2nd Century Bodhisattva schist head from the Gandhara region (likely from what is now known today as Swat Valley, Pakistan). Photo courtesy ICE.

 Customs officials landed a second Asia Week New York seizure last week when they snagged a Pakistani head that was headed for an East Coast auction house on March 8. The shipment contained red flags, including multiple false statements.

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement: 

“This seizure contained a 2nd Century Bodhisattva schist head from the Gandhara region (likely from what is now known today as Swat Valley, Pakistan,) and is estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. This artifact is important, not only for its size, condition, and quality of carving, but also because of the unusual amount of gold gilding that remains on the surface of the head. It is a common practice for looters to remove just the head of a sculpture in situ because it is easier to smuggle and sell on the black market.”

Investigators said artifacts like this often take very circuitous routes through Asia where they are entered into the shipping stream at very high volume ports. This is done to help hide the goods and can make finding a smuggled artifact among thousands of shipments kind of like finding a needle in a haystack.

Advertisements