Three ancient sculptures are being returned to their rightful owners in Lebanon as the Manhattan district attorney forms a new antiquities trafficking unit.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced Friday the repatriation of the treasures that were possessed by private collectors and are worth more than $5 million.
“These are actual celebrated remnants of an entire civilization’s culture and history,” Vance said.
They were stolen from a temple during the Lebanese civil war that started in 1975. The bull’s head and two marble torsos were confiscated in New York in the past few months.
“The bull’s head wound up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where, at the time it was recovered, it had been on loan for display by a private collector,” Vance said.
Matthew Bogdanos heads the DA’s new new antiquities trafficking unit.
“They leave a war-torn area or an area that’s undergoing civil war or civil strife and they get in the hands of dealers who are less than scrupulous in determining their origin and then they make their way to New York,” he said.
Vance says no arrests have been made. But Lebanese Consul-General Majdi Ramadan still called it a special day.
“This will mark the end of a long trail of theft and illicit trading,” he said.
The sculptures are the latest looted artifacts to be returned from the city that’s the U.S. hub of antiquity sales.