A division of Homeland Security Investigations in Houston said it returned more than 900 artifacts believed to have been stolen in Mali. Among them are artifacts that can date back to the Neolithic era.
Investigators said they became aware of the artifacts in 2009, when U.S. Customs stopped a container arriving in Houston. The container was shipped to the United States on the pretext that it contained replicas of cultural artifacts. But officers became suspicious when they realized the items contained inside appeared real and the artifacts “were covered in blood and feces,” according to Homeland Security.
When they delved deeper into their research, they discovered that some were thousands of years old. Among them were funeral urns, ax heads, vases and stones. Susan McIntosh, an anthropologist at Rice University, was asked to research the objects and publish a report.
The process to begin repatriating the artifact cache began in 2009. A handful of artifacts returned in 2011 and 2012, although Homeland Security said a civil war that started in Mali in 2012 prevented the majority artifacts to be returned.
Mark Dawson, an agent with the Houston Division of Homeland Security, said in a statement: âA nation’s cultural assets and antiquities define who they are as a people. No one has the right to plunder or destroy this heritage and this history.
The New York Times reported that the objects will now move towards the institutions. Mohamed TraorÃ©, advisor at the Permanent Mission of Mali to the United Nations, told the Times that the National Museum of Mali in Bamako was one of these institutions.