When it comes to the proper home for a historical treasure, Indiana Jones said it best: “It belongs in a museum!” Unfortunately, there are plenty of selfish criminals out there looking to seize these one-of-a-kind objects for profit.

The good news is that police are cracking down, though it’s easier said than done. For one team in Turkey, time was running out to rescue a book that could hold some of mankind’s greatest secrets…

Known for its steep hills and towering buildings, Tokat is one of the most culturally rich cities in Turkey. But its old-world charms also attract a particular breed of criminal…

Flickr / Hüseyin YAZICI

Though it seemed like another typical day, its police force prepared itself to face a band of international smugglers. These criminals were especially dangerous because they had probable ties to ISIS.

Interestingly, most smugglers in Tokat do not peddle drugs or people, but rather ancient artifacts. The police were constantly on alert for black market treasures passing through Tokat.

Deccan Chronicle

This type of smuggling is dangerous because it strips a place of its cultural heritage. Tokat, as a hub of Ottoman and Middle Eastern history, has a lot to lose from these crimes.

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Other cultures depend on its police force, too. The city is a hotspot for all kinds of valuable contraband, even items that originated far from Turkey.

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For example, authorities recovered a Vincent Van Gogh drawing entitled, Orphan Man, Standing in 2015. But they were about to stumble upon an even bigger discovery…

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Three mysterious men came into town and began shopping around a shipment of antiquities. They provided no information about who they were or where their goods came from. 

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During one meeting with potential buyers, the smugglers unveiled the full array of their treasures. The customers could hardly believe their eyes. However, they had a surprise of their own.

These ‘buyers’ were actually undercover police. Once they caught their suspects red-handed, they arrested the three men and secured the cargo.

Reuters

All told, the officers unearthed a veritable treasure trove. It contained a vast assortment of artifacts that spanned different regions and time periods. 

Daily Sabah

Police brought in historians to study the haul. Although it was filled with antique coins and jewelry, these valuable pieces were far from the most precious object there.

The real gem was a 1,000-year-old Bible. Written in the Assyrian language, the book represented a chapter of religious history that most archaeologists only dreamed of finding.

Daily Sabah

The artifact was in less-than-ideal condition, and only 51 pages remained intact. Still, it offered a previously unknown glimpse into early Christianity.

Artists have produced countless depictions of Jesus over the past two millennia, though many of these early works are lost forever.

Fortunately, this Bible included a pristine portrait of Christ, and it even used gold leaf in its design. Talk about priceless!

CEN

Further inspection of the book revealed other golden illustrations, including pictures of the Virgin Mary and a cross. Good luck finding a picture book like this at your local Barnes & Noble!

Euronews

This text was a vital piece of history. The Assyrians were once-powerful Middle Eastern people who later became victims of persecution. Their language also has heavy similarities to Aramaic, Jesus’ native tongue.

It could be a key missing link in figuring out how Christianity morphed from a small band of disciples in the Roman Empire to today’s leading worldwide religion.

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Police recovered the artifact at a convenient time too. It grabbed the attention of the British Museum in London, which was presenting an exhibit on early Christians in and around Egypt.

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There’s no doubt that top historians and linguists will continue to delve into the unique Bible’s history. Who knows what other secrets it holds?

Science

This Bible is far from an ordinary book, so it’s a good thing that it’s no longer in the hands of smugglers.

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