Skip to main content

US repatriates 2,700-year-old artifact to Palestine

The United States repatriates a stolen artifact to Palestine — a historic move between the two countries.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas holds a wooden relic reputed to be part of Jesus's manger, as he speaks with the acting Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa during a Christmas midnight mass in the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank December 25, 2019. (Photo by MUSSA QAWASMA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The United States repatriated a 2,700-year-old spoon dating to the Assyrian civilization to the Palestinian Authority (PA) this week, in a first such move between the US and Palestine.

The handover took place in Bethlehem on Thursday between American representatives and Palestinian officials, with George Noll, chief of the US Office of Palestinian Affairs, and Rula Maayah, Palestinian minister of tourism and antiquities.

According to a report by The New York Times, a legal investigation was launched into stolen antiquities that led to the return of the artifact.


Media reports show that US billionaire Michael Steinhardt acquired the spoon. He had obtained it from an Israeli dealer known to trade stolen artifacts. He bought several other objects at the time. Following a thorough investigation into looted items, several of them were returned to Middle Eastern countries, Greece and Italy.

Why it matters: This is a historic event marking the first time a stolen artifact is returned by the United States to the PA.

At the ceremony, Noll was quoted as saying that this is “a historic moment between the American and Palestinian people, and a demonstration of our belief in the power of cultural exchanges in building mutual understanding, respect and partnership.”

Know more:  The Palestinian territories are known for their rich history and cultural diversity; the Gaza Strip has unveiled a number of artifacts from several civilizations. Having been home to different civilizations, some areas were also considered a key trading route between countries and empires in ancient times, and Egypt and the Levant more recently. Lately, archaeological discoveries have been made confirming the area’s historical significance.

Last May, a farmer cultivating his land in Gaza’s Khan Yunis found a 4,500-year-old sculpture. According to the Smithsonian Museum, the statue depicts Anat, the Canaanite deity of love and war.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Palestine Briefing Palestine Briefing

Palestine Briefing

Top Palestine stories in your inbox each week

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial