UNESCO and the Repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles

Over the past week or so, the repatriation-campaign for the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles campaign seems to have heated up a bit … I’ve got a backlog of items dealing with such matters, but here’s one from last week to get you going:

The Greek government has officially enlisted the aid of UNESCO in its ongoing efforts to regain the Parthenon Sculptures which are currently in the British Museum.
UNESCO has sent a letter to the British foreign secretary, William Hague, the culture secretary, Maria Miller, as well as to the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, to notify them of the Greek government’s decision to contact UNESCO and to attempt to reach a settlement of this long standing dispute.
The issue of the Parthenon Sculptures has been at the forefront of discussions at the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for more than 20 years but every time the committee meets, the formal British position is essentially the same: the British Museum is an independent body and is not subject to government control.
The museum’s director, Neil MacGregor, has repeatedly stated that the British Museum will never return the sculptures and has described the whole issue as “yesterday’s question”.
Greek Minister of Culture and Sport Panos Panagiotopoulos voiced his concern over worsening ties at a meeting this week for the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.
He says Greece’s efforts for the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles “do not start from a need to enhance our national egoism”.
“It is an effort with global implications, aimed at the restoration of the unity of a leading cultural monument, which is a common reference for all mankind.”
The call for return of the so-called Elgin collection of Parthenon Sculptures has been going on for years with little progress. UNESCO’s relationship with the Greek government holds new hope that mediations can occur soon.

… not sure if UNESCO will be stepping into this one yet …

Roman Head Returned to Egypt

A different sort of repatriation story from Al Ahram:

After almost four decades in the possession of a Brazilian citizen, a limestone Roman head of an as yet unidentified nobleman is on its way back to its Egyptian homeland. The head is very well preserved, and depicts the facial features of a Roman nobleman with short wavy hair.

Osama El-Nahas, director general of the Department of Repatriation of Antiquities at the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) told Ahram Online that the story started late last year when a young Brazilian lady, who requested anonymity, called the Egyptian embassy in Brazil.

She told them that she wanted to hand over a Roman sculpture that she had inherited from her father. In 1976, her father had bought the head from an Egyptian man who claimed he was the curator of one of Egypt’s museums.

El-Nahas said that the head continued to be in the possession of the Brazilian man until last year, when he decided to hand it back to Egypt. The man passed away before he was able to return the artifact, but his daughter decided to fulfill his wishes and contacted the embassy.

The Roman head is to return home within two weeks, where it will be examined for possible restoration and to find out more details about its original location.

Winged Seahorse Returns to Turkey

From Today’s Zaman:

A winged seahorse brooch, one of the most precious pieces in the Croesus Treasure, which was stolen from a museum in Turkey in 2005 and recently found in Germany, was returned to Turkey on Wednesday.

In November of last year, then-Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay announced that the famed brooch had been located in Germany and would be returned to Turkey soon. No information was revealed as to how it was found.

The brooch, which is worth millions of Turkish lira, was found to have been stolen from the Uşak Archaeology Museum, where it had been on display, and switched with a fake sometime between March and August of 2005, and it remained missing until being located in Germany.

The Croesus Treasure, a collection of artifacts from the time of King Croesus’s rule of the Lydian Kingdom between 560 and 547 B.C., is on display in the Uşak Archeology Museum. The treasure contains 363 valuable Lydian artifacts originating from Uşak province in western Turkey, which were the subject of a legal battle between Turkey and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 1987-1993. The artifacts were returned to Turkey in 1993 after the museum admitted it had known the objects were stolen when they had purchased them.

In case you missed it a few years ago, the Croesus Theft was an Inside Job…

Getty Returns Head of Hades

… and we didn’t know it was missing! From a Getty press release (sent directly to me!):

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today plans to voluntarily return a terracotta head to Sicily representing the god Hades and dating to about 400–300 B.C. The Museum acquired the sculpture in 1985.

