US Customs Seize Ancient Carved Stones From Cameroon

Though not currently on display, the British Museum has this medium-sized example of an Ikom monolith with human facial features in its department for Africa, Oceana and the Americas. Bought at auction from Sotheby’s, the piece was collected in Nigeria in the 1930s. “Nearly 300 similar figures carved from naturally occurring boulders have been recorded in the area north of Ikom on the Cross River,” according to the museum’s description. “They stand in villages, many of which are now deserted, within an area of less than 400 square miles inhabited by six small Ekoi ethnic groups. Although they were all probably carved between AD1600-AD1900, it is not yet possible to date them more accurately.”

MIAMI (AFP) — U.S. customs officials in Miami on Tuesday said they seized ancient carved stones from Cameroon known as Ikom monoliths that had been exported to the United States using fake documents.

Experts believe the stone sculptures were made sometime between 200 and 1,000 AD, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.

According to UNESCO the carvings “bear a form of writing and a complex system of codified information .. each stone, like the human finger print, is unique from every other stone in its design and execution.”

The Ikom monoliths come from the area round the town of Ikom, in the state of Cross River in southern Nigeria bordering with Cameroon.

Customs officials did not say how many stone carvings they had seized, but did say that they will be “repatriated” to Cameroon.

“CBP has a critical role in protecting cultural property and preventing illicit trafficking,” said Robert Del Toro, CBP’s Acting Port Director at Miami International Airport.

He described it as “just the latest example” of CBP teams working federal agents “to enforce international repatriation laws of ancient artifacts.”

© Agence France-Presse

%d bloggers like this: