February 10, 2011 / 5:34 PM / 8 years ago

Germany hands ancient battle axe back to Iraq

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Germany handed over a 4,500-year-old battle axe — presumed taken from an Iraqi museum after a 2003 U.S.-led invasion — to Iraq’s ambassador on Wednesday following several years of legal limbo.

German authorities found the ancient axe in 2004 during an investigation into a Munich antiquities dealer and turned it over to the Roman-Germanic Central Museum (RGZM) in Mainz to determine its origin and age.

The museum found the decorated axe was from the Mesopotamian city-state of Ur, presently the site of the city Tell el-Mukayyar in southern Iraq.

But mystery still surrounds how the axe found its way to Germany, the museum said.

“There are scuffmarks on the axe, which suggest that it was stolen from a museum or was taken from an excavation site, but we are not 100 percent sure,” RGZM spokeswoman Christina Nitzsche said.

There was large-scale looting of museums and archaeological sites in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

Iraqi Ambassador Hussain M. Fadhlalla al-Khateeb received the decorated axe from the museum in Mainz.

Reporting by Eric Kelsey; editing by Paul Casciato

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