Turkish Police Seize Ancient Rug Stolen from Syrian Museum

Turkish police seized what was claimed to be a historical rug stolen from a museum in Syria Wednesday during an anti-smuggling operation in the capital Ankara, Daily Sabah reported.

A suspect, who was trying to sell the historical piece for $3 million, was also detained during the operation, the police said. Units from the Ankara Anti-Smuggling Police Department launched the operation after receiving a tipoff. Following a physical and technical tracking process, police units stopped the suspect’s car during traffic control in Ankara’s Sincan district.

The antique rug was found in the car trunk and immediately sent to the Provincial Museum Directorate. Experts estimated that the rug, which portrays the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and his apostles, dated back approximately 500 years. They suggested it was probably stolen from a Syrian museum during the country’s civil war, local media reported.

They also stated that the rug is almost one of its kind, as it carries traces from the European art style.

The business of smuggling ancient artifacts from Syria via Turkey has been booming throughout the almost seven years of war. This month, an ancient Torah scroll seized from Turkish smugglers and reportedly originating from Syria was said to in fact be a crude forgery, according to the museum experts who analyzed it.

The story of the seizure gained worldwide attention in several media outlets last month after Turkish news agencies said police in the country’s south-west had unearthed what they believed was a 700-year old holy text being offered by “smugglers” for $1.93 million.

Pictures of the rare discovery showed a colorful but haphazardly leather-bound book, with Hebrew markings that appeared at first glance to be upside-down and don’t seem to resemble actual Hebrew phrases.