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Ancient Iranian Artifact from Afghanistan Turns up in Tokyo


News Category: Cultural Disaster

 Thursday, 26 April 2001



An ancient marble sculpture, ``Left Foot of Zeus,'' which vanished from the Kabul Museum in Afghanistan in 1993, has turned up in Tokyo and will be displayed at the Ancient Orient Museum from next month, sources said Wednesday.

The fate of the sculpture after it was stolen remains unclear, but last year a Japanese art dealer bought it from a Pakistani broker.

It was agreed that after display in Japan, the sculpture would eventually be returned to Afghanistan.

The foot will be displayed from May 12 at the museum in the Ikebukuro district.

The ``Left Foot of Zeus'' is believed to have been carved in the third century B.C. It is 28.5 centimeters long, 21 cm wide and includes engravings that symbolize Zeus on the sandal strap that adorns the foot. The original statue would have been about 3 meters high. Only the left foot remains.

Art experts say the sculpture is a masterpiece of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom that prospered in the northern part of Afghanistan. It was excavated by a French team at the Ai-Khanoum ruins in Afghanistan in the 1960s and had been displayed in the Kabul Museum until it vanished eight years ago.

It disappeared after the Kabul Museum was damaged by bombing.

``I went ahead and purchased it because I realized it was a famous work of art. I didn't want it to disappear again,'' said the Tokyo-based art dealer. He spoke to The Asahi Shimbun on condition of anonymity.

The dealer then sought advice from officials of the Ancient Orient Museum in Tokyo. Although museum officials have decided to return the remanent to Afghanistan, that presumably will not happen until after the domestic situation calms down.

In Afghanistan, the ruling Taliban recently destroyed two giant ancient Buddhist statues in central Bamiyan province.

``We want as many people as possible to understand the circumstances surrounding Afghan art,'' said museum official Akira Hori. ``We want to return the sculpture if circumstances permit. But that could take 20 years.''

Kosaku Maeda, professor of Asian cultural history at Wako University, commented: ``I am extremely pleased this artifact is now being protected out of good will. It is important that lost works of art are located quickly and shown to the public. This time around, the art dealer and the museum acted appropriately.''  



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