U.S. hands Cyprus ancient artifacts, some 4,000 years old
May 2, 2023, 9:09 AM
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The United States has returned some 80 ancient artifacts, including coins and limestone sculptures, to Cyprus, the Mediterranean island nation’s Department of Antiquities said Tuesday.
The antiquities were recovered after U.S. authorities seized them or individual owners decided to hand them back after discovering their true provenance, Cyprus Department of Antiquities Director Marina Solomidou Ieronymidou said.
They include clay and glass vessels and limestone sculptures, some dating to 2,000 B.C., as well as an 18th century painting that was believed to have adorned a now-derelict church in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the ethnically divided nation.
Ieronymidou told The Associated Press that the two coins, one silver and the other gold, were particularly significant because they belonged to the time of the Cypriot kingdoms dating as far back as the 7th century B.C.
The artifacts were all repatriated Apr. 26 and are currently held in a museum in the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia.
The number of items accumulated as pandemic restrictions prevented Cypriot officials from collecting them in the U.S., Ieronymidou said. Officials from multiple U.S. agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, were involved the seizure and return of the artifacts.
Cyprus has for decades sought to repatriate lost or stolen antiquities, including religious items such as church icons, frescoes and mosaics taken from churches following a 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a coup aimed at union with Greece.
Ieronymidou said it was encouraging to see private individuals returning artifacts of their own accord after learning that such items often reached the U.S. as a result of looting or other illicit practices.