The Ministry of Culture/the DGAM's efforts have succeeded in withdrawing a rare Syrian artifact from sale at Bonhams in London at an auction, on April 3rd, as a result of a series of measures taken by the DGAM and the Syrian INTERPOL in cooperation with UNESCO (anti-trafficking office), Saadeh Cultural Foundation in Lebanon and Professor Hartmut Kühne who directed the German excavations in Tell Sheikh Hamad.
The artifact, on auction, represents the lower half of a basalt stele whose top section was discovered by the Iraqi scientist Hormuzd Rassam in 1879 in Tell Sheikh Hamad (Dur-Katlimmu) dating back to the Neo-Assyrian period. This upper half is in the British Museum now.
Rassam's notes indicate that he failed to discover the lower section, on sale at Bonhams, and so did the German archaeologist Kühne who worked at the site in 1975, which confirms that the lower part was taken out of Syria illegally by means of illegal excavation and smuggling. In addition, it must be returned to the Syrian authorities, the legitimate owner.
The bodies involved in the withdrawal of the artifact from sale are working on establishing the legal grounds to recover this rare artifact containing inscriptions that add more significance to it as they speak about the materials used in rebuilding the temple of the god Salmanu. The text reads:
'.....in the city of Arwad in the midst of the sea. I ascended Mount Lebanon. I cut strong logs of cedar. At that time, I placed those cedars from Mount Lebanon in the gate of the temple of the god Salmanu, my lord. The old temple, which Salmanu-asared (Shalmaneser I), my ancestor, had built, had become dilapidated and I, in a stroke of inspiration, built his temple from its foundations to its parapets. I placed the cedar roof beams from Mount Lebanon on top…..'
Therefore, the DGAM would like to take the opportunity to thank all those who have participated in stopping the sale. In addition, it underlines the importance of cooperation in fighting illicit trafficking in antiquities in order to protect Syria's rich archaeological and cultural heritage.