Press Conference Commemorating the Repatriation of a Middle Bronze Age Axe

Today, U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard commemorated, at the Beirut National Museum, the return to Lebanon of an ancient axe dating to the Middle Bronze Age (2200-2000 B.C.). The “Bronze Axe” will be displayed permanently at the Beirut National Museum.

In her remarks, Ambassador Richard highlighted U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) efforts to locate and recover the Bronze Axe. After receiving a notice from the Government of Lebanon alerting the potential unlawful sale of the Bronze Axe, the FBI launched an investigation and recovered the artifact. Ambassador Richard recognized the close collaboration between the U.S. and Lebanese governments to repatriate stolen archeological treasures and combat the illicit trafficking of cultural property—blocking a source of funding for criminal and terrorist networks.

The following are Ambassador Richard’s remarks as delivered.

Thank you everyone for being here with us today, our honored guests, especially the Minister of Culture, the Director General of Antiquities, and our beloved Anne Marie Afeiche, curator of the National Museum. I would also very much like to welcome our colleagues visiting from the United States from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Art Crimes Unit. We are very happy to have these gentlemen with us as part of our larger efforts to stop the trafficking in art and cultural property.

Just seven months ago, we all gathered at the National Museum to celebrate the return of the Bull’s Head and other associated objects, which you passed as you entered today. At that time, we vowed to continue our joint fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property and I am proud to say we have again successfully achieved the return of another beautiful Lebanese artifact. This Bronze Axe, dating to some 2,000 BC, was excavated from Byblos in the 1930s, and is believed to have been stolen and sold during Lebanon’s civil war.

While small, it represents something much larger. It represents the preservation of the past for current and future generations. Just as important, it represents our commitment to combatting the trafficking of archeological artifacts. By doing so, we are dealing a blow to criminal and terrorist networks looking to benefit from the illegal sale of Lebanon’s heritage.

We are all very much aware, and have spoken before, of the great efforts by the Ministry and the Directorate General of Antiquities to combat trafficking of items through Lebanon that come from elsewhere, including Syria and Iraq.

The DGA’s expertise and close collaboration with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) have countered–and will continue to counter–antiquities trafficking.
The team here today from the United States are part of our effort to support what is being done here; that is, our joint work in combatting trafficking in cultural property. Today, they met with Lebanese law enforcement officials to share case studies and best practices and, very importantly, to form the international relationships so critical to defeating the global trade in stolen antiquities.

The U.S. government is very committed to this ongoing fight. This means not only bringing Lebanese cultural property back home to Lebanon, but also preserving and restoring the heritage sites that exist all across this country.

Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Embassy and Ministry of Culture inaugurated the 17th Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) project funded by the U.S. Department of State, this time at the Temple of Eshmun.

We have also worked with our Lebanese partners to restore and preserve Roman, Ottoman, and Phoenician sites in Jabal Moussa; the ancient Roman and Byzantine monuments in Faqra; the Public Baths in the Beqaa Valley; and many other historical sites and monuments.

I am very proud of our work to help preserve the rich cultural heritage that belongs to Lebanon–and to all of us. I invite every Lebanese citizen to actively join us, not only in appreciating but also safeguarding the country’s artistic and environmental treasures. I thank you all very much for being with us today on this very happy occasion of the return of the Bronze Axe. Thank you.