Joint research with colleagues in Sicily over the past two years has yielded previously unknown information on the likely provenance of the sculpture suggesting that it was appropriate to return the object. In keeping with the principle of repatriating works when compelling evidence warrants it, the decision to transfer this head is based on the discovery of four terracotta fragments found near Morgantina in Sicily, similar in style and medium to the Getty head. Getty Museum curators initiated discussions with Sicilian colleagues on the possible relationship between the head and the fragments in 2011, and then worked with the director of the Morgantina Archaeological Park to corroborate the identification. These fragments indicate that the original location of the head was the site of a sanctuary of Demeter, which was clandestinely excavated in the late 1970s.

“The Getty greatly values its relationship with our Sicilian colleagues, which culminated in the 2010 Cultural Collaboration Agreement,” said Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “This collaboration has brought significant opportunities for scholarly dialogue, joint conservation projects, and loans, most notably the ‘Charioteer’ from Mozia that is currently undergoing a thorough seismic conservation assessment and remounting in our conservation studios.”

According to Enrico Caruso, director of the Parco Archeologico di Morgantina, “Close collaboration with the Getty’s curators and conservators on the examination of the head has allowed us to give a name to the sanctuary shrine where several fragments of its curls of hair were found in 1978, as well as a name to the Getty’s anonymous sculpture. It is Hades, god of the Underworld, the terracotta body of which is in the course of an extensive restoration in the Archaeological Museum in Aidone.”

The head will be transferred to the Museo Archeologico in Aidone after it goes on display in the Getty-organized traveling exhibition Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome. The exhibition will be on view at the Getty Villa from April 3 to August 19, 2013, the Cleveland Museum of Art from September 30, 2013 to January 5, 2014, and will end at the Palazzo Ajutamicristo in Palermo from February to June 2014. The head is currently on view at the Getty Villa as part of the special installation The Sanctuaries of Demeter and Persephone at Morgantina until January 21, 2013.

See David Gill’s commentary as well:

Orpheus Mosaic Heading Back to Turkey

Wow … no sooner does Hurriyet mention it and the Dallas MoFA returns it … from the Star-Telegram:

The Dallas Museum of Art has returned an ancient mosaic to Turkish officials after discovering it was stolen.

The mosaic was returned to Turkish officials at a ceremony Monday in Dallas. Museum officials also launched an international cultural exchange that will include loaning works of art and sharing expertise. The first initiative will be with Turkey.

The museum bought the roughly 5-foot-by-5-foot Orpheus Mosaic at a public auction in 1999. It originally decorated the floor of a Roman building. But the museum discovered evidence earlier this year that it was possibly stolen from an archaeological site. Museum officials then consulted Turkish officials, who provided photographic evidence documenting the looting.

For more detailed reports, see also:

Latest Repatriation Issue: Orpheus Mosaic in Dallas

From Hurriyet:

Archaeologists are hopeful that Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay will announce the return of the Orpheus Mosaic to Turkey from the Dallas Museum of Art in the U.S. on the eve of new year, daily Hürriyet reported.

Günay had previously hinted that the ministry would return a specific historical artifact that was originally discovered in Turkey but was subsequently taken abroad, without specifying which item it would be. Rumors in the archaeology world suggest that it will be the Orpheus Mosaic, which was smuggled from the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa in 1950.

A delegation from the Culture and Tourism Ministry has reportedly left for Chicago for the handover process, and will return to Turkey on Dec. 5 with the Orpheus Mosaic.

Dallas Museum of Art Director Jill Bernstein has said they will issue an official statement on the subject next month.

The Orpheus Mosaic (A.D. 194) is known as the earliest Edessa mosaic that archaeologists have dated so far. Edessa is the Hellenistic name given to Şanlıurfa.

The mosaic was taken abroad by smugglers after its discovery by J.B. Segal in 1950 in Şanlıurfa. Turkey’s Aktüel Arkeoloji (Contemporary Archaeology) magazine earlier this year launched a campaign to return the Orpheus Mosaic back to Turkey.

