For the historic repatriation, US and Palestinian officials met in Bethlehem. Credit: Ministry of Tourism

The cosmetic spoon is believed to date back to around 800-700 BCE. It was used for ladling incense onto burning fires to make offerings to the gods, or the dead according to a statement added by the Manhattan District attorney’s (DA).

Rula Maayah, the Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, attended the ceremony and said that the artifact had “acquired its true scientific and archaeological value in its authentic locale.”

“Based on US information, the investigations they performed showed that the artifact were stolen from Khirbet al-Koum region in Hebron,” she said.

George Noll (US Office of Palestinian Affairs chief), was also present at ceremony. He stated that repatriation is a “historic moment between the American people and the Palestinian people and a demonstration of us belief in the power of culture exchanges in building mutual understanding. Respect and partnership.”

Following a multi-national criminal investigation into Michael Steinhardt, a US billionaire, the Manhattan DA office seized the ivory cosmetic spoon.

Steinhardt turned over 180 stolen relics in the amount of $70million and agreed to an “unprecedented” lifetime ban on antiquities acquisitions in December 2021, CNN reported.

According to a statement from DA’s Office, investigators found that Steinhardt had looted artifacts smuggled out 11 countries by 12 criminal network.

Andrew J. Levander & Theodore V. Wells Jr., Steinhardt’s lawyers, stated that their client was satisfied that the DA’s investigation had ended without any charges and that items wrongfully taken will be returned home to their homelands.

Manhattan DA returned many of the looted artifacts since then. These include a $1.2 million antiquity for Libya, two artifacts to Iraq and 39 antiquities valued as $5 million each to Israel in February 2022. There were also 39 antiquities that were worth $5 million to Israel and 58 antiquities that were sent to Italy, 21 of which were seized from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Sept 2022.

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