This bust of a priest from Palmyra was found at the Geneva Free Port (Image: © Ministère public genevois)
Swiss authorities have seized nine antiquities looted from Palmyra and ancient sites in Libya and Yemen at the Geneva Free Port. The artefacts, which range from the fourth century BC to the third century AD, were deposited at the secretive tax-free warehouses between 2009 and 2010, the Geneva public prosecutor said in a statement on 2 December. They were discovered during a customs inspection in 2013 and confirmed as authentic by culture authorities in Bern last year. A criminal investigation, opened in March and concluded on 22 November, has not resulted in a conviction.
Three of the pieces—the bust of a priest and two funerary bas-reliefs—come from Palmyra, the Unesco world heritage site in Syria systematically destroyed by Isil in 2015 and recaptured by pro-Assad forces in March. Five objects, including a circular table and two anthropomorphic steles, are from Yemen. A head of Aphrodite, testifying to the Greek colonisation of north Africa, comes from Libya. Six of the objects are believed to have been transported to Switzerland from Qatar and another from the United Arab Emirates.
“As they await restitution to their countries of origin, the objects will be entrusted to the Musée d’Art et d’Histore [in Geneva] to be eventually exhibited to the public,” the public prosecutor said in the statement. The works are believed to be in a good condition but will first be examined by the museum’s conservators, a spokesman tells The Art Newspaper. If no treatment is required, they could go on view in January or February 2017.