Turkey Wants Mausoleum of Halicarnassus Items Back

From Hurriyet comes news of  Turkey’s latest repatriation efforts:

Some pieces from Bodrum’s famous Mausoleum of Halicarnassus are on display at the British Museum, and work continues to bring them back to Turkey. Lawyer Remzi Kazmaz recently spoke about the mausoleum at a press conference
Some pieces of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which is considered as one of the seven wonders of the world, are on display at the British Museum but work continues to bring them back to where they belong in Bodrum. Lawyer Remzi Kazmaz works on a film project about the mausoleum and also for return of the pieces. AA photo

Work continues to get parts of Bodrum’s Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which are currently kept at the British Museum in London, returned to Turkey.

Two of the seven wonders of the ancient world were located in Anatolia; one of which was the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and the other the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in what is now Bodrum, in the Aegean province of Muğla, lawyer and film producer Remzi Kazmaz said. Kazmaz spoke at a press conference held in Bodrum last week to launch his film, “Aşkın Mabedi Mausoleum” (Mausoleum: the Temple of Love), which is based on Kazmaz’s book of the same title.

Some pieces of the Halicarnassus Mausoleum were sent to the British Museum in Ottoman times, Kazmaz said. “These pieces belong to us. They belong to Anatolian history and culture, but they are at the British Museum. The people of Bodrum want these pieces back.”

Non-governmental organizations have collected 118,000 signatures on a petition requesting that those artifacts smuggled abroad be returned to the country legally, and have presented them to the Culture Ministry, Kazmaz said. “These artifacts do not have any meaning when they are abroad, away from their original location. They can only be restored and have value here.”

Two methods

There are two methods that could be used to bring the artwork back to Turkey, Chamber of Shipping (DTO) Bodrum branch member Arif Yılmaz said, speaking at the press conference. “First of all, we will ask to have the artwork in order to display it. In this way, the world will see where the pieces look more beautiful. The second method would be — if [the British Museum] claims [Turkey] gave these artifacts to them as a gift — we will file a suit against the sultan who gifted the artifacts, because he did not have right to give government property as a gift. They defend themselves by saying, ‘These were given to us as a gift; we did not steal or smuggle them. That is why we cannot return them.’ We will work to get the artifacts displayed in Bodrum.”

Osman Demirci, an actor who appears in the film “Aşkın Mabedi Mausoleum,” said he had visited Britain some time ago and saw the pieces from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in the back rooms of the museum. “These pieces of art are not being displayed in a frequently visited section of the museum.”

… three years ago we were hearing of plans to ‘rebuild’ the Mausoleum (Rebuilding the Mausoleum?) … not sure if anything ever came of that.

Latest in the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles Repatriation Issue

From Kathimerini:

Alternate Culture Minister Costas Tzavaras on Wednesday announced the creation of a special advisory committee that is to coordinate a strategic national effort to secure the return of the Parthenon Marbles, a longstanding demand of the Greek authorities.

Speaking a few weeks after the British Museum denied reports that it was considering returning fragments of sculptures from the Parthenon to Greece, Tzavaras said the ministry was bringing together “individuals of influence, knowledge and long experience of efforts to repatriate the Marbles.”

The committee includes lawyers, archaeologists and senior government officials. “Greece’s moral right ranks above every objection based on arguments aimed at procrastinating and ignoring the basic principle which applies worldwide and demands that cultural monuments are repatriated,” Tzavaras said.

In a related development, a decision by the Central Archaeological Council has given the go-ahead for two movie projects to use the Acropolis and other archaeological landmarks as filming locations. The first film, called “Two Faces of January” and based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, is to star Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst under the direction of Iranian-British screenwriter Hossein Amini.

Scenes are to be filmed on the Acropolis in Athens and at Knossos on Crete though the crew has not been granted permission to film within the columns of the cordoned-off Parthenon. The crew reportedly had asked to film scenes depicting laborers on scaffolding around the Acropolis in the 1960s but were informed that there had been no works under way on the monument at that time and that such scenes would be anachronistic.

