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US Embassy returns 9 trafficked cultural antiquities to Jordan

By Batool Ghaith - Mar 01,2022 - Last updated at Mar 01,2022

The nine antiquities are revealed during the handover ceremony at the Department of Antiquities on Tuesday (Petra photo)

AMMAN — The US Embassy returned nine trafficked cultural antiquities to Jordan from the United States during an official handover ceremony at the Department of Antiquities (DoA) in Amman on Tuesday.

The artifacts were illegally “smuggled” from Jordan and obtained by an antiquities collector in the US, according to a US Embassy statement. 

The antiquities initially were recovered from the New York-based collector by the US Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations New York Field Office and the New York District Attorney’s Office, with robust cooperation by the Jordanian DoA, the statement said.

Among the returned antiquities are neolithic stone animal figurines, a chalcolithic stone altar, tombstones, a human figurine, and a bronze pitcher, which were revealed during the ceremony.

US Ambassador to Jordan Henry T. Wooster expressed his satisfaction with the recovery of the artifacts that he described as “priceless”, as they are the first Jordanian collection of antiquities to be restored.

“This is a testament to the United States’ commitment to help protect Jordan’s cultural heritage. This not only marks the homecoming for these artifacts but it is also a symbol of what our governments can accomplish together,” he said during his opening remarks.

Praising the efforts of the Ministry of Tourism and the DoA, Wooster indicated that the return of the trafficked artifacts is “historic”, as it is an enforcement of the 2019 US-Jordan Cultural Property Protection Agreement.

“The agreement helps address the underlying problem which leads to trafficking by strengthening Jordan’s national cultural heritage programme to provide real economic benefits to Jordanian communities,” the ambassador added.

He continued that, “the US government supports programmes which help Jordanian communities benefit economically from heritage sites through restoration and conservation, by posturing tourism infrastructure and providing training in tourism and the English language”.

Minister of Tourism Nayef Fayez emphasised Jordan’s role in confronting and combating the illegal smuggling of cultural property, in partnership with the US as well as different countries. 

He expressed gratitude for the US’ role in preserving Jordan’s rich cultural heritage.

“Our history and heritage does not only belong to us but also belongs to the world, it is our responsibility and duty to preserve it and show it to the rest of the world,” Fayez added. 

General Director of the DoA Fadi Balawi stressed Jordan’s keenness to preserve the Jordanian cultural heritage by following up on antiquities “inside and outside Jordan”, as well as to combat the illegal trafficking of antiquities.

Balawi praised the cooperation with the US in working against smuggling and illegal trafficking of cultural properties.

“We are proud to celebrate one of the most important achievements today as a part of the Cultural Property Protection Agreement,” he said.

Assistant Attorney General for New York Matthew Bogdanos highlighted the importance of the Jordanian-American partnership and friendship, praising the cooperation between the countries to return the “extraordinary treasures”. 

The ceremony is an important milestone in legal and diplomatic cooperation between the two countries to protect Jordan’s cultural heritage, following the signing of a bilateral cultural property protection agreement signed by the US and Jordan in December 2019, which took effect in February 2020, according to the statement. 


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