Art And Culture

Looted Palmyra Antiques Seized in Geneva Free Port

This bust of a priest from Palmyra was found at the Geneva Free Port.This bust of a priest from Palmyra was found at the Geneva Free Port.

Swiss authorities have seized nine antiquities looted from Palmyra and ancient sites in Libya and Yemen at the Geneva Free Port.

The artifacts, which range from the fourth century BC to the third century AD, were deposited at the secretive tax-free warehouses between 2009 and 2010, the Geneva public prosecutor said, the Art Newspaper reported.

They were discovered during a customs inspection in 2013 and confirmed as authentic by culture authorities in Bern last year. A criminal investigation that opened in March and concluded on November 22 has not resulted in a conviction.

Three of the pieces - the bust of a priest and two funerary bas-reliefs - come from Palmyra, the UNESCO world heritage site in Syria systematically destroyed by the militant group IS in 2015 and recaptured by pro-government forces in March.

Five objects, including a circular table and two anthropomorphic steles, are from Yemen. A head of Aphrodite, testifying to the Greek colonization of North Africa, comes from Libya. Six of the objects are believed to have been transported to Switzerland from Qatar and another from the United Arab Emirates.

“As they await restitution to their countries of origin, the objects will be entrusted to the Musée d’Art et d’Histore (in Geneva) to be eventually exhibited to the public,” the public prosecutor said.

The works are believed to be in a good condition but will first be examined by the museum’s conservators. If no treatment is required, they could go on view in January or February 2017.

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