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Ancient Coins – Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. United States
In an attempt to challenge import regulations in force in the United States (US), the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) imported into the US 23 ancient coins, which were seized by customs officials. The case was litigated from 2007 to 2019, with courts consistently deciding in favour of the US Government and the import restrictions remaining in place.
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Nedjemankh and His Gilded Coffin – Metropolitan Museum of Art and Egypt
The gilded Coffin of Nedjemankh, a priest of the ram-god Heryshef, was purchased in 2017 and exhibited in 2018 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Following an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, the Met learned that the Coffin had been looted in 2011, during the Egyptian revolution. It also learned that it had received upon its purchase a false ownership history, fraudulent statements and fake documentation, including a forged 1971 Egyptian export license for the coffin. As such, the Met unconditionally returned the coffin to the Government of Egypt.
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Sevso Treasure – Lebanon et al. v. Marquess of Northampton
The Sevso Treasure was consigned at Sotheby’s by the Marquess of Northampton in 1989. Sotheby’s released a press statement which said that the treasure would not be sold until all claims against it had been dealt with. Hungary bought seven pieces of the treasure in 2014, and a further seven pieces in 2017.
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Maori Panels – New Zealand and Ortiz Heirs
In 1972, five rare Maori wooden panels were discovered in a swamp in New Zealand’s North Island. Shortly after the discovery, the panels were illegally exported out of the country by an antiquities dealer and then bought by Swiss collector George Ortiz. In 2014 New Zealand obtained the return of the Maori panels by virtue of an agreement with the heirs of Ortiz.
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Cuneiform Tablets and Ancient Clay Bullae – United States v. Hobby Lobby
Approximately 4,000 ancient Iraq artifacts were bought by Hobby Lobby’s president and smuggled into the United States, in violation of federal law. In the settlement, Hobby Lobby agreed to pay $3 million in fines and surrender the artifacts, which have now been returned to Iraq and will most likely be displayed in Iraq’s National Museum.
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25 Objets d’art précolombien – Lempertz c. Etat de Rhénanie-du-Nord-Westphalie
La maison de vente aux enchères Lempertz met en vente des objets d’art précolombien. A la demande du Mexique, qui estime que 25 de ces biens appartiennent à son patrimoine culturel, l’Etat de Rhénanie-du-Nord Westphalie rend une ordonnance de saisie conservatoire en vue du retour de 25 biens au Mexique. Saisis par Lempertz, les tribunaux allemands jugent que faute d’effet rétroactif de la Convention UNESCO de 1970 et de sa loi allemande d’application, les conditions pour un retour ne sont pas réunies. Les objets sont transférés à leurs acquéreurs.
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G’psgolox Totem Pole – Haisla and Sweden and the Stockholm Museum of Ethnography
In 1927, a totem pole belonging to the Haisla tribe in Canada was stolen and brought to the Stockholm Museum of Ethnography. In 1991, the tribe discovered the location of their totem pole, known as the G’psgolox totem pole, and requested that it be returned. After fifteen years of negotiations, the G’psgolox totem pole was formally returned to the tribe in 2006.
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Etruscan Black-Figured Kalpis – Italy and Toledo Museum of Art
After an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations, the Toledo Museum of Art returned in 2013 an Etruscan black-figure kalpis to Italy. The kalpis was found to be smuggled out of Italy after an illegal excavation prior to 1981, then sold to the Toledo Museum of Art in 1982 by Gianfranco and Ursula Becchina, who had earlier purchased it from the art smuggler Giacomo Medici.
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Morgantina Goddess Statue – Italy and J. Paul Getty Museum
An ancient statue of a goddess, which was likely illegally excavated in the late 1970s in Italy, was purchased by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1988 for a record-setting US$18 million. That same year, Italian authorities began an investigation at the conclusion of which the Getty Museum agreed to consider returning the statue to Italy.
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3000 Archeological Objects – China and Two British Dealers
On 10 February 1998, the Chinese government and two British dealers signed an out-of-court agreement that resolved the question of ownership of over 3000 archaeological objects. Most probably these were transferred to the United Kingdom through illegal excavation and trafficking.
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