'Israel' probes legality of US giving 2,700 y/o artifact to Palestine
The new far-right government in "Israel" sparks dispute over the cultural heritage of the 2,700 years old artifact that was repatriated to Palestine in January.
A 2,700-year-old ivory cosmetic spoon that the United States recently returned to the Palestinian Authority has sparked a dispute with the new far-right government in "Israel" over cultural heritage in the occupied West Bank.
The artifact is believed to have been plundered from a site in the West Bank. It was seized in late 2021 by the Manhattan District Attorney's office as part of a deal with Michael Steinhardt, a renowned - or notorious - collector of ancient art.
Read: US returns looted antiquity to Palestine for first time ever
It was one of 180 artifacts, worth an estimated $70 million, illegally looted and bought by Steinhardt that he later surrendered to avoid prosecution.
Dozens of Steinhardt's surrendered artifacts have already been repatriated to Jordan, Turkey, Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, Libya, and "Israel". However, this spoon was the first and only artifact ever to be returned to Palestine.
Jihad Yassin, director general of excavations and museums in the Palestinian Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, said that Palestinians "have the right" to repatriate any artifact proven to have come out illegally from Palestine.
Yassin said that around 60% of the West Bank's archaeological sites are in territory under full Israeli control and that his ministry's theft prevention workers "manage to control in a high percentage the looting" in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
However, many of the illicit artifacts that have reached "Israel's" legal antiquities market were looted from the West Bank, he added.
Steinhardt purchased the spoon in 2003 from Israeli antiquities dealer Gil Chaya for $6,000, according to court documents.
It is worth noting that Chaya has been accused of selling hundreds of illicit items, according to The New York Times.
US officials repatriated the ivory spoon to the Palestinian Authority early in January.
The object was used to ladle incense onto fires and braziers at rites honoring the gods and the dead, and it is believed to be from the vast Assyrian civilization.