Sacred bog at Oberdorla, Germany. Earliest artifacts are Hallstatt (6th century B.C.). Mostly animal and meal sacrifices, a few human sacrificial victims. Excavation indicates people were still bringing offerings to the site into the Christian era.
Germany this week returned an ancient pre-Islamic sculpture looted during Afghanistan’s civil war, giving hope to Kabul’s cultural mavens that the rest of its stolen treasures will also make their way home.
Eight figures, one missing a torso and others without noses, make up the 30-cm high (12 inches) limestone antiquity from the second century AD, a reminder of Afghanistan’s rich classical past as a confluence of cultures on the crossroads of Asia.
Faces turned to their left, they are believed to be audience members watching Buddha on his throne in the ancient kingdom of Gandhara, which stretched across part of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Foreign Ministry said.
“This is a masterpiece … I am optimistic that in the future we will get the other artefacts back,” said Omara Khan Massoudi, the director of Afghanistan’s National Museum, which housed the sculpture before it was stolen.
Afghanistan’s embassy in Berlin has been investigating who owned the sculpture since it appeared in Munich a year ago. It was flown to Kabul earlier this week.
As warlords battled for control of Kabul in the early 1990s following the Soviet exit, fighters pillaged around 70 percent of the museum’s antiquities, or around 70,000 pieces, selling the choicest artefacts on the black market.
A 6,500-year-old Sumerian gold jar, the head of a Sumerian battle axe and a stone from an Assyrian palace were among 45 relics returned to Iraq by Germany on Monday.
The items were among thousands stolen from Iraq’s museums and archeological sites in the mayhem that followed the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003.
The tiny gold jar, dating to 4,500 BC, the bronze axe head, clay tablets bearing cuneiform script, a metal amulet and other artifacts were seized by German police at public auctions and turned over to Iraqi officials in a ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Alexander Schonfelder, deputy head of the German diplomatic mission in Iraq, said German law dictated that any artifacts taken from Iraq after 1990 should be returned.
“This means that the German government has the right to confiscate them and that is what we have done, and given them back to Iraq,” Schonfelder said.
Some 15,000 artifacts were thought to have been looted from the Iraqi National Museum and thousands more from archeological sites since the start of the 2003 war.
Up to than 10,000 of the National Museum pieces are still missing, said Amira Eidan, general director of the museum.