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…

(Not Recently) Looted Odyssey Mosaics Followup!

Even though I’ve been wandering along the internet superhighway for a couple of decades, I still marvel at the communication opportunities it offers which would have boggled the minds of folks even three decades ago.  Outside of several instances of me watching assorted international sporting events from my comfy chair in Southern Ontario while chatting about same with fellow-Classicist Terrence Lockyer in South Africa, yesterday’s events are a prime example. As folks know, I had mentioned the looting of 18 mosaics depicting scenes from the Odyssey in my Explorator newsletter and here at rogueclassicism (Odyssey Mosaics Stolen!!!) . In the latter format, I noted how it was rather strange that none of the reports (and the AFP item spawned quite a bit of coverage) mention where or when these things were looted. So after posting all that, I went out to run some errands prior to visiting my mother in hospital (she’s fine) and was sitting down for a hamburger lunch and was reading through my twitter feed. Our friend Dorothy King (of PhDiva and Lootbusters  fame) is currently sojourning in Istanbul and mentioned that the stories of looting at Hamas were less-than-accurate. And so began a twitter/email conversation between two Classics/Archaeologist bloggers, neither of whom were in their ‘home port’ about some mosaics in Syria.

As Dr King mentioned, these mosaics don’t seem to have been recently stolen. They are already in Interpol’s database and were taken from the Hama museum in Apamea last year, it seems (if I’m reading Interpol’s news release from May of 2012 correctly). There are several pages of photos at the Lootbusters site …

An article in Time magazine last September was one of many news reports suggesting antiquities were being sold to fund the rebels (Syria’s Looted Past: How Ancient Artifacts Are Being Traded for Guns).  That said, however, the clearly deliberate vagaries of the most recent announcement suggest  that Syria’s ‘official’ channels are clearly playing up the looting aspect to gain political points in the Western media and as such, cause me to genuinely wonder who is doing the looting, the extent of it,  and for what purposes.  Indeed, in yesterday’s post we mentioned that many of the articles about this ‘Odyssey’ incident were accompanied by a photo of rebels sitting under a Roman mosaic … here’s the photo:

via France24

… what is being implied? The France24 coverage also includes this one:

via France24

Some poking around suggests these photos come from the Musée de Ma’aret el-Nu’man, which appears to have been shelled, like many museums in Syria. There’s a very interesting facebook page: Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger which has a number of other photos of this particular museum, e.g., this page from three months ago: Musée de Ma’aret el-Nu’man … and this one: Musée de Ma’aret el-Nu’man, which includes a photo of the museum six months ago prior to the shelling (and it includes a photo of the mosaic the rebels are sitting beneath). The photos are also at the facebook page of the Musée de Ma’aret el-Nu’man.  Some photos from ‘more peaceful times’  are available here. Clearly, this museum is full of mosaics. Has it been looted? Or have the rebels been actually protecting it? I really don’t want to venture an opinion on this, but we’re clearly not getting the full story and judgement must be suspended on what’s being pillaged, when, and by whom.

UPDATE (a few hours later): here’s Dorothy King’s views: Syria … Looting?

Odyssey Mosaics Stolen!!!

Just this a.m. in our Explorator newsletter we were mentioning how looting of antiquities was funding the revolution in Syria … and now my spiders bring in some horrible news from AFP via  the Global Post:

At least 18 ancient mosaics depicting scenes from Homer’s “The Odyssey” have been stolen in northern Syria, the culture minister was quoted as saying on Sunday.

“These mosaics were stolen during illegal excavations” on archaeological sites in the war-torn country’s northeast, Lubana Mushaweh said in an interview published on Sunday by the government daily Tishreen.

“We have been informed that these mosaics are now on the Syrian-Lebanese border,” she said without elaborating.

As the nearly two-year Syrian revolt has morphed into an armed insurgency, experts say fierce fighting and deteriorating security have left the country’s extraordinary archaeological heritage susceptible to damage and prey to a rising number of looters.

The minister said that an Aramaic gold-plated bronze statue was stolen from the Hama museum, a raging front in the war between loyalist troops and rebels.

Mushaweh admitted that her ministry faced great difficulties in “safeguarding 10,000 historical sites scattered around Syria,” cautioning against illegal excavations “which could damage some sites and buried cities.”

But she insisted that museums across the country were “well guarded” and “their prized possessions for all humanity have been archived and placed in very secure locations”.
[…]

… I can’t track down from what museum or site these were stolen from (“illegal excavations”) and if they were already known or not … the only photos that seem to accompany articles are some rebels sitting under a Roman mosaic that I don’t think (or hope) is related …

Corruption Scandal at Pompeii!

This one’s snaking through the various British papers … the Guardian seems to have the most details:

Italian police have arrested a former restorer of Pompeii on corruption charges and are investigating five others, including the former commissioner appointed to deal with the increasing degradation of the historic site.

Italy declared a state of emergency in 2008 at Pompeii after archaeologists and art historians complained about the poor upkeep of the crumbling site, pointing to mismanagement and lack of investment. A special commissioner, Marcello Fiori, was also appointed for the Unesco world heritage site, an ancient Roman city which was buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

But investigators say Fiori and the director of restoration at the time, Luigi D’Amora, awarded irregular contracts to the restoration services company Caccavo and paid inflated prices for its work. Collapsed walls and columns since 2008 have renewed concerns about the condition of the site.

Prosecutors say the officials broke the terms of the state of emergency, overspent on various restoration projects and agreed to non-essential work on Pompeii, one of Italy’s most popular attractions, visited by 2.5 million tourists each year. They have accused Fiori of abuse of office while D’Amora is being investigated for fraud.

Police have put Annamaria Caccavo under house arrest and are investigating her for aiding abuse of office, corrupting a public official and fraud.

The company has been banned from doing business with public administration and police have ordered the seizure of €810,788 worth of its assets. Three engineers are also being investigated for fraud and corruption.

The accused parties were not immediately available for comment.

… sadly, whenever we read about funding for Pompeii, I’ve always had this incident from five or six years ago lurking in the back of my head: Pompeii Vandalism

Sphinx Recovered

Almost missed this one as something for rogueclassicism (as opposed to the ANE section of Explorator) … from the Gazzetta del Sud:

Italian police on Thursday recovered an antique Egyptian sphinx sculpture that was about to be exported out of Italy. The sphinx, recovered near an Etruscan necropolis, measures 120 x 60 cm and is made of African granite. Police found the object already wrapped and packed in a box and hidden in a greenhouse. According to investigators, the sphinx was probably part of the decorations of an Etruscan nobleman’s tomb or country villa. Chance played a part in the find. Police uncovered the sphinx after a stopping a truck for a check and found it was carrying antique ceramics from an archaeological site along with a series of pictures which depicted the sphinx. After searching the driver’s house, other elements related to the sphinx were found, all taken illegally from archaeological sites. Aside from its possible economic value, the presence of the sphinx is, according to experts, an indicator of the thriving trade that took place among Mediterranean countries. Italy began importing objects from Egypt around the 1st century BC, when Rome conquered the North African country. Trade grew during the imperial years, in particular between the end of the 1st century and the beginning of the 2nd century AD.

… kind of nice that the attendant speculation on this one seems reasonable for a change.