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New York returns nearly 200 looted antiquities to Pakistan

Written by Zoe Sottile, CNN

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has returned 192 looted antiquities with a value of nearly $3.4 million to Pakistan.
District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. announced the return in a press release on Thursday.

The return is the culmination of a decade-long investigation into the sale of looted antiquities from countries all over the world, according to the release. Eight people have been indicted for conspiracy to traffic stolen antiquities for their role in the thefts. The people charged smuggled the looted antiquities into New York and sold them at a Manhattan gallery.

The district attorney’s office returned the antiquities during a repatriation ceremony on Thursday at the Pakistan Consulate, according to the release.

“Mehrgarh dolls,” some of the earliest examples of figurines created by humans, were among the artifacts returned to Pakistan. Credit: Manhattan District Attorney

“These remarkable works of art were ruthlessly removed from their rightful home and trafficked without regard for their immense cultural and spiritual value,” said Ivan J. Arvelo, New York special agent in charge at Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to Consul General Ayesha Ali, the Thursday return follows an earlier return of 45 stolen artifacts.

“We began this journey with the DA’s Office and DHS in November 2020, 45 pieces of stolen Gandhara artifacts were returned and today we are very fortunate that another batch of 192 antiquities valued at $3.4 million are being returned,” Ali said in the release.

The objects returned on Thursday include “Mehrgarh dolls,” which are some of the oldest known human-crafted figurines in the world. The ancient statues were looted from a Neolithic archaeological site in Pakistan, according the release.

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