Among the items recovered were a golden queen's crown with an inscription of the Hellenistic god, Helios, a bust dedicated to Alexander the Great's conquest of India and a statue of a goddess dating back to the Hittite era 3,000 years ago.

For three months the investigation, dubbed
For three months the investigation, dubbed "Operation Zeus", tracked the smuggling ring, which aimed to take the artefacts abroad and sell them to museums and collectors for millions of dollars. (AA)

Turkish police have recovered thousands of artefacts dating back to Anatolian, Greek and Egyptian civilisations in the largest operation to combat smuggling of ancient treasures in the country's history, the police said on Thursday.

For three months the investigation, dubbed 'Operation Zeus', tracked the smuggling ring, which aimed to take the artefacts abroad and sell them to museums and collectors for millions of dollars, Istanbul police said in a statement.

Among the items recovered were a golden queen's crown with an inscription of the Hellenistic god, Helios, a bust dedicated to Alexander the Great's conquest of India and a statue of a goddess dating back to the Hittite era 3,000 years ago.

The 26,456 objects recovered also included Egyptian-origin statues and Phoenician-type teardrop vials.

"The retrieved artefacts are... more valuable than the artefacts in the inventory of an average size museum," the police said in a statement.

Six people involved in the ring were detained on December 12 in Turkey's northwestern province of Duzce as they attempted to sell off some of their haul. Seven more were detained in four different provinces.

Turkey has been fighting for the return of stolen pieces at home and abroad.

The issue is crucial to a country that is home to about 3,000 ancient cities from 42 civilisations, and whose tourism industry relies on its rich historical heritage to attract millions of foreigners each year.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies