Unique cultural artifacts of Afghanistan stolen by NATO soldier

Soldier’s loot turned away

Aftenposten, Oslo, May 30, 2008

A Norwegian soldier came home from duty in Afghanistan with a horde of cultural treasures, which he offered to an Oslo museum. He was summarily rebuffed and told to take the treasures back to their country of origin.The solider, who wasn’t identified, is believed to have violated laws against spiriting national treasures out of their homeland. His case wasn’t unique. Museum officials say they’re often offered such items brought back to Norway by military personnel, aid workers and tourists.

“In Afghanistan, the laws can be different from Norway’s, but such old items would almost certainly be covered by export restrictions,” said Christopher Prescott, an archaeology professor at the University of Oslo.

In this case, the soldier had a pile of ancient coins and a small metal bottle. Håkon Ingvaldsen, responsible for collections at Norway’s Historical Museum (Kulturhistorisk museum) in Oslo, told periodical Ny Tid that the coins were up to 2,000 years old.

“The museum can’t take into possession things that belong to another country’s cultural heritage,” Ingvaldsen said.

Neither Norway’s economic crimes unit Økokrim, the Ministry of Culture nor Norwegian customs officials know what happened to the items offered by the soldier. Museum officials aren’t obliged to report cases of suspected illegal imports, but Økokrim officials are trying to track the extent of such activity.

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