It is an “archaeological vestige of great value” and an “exceptional testimony to Hellenistic expansion in North Africa “, according to a press release from the Federal Office of Culture.
The 19-centimeter-high sculpture dates from the period between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD and most likely comes from the archaeological site of the ancient city of Cyrene, in the Cyrenaica region in current Libya, it is also specified.
The sculpture was discovered in 2013 as part of an inspection in a customs warehouse in Geneva and was handed over to Bern on Tuesday by the director of the Federal Office of Culture at the Libyan embassy in Switzerland. Three years after its discovery, the Geneva public prosecutor’s office decided to initiate proceedings, considering that the sculpture could have been found during “illicit excavations”.
However, the criminal proceedings did not make it possible to determine the precise place where the sculpture was discovered or how it arrived in Switzerland.
The marble head is entirely covered with a reddish patina which provides information on its origin, indicates the Federal Office of Culture, according to which the Cyrenaica region is one of the rare regions in the Mediterranean basin where we find “terra rossa and marble of such quality”.
“Libya, in particular its UNESCO World Heritage sites like Cyrene, are strongly threatened by looting and destruction,” explains the press release, which recalls that in 2015, the International Council of Museums published a list red flag of Libyan antiquities in danger to fight against the destruction and illegal trade of cultural property.
Both Switzerland and Libya, a country plunged into chaos since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and governed by two rival executives, are parties to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Prohibition of Import, Illicit Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.