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US Returns More Than 900 Stolen Objects To Mali

The US Homeland Security is returning more than 900 artifacts, stolen in 2009, back to Mali.

The Houston division of the Homeland Security Investigations revealed that the artifacts first caught the eyes of US authorities in 2009. The container, which was halted by the US Customs department, was labeled as a replica of cultural artifacts. However, the authorities were suspicious of the claim as the objects looked ‘real’, as well as many were covered in blood and fecal matter.

National Museum of Mali

A closer look at the objects revealed that many objects were, in fact, quite old (though the exact age was not known at that point). The authorities bought in anthropologist Susan McIntosh from Rice University to further investigate the objects. It was soon concluded that the cache of more than 900 objects was actually real, with many of them dating back to the Neolithic era. The objects included ax heads, stones, vessels, and funerary urns.

The same year, the process of repatriation was kickstarted. In 2011 and 2012, some objects were also returned to Mali. However, the civil war that broke out in Mali in 2012 halted the repatriation process. Now, Homeland Security has announced that it will resume the return of the objects to art institutions in Mali.

In a statement, Mark Dawson (Agent, Homeland Security – Houston division) said: “A nation’s cultural property and antiquities define who they are as a people. No one has the right to loot or destroy that heritage and history.” According to a New York Times report, the National Museum of Mali in Bamako is one of the institutions that would receive the repatriated objects.