The United States returned a cache of smuggled ancient artifacts to Libya on Thursday, as the oil-rich Mediterranean country struggles to protect its heritage amid years of war, turmoil, and unrest.
Among the items returned are two sculptures from the ancient city of Cyrene dating from the fourth century B.C.
According to a statement from the US Embassy in Libya, one of the artifacts, dubbed the “Veiled Head of a Female,” was previously in the hands of a private collector of other illegal artifacts.
The other, a Hellenic bust, had been on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since 1998, according to the statement. Libyan antiquities officials displayed both at a reception ceremony in the country’s capital, Tripoli.
Libyan antiquities officials thanked American officials and law enforcement for the returned items and expressed interest in future collaboration. The embassy credited the recovery of the artifacts to the work of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and Homeland Security Investigations officials.
“Despite the fact that these antiquities were brought illegally to the United States by traffickers, legal efforts have been successful in returning them to their country of origin,” the embassy said in a statement.
Libya has many ancient Greek and Roman structures, as well as a wealth of ancient artifacts in its major museum in Tripoli and other museums throughout the country, despite the fact that its archeological sites have been plundered for decades.