Both artifacts were acquired by the Met in the late 1990s from the collector Jean-Luc Chalmin, the museum said. One, the sculpture of a female figure wearing a strap necklace, was a purchase; the other, a marble mortar, was a gift. The sculptures were acquired by the Met’s department of ancient near eastern art.
“These compelling objects offer an important opportunity to present Yemeni culture, in dialogue with our collection of 5,000 years of art history,” said Max Hollein, director and chief executive of the Met. “We are grateful to have established such a collegial and sincere commitment to spotlighting these important works.”
Over the last few years, repatriation efforts have forced museum officials to scrutinize how their predecessors acquired objects, in some cases without regard for cultural heritage laws and local customs that might have prevented them from leaving their home countries. Some investigations have come from within cultural institutions or from amateur sleuths, while others were started by law enforcement officials.
But as more objects are being repatriated there have been concerns about the ability of some nations, particularly those at war, to care for them. The efforts to continue safeguarding Yemeni artifacts at the Met and the Smithsonian while officially handing ownership over to the government have been celebrated by some archaeologists and historians.