Metropolitan Museum of Art Returns Ancient Sumerian Sculpture to Iraq

The Met returns a 3,000-year-old Sumerian sculpture to Iraq, marking a growing commitment to repatriating looted art. This coincides with new US-Iraq agreements on economic and energy initiatives, strengthening the bilateral partnership.

Safak Costu
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Metropolitan Museum of Art Returns Ancient Sumerian Sculpture to Iraq

Metropolitan Museum of Art Returns Ancient Sumerian Sculpture to Iraq

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has returned a Sumerian sculpture dating from the third millennium B.C. to Iraq. The museum's enhanced efforts to study the provenance of items in its collection led to the discovery that the statue of a Sumerian man had been the property of Iraq. The ancient artifact had been in the museum's collection for nearly 70 years.

"The Met is committed to the responsible collecting of antiquities and to the shared stewardship of the world's cultural heritage, and it collaborated with the Republic of Iraq on the return of this sculpture," the museum said in a statement. The return of the statue was marked by a ceremony in Washington, D.C., attended by Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.

The Met has been facing increasing scrutiny over the degree to which its collection included objects that had possibly been stolen. The museum has announced a major new effort to scour its collections for looted art, including the appointment of a head of provenance research.

Why this matters: The repatriation of cultural artifacts to their countries of origin is an important step in preserving and respecting the world's shared heritage. The Met's efforts to identify and return looted art demonstrate a growing awareness and responsibility among museums to ensure the proper ownership and stewardship of the items in their collections.

The return of the Sumerian sculpture coincides with agreements between the United States and Iraq on several key initiatives to support Iraq's economic and energy development. The U.S. will provide a $50 million loan to support small and medium enterprises in Iraq, and the two countries will sign new memorandums of understanding to process and convert Iraq's natural gas into electricity. The U.S. also praised Iraq's progress in reducing gas emissions and increasing regional electricity connectivity.

The joint statement highlighted the importance of the bilateral partnership and the desire to expand the relationship in areas like energy independence, financial reform, and strengthening democracy and the rule of law. The U.S. expressed concern about the impacts of climate change on Iraq and pledged support to address the water crisis and reduce methane emissions from gas flaring.

The return of the Sumerian sculpture to Iraq by the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a significant step in the museum's ongoing commitment to ensuring the proper ownership and stewardship of the items in its collection. The repatriation of this cultural artifact, along with the agreements between the U.S. and Iraq on economic and energy initiatives, demonstrates the strengthening of the bilateral partnership between the two countries.

Key Takeaways

  • Met returns 3rd millennium B.C. Sumerian sculpture to Iraq.
  • Met commits to provenance research and repatriating looted art.
  • U.S. provides $50M loan to support Iraq's small/medium enterprises.
  • U.S. and Iraq sign MoUs to process Iraq's natural gas.
  • Repatriation and economic initiatives strengthen U.S.-Iraq partnership.