Slovenian museum to care for ancient Sumerian statuettes

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- Three statuettes dating back nearly 5,000 years from the Sumerian civilization and found in a refugee camp last year have been temporarily placed in the care of Slovenia's national museum, one of the curators said on Friday.

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Peter Turk told The Associated Press that the origin of the Oscar-sized alabaster statuettes had been traced back to the Sumerian civilization which inhabited present-day eastern Syria and Iraq five millennia or so ago. He said the statuettes will remain in Slovenia until claimed by their rightful owners.

"I have no doubt about the authenticity of the statuettes," said Turk. "If a museum from Syria or Iraq report they own the statuettes, they will be returned."

The statuettes were discovered last November in a transit migrant camp near the border with Croatia that has hosted hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing the war in their homelands.

Slovenian police have opened an investigation to try to determine who left the statuettes in the camp and whether they had been stolen.

Turk said the statuettes depicting two males and a female goddess, have their hands clasped in prayer, suggesting they had been originally placed in a sanctuary to impersonate their owners in prayer.

The male statuettes are finely carved, while the female, whose upper body part is nude, is less delicate, he said.

"These statuettes belonged to the members of the Sumerian upper class," Turk explained. He said the statuettes are intact, except for the marks of the past millennia on them.

The rich cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq has been damaged and plundered during years of conflict, and many items have ended up on the black market.



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