A United States court has convicted a Californian man of illegally importing an ancient floor mosaic from war-torn Syria in 2015, CNN reported. The ancient artwork arrived at the port in Long Beach as part of a shipment from Turkey in August 2015.
The mosaic is estimated to be approximately 2,000 years old. It portrays the legendary scene from mythology in which Hercules rescues Prometheus, who was bound to a rock by the gods for stealing fire from them. Weighing around 907 kilograms and measuring 2.4 x 4.5m, the mosaic has an estimated value of at least $450,000.
The man responsible for smuggling the mosaic, 56-year-old Mohamad Yassin Alcharihi, was found guilty on 21 June, according to the US Attorney’s Office. He is to be sentenced next month, and is facing a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison.
Alcharihi allegedly paid a mere $12,000 for the ancient artwork. During its journey, the historic floor mosaic had been concealed behind a cargo of vases on a container ship. After completing customs procedures in the United States, the mosaic was transported to Alcharihi’s residence by truck. However, the authorities seized the artwork from his garage in 2016 after a tip-off.
The fate of the mosaic, as to whether or not it will be returned to Syria, remains uncertain.
Since the eruption of the Syrian civil war in 2011, a significant number of the country’s historical and archaeological artifacts have fallen victim to destruction, particularly at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS). In 2015 the extremist group also claimed the life of Syrian archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad, who was renowned for his work in the ancient city of Palmyra.