France officially handed over 25,000 archaeological items to Morocco on Thursday. According to officials, the collection had been seized in the country during three customs control inspections and illustrate the growing “scourge” of looting of cultural items.
The items were handed over during a ceremony held in the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM) in Marseille (southeast).
However, the items, which weigh almost three tons, will not be taken back to Morocco until the end of the month.
These archaeological items had been intercepted in Marseille and Perpignan between 2005 and 2006. The drivers, all of whom are Moroccan nationals, were driving luxury cars. The regional director of customs in Marseille Guy Jean-Baptiste told the AFP that the men appreciated the items’ value and “treated and washed them per the standard.”
It took 15 years to return them to Morocco because of the procedures, especially judicial, that were required. The traffickers have also been fined a total of 120,000 euros.
.The size and quantity of the items make the collection extraordinary. The fossil and archaeological objects include a partly intact skull, fish teeth, carved tools, and rock carvings from the stone age.
“This is a historic moment because we can repatriate this heritage to its native land,” said Youssef Khiara, national director of Moroccan heritage.
“The 2005 event initiated a process of training customs and magistrates officials and cultivating the “human resources needed to deal with the theft and trafficking of art.”
This trafficking warns Guy Jean-Baptiste,” is a potential source of terrorist financing,” and he stressed the need to educate the public about the importance of preserving these pieces.