US museums return trove of looted treasures to Nigeria
NEW YORK (AP) – For decades the world’s most powerful nations kept priceless treasures from looted archaeological finds at their embassies and museums.
No one knew where they were until a small team of U.S. government archaeologists, assisted by the Nigerian government and Nigerian Institute of Archaeology, discovered the items last weekend in the village of Adare, located about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Jos, a major government and commercial city.
The team uncovered a large collection of artifacts, including a collection of over 5,000 ancient artifacts, looted from the site of an ancient tomb in the southern part of Nigeria. They also found a cache of rare African art, including works by Nubians, Benin art-students, Yorubas and Kebbi artisans.
A large percentage of this collection – some 2,000 pieces – is on display at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. “We are in the process of identifying items for display and we are confident that many will be on display for the public in the spring,” said the museum’s director, Bruce F. Stoehr, in a statement.
The artifacts, some of them dating to 1,500 B.C., have never before been displayed at the museum, Stoehr told The Associated Press.
After decades of silence, Nigeria is a recipient of about $50 million in U.S. aid. When the discoveries were made in 2003, it was part of more than $250 million in U.S. assistance. In return, Nigeria must release the artifacts and release the details of the site where they are found.
The museum had to wait for nearly two decades to find the artifacts since the National Museum of Pakistan was looted of nearly 1,000 ancient artifacts by the Pakistani government in 1986. That was the biggest theft of a collection of religious, artistic and historical artifacts in the history of the National Museum of Pakistan.
The Adare site was looted from the ancient tomb of an Oromo king,