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…

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:

Hellenistic Walls of Kerkenez Revealed

One that was languishing in my email box … from Today’s Zaman:

The excavation of the Kerkenez ruins in the Central Anatolian province of Yozgat have revealed the original city walls dating back to the fourth century B.C.

The excavation was carried out due to support from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Yozgat Museum Office. The excavation, which has been ongoing for 19 years, is being conducted by a team headed by Assistant Professor Abdülkadir Baran this year. Archaeologist Nil Dirlik stated that the Kerkenez ruins, located five kilometers away from the village of Şahmuratlı in the district of Sorgun, are among the most prominent ancient centers in Turkey.

She further stated that the excavation work will continue in the future, and next year they will host tourist groups, a move that is expected to make a big contribution to the economy of Yozgat as well as that of Turkey.

Residents of the village say they have a good relationship with the excavation team, which provides them with jobs and informs them about the importance of the excavation.

Phrygian and Lydian Inscriptions from Northwest Turkey

Tip o’ the pileus to A.K. Eyma for passing along this item from Leiden University:

Linguists Alwin Kloekhorst and Alexander Lubotsky from Leiden University made a great discovery this summer. They deciphered a few dozen inscriptions on pot shards found in Daskyleion (North-West Turkey) as Phrygian and Lydian, and thus proved the presence of the Phrygians and Lydians in that area.


Kloekhorst and Lubotsky’s find can be termed sensational. Previous excavations had already led to the supposition that Greeks and Phrygians lived in and around Daskyleion between the 6th and 3rd century BC, but now there is also proof of the presence of the Lydians. The kingdom of the Phrygians in the mid-west of the Anatolian Plateau had a rich mythology in which kings such as Gordias (of the Gordian Knot) figured. The Lydians are known as a rich people that in all probability invented coins. This means it has been proven for the first time that Daskyleion was a multi-ethnic town in that period. This is important, because we do not yet know for sure which languages were spoken in North-West Turkey before the Greeks began to settle there in about 800 BC.

Grin and bear it

When the Turkish archaeologists Kaan Iren (Mugla University) and Handan Yildizhan (Nevsehir University) found pot shards with inscriptions that they could not decipher their search soon led them to Leiden. Kloekhorst, who received a VENI grant in 2008 for his research into Hittite (a language related to Lydian), is known to be expert in the field of Anatolian languages (a sub-group of the Indo-European language family). For his part, Lubotsky is an authority in the field of the Phrygian language. At the request of the Turkish archaeologists they spent a week in Daskyleion in July deciphering the inscriptions. Kloekhorst says, ‘It was 35 degrees and there was no air-conditioning. It was certainly a case of grin and bear it.’

To Zeus

The best discovery, says Kloekhorst, is a small shard with ‘To Zeus’ scraped on it. ‘Most of the shards are very small,’ he explains. ‘The words are often broken into pieces, and you do find a whole word it is usually a name. The advantage is that Phrygian and Lydian each had their own alphabets. That is often our only guide: it’s how we know that it can’t be a Greek text.’ The discovery amounts to some thirty inscriptions. That may not seem much but for two extinct languages it is huge. Kloekhorst says, ‘In total we only have 150 Lydian fragments. That means that any new piece of text is welcome. They are the small pieces of evidence that we work with.’

New shards
The excavation house in the village of Ergili, where Alwin Kloekhorst and Alexander Lubotsky stayed and worked for a week.

The excavation house in the village of Ergili, where Alwin Kloekhorst and Alexander Lubotsky stayed and worked for a week.

At the request of the Turkish archaeologists Kloekhorst and Lubotsky are producing a book on the joint discoveries. An article will also be published in which they will reveal the discoveries. But it probably does not end there. ‘Whilst we were in Turkey,’ says Kloekhorst, ‘every now and then a new shard with an inscription would be found. I can easily see us having to return next year.’

The original article includes photos of some of the inscriptions and relevant links to the people involved.

Stolen Sarcophagus Recovered

This one’s interesting, given that we were pondering the origins of that sarcophagus in the sea near Antalya t’other day … from the Local:

A Roman sarcophagus, believed to have been excavated illegally from an archaeological site close to Turkey’s Antalya, has been seized by authorities from a Swiss warehouse, a customs official said on Monday.

The marble tomb, bearing carvings depicting the 12 labours of Hercules, dates to 2 AD.

It was found by customs officials who were carrying out inventory checks at Geneva’s tax-free warehouses, said Jean-Marc Renaud, who heads Switzerland’s central customs services, confirming a Swiss television report.

According to Swiss television, Ankara is seeking restitution of the sarcophagus believed to have originated from the Greek-Roman archaeological site of Perge, about 22 kilometres from Antalya.

Swiss customs are currently holding the object, and have brought the case to Geneva prosecutors which opened a probe last year.