A fossil crocodile skull of 56 million years that was stolen from the Kingdom and returned by the U.S. authorities in February 2022, was presented on Thursday at a ceremony in the presence of Morocco’s Minister of Youth, Culture and Communication, Mohamed Mehdi Bensaid and diplomats accredited in Morocco.
This ceremony organized, in the zoological park of Rabat, was also the occasion to present paleontological fossils repatriated to Morocco after having been illegally taken out of the country.
The fossil skull of Crocodilus phosphaticus was found by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in a farm owned by an American amateur archaeologist in the State of Indiana in 2014, alongside 7,000 other artifacts. This restitution is part of the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.
It also falls within the framework of cooperation between Morocco and the United States of America, including the Memorandum of Understanding for the preservation of Moroccan cultural heritage, signed on January 14, 2021 in Rabat.
Alongside this fossil, other artifacts were presented, seized on French territory between 2005 and 2006 and returned to Morocco on January 5, 2021, thanks to the efforts of the Kingdom and France as well as the cooperation of the competent authorities of both countries.
“We are here today, at the Rabat Zoo, on the occasion of this ceremony to remind those who make the history of peoples and species a lucrative market, that we are committed, with our partners, that history remains a common good of humanity, and that it is our responsibility, as leaders, to ensure this essential duty of memory,” said the Moroccan minister in a speech delivered on this occasion.
And to add that “this fossil, which crossed the centuries protected in the Moroccan rock can henceforth return there and will tell us its History, and will deliver us several of its secrets.”
Mr. Bensaid expressed his determination to prevent all “attacks on our heritage, whether through the despoilment of historical property or the History by some or others, for political or monetary purposes, will be dealt with.”
According to him, the security of the national heritage and the fight against the illicit traffic of Moroccan cultural goods are a priority issue of the cultural policy “that we are conducting and our meeting today is a key witness.”
For her part, the cultural counselor at the French Embassy, Clelia Chevrier Kolačko, noted that this operation reflects the common desire of the Moroccan and French authorities to firmly fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property.
For her part, the counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy, Kathleen Eagen, stressed the commitment of the United States of America to implement the memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries for the preservation of the Moroccan cultural heritage, saying she was “pleased to see the fossil skull of Crocodilus phosphaticus return to its land of origin after being presented at a ceremony at the Embassy of Morocco in Washington.”