Looted Libyan statue returned from Britain

The 2,200-year-old figure was seized at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2013 under suspicion that it was illicitly imported, before being returned this week. (AP)
The 2,200-year-old figure was seized at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2013 under suspicion that it was illicitly imported, before being returned this week. (AP)
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Updated 12 May 2021

Looted Libyan statue returned from Britain

The 2,200-year-old figure was seized at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2013 under suspicion that it was illicitly imported, before being returned this week. (AP)
  • 2,200-year-old figure was seized at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2013
  • Libyan Embassy in London thanks UK authorities, British Museum

LONDON: An ancient Libyan statue, believed to be looted from the country during its civil war, has been returned from Britain. 

The 2,200-year-old figure was seized at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2013 under suspicion that it was illicitly imported. Experts from the British Museum were called in to assist efforts to identify the statue.

“Only a handful of these sculptural types are found in museum or private collections outside of Libya,” said the museum.

In 2015, a judge ruled that the artifact was the property of Libya. The museum said the marble’s surface is fresh and preserved, suggesting that it had been recently recovered from the ground.

It assessed that the statue was illegally excavated from the archaeological site of Cyrene during the civil war.

British Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage thanked UK tax authorities and the museum, whose efforts ensured that the country is “able to return this important statue to Libya where it belongs.” 

British Museum experts said the statue was easy to identify as its style is limited to manufacture from workshops in Cyrenaica, ancient Libya. The area was settled by the Greeks in the seventh century BC.

Some 100 statues of the same style have been recovered in Cyrenaica, but the heads of the statues have survived in just over half of cases, said the museum.

Its experts said the statue that was returned to Libya is especially rare as it has both snake bracelets on its wrists and an offering in the shape of a small doll in its hand.

“An important part of the museum’s work on cultural heritage involves our close partnership with law enforcement agencies concerned with illicit trafficking,” said Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum.

“This case is another good example of the benefits of all parties working together to combat looting and protect cultural heritage.”

The Libyan Embassy in London thanked British authorities and the museum for working to recover the statue “to its original homeland.”