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5,000-Year-Old Sculpture Returned to Baghdad Museum - 2003-09-23

A priceless Iraqi artifact, looted after the fall of Saddam Hussein, has been safely returned to Iraq's National Museum.

U.S. investigators formally handed over the 20-centimeter high limestone sculpture known as the Warka Mask, or the "Sumerian Mona Lisa" to Iraq's culture minister Tuesday.

The sculpture, which dates back 5,000 years and is one of the earliest representations of the human face, apparently spent the last few weeks buried in an Iraqi backyard.

It was taken from the museum when Baghdad fell in April and since then, investigators believe, it switched hands several times. Last week the museum received a tip about the mask's whereabouts.

The artifact, which is also known as the Lady of Warka, was discovered wrapped in a cotton rag and buried near the Iraqi capital. Dirty but undamaged, the precious piece was recovered and Tuesday returned to its home at Baghdad's museum.

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