The second film that has been given a license to film on the Acropolis is an adaptation of “The Valley of the Roses” — a novel by the Swiss philhellene Paul Amadeus Dienach — to be filmed by Greek director Nikos Panagiotopoulos.

In January, Greek authorities said they would reduce filming fees for the use of the country’s archaeological sites in a bid to lure production companies and bring in much-needed revenue. Officials stressed that approved projects would not put any monuments at risk.

Elgin! Elgin! Elgin! Oy! Oy! Oy!

With all the crises going on in Greece, it’s probably not surprising we haven’t heard much about the campaign to get the Elgin/Parthenon Marbles back for quite a while, but interestingly, over the past few weeks there’s doings afoot in Australia, of all places. First I read of an impending legal challenge in an article in the Australian Greek Reporter:

For years political and populist attempts to induce the British Museum and the British government to return the Parthenon marbles to Greece have been rebuffed and rudely ignored. The British may rely on a threadbare claim of legality because of a supposed sale or contractual transaction but with whom? The Ottoman bey of Athens at the time? Certainly there was no Greek national representative as there was no Greek nation to protest the ravishment of porticos and frescoes from the outer decorations of this, the most revered building in Western civilization. For too long, supporters of the return of the Parthenon marbles have seen a legal challenge in the English High Court to be too daunting and unlikely to achieve the desired result. But a new initiative coming from the AHEPA organization in Sydney Australia may be able to construct a respectable argument to put before the English courts in such a claim – to release the marbles to the representatives of the Greek government for a return to their home and origin Athens. The two Decisions one legal the other administrative are of Interest Mabo Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (commonly known a Mabo) was a landmark Australian court case which was decided by the High Court of Australia on June 3, 1992. The effective result of the judgement was to make irrelevant the declaration of terra nullius, or “land belonging to no-one” which had been taken to occur from the commencement British colonisation in 1788, and to recognise a form of native title. It is argued by some historians[who?] that the Royal Proclamation of 1763 was seen to apply to Australia at the time of settlement, and therefore governed unceded territories. Although Mabo was litigated within the legal context of property law, the decisions clearly had much wider implications which have still to be determined.

