The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has announced that it would research and temporarily care for four ancient carved stone funerary stelae, which were likely illegally looted from Yemen.
The works will be exhibited to the public as part of a new display on Culture in Crisis, the V&A’s program dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide, at V&A East Storehouse from 2025, the museum said in a statement on Tuesday.
The objects, which most likely date from to the second half of the first millennium BCE, are of the type on The International Council of Museum’s ‘Emergency Red List of Cultural Objects at Risk’. They were discovered by an archaeology enthusiast in an interior design shop in east London, and recovered by The Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit, which investigates art theft, illegal trafficking, and fraud.
The museum said it signed an agreement with Yemen for the V&A to take responsibility for the care of the stelae on a temporary basis, until Yemen deems it is safe to return the objects to their country of origin.
Director of the V&A Dr Tristram Hunt said the agreement will give the public the chance to appreciate the exceptional examples of Yemeni culture and creativity, before the objects are repatriated.
He added that the agreement shines “a light on how the V&A’s Culture in Crisis program helps curtail the illegal trade of looted objects and the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide.”