ATLANTA — The FBI announced Thursday that the U.S. has returned a stolen Iraqi artifact that has been missing for 20 years, officials said.
The “Furniture Fitting with Sphinx Trampling a Youth” first disappeared in Baghdad in 2003.
It was recently being held at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta before it was returned. The Carlos Museum purchased the artifact from a third party in 2006. The FBI said that the party used a fake record with the wrong date the artifact entered the country.
“While we realize there was no ill intent on behalf of Emory University, we are glad our agents could return a small part of history back to where it belongs in Iraq,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in charge of FBI Atlanta.
Atlanta FBI Agents begun investigating the theft last year in January. Officials with the Emory museum handed over the artifact to FBI Atlanta agents last December.
According to historians, the art dates back to the Iron Age, which happened in the 7th Century B.C. It is made of ivory, pigment and gold leaf.
Officials held a ceremony Wednesday at the Iraqi Embassy in the nations capital where the special agent team presented the artifact to an Iraqi official.
The team signed documents at the ceremony where they made it the artifact's return to Iraq official.
Agents believe the artifact was stolen during the looting of the Iraq Museum in 2003. Experts determined it was stolen from the Iraq Museum using photographs.
“The protection of the world's cultural heritage is a priority for the U.S. Government,” said Special Agent Rafael Jimenez.
Officials said the piece was stolen with thousands of other priceless artifacts.