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.

A Major Mosaic Museum in Şanlıurfa

Another one from Hurriyet:

Turkey’s largest mosaic museum is being built where a theme park had been planned in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, one of the oldest cities in the world.

A few years ago, during the foundation excavations for a theme park in the Haleplibahçe neighborhood, mosaics featuring hunting and fighting scenes of warrior “Amazon women” from the Roman era in the fifth and sixth centuries were discovered. Experts have classified these mosaics as the world’s most valuable.

The project was then transformed to include an archaeology museum, archaeopark and mosaic museum, as specialists were concerned that the artifacts being excavated could be damaged if transported to another place.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has ordered the acceleration of the project, which will cover an area of 200,000 square meters and cost 38 million Turkish Liras.

‘City deserves this museum’

Şanlıurfa Gov. Celalettin Güvenç told Anatolia news agency that cultural centers, museums and big sporting arenas were the leading highlights of cities, adding that Şanlıurfa’s cultural background merited such a museum. “This museum will be a significant cultural tourism destination. Haleplibahçe will attract Western attention to this city as well as Göbeklitepe. We plan to finish construction work here in 500 days.”

Şanlıurfa Culture and Tourism Director Selami Yıldız said the project consisted of the Şanlıurfa Archaeology Museum on 26,000 square meters, the Edessa Mosaic Museum on 4,000 square meters and an archaeopark on a 29,000-square-meter area between the two museums. There will also be an amphitheater, cafes and walking areas as well. “We will have the largest museum complex on a 60,000-square-meter area,” said Yıldız.

The Şanlıurfa Museum currently covers an area of 2,500 square meters, but the new museum will be 10 times larger, Yıldız said. “This new museum will display the world’s oldest artifacts. No museum in the world displays 12,000-year-old works. We will exhibit the artifacts that should be exhibited in a closed area.” Yıldız also said Istanbul, Gaziantep and Hatay had noteworthy mosaics. “Now Şanlıurfa will come to the fore.”

We mentioned the find of mosaics (the Hurriyet piece has a small photo of one) back in 2008: Roman Palace in Turkey. Didn’t know about the ‘theme park’ connection …