2,700-year-old stolen artifact found in Atlanta museum

Fox 5 Atlanta
Fri, Mar 10, 2023

by Denise Dillon

ATLANTA - FBI agents discovered a 2,700-year-old artifact, which had been stolen from Iraq, has been in Atlanta for years.

FBI agents in Boston got a tip about an artifact that had been stolen from the Iraq Museum during the fall of Baghdad. The tip led them to the Michael C. Carlos Museum on the Emory University campus.

Agents say this artifact, made of ivory, is just a little more than two-inches tall. It was stolen 20 years ago. In 2003, there was widespread looting during the fall of Baghdad.

"Thousands of artifacts were stolen and scattered across the globe," said Tony Thomas, FBI spokesman.

Many of those have never been found, but the FBI Art Crime Team got a tip that the artifact, named "Furniture Fitting with Sphinx Trampling a Youth", was on display in Atlanta. Agents learned the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University bought the piece from someone in 2006. It came with papers saying the artifact had been in the U.S. since 1969.

"Emory officials were fooled. They took the paperwork as the real thing. They purchased the artifact, and it had been on display since 2006," said Thomas.

After talking to FBI agents, museum officials voluntarily handed the artifact over to them.

Emory University released this statement:

"Emory University's Michael C. Carlos Museum returned a Nimrud Ivory from its collections to the Iraqi government, following new research into the piece's provenance. The object belongs to the collections of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. While the Carlos was supplied with what appeared to be legitimate provenance documentation at the time of the object’s purchase in 2006, we no longer view that information as valid."

During a ceremony at the Iraqi embassy in Washington on Wednesday, an agent from the FBI's Art Crime Team gave the artifact to Iraqi officials.

"This is just one of 7,000 to 10,000 items that were looted and the vast majority are still missing, but one that the FBI is happy to have been returned," said Thomas.

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