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ICHTO Sues London Gallery on Stolen Relics


News Category: Cultural

04  January 2006



LONDON, (CAIS) -- Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) has initiated legal actions against Barekat Gallery in London to repatriate 12 artifacts [allegedly] stolen from Halilroud historical site in Jiroft, Kerman province, which are being maintained at the gallery.

According to CHN, legal proceedings are underway to recover 12 artifacts which were smuggled out of the country.

An Iranian archeologist who is in charge of excavations at Halilroud, Professor Yousef Majid-zadeh said that court hearings on the case has not been scheduled so far.

He said that the gallery has till date refused to hand over the Iranian artifacts from Halilroud historical site and declared that it would hand them over if Iran can prove the origin of the relics in court.

Majid-zadeh said that the artifacts which being kept at the London-based gallery date back to third millennium BC and ICHTO officials have forwarded 12 other artifacts to London to prove the similarity of those in the gallery with artifacts from Halilroud historical site.

He said that the ICHTO and the London-based gallery are still at loggerheads about the repatriation of the artifacts to Iran.


In January 2001 a group of Iranians from Jiroft in the southwestern province of Kerman stumbled upon an ancient tomb. Inside they found a hoard of objects decorated with highly distinctive engravings of animals, mythological figures and architectural motifs. For over one year in a public frenzy to unearth lucrative 5,000-year-old artifacts, Jiroft residents were ploughing their yards and gardens in search of antiquities. 


In February 2002 Iran’s police finally arrived in force to stop the destruction. Some 2,000 objects were confiscated from locals in Jiroft and other hoards of the ancient artefacts ready to be shipped overseas were seized in Tehran and at Bandar Abbas. But much of the damage done at Jiroft is irreversible. The tombs that were plundered were completely emptied and hoards of the artefacts have already appeared for sale in Europe. In 2002 vases from the site were offered for sale at Drouot in Paris and, according to market specialists, the artefacts are on offer with several dealers in France. They are usually catalogued as vases from “Kerman” or with the more generic description of “Middle Eastern”.

A group of some 80 Jiroft artefacts was known to be on offer in London in 2004 with a price tag of £600,000. 


On March 2005, some 118 stolen ancient artifacts which had been smuggled to Britain from Jiroft were returned to Iran. The items had been confiscated by HM Customs and Excise officials at London’s Heathrow.  


A growing number of fake Jiroft vases now circulating on the market. These could be the work of the very same locals who looted the site in the first place and have access to the same chlorite quarries of their ancestors.


Official excavation of the site began in February 2003 under the directorship of Professor Majidzadeh. It is focusing on both the necropolis, which was looted extensively, and on an ancient settlement not discovered by the looters.




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