Turkey seizes largest ever haul of ancient statues and coins

Artefacts, dating back to Anatolian, Greek and Egyptian civilisations, which were rescued by Turkish police in an operation against smugglers are displayed at the police headquarters in Istanbul. Ihlas News Agency via REUTERS

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police said on Thursday they had rescued thousands of artefacts dating back to Anatolian, Greek and Egyptian civilizations in the largest operation to combat smuggling of ancient treasures in the country’s history.

Among the items recovered were a golden queen’s crown with an inscription of the Hellenistic god, Helios, a bust dedicated to Alexander the Great’s conquest of India and a statue of a goddess dating back to the Hittite era 3,000 years ago.

The 26,456 objects recovered also included Egyptian-origin statues and Phoenician-type teardrop vials.

“The retrieved artefacts are... more valuable than the artefacts in the inventory of an average size museum,” Istanbul police said in a statement.

For three months the investigation, dubbed “Operation Zeus”, tracked the smuggling ring, which aimed to take the artefacts abroad and sell them to museums and collectors for millions of dollars, it said.

Six people involved in the ring were detained on Dec. 12 in Turkey’s northwestern province of Duzce as they attempted to sell off some of their haul. Seven more were detained in four different provinces.

Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans and Pritha Sarkar