The Ministry of Culture announced today that it has been notified by the Office of the New York County District Attorney in the United States that an ancient marble sculpture of a Bull's Head, which was seized by the Office in July 2017, will now be returned to the Republic of Lebanon pursuant to a court order.
The Bull's Head will be handed to a representative to be designated by the Ministry of Culture within 15 days. The Bull's Head was excavated from the Temple of Eshmun in Sidon, as part of an excavation undertaken by the Directorate General of Antiquities in 1967. It was later stolen from the storage facilities of the Directorate General in Byblos during the civil war. Upon receiving information that the Bull's Head was on loan at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in January 2017, the Ministry of Culture notified the U.S. embassy in Beirut and cooperated thoroughly with the Office of the New York County District Attorney throughout its investigation.
The law office of Cleary Gottlieb also agreed to represent the Ministry on a pro bono basis in civil proceedings relating to this case.
The Office of the District Attorney also notified the Ministry that it has seized another ancient artifact, a marble torso, that was found in the same art collection in the United States and that the Ministry also considers originates from the Eshmun excavation. The Ministry will work with the Office to prove that it was stolen from Lebanon to facilitate its repatriation.
The Ministry is grateful to the Office of the New York County District Attorney and to U.S. authorities, including staff of the U.S. embassy in Lebanon, for their assistance and commitment to the case of the Bull's Head. The Ministry is looking forward to further cooperation with U.S. authorities in the fight against antiquities trafficking and in pursuing the repatriation of stolen artifacts to their rightful owners. The Ministry is also grateful to Cleary Gottlieb for its pro bono representation of Lebanon, and for the invaluable time and effort of its attorneys in this case.
The Ministry will continue its efforts to repatriate the artifacts looted from Lebanon during the civil war with a view to reconstructing Lebanon's rich cultural heritage, and encourages anyone who has knowledge or information relating to such objects to liaise directly with the Ministry.