Thus in 1992 the Australian High Court made a historical determination to release land back to the “original owners” Aborigines of the northern Australian islands, As with all Australia the first English colonists had claimed land in the name of the King of England by ignoring the fact that people were already living there by declaring it as “terra nullius” – i.e. nobody’s land. Eddie Mabo took on the state of Queensland and with help from support groups won the day overturning what had been established custom and law. The result was that the Australian government was forced to admit that his island and large swags of the Northern Territory and Queensland came under the same heading and should be returned to their original owners. It was conditional that the original owners had never left which in most cases it applied to was true. Land that had passed into private hands as settled property affecting the lives of white Australians and in the cities was excluded from the court’s ruling. The historical decision is simply known as “Mabo” Mabo dealt with land rights but a later development has occurred which sets a precedent which could be even more relevant. Bringing Them Home Then some years ago indigenous people of Australia again made a claim this time supported by the Australian government for the return of human remains such as bones, skulls and teeth. Tasmanian aborigines who demanded the return of bones, skulls and body remains of their ancestors which had been taken away to England during the 19th. and early 20th century for anthropological investigation. The claims were based on religious and cultural grounds and that the taking was unauthorised by the descendants of the deceased whose body parts were scattered in universities and museums in England. In 1996 and again 1999 the British government conceded the claim and the desired items were returned to the lineal descendants of the long dead aborigines. These two significant circumstances could well give rise to the thread of an argument for a claim to be brought in an English court of law by applying Mabo as a persuasive precedent from the highest Australian court and the human remains ruling of the British government. The Parthenon Marbles The marbles were extracted crudely and wantonly between 1801 to 1812 from the Parthenon and sustained significant damage in the process. Whatever claim to some purchase or contract that could be relied on by supporters of Elgin, the fact remains that the Greek peoples were a conquered race, there was no nation, the Ottomans ruled as part of their empire then but in the way of history and other empires only held sway in Athens for a few years after the looting. The marbles were not removed either to protect them or to glorify them in England. Elgin simply had them installed in his private gardens along with the garden gnomes. The British Museum later acquired them by purchase from Elgin or his representatives to meet his debts. Were they “stolen” in the sense of English law or not is one question that would rise in any claim. If found to be stolen no title passes to a third party and that what would be part of the claim. No Greek Representative or authority or even lay person sanctioned the original looting of the marbles. They were certainly not Ottoman Turkish property other than being part of the captured territory. That they have deep cultural significance and meaning to the Greek peoples cannot be denied. They are integral to the linings of the most famous building in Europe when Greek learning and art laid the basis for western civilization and set standards of beauty and grace apparent to this day in the great museums of Europe and America. Other magnificent remnants of that time, Niki of Samothrace and Venus de Milo in the Louvre are stand alone statues. But the Parthenon marbles are integral adornments to an existing building and belong if not in position at least in the dignity of the new Athens Acropolis Museum in the hands of the people who are the lineal descendants of the age of Pericles, Phideas, Iktinos and Kallikratis and like the ruling in re Mabo as to continuity of residence, never left the site of Athens. Contacts have been made with other concerned people such as George Bizos a senior counsel in South Africa and other organizations and it is important that the best brains get together to coalesce money and intellectual input and to bring the arguments to a sharp point using the best legal people for the actual hearing. The Australian branch of the world wide Ahepa organization though its Marbles representative Manuel Comino OA and legal advisor Victor Bizannes believe that the time has come for an international fund to be set up to finance an action in the English High Court using these two significant cases as part of the argument for the return of Hellenic property to its original owners- the Hellenic peoples. (Victor Bizannes Sydney – June 2010)

Interesting argument; I’m really not sure it applies … if one were to use DNA to prove ‘lineal descendants’, I’m sure most of Western Europe and a good chunk of North America might qualify. I also don’t think there are religious and/or anthropological reasons that can be seriously attached to the marbles at this point in their history; any repatriation would clearly be for financial reasons. We’ll see if this goes anywhere. In any event, a few weeks later we read (in the same source) of a parliamentarian getting in on the action:

The State Minister for Culture Mrs. Virginia Jung (photo) supported to the state parliament of New South Wales that “according to the Code of ethics for museums by the International Council of Museums, the possession of cultural objects because of agreements with occupational forces is illegal and immoral”.

Among others, the Ministry underlined also the following:
«I have known the case of Parthenon Marbles for a lot of years and I was obliged to meet not only my political and cultural beliefs but also the cultural worries and sensitivities of the whole Greek-Australian community. A lot of members of this community told me to mention this issue as they felt that there is little mobility in a political level for the marbles return.” she said.

Among the audience of the parliament was also Mr. David Hill, President of the International Committee for the Parthenon Marbles return who stated that was impressed by the speech of the Minister.

“The speech of the Minister was impressive and completely different from other speeches as apart from the usual arguments, she asked the British Museum to remember “what a museum is” and which the responsibilities of a museum towards the people are”.

When the Minister ended her speech, Mr. Hill congratulated her and asked her permission in order to use her speech.

The Australian Minister also added: “Parthenon, one of the most important pieces of architecture, was built in order for the Goddess Athena to be honoured by the people of a city that even 2500 years later still retains her name. This is a historical continuity that few people in the world can evoke. Lord Elgin sold the sculptures to the British museum when he lost his money. The sale was illegal and invalid as he never took permission from the Greek people to remove them. The only permission he took was from the Turkish that were the occupational power! So, if we agree with the Code of Ethics for museums by the International Council of museums, then the possession of cultural objects because of agreements with occupational forces is illegal and immoral!

So, I am asking the British Museum to act as a museum and return back to Greece half of the Parthenon to complete the other half. Otherwise, it is something like having Mona Lisa in the Louvre of Paris and her smile to the National Portrait Gallery of London”.

