US officials met with representatives of the Palestinian Authority in Bethlehem on Thursday and handed back the looted 2,700-year-old object, in what officials said marked the first time the United States had repatriated a stolen relic to the Palestinian government.

The object, described as a “cosmetic spoon”, was a tool carved from ivory and dated to between 800 and 700 BCE, it was used in rituals worshiping gods and the dead to light fires and incense on braziers was used to install. A winged figure was engraved on its obverse.

Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Roula Maiya, who met the US delegation, Told, “This artifact is important because it derives its true scientific and archaeological value in its authentic location.” He said the object dates back to the vast Assyrian civilization, and that it was likely stolen from Hebron, now in the West Bank.

George Knoll, head of the US Office of Palestinian Affairs said at the ceremony It was “a historic moment between the American and Palestinian peoples and a demonstration of our belief in the power of cultural exchange to build mutual understanding, respect and partnership.”

The object was seized during a lengthy investigation into the collection of Michael H. Steinhardt, a prominent New York venture capitalist and a prominent antique art collector, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. In 2021, after investigators seized 180 stolen antiquities worth $70 million from Mr. Steinhardt, he agreed to a lifetime ban from receiving antiquities.

The cosmetic spoon, officials said, first appeared on the international art market on January 21, 2003, when Mr. Steinhardt bought it from an Israeli antiquities dealer who is accused of dealing at least hundreds of illegal Israeli and Middle Eastern treasures. was imposed. 28 of which were sold to Mr. Steinhardt.

Matthew Bogdanos, head of the district attorney’s antiquities trafficking unit, said his investigators were able to trace the origin of the cosmetic spoons by examining emails seized from Mr. Steinhardt, which included conversations about the item and the fact that it was considered illegal. was obtained from

Last February, before announcing the decision to return the spoons, some Palestinians Express Disappointment that Steinhardt’s artifacts, which he believed originated from their territories, would instead be handed over to the Israeli government. He has publicly called for the return of more looted items.

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