The eight objects, which include a marble amulet of a bull, were seized by police from a now-defunct dealer in London who failed to provide any paperwork.
The artifacts remained in police custody until earlier this year when they were taken to the British Museum.
Experts at the museum got a clue to their origins after reading Sumerian inscriptions on three clay cones that were part of the collection. They established that the objects came from a site in the ancient city of Girsu, now known as Tello, in southern Iraq.
Rare findThe cone inscriptions name the Sumerian king who had them made, the god they were dedicated to and the temple where they came from.
"We could have an idea that maybe these objects came from southern Iraq, but to be able to narrow it down to the particular site, and even to the particular holes — this is extremely rare," said archaeologist Sebastien Rey, who has been leading a British Museum team that has been training Iraqi archaeologists in Tello since 2016.
"If we don't have any information on the objects, you can't identify their provenance, and that's the main problem in combating the illicit trade," said Rey.
Iraqi heritageThe collection will be handed to the Iraqi embassy in London on Friday during a private ceremony at the museum.
Iraq's ambassador, Salih Husain Ali, praised the museum's staff for their efforts in identifying the antiquities.
"Such collaboration between Iraq and the United Kingdom is vital for the preservation and the protection of the Iraqi heritage," he said.
ap/amp (AFP, AP)
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