Three artifacts were been handed over to Italy by American officials in early November 2018. The items had been tracked to an auction house in New York City.
The clampdown on ‘cultural crimes’ happened after several repatriations of Italian art and antiquities stolen abroad and recovered when each was put up for auction.
The ancient items included:
- A wine carafe,
- A decanter for valuable oils, and
- A soup tureen
The trio had been illegally removed from an archaeological site in Italy, smuggled into America and had been listed with a New York auction house.
“Italy is introducing new laws so there are stiffer penalties applied to crimes regarding cultural heritage,” said Arkady Bukh, a prominent criminal defense attorney in New York.
While the items were handed over to Italy during a ceremony inside the Italian Embassy, other items have come to light.
The idea of Christianity and capitalism has been around since at least before Jesus tossed the money changers out of the Temple.
Museum of the Bible
Washington’s museum, The Museum of the Bible, is another agency which has run afoul of antiquities laws.
The company behind the museum, Hobby Lobby, was forced to return over 3,800 ancient Iraqi artifacts — the newest items in the museum’s collection.
The Green family, evangelical Christians, own Hobby Lobby. The craft and hobby company has more than 15,000 full-time workers in over 40 states.
In July 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s office for New York’s Eastern District filed a civil complaint against the company. The collection was intended to become the core of the “Museum of the Bible” which opened in Washington in November 2017.
Through a long string of thieves and profiteers, Hobby Lobby was able to get its hands on 4,000-year-old Iraqi artifacts. Steve Green traveled to the UAE to inspect the goodies and approve the purchase of more than $1.6 million. A dealer’s warning about the looting of the items was ignored. The company falsely labeled the shipping crates as “tile samples”.
The haul included ancient cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals. Many of the items came from the prehistoric city of Irisagrig in the time period known as the Ur III and Old Babylonian periods.
“State Attorneys throughout America have played a very significant part in having U.S. courts recognize the unique value of cultural objects,” said Bukh.
Green, the lead funder of Washington DC’s Museum of the Bible, said his corporation had made ‘regrettable mistakes” and added, “we should have exercised more oversight.”