The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, DC, will house a group of artifacts that have been repatriated to Yemen to safeguard them amid unrest there.
This week, officials from the Yemeni embassy and the US Department of Homeland Security and State Department convened at a repatriation ceremony to mark the return of a group of 77 objects from the US to Yemen. The museum will oversee the preservation and documentation of the group of antiquities, dating back to the first millennium BCE as part of a two-year deal between the two countries.
The artifacts include funerary statues and early Quranic manuscripts. The agreement serves as a temporary custody partnership involving the ancient artifacts, which are legally owned by the Yemeni government.
Mohammed Al-Hadhrami, the ambassador of the Republic of Yemen to the United States, “With the current situation in Yemen, it is not the right time to bring the objects back into the country.”
The region’s cultural property has been subject to damage and looting since civil war broke out there in 2014.
More than 60 of the objects being returned were legally forfeited to the United States after investigations led by the Department of Homeland Security and the Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The remainder of the artifacts were seized by authorities overseeing border operations.
The deal marks the first time cultural artifacts have been given back to Yemen in 20 years. The last return of cultural property between to the country was in 2004 when the US repatriated a Yemeni funerary stele.
Yemeni officials have the option to seek the contract’s renewal at the end of its term. The Yemeni embassy in the US will advise on research and conservation efforts around the objects, some of which will be placed on public view in Washington, DC.