Author: Neil Brodie
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2016
Also known as: South Arabian Alabaster Stele
Stolen South Arabian stela returned to Yemen by Phoenix Ancient Art in 2004
In 2002, antiquities gallery Phoenix Ancient Art in New York City consigned for sale at Sotheby’s New York a third-century AD South Arabian alabaster stele or tablet carved in low relief with an image of the fertility goddess Dat-Hamin. With an estimated sale price of $20,000-30,000 USD, the stele was said to derive from an English collection (US Attorney 2003; Yates 2004). While investigating the object’s provenance, Sotheby’s staff discovered that the piece had been stolen from the Aden Museum during the 1994 civil war in Yemen. Sotheby’s offered to investigate the museum’s claim to title (US Attorney 2003), but Phoenix decided instead to relinquish ownership (Aboutaam 2004).
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized the piece in September 2003 and in December 2004 it was returned to Yemen (Yates 2004).
[Photo by GOAMM (General Organization of Antiquities, Museums and Manuscripts, Yemen)]
Aboutaam, Hicham (2004), ‘Remarks from Phoenix Ancient Art’, New York Jewish Times, 20 December. http://nyjtimes.com/cover/12-20-04/Rebuttal-4thCenturyAntiquityReturnedToYemen.htm, accessed 5 February 2014.
US Attorney (2003), ‘US seizes antiquity stolen from Yemen Museum’, press release, 4 September (United States Attorney, Southern District of New York). http://www.justice.gov/usao/nys/pressreleases/September03/yemenanantiquityreturnpr.pdf, accessed 5 February 2014.
Yates, Maura (2004), ‘Yemeni stele returns to Mideast home’, New York Sun, 2 December. http://www.nysun.com/on-the-town/yemeni-stele-returns-to-mideast-home/5705/, accessed 5 February 2014.