Afghan museum staff help unpack a Border Force seizure at the British Museum in 2011.
UK officials have returned looted treasures stolen from Afghanistan's national museum and rich archeological sites over the past decades.
"The pieces, and their enormous range, bear testament to the incredibly rich cultural history of Afghanistan," said Colin Crokin, UK consul general in Afghanistan.
"In a sense, they are symbols of Afghanistan's struggle for national unity and peace - scattered by the civil war, recovered, and now passed back to their own people for safekeeping."
The British Museum and UK police and border forces helped return the 843, meticulously catalogued items, including decorative inlays dating back to the first century CE, medieval Islamic coins and a 2,300-year-old stone water spout in the shape of a lion’s head.
The second-century schist Buddha, which ended up in the hands of a Japanese collector, who refused to return it and could not be compelled legally to do so.
An anonymous British dealer, however, bought it and gave it back to the British Museum, Guardian
"It's very important for us to get these artifacts back, because they are part of our cultural heritage and history that was looted during three decades of war" said Afghan deputy culture minister Sayed Masaddeq Khalili.
According to director of Afghanistan’s National Museum Omara Khan Masoudi, about 9,000 looted artifacts have been retrieved since 2001.
"For me the artifacts which were already registered at the national museum - the ivory pieces, the Buddha statue, and also some bronze pieces which are very old and have really very beautiful designs - they are particularly important," he said.
Masoudi began working at the Afghan museum during the country’s pre-war heyday, and has spent most of his professional life there.