Through continuous diplomatic efforts, Libya has retrieved a rare marble statue of the head of Faustina, the daughter of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius and Roman Empress Faustina the Elder. This comes 75 years after it was smuggled out of the country during the Second World War, and the statue dates back to the era of the Nerva- Antione dynasty.
Yesterday, the Libyan ministry of foreign affairs announced that its embassy in Austria had successfully retrieved the statue from the Garz Museum in a press conference that included ambassadors and officials from both sides. The ministry noted that the handover process had begun after diplomatic discussions between the Libyan embassy and the Austrian state, as well as the Libyan Antiquities Authority’s efforts to retrieve items that had been lost and smuggled abroad.
Libya’s permanent representative to UNESCO, Dr. Hafiz Al-Ouldah, explained that the statue was lost from the Libyan Sousse Museum in the Jabal Akhdar region during the Second World War and that it a statue Faustina, also known as Faustina the Younger, indicating that studies and research have shown that the head of the statue had been displayed in the Sousse Museum until World War Two.
An archeologist concerned with protecting Libyan heritage during the armed conflict, Dr. Ouldah added that the statue had been examined more meticulously by the German Committee for the Recovery of Antiquities.
According to Dr. Ouldah, the committee has been looking into the origins of artifacts that had been seized from its owners during the Nazi era since 2000, adding: “the committee returned the statue of Faustina’s head to its original historic home, and it has been handed over to the Libyan Antiques Authority during a ceremony attended by Libyan Ambassador to Vienna Jalal Alashy”.
In a speech given on the Libyan Antiques Authority’s behalf, Alashi hailed the authorities’ joint efforts from both countries to protect cultural heritage wherever it is, stressing the depth of the relationship between Libya and Austria.
Many Libyan antiquities were looted, smuggled, or destroyed during the years following the overthrow of the former regime, but the country’s authorities are striving to retrieve the greatest possible number of these antiques. Dr. Ouldah previously spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about the Libyan team’s efforts to retrieve antiquities smuggled abroad.
Several countries, including Britain and the US, have handed over artifacts considered as “important” to the Libyan authorities, and the country has also thwarted attempts to smuggle artifacts out of the country.