French customs seize ancient African treasures

French customs agents seized two illegal shipments of artefacts from Africa, including statuettes, prehistoric fossils, jewels and pearl necklaces, the Budget Ministry said today.

The separate seizures in recent weeks in the southern cities of Arles and Perpignan netted more than 17,700 archaeological objects in vehicles driven by two Moroccan nationals, the ministry said.

It was not clear if they were detained and the ministry was not immediately available for further comment.

In the first operation, agents in Arles seized more than 17,600 objects from Mali and Morocco in a Moroccan-registered vehicle that was headed to Germany, the ministry said in a statement.

They included fossils of crocodile and turtle skulls, and a dinosaur’s jaw from about 60 million years ago, and of trilobites – horseshoe crab-like creatures that became extinct 250 million years ago.

“The fossils from southern Morocco are of a scientific interest of the first order,” the ministry said, adding that regional experts had examined the artefacts.

The same vehicle was carrying dozens of bronze statuettes in human and horse forms, jewels and pottery from Mali – most of which date to around 1,500 B.C.

In Perpignan, agents stopped an Italian-registered car containing 124 objects dating to the Neolithic era between 6,000 and 5,500 B.C. including arrowheads, axes and pearl necklaces.

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