A marble bust of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius is back in Algerian hands, 12 years after it was stolen from a museum in the east of the country, the domestic APS news agency reported Wednesday.
The bust -- identified just before it was due to go on sale at Christie's auction house in New York -- was returned by US officials at a ceremony Tuesday at the Algerian embassy in Washington, it said.
Marcus Aurelius, the last of the so-called Five Good Emperors, ruled the Roman Empire from 161 until his death in battle in 180. He is also famous for his thoughts on stoicism, contained in his book "Meditations".
His bust was stolen from the Skikda museum in 1996, in circumstances that remain unclear, prompting the Algerian authorities to turn to Interpol for help in finding it.
It turned up in New York, where it was identified in June 2004 through the London-based Art Loss Register, prompting Christie's -- which had been about to sell it for a Paris art gallery -- to withdraw it from auction.
Prosecutors in New York ordered in December 2006 that the bust be returned to Algeria.