Babylonian antiquities looted by contractors in Iraq were returned to the Iraqi government Thursday in a Washington ceremony.
The looting came to light during a 2006 investigation into fraud by Defense Department contractors, the FBI said. Investigators learned contractors collected the items in 2004 and used them as bribes and gifts or sold them to people who then brought them to the United States.
The antiquities turned over to Iraqi Ambassador Shakir Mahmood Sumaidaie included two pottery dishes, four vases, an oil lamp, three small statues, and seven terracotta relief plaques, all between 2,500 and 4,000 years old. The tiny plaques, which showed different scenes, may have been carried for magical protection.
The FBI set up an art crime unit after the Iraqi National Museum was looted during the 2003 invasion.
"Working abroad does not entitle anyone to remove historic artifacts and treat them as mementos for illegal sale," said Ron Hosko, who heads the criminal division in the Washington field office.