One of the artifacts that has been returned to Afghanistan
(Courtesy The British Museum)
Not much good news comes out of war-torn Afghanistan these days. However, last week did offer a small coup of cultural diplomacy for the UK: With help from the British Museum, England returned 843 looted art objects to the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul. The stolen artifacts were secretly returned on two military planes last week, the Telegraph reports. In a press release, the British Museum said that many of the objects were recovered in three separate operations by the UK Border Force as they were being smuggled into the country, presumably for sale on the black market. Another group of objects was seized by the art and antiques unit of London's Metropolitan Police, and some were even saved by private individuals.
The restituted works include examples of the Begram Ivories, which date to the first century A.D. and originally decorated Indian wooden furniture in the ancient city of Begram, as well as a Buddha sculpture from the second or third century A.D. Other objects include Bronze Age cosmetic flasks, Kushan and medieval Islamic coins, and Islamic metal and pottery vessels. In 2011, the British Museum exhibited the Begram Ivories while they were being held for safekeeping as part of its exhibition "Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World," which featured loans from Kabul's National Museum while it was being restored.
"I am delighted that these important artifacts have been safely returned to the National Museum in Kabul," British Museum director Neil MacGregor said in the institution's statement. "This is the outcome of the ongoing dialogue between our cultural institutions as well as the support of the authorities to identify and preserve items from the national collection of Afghanistan that had been illegally removed during years of conflict."