But in 2012 a judge ruled in favor of the museum, which had claimed the statue of limitations protected its possession of the artifact.
The repatriation of ancient artifacts to their countries of origin has been a long-simmering issue over fabled treasures. Recently, a growing cooperation between governments and museums has led to some repatriation of centuries-old works.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
Elgin MarblesA frieze which forms part of the "Elgin Marbles," taken from the Parthenon in Athens, are seen on display January 21, 2002 at the British Museum in London.
Greece has lobbied Britain for two decades to secure the return of the Marbles, which were removed and taken to London during the Ottoman occupation of Greece by the British ambassador Lord Elgin.
Elgin MarblesBut whether something was "illegally" acquired isn't always clear. The Elgin Marbles were given to the Brits - albeit by the Turks, who were occupying Greece at the time of their removal.
"The government, the legitimate government of Greece gave permission for those to be taken at the time - now, it was a Turkish government of occupation, you could argue, but it was legally done," said Kimerly Rorsarch, director of the Seattle Art Museum and president of the Association of Art Museum Directors. "There's documentation, permission was given. They were openly removed, they weren't dug up out of the ground clandestinely. You know, how do you go back? I mean, throughout history, wars, disruption, things have changed hands in distressing ways."
Left: Sculptures which form part of the "Elgin Marbles," are on display January 21, 2002 at the British Museum in London.
Parthenon MarblesAC Milan fans hold up a banner demanding the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum, May 23, 2007 in Athens.
LootingOne of the problems facing conservators of a culture's heritage is the ongoing, rampant looting of historic sites.
Left: Pieces of mummified human limbs are left on the ground by tomb looters in the valley of the Golden mummies in the Bahariya oasis, 225 miles west of Cairo, December 12, 2004. Egyptian antiquities experts believe the valley contains over 10,000 mummies.
Egyptian archeologist Dr. Monica Hanna told CBS News' Mo Rocca she has seen an increase in looting since the 2011 revolution. Artifacts taken find their way onto the international art market, and often into museum collections.
LootingAn Egyptian worker cleans some of the archeological pieces inside the Egyptian Museum on February 16, 2011. Looters broke into the museum in Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 28 when anti-Mubarak protesters drove his despised police from the streets in a series of clashes, shattering 13 display cases and at least 70 artifacts, some of which have been recovered and repaired.
Only a human shield of patriotic Egyptians prevented catastrophic plundering.
Colombian Moche CeramicsAn archaeologist shows ceramic samples of the Moche culture that were ransacked by looters in the area of the now-protected tomb of a priestess of the Colombian Moche culture, in the Sun and Moon complex, a sanctuary developed between 200 and 700 A.D., beside a rocky hill more than 700 kilometers north of Lima, May 28, 2013.
According to research anthropologist Santiago Uceda, this discovery in northern Peru could change the history of the Peruvian pre-Hispanic culture.
Etruscan ShieldsLeft: A pair of bronze Etruscan shields with the head of Acheloos, approx. 17 inches in diameter, dating from the 6th century B.C.
The Italian government named a former New York antiquities dealer in a criminal case for having "sold, donated, or lent" numerous objects looted from Italian sites.
The Italian government has requested the return of the pieces, which have been part of the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art since 1998.
Calyx KraterThis Grecian ceramic was also requested by the Italian government to be returned from the Dallas Museum of Art. The Calyx krater, from the late 4th century B.C., was linked to a Sicilian who was convicted in Italy of dealing in stolen antiquities.
Maxwell Anderson, director of the Dallas Museum of Art, said his museum has restituted works to the Italian and Turkish governments. The krater is one of several objects Italy's Ministry of Culture has offered the museum to hold, on loan, in recognition of their return of antiquities.
Red Figure KraterThis 4th century B.C., red-figure krater was originally sold at auction by Sotheby's, New York, in 1991, and later sold to the Dallas Museum of Art. It has been identified as connected to convicted Sicilian antiquities dealer Gianfranco Becchina.
Roman MosaicThis mosaic, "Orpheus Taming Wild Animals," from the Eastern Roman Empire, near Edessa, A.D. 194, was purchased by the Dallas Museum of Art from Christie's New York in 1999. The Turkish government has provided evidence that the mosaic was looted (it is the subject of criminal investigation).
Greco-Roman MarblesAn official at the Turkish embassy with one of the Greco-Roman marbles after it was handed back to the Turkish Ambassador Ozdem Sanberk, at a reception at the Turkish embassy July 15, 1998. Seven marble sculptures dating back to the second century were being returned after Turkey laid claim to the haul two years ago.
The sculptures where found in 1994 by divers in the wreckage of the steamer Castor, which sank off the southern coast of England on July 28, 1894, while carrying Turkish antiquities to the Netherlands.
The treasure - worth an estimated 25,000 pounds, but priceless in archaeological terms - includes a bust of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and a head of Venus.
Iraq AntiquitiesArtifacts looted from a Baghdad museum after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 are displayed during a press conference held by Jordanian Tourism and Antiquities Minister Maha Khatib, in Amman, Jordan, June 22, 2008. The press conference was to announce the handover of more than 2,400 artifacts, including gold coins and jewellery, to Iraq.
Buddhist StupaMembers of a French archaeological team walk on top of a giant 4th century Buddhist stupa cut into a mountain, October 11, 2006, in Samangan province, Afghanistan.
Artifacts from the area have been sent to the Musee Guimet in Paris, from Afghanistan's national museum in Kabul, and will be on display from December 2006 as part of the "Afghanistan, Rediscovered Treasures" exhibition. The artifacts were saved from the looting of the Afghan national museum during the civil war of the 1990s and then the Taliban regime, which destroyed many pieces.
Angkor PendantA Cambodian silver pendant of the Angkor period (12th-13th century A.D.) on display at the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, June 12, 2009. British Khmer art collector Douglas Latchford repatriated a number of Khmer antiquities during the event.
Dutch MasterA 17th century Dutch oil painting, "Portrait of a Musician Playing a Bagpipe," stolen by the Nazis in 1937, was repatriated on April 21, 2009 to the estate of Dr. Max Stern, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.
The painting belonged to the late Jewish art dealer and was seized after a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement investigation. The painting is the sixth artwork - of several hundred listed in the claim filed by Dr. Stern's estate - to be recovered.
RubensThe painting "Salome with the Head of John the Baptist," a copy after Peter Paul Rubens, was taken to Russia by a member of the Red Army during or after World War II. It was later found in the United States, and later returned to Germany, at a repatriation ceremony at the picture gallery of Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, July 11, 2012.
The Foundation for Prussian Palaces and Gardens lost about 4,000 works of art during World War II and its aftermath. Today almost half of 180 paintings from the collection of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, remain missing.
Medieval ManuscriptOne of three antique illuminated vellum musical manuscript leaves is unveiled during a repatriation ceremony for seven lost cultural antiquities at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C., April 26, 2012.
For more info:
Acropolis Museum, Athens
British Museum, London
Dallas Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Saint Louis Art Museum
Seattle Art Museum
Ministry of State for Antiquities, Egypt
Italian Ministry of Culture (Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita Culturali)
Association of Art Museum Directors
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan