No photos, alas …
The Lebanese Antiquities Department received on Monday a rare sarcophagus and other antique items confiscated from the house of a sheikh in Baalbek.
The judicial police found the antiquities last Wednesday at the house of Sheikh Mohammad Jaafar Suleiman al-Mohajer, who was believed to have dug them out illegally and kept them secret hoping to sell them.
The items included a sarcophagus dating back to the Roman era in the second century AD and two carved stones, one showing the head of a lion and another showing the portrait of an emperor. The sarcophagus is believed to be of great importance because it might be that of a child from a royal family and it is to be soon displayed at the Lebanese National Museum.
However, according to an article published Tuesday by the Arabic-language newspaper An-Nahar, Mohajer claimed that he had previously contacted the department about the discovery but that the latter had failed to recover the items.
Mohajer said he found the antiques on a property he owned and had sent a letter to the Culture Ministry asking them to buy the items.
Nonetheless, the department insisted it was informed of the discovery before receiving Mohajer’s letters, security sources told An-Nahar. It had launched an investigation in the matter because the items were not reported within the legal deadline of 24 hours and they were dug illegally on the property of Hajj Haydar al-Mohajer.
Furthermore, the judicial police arrested on February 2 two men suspected of fraud, who confessed that Mohajer’s son, Ali Ammar, had tried to sell them antique jewelry items for $1.7 million.
The police raided Mohajer’s house last Wednesday and found the sarcophagus in his back yard along with two other antiques. But they did not go inside the house where antique jewelry might be hidden, noting that the sarcophagus was found empty while the dead were traditionally buried with all their jewelry.