Syria retrieve 2 stolen archaeological pieces from Italy

Two archaeological pieces were returned to Syria from Italy on Monday to be showcased in the National Museum in Damascus.

The two pieces, which are small gates of ancient tombs that date back to the 5th century, had disappeared from Syria since 1960 until Radwan Khawatmi, a Syrian expatriate in Italy, found them in an auction.

Khawatmi bought the pieces and brought them back to the national museum in Syria’s capital Damascus.

Mahmoud Hammoud, head of the Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums in Syria, told reporters that the returned pieces are part of the plundered Syrian heritage.

“The Syrian heritage has been subjected to looting and sabotage and destruction as hundreds of thousands of pieces were looted from our museums and many important archeological buildings destroyed,” Hammoud said.

For his part, Khawatmi said the prices are priceless, without revealing how much he had paid for them.

“Those pieces are a gift I am giving back to Syria and they are priceless so even if their prices are millions of dollars their real value is that they are back to this land,” he noted.

During the ongoing civil war, the Syrian authorities shut down many museums and stored away more than 300,000 pieces, but some historical sites such as those in Palmyra were still destroyed, damaged or looted by the Islamic State militant group.

Antiquities officials said more than 9,000 artifacts were restored and reclaimed during the war, noting that thousands more were smuggled out of the country.