Four hundred and fifty artefacts from 4,000 BC were seized by French customs over a decade ago. On Tuesday 3rd July, France handed over nearly 450 ancient relics back to Pakistan.
At Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport in 2006, customs agents intercepted a parcel from Pakistan which contained 17 terracotta pots, that were addressed to a museum in the city, claiming they were more than 100 years old.
However, an expert who examined them stated that the artefacts were dating back to the second or third millennium BC, and were stolen from burial sites in Balochistan, a province in southwest Pakistan.
An extensive investigation took place, lasting almost a year which involved a raid on the Paris gallery. Investigators found 445 items, some dating as far back as 4,000 BC. The estimated value of these items is 139,000 Euros (Dh576,130).
Some of the items on display at the embassy to mark the handover were a range of beautifully decorated pots, jars, vases and stylised motifs of animals, plants and trees.
There were also plates, bowls, 100 tiny ceramic figurines and goblets, all of which had been shipped out of Pakistan illegally.
“This is very, very important for us,” said Abbas Sarwar Qureshi, head of Chancery at the Pakistani embassy, during the formal handover ceremony.
“Some of the items are 6,000 years old from the Mehrgarh civilisation,” he told AFP.
Aurore Didier, head of France’s archaeological mission in the Indus basin, said “the ceramics came from illegally excavated graveyards and were examples of two different cultures: the Nal (3100 – 2700 BC), and the Kulli (2600 -1900 BC”).
“For this period, very few sites have been documented, and archaeologists stopped their work in Balochistan in 2007 due to political issues in the area,” she told AFP.
She also stated that ‘although not new or unique, they provided valuable evidence of a period where most of the remained graves had been destroyed.”
“For archaeologists, it’s very important because it’s the only evidence of funerary material from this period,” she said.
Qureshi said, “the 445 objects would be shipped back to Pakistan within a few weeks.” However, it was not clear where they would be exhibited.