care for and store the items for at least two years as Yemen remains engulfed in a bitter civil war.
Among the artifacts being returned are 65 funerary stones, known as “stelae,” that date back to the second half of the first millennium BC. Featuring engraved faces, some of the objects contain traces of pigment or inscriptions revealing the names of the deceased.
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A museum spokesperson told CNN that the stones were most likely looted from archaeological sites in northwestern Yemen. The Quranic folios are meanwhile thought to date back to the 9th century. An inscribed bronze bowl is also among the cache of artifacts.
The US Department of Justice said that 64 of the stelae were forfeited to officials during an investigation into Mousa Khouli, a convicted smuggler who sold plundered artifacts via his New York store, Windsor Antiques.
The other 13 items were intercepted as they were being smuggled into the US, the Smithsonian said in a press release.