Turkish police seized an ancient Bible during an anti-smuggling operation in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir, near the Syrian border on February 4, 2019, reports European news network EuroNews.
An informant told the authorities that an old manuscript with religious motifs and text was about to be sold by smugglers. The police set up an operation and caught the six smugglers red-handed.
Experts believed that the tome is between 1,100 to 1,200 years old. The leather-bound Bible has 34 pages and has gold lettering and a cross image painted on its front. Its origin remains unknown, but may have come from Syria.
Syria is home to many Christian denominations, including the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and the Melkite Catholic Church, according to Ancient Origins. The country has a large Christian population in Antioch and Damascu.
When a civil war began in 2011 and the Islamic State (IS) controlled some territories in the country, many Syrians suffered, especially Christians, who were extremely persecuted. The recovered ancient Bible was probably owned by a Christian or a church and was stolen after the Syrians left their communities.
Turkey has stepped up its anti-smuggling campaign since the country has been used as a gateway for smugglers to transport precious artifacts from war-torn countries such as Syria, Libya and Iraq to reach Western art markets, reports Middle East news service The National.
According to court documents released in 2018, the FBI recovered a mosaic in California, which has illegally entered the US from Syria. The ancient mosaic depicting Hercules is believed to have been looted from Syria in 2012 and was routed through Turkey.
Meantime, an art dealer was detained in Spain after being accused of being part of a smuggling network linked with the Islamic State (IS) in Catalonia. The group was suspected to have stolen historical artifacts such as a sarcophagus and other ancient Greco-Roman works from Libya and Egypt.