The Repatriation Issue: Turkey Talks Tough

This is a rather interesting development … we’ll have to keep our eye on this to see where it goes:

Turkey’s culture minister on Thursday demanded Germany return an ancient sphinx uncovered from a German archeological dig nearly a century ago or it would revoke permits for other excavations.

Ertugrul Gunay told the Tagesspiegel daily in an interview that German authorities had until the start of the digging season in June to hand back the priceless artefact, thought to date from around 1400 BC.

The sphinx, dug up from the ancient city of Hattusha, the capital of the Hittite empire, in the early part of the 20th century, was taken to Germany for restoration but now sits in a Berlin museum, much to Turkey’s annoyance.

“If there is no commitment (to return the sphinx) by the beginning of the digging season, I am firmly determined to cancel the excavation licence for Hattusha,” said the minister.

Gunay also threatened several other German archaeological digs around the country, saying the permits could go to Turkish scientists.

“Turkey has new universities, new archaeological institutes as well as keen and successful archaeologists. If we do not see the hoped-for cooperation in this area, we would not hesitate to transfer the digs to our own universities.”

Germany is also embroiled in a row with Egypt, which has demanded the return of the 3,400-year-old bust of fabled beauty Nefertiti which currently has pride of place in the Neues (New) Museum in Berlin.

Cairo began to demand the restitution of the Pharaonic-era statue back in the 1930s, but successive German governments have insisted the piece was bought legally and that there are documents to prove it.

The foreign ministry in Berlin told AFP that experts from Germany and Turkey would hold talks in the first half of the year to determine the future of the sphinx.

As I recall, they were making similar demands a couple of years ago, but I can’t find any live links of that one  … the Wikipedia article on Hattusa says the one sphinx (of a pair) stayed in Germany as part of the usual ‘division of artifacts’ … not specifically Classical, all this, of course, but it likely will impact a number of digs if it isn’t resolved.





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