Britain to return looted 4,000-year-old plaque to Iraq
Museum experts were called by a specialist London police unit after an online sales platform offered the artefact for sale in May last year with only limited details of its provenance.
Despite the online listing describing it as "a Western Asiatic Akkadian tablet", the experts determined the limestone wall plaque came from an ancient Sumerian temple dating to around 2,400 BC.
The temple had been excavated and looted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, looted again in the 1990s during the Gulf War and most recently in 2003 during the Iraq War, the museum said, without specifying when the plaque was taken.
"Temple plaques such as this are rare and there are only around 50 examples known in existence."
The London-based institution said the Iraqi government had "generously permitted it to go on display" at the museum before it is repatriated.
Jim Wingrave, of the Metropolitan Police, urged antiquities' buyers to "conduct a thorough due diligence process before every purchase", especially when dealing with items from recent war zones like Iraq.
However, the museum has faced criticism for failing to return some disputed items to origin countries, most notably the Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, which Greece has long claimed.