US returns smuggled antiquities to Jordan previously held by private American dealer

US returns smuggled antiquities to Jordan previously held by private American dealer
Artifacts illegally smuggled from Jordan were returned from a private antiquities dealer in the US, officials said on Tuesday.
2 min read
04 March, 2022
The returning of the antiquities was made possible by a bilateral treaty between the US and Jordan designed to protect Jordanian cultural artifacts.

Nine cultural antiquities that were illegally smuggled to the US were returned to Jordan this week, handed over to the Jordanian Department of Antiquities.

The artefacts were recovered from a private antiquities dealer in the US, after they had been trafficked out of the country.

Among the artefacts are neolithic animal figures, a stone altar, tombstones, a bronze pitcher and a human figurine.

During a ceremony to handover the objects at the Department of Antiquities, the US ambassador to Jordan, Henry Wooster said that the occasion was a “testament to the United States' commitment to help protect Jordan’s cultural heritage.”

The process to recover the antiquities involved coordination between the Jordanian Department of Antiquities and the US Department of Homeland Security. It was made possible by a bilateral agreement signed by the two countries in 2019 designed to “restrict the import of Jordanian artefacts to the US.”

Jordan’s rich archaeological heritage is an important source of cultural pride for the country – as well as a significant source of revenue.

Tourists come from all over the world to see Jordan’s ancient city of Petra and neolithic antiquities in the country’s many museums. In 2021, Jordan earned $2.7 billion from tourism alone.

On 22 February, a 9,000-year-old ritual shrine was found in Jordan’s eastern desert. Researchers said that the discovery “shines an entire new light” on Neolithic populations.

The smuggling of antiquities is a consistent problem in the Middle East, whose cultural heritage is showcased across the world – often without permission from its original owners. The US-led invasion of Iraq and the ensuing chaos caused a sharp increase in the smuggling of antiquities from the war-hit country.

According to UNESCO estimates, the value of the illicit trade of cultural goods – including antiquities smuggling – reaches about $10 billion a year.