Detail of a Roman wine pitcher returned to Afghanistan (and not Rome) a long with gold items. Photo courtesy Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The people of Afghanistan are getting ancient gold ornaments and an old Roman wine pitcher that had apparently been looted from the country and discovered in the United States as part of an investigation into antiquities trafficking.

Earlier this month, the items were officially returned to Afghan authorities during a ceremony at their embassy in Washington, D.C.

According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, border protection officers discovered the artifacts in a shipment at Newark Liberty International Airport in March 2011. The investigation revealed the items were headed for a New York man to be passed on to another New Yorker suspected of “dealing in looted cultural property,” ICE officials said.

Authorities described the artifacts as follows:

The vase is a 12.75-inch Roman oinochoe, or wine pitcher, from the 5th to 8th century A.D. Also returned were three 4-by-3.25-inch 5th century B.C. gold foil appliques depicting antelopes and two antique coiled gold ornaments from approximately the 17th century, weighing approximately one pound.

This marks the four repatriation of looted property to Afghanistan.

Earlier returns include:

— A late 19th century historic “jezail” rifle ammunition speed loader returned June 2013. The ammunition speed loader had disappeared from the Kabul National Museum in the years after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan.

— Eight Bronze Age circa 2,000 B.C. artifacts returned in May 2008. The artifacts, likely looted from northern tombs, had been illegally removed from Afghanistan and sold in the United States.

— Two rare coins returned in May 2005. They were estimated to be more than 2,000 years old and were looted during the unrest following the departure of Russian forces in 1988. The Indo-Greek coins of Agathokles, dated between 171 and 160 B.C., were looted from Kabul Taliban factions.


Disembodied hand holding foil appliques depicting antelopes that were returned to Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.