Academics raised concerns about the authenticity of the repatriated mosaics to Lebanon by US authorities.

According to Djamila Fellague, a University of Grenoble academic cited by The Guardian, “eight of the nine ‘returned’ mosaic panels were fakes, relatively easy to detect because the models used are famous mosaics.” Fellague explained that forgers copied designs from original mosaics in Sicily, Tunisia, Algeria, and Turkey, pointing out a panel resembling a section from Sicily’s Villa Romana del Casale. She also claims a mosaic of Neptune and Amphitrite was inspired by a Louvre-held mosaic in Constantine, Algeria. Of the returned mosaics in Lebanon, she asserts only one was inspired by an actual Lebanese mosaic—a depiction of Bacchus in the National Museum in Beirut.

Meanwhile, Christos Tsirogiannis, a guest professor at the University of Cambridge and an expert on trafficking in antiquities, stated that the evidence is irrefutable, as quoted by The Guardian.

In response to the accusations, a Manhattan District Attorney (DA) Spokesman declared, “In order for these antiquities to be repatriated, a court had to evaluate our evidence, which included expert analysis of their authenticity and significant details about how they were illegally trafficked. The court found, based on the evidence—which these individuals do not have—that the pieces are authentic,” as reported by The Guardian.

DA’s office, on September 7, announced the repatriation of nine mosaics, part of dozens allegedly brought into New York by a Lebanese antiquities trafficker. In 2022, the DA’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit obtained a warrant for their arrest and applied for a red notice from Interpol.

Miroslava Salazar