The Minister also recited a poem of Lord Byron which reflects the cruelty of Elgin.

Finally, we read of the same sort of thing in the Australian Daily Telegraph, which includes some name variations (and gives you an indication why I’ve never cited the Greek Reporter before):

Arts Minister Virginia Judge and Local Government Minister Barbara Perry have decided to dabble in foreign affairs by demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles.

The marbles are sculptures and panels that were removed from the ancient Parthenon, in Athens, by Thomas Bruce, the seventh earl of Elgin, in 1801.

Bruce sold them to the British government and Greece has long demanded that the “Parthenon Marbles” – as it prefers to call them – be returned from the British Museum in London, where they now reside.

Ms Judge accused the museum of acting like “some colonial power” and called on Britain to return the sculptures.

Ms Perry also waded in and said: “I hope the message from this Parliament will be heard in Britain.”

But in the two weeks since they spoke in Parliament, Britain appears not to have heard their plea.

An international campaign to have Britain return the marbles has been waged for years and both ministers said they had raised the issue on behalf of their thousands of Greek constituents.

“I do not ask the British Museum to return a vase or some statue with a missing limb. I ask it to return half the Parthenon, return it to Greece so it may be reunited with the rest of itself,” Ms Judge told parliament.

“It would be like having the Mona Lisa displayed in the Louvre, in Paris, while her smile is displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in London.”

Ms Judge’s office said support for the return of the sculptures had also been raised in Federal Parliament by a Liberal MP.

A spokeswoman said 3000 Greeks lived in Ms Judge’s electorate of Strathfield and many had asked her to raise their plight in parliament.

“The president of the International Committee for the Parthenon Marbles, David Hills, also asked the Minister to raise the issue and was in Parliament when she made her speech,” she said.

Ms Perry added: “NSW has a very large Greek-Australian population, a lot of whom live in my electorate of Auburn. Many in the local Greek population are rightly concerned about this ongoing international issue. I simply put forward their views.”

So something seems to be going on down under/up over (depending on where you live) … we’ll see if it goes beyond Australia’s shores …

Cleveland Museum of Art Returns

Getting a smattering of coverage this past week was the announcement that the Cleveland Museum of Art would be returning 14 items (13 from the period within our purview) to Italy which were considered to be of dubious origin. In return, the CMoA will be receiving a loan of items of similar value. There don’t seem to be many photos of the items, but this red figure askos is one of my faves:

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer

An excerpt from the coverage in the Plain Dealer:

Italian authorities used evidence collected in a police raid in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1995, which exposed a network of “tombaroli,” or tomb robbers, who passed the works to middlemen who sold them to museums.

Among the most significant objects being returned to Italy from Cleveland is a fourth-century B.C. Apulian red-figured volute krater — a large wine vessel — by the Dorias painter, which stands roughly 4 feet high.

Other works include Etruscan silver bracelets; a Neolithic bronze warrior from Sardinia; an Attic rhyton, or drinking vessel, in the shape of a mule; and a large, Corinthian-column krater.

Rub said the condition of the objects was inspected both by Italian and museum officials Tuesday before they were crated and sealed for transfer today.

The museum turned down requests from The Plain Dealer to observe and photograph the packing of the artworks, in part out of concern for security and in part because museum views the transfer as less important than the agreement reached with Italy last fall.

“I look upon this as a kind of mechanical thing,” Rub said. “The big news for me was the signing of the agreement.”

Of equal (or perhaps greater) interest is a little excerpt tucked into a sidebar photo:

The Cleveland Museum ofArt and Italy have created a joint committee to examine the museum’s “Victory with Cornucopia (Chariot Attachment),” purchased in 1984, plus a large bronze statue of Apollo Sauroktonos, or “Lizard Slayer,” to determine whether the works were looted in violation of modern laws.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about that.

As always in such things, David Gill’s  blogposts should be consulted: