Iran plans to dispatch a team of experts to Briton to check the authenticity of some alleged Jiroft artifacts detected in London's Heathrow airport as a Kuwaiti citizen was smuggling them, Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency reported on Friday.
Some 3 weeks ago, British officers found these 5,000-year-old artifacts as they were screening the passenger, and they guessed they might be smuggled during the public plunder of the Jiroft civilization site 3 years ago.
"Right now the legal bureau of Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization (CHO) and diplomats are studying the seized items and Tehran is making its case to get them back. A team of experts, thus, would be soon given the mission to travel to Britain," said Yunis Samadi, legal and property deputy of CHO.
He suggested Iran could invoke such international laws as 1970 convention on extraditing historical relics to return Jiroft artifacts, now in the custody of Heathrow's customs.
Although the makeup of the team is yet to be decided, Seyyed Mohammad Beheshti, president of Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism research center has recommended Dr. Yussef Madjidzadeh, head of excavation team in Jiroft to lead the delegation.
In January 2001 a group of Iranians from Jiroft in the southwestern province of Kerman stumbled upon an ancient tomb. Inside they found a hoard of objects decorated with highly distinctive engravings of animals, mythological figures and architectural motifs.
They did not realize it at the time but they had just made one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries of recent years, one that is radically altering accepted notions of the development of the world's earliest civilizations in Iran and Mesopotamia between the fourth and third millennia BC. A few weeks after the discovery, officials from Iran's Ministry of Culture, vastly outnumbered by local people, watched hopelessly as thousands systematically dug up the area. The locals set up a highly organized impromptu system to manage the looting: each family was allocated an equal plot of six square-meters to dig.
This organized pillaging continued for an entire year. Dozens of tombs were discovered, some containing up to 60 objects, and thousands of ancient objects were removed. All of these were destined for overseas markets.
In February 2002 Iran's Islamic police finally arrived in force to stop the destruction. Some 2,000 objects were confiscated from locals in Jiroft and other hoards of the ancient artifacts ready to be shipped overseas were seized in Tehran and at Bandar Abbas.
The objects confiscated by the police are unlike anything ever seen before by archaeologists. Many are made from chlorite, a grey-green soft stone; others are in copper, bronze, terracotta, even lapis lazuli. They are now being studied by a group of Iranian archaeologists led by Dr. Madjidzadeh. Official excavation of the site began in February 2003. It is focusing on both the necropolis, which was looted extensively, and on an ancient settlement not discovered by the looters.
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