Gorgan mask was stolen in 1996
Algiers – Sufian Si Yusuf
The Tunisian minister of culture Mahdy Mabrouk pledged on Thursday that the Gorgon mask, which was stolen in 1996 from the archeological site Hibon in Ennaba (600 km far from the Algerian capital), will be
returned to the Algerian authorities as soon as various legal procedures are completed.
The Algerian Minister of Culture Khalida Toumi stressed his disapproval last Sunday of the mask being displayed by Tunisian culture officials, despite Algeria demanding the return of the precious archeological masterpiece, considering this “incompatible” with the UNESCO’s laws (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization).
Toumi confirmed in a statement to the Algerian news agency, that the Gorgon mask gets “special protection” by his ministry’s department and it will be returned back to the Algerian authorities.
The minister highlighted the close cooperation between both countries in the field of protecting common heritage, affirming the necessity of redoubling the efforts for “reinforcing” the cooperation to fight art smuggling.
Toumi insisted on the importance of working in accordance to bilateral agreements and UNESCO’s agreements for returning back the heritage piece that was smuggled abroad.
The Gorgon mask weighs 300Kg and is made of white marble. It was discovered in 1930 during excavations done by a team of the French archeologists near Hibon (called Ennaba now).
A team of archeology experts from the Algerian ministry of culture identified the Gorgon masks Algerian heritage last year, after a programme was broadcast detailing more than 160 masterpieces in possession of Al Matary, the brother-in-law of the former Tunisian president. Matary is accused of “smuggling archeological and making excavations at archeological sites without a license.
The Gorgon mask represents an old Greek legend about three sisters Ostorat Sito, Aerlin, and Midosa with snake hair and the ability to turn people into stone.