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10 March 2013
Police return smuggled Neolithic artefacts to Kosovo

Seven artefacts dating as far back as 4,000 BCE to the Neolithic period, and thought to belong to the Vinca, a prehistoric culture that traces back to 5,500 BCE in southern Europe, have been returned to Kosovo. They are believed to have been stolen during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, and were discovered by police in Germany in 2005.
     Authorities think they were meant for sale to private collectors. There was no registry for the items and it took investigators years to authenticate them and confirm their origin. They have been placed in Kosovo's Archeological Museum in the capital Pristina alongside the museum's only previous artefact, a similar terracotta figurine known as 'Goddess on the Throne', returned from Serbia through the mediation of the United Nations.
     Kosovo's ethnic Albanians fought a separatist war against Serbia in 1998-99 and Serbia relocated some 1,200 artefacts from Kosovo's museum to Belgrade during the 78-day NATO bombing campaign that eventually ended the conflict. Serbia rejects Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, and ownership of the artefacts is still hotly debated.

Edited from Ventura County Star, The Associated Press (22 February 2013)

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