Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Greece and the return of antiquities

Greece has been stepping up its campaign for the return of recently looted antiquities. One of the most famous cases in recently years involved the Aidonia Treasure that had apparently been found in Mycenaean graves not far from Nemea in the Peloponnese. These gold items surfaced in a New York gallery in 1993.

Other objects include a marble funerary lekythos that was returned in the spring of 2008 from a dealer in Switzerland. A fragmentary marble funerary stele, from a rural cemetery in Attica, was returned to Greece in July 2008; the other part of it had been found during excavations. The repatriated upper section was returned by a North American collector. This same collector also handed over a bronze calyx-krater that is reported to have been found in a rich grave in northern Greece.

A gold funerary wreath is also likely to have been found in grave somewhere in Macedonia. This had been acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1993 after passing through Switzerland. Two other pieces were returned from the Getty at the same time: a Boeotian funerary stele of Athanias that was purchased from a North American gallery in 1993, and a marble kore purchased from Robin Symes in 1993.

A further notable piece that has been brought back to Greece is the bronze "Saarbrücken youth". This was seized in Germany back in 1998 and is thought to have been found off the coast near Preveza.

More recently Greek authorities have called for the return of three antiquities acquired by the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in 2002 and 2006.

Greece has also been successful in reclaiming a number of objects that have been stolen from its collections, notably an Apollo from Gortyn on Crete, and some of the material raided from the archaeological museum in Corinth.

Photographic evidence is likely to play a major part in Greece's continuing search for its looted treasures. A set of images featuring antiquities were seized in 2006 on the island of Schinoussa: this photographic evidence has been handed over to a Greek state prosecutor. It is likely that a further series of returns are likely as the objects are identified. This future Hellenic "homecoming" could be as extensive as the one celebrated by Italy in the "Nostoi" exhibitions in Rome.

1 comment:

Helena said...

I wonder why a bunch of Slavs and Turks who happen to occupy the area once known as Hellas think they have a better right ot the patrimony of Western Europe than Great Britian or Germany or France, or the United States for that matter. The idea that a single Greek antiquity should be returned to that third world state is preposterous--look at the condition of the statuary and architecture Elgin left behind. If it had been left up to them the whole lot would be destroyed.

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