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"Loot is a riveting foray into the biggest question facing museums today: who should own the great works of ancient art? Sharon Waxman is a first-rate reporter, a veritable Euphronios of words, who not only explores the legal and moral ambiguities of the conflict but brings to life the colorful -- even outrageous -- personalities facing off for a high noon showdown over some of the world’s iconic works of art. Vivid, witty, and delightful, this book will beguile any reader with an interest in art and museums."

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Karl E. Meyer, author of The Plundered Past and co-author of Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East:

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February 09, 2009

Artifacts returned to Pakistan

Britain returns smuggled pottery to Pakistan

LONDON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Britain on Monday handed back to Pakistan almost 200 smuggled pottery artefacts that were seized by British border officers two years ago.

The 198 bowls and vases were smuggled from Pakistan via Dubai and discovered by the UK Border Agency at London's Heathrow airport in 2007.

The 4,000-year-old relics, which originate from Pakistan's north western frontier, were examined by the British Museum and estimated to have a value of 100,000 pounds ($148,800).

"It's a sort of vandalism, people who steal invaluable things from developing countries at a very cheap price," Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's High Commissioner to Britain, said at a ceremony in London.

"This is our nation's heritage which will go back, and people will be happy to see them in the museums," he added.

Smuggled antiques and historic relics often end up in the hands of private collectors willing to pay big sums of money.

"Where ancient sites are plundered for short-term gain, this results both in the loss of heritage items to indigenous people and irreparable damage to archaeological sites," said Tony Walker, director of the UK Border Agency.

Anil Rajput, the customs officer who seized the artefacts in 2007, said they were smuggled from Dubai in freight declared as 'normal pottery' for a value of only $100.

"When I opened the boxes and actually looked at the pots, it was clear that they were not mass-produced in a factory in Dubai," he said. (Reporting by Martina Fuchs, editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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