Police in Norway have seized nearly 100 Mesopotamian archaeological artefacts, reported missing by Iraqi authorities, from a collector.
“The seizure involves what are presumed to be cuneiform tablets and other archaeological objects from Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq … considered important to the world’s historical cultural heritage,” the police said in a statement.
The objects were seized during a search of a collector’s house in southeast Norway.
Authorities said they would now be examined to determine their authenticity and establish their provenance if possible.
They are the subject of a restitution request from Iraqi authorities to the Norwegian Ministry of Culture.
“A restitution procedure has been initiated, but an expert review must first be carried out to determine the origin and authenticity of these objects and the Iraqi authorities must document their request,” prosecutor Maria Bache Dahl told AFP news agency.
The collector in question is contesting the Iraqi request, she said, adding that he was not a suspect of a crime and had not been arrested.
The police did not say when the items may have arrived in the northern European country, or how they ended up there.
Iraq, once home to Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians, is a prime location for smugglers of ancient artefacts.
According to Iraqi officials, trafficking feeds criminal networks in the country where armed groups have gained considerable influence.
The ISIL (ISIS) armed group demolished dozens of pre-Islamic treasures with bulldozers, pickaxes and explosives when it occupied large swaths of Iraq between 2014 and 2017, but also used smuggling to finance its operations.