Buddha Sculptures Returned To Afghanistan
Ten stolen Buddha sculptures were returned to Afghanistan after they were discovered stashed inside two broken fruit crates at London’s Heathrow Airport. Customs officers seized a statue and nine Buddha heads in 2002 believing they might have been used to hide drugs but further investigations revealed they were stolen 1,500-year-old treasures. Police said the sculptures from the ancient region of Gandhara, in the Afghan-Pakistan border area, could not be immediately returned to Afghanistan because of the war that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Gandhara was a centre of Buddhism for Asia until Islam increased in significance.
Although the return of the items to the National Museum of Afghanistan was first announced in July, they are now being sent back after going on display at London’s British Museum.
The pieces, which are believed to have originated from Buddhist monasteries in the country, are thought to have been parts of bigger works of art damaged by the Taliban. “We presume that they were beheaded in the Taliban iconoclastic phase of 2001, when figural representations were prohibited, whether in modern media like television or from antiquity,” St John Simpson, senior curator at the Middle East department of the British Museum, was quoted as saying in July.
Detective Constable Sophie Hayes from the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques unit, said: “This has been a very long and complex case but I am delighted that after 17 years, these ancient and precious items are finally being returned to Afghanistan.”
(Extracted from thenational.ae)