An ancient Persian artifact has been handed back to Iran after a U.S. court ordered its return.
The New York Supreme Court ordered the Achaemenid-era relief, dating approximately to 500 B.C., to be returned to Iran in a July 23 ruling.
Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gholam-Ali Khoshrou, said on September 5 that the limestone sculpture had been delivered to him.
“I’m very pleased that today a very important cultural item that was smuggled from Iran was delivered to me by the district attorney of New York County,” Khoshrou told Iran’s Press TV.
He said the 20-centimeter artifact, which depicts a Persian imperial guard holding a spear, would be transferred to Iran “soon,” according to the state news agency IRNA.
The artifact was seized in October 2017 by investigators for the Manhattan district attorney’s office from the Park Avenue Armory, where it was being offered for sale at an art fair.
The two London-based owners of the item agreed to surrender the artifact, valued at $1.2 million.
U.S. investigators said the artifact was stolen from the ancient city of Persepolis in 1936, and then was stolen a second time, in 2011, from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Canada, to which it had been donated decades earlier.
Many Iranians are fascinated by and proud of their ancient pre-Islamic past, but the country’s clerical establishment has been putting more emphasis on the country’s Islamic heritage.
Cover photo: A 1933 photograph of an excavation of the ruins of Persepolis in Iran. The bas-relief of a soldier from these ruins, which was seized at a Manhattan art fair last year