Skip to main content

"History Massacred": Turkish Style

I am used to reading accounts of mechanical diggers being used to open archaeological sites to provide objects to supply the market. But then there is "Chippindale's Law" ...

I read in the Turkish press that looting at Soma in Manisa province in western Turkey has reached new levels of intensity ("Soma's ancient treasures in coma, Turkish Daily News 14 June 2008).
Illegal excavations are being carried out on tumuli, necropolises and relics of ancient cities in and around Soma, in the western province of Manisa. Pillagers use bulldozers in their nighttime hunt for treasure on high hills, cutting trees to take construction equipment to the places where they conduct the diggings.

The Soma district administration office, the gendarmerie and the Manisa State Museum are aware of the smugglers' activity but have taken no action, locals say.

History massacred openly in Soma

Mines in the Sarıkaya neighborhood of Soma have caused serious damage to relics of ancient civilizations. The relics of sculpted wolf and ox heads near a mine belonging to the Turkish Coal Authority are in the worst condition. Smugglers have detonated dynamite in certain areas of the mountains and plundered the prehistoric rock tombs there.

Soma is also home to a mysterious ancient city situated atop a 1,500-meter hill. Though no archaeological study has been carried out on relics of this millennia-old settlement, experts argue a Pergamon-like city might be revealed if a series of scientific excavations are conducted there.

Meanwhile, smugglers have plundered an ancient grave under one of the tumuli, situated on both the right and left sides of the Soma-Savaştepe-Balıkesir way, and have wiped out all the precious artifacts in it. They have also conducted illegal excavations with bulldozers and construction equipment on another tumulus located in a nearby forest. The plunderers hire mine workers to use as cheap labor in conducting the illegal excavations, which is why the diggings are performed quite professionally.

No eyewitnesses:

The situation at these two important tumuli not only indicates the level of plundering activity in Soma, but raises other questions. How could smugglers have conducted diggings with construction equipment on these two ancient tumuli without being seen by anyone? Locals are quite cautious about illegal excavations carried out by smugglers and do not file any complaints to authorities.

Reliable sources say some mukhtars, or village leaders, in Soma even help smugglers secretly. Local security forces said they found many detectors strewn around, even though the use of such devices is legal. Ultimately, it seems that neither the district administration nor the Manisa State Museum have made enough of an effort to stop illegal excavations carried out every night on ancient spots in Soma.
It sounds as if this destruction of archaeological sites in this part if Turkey is part of a deliberate targeting of sites.

Who is buying the objects that are found? And is anybody thinking of acquiring them for their collection?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

The Toledo skyphos and a Swiss private collection

The Attic red-figured skyphos attributed to the Kleophon painter in the Toledo Museum of Art (inv. 1982.88) is now coming under further scrutiny following the research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis. The skyphos shows Hephaistos returning to Olympos.

Tsirogiannis has identified what appears to be this skyphos in five photographs in the Medici Dossier. The museum acknowledged that the skyphos had resided in a 'private Swiss collection'. Tsirogiannis suggests that this is probably a reference to Medici.

Enquiries to the museum by Tsirogiannis elicited the information that the skyphos had been acquired from Nicholas Koutoulakis (although that information does not appear on the museum's online catalogue).

The curatorial team at the Toledo Museum of Art will, no doubt, be contacting the Italian authorities to discuss the future residence of the skyphos.

For further discussion of the Toledo Museum of Art on LM see here.

Reference
Tsirogiannis, C. 2017. "Nekyia: Museum ethics an…

Metropolitan Museum of Art hands over Paestan krater

In May 2014 I commented on a Paestan krater acquired by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art after it had been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis in photographic images seized from Giacomo Medici. Tsirogiannis published his full concerns in the Journal of Art Crime in 2014, but it has taken a further three years for the museum to respond.

The krater showing Dionysos in a hand-drawn cart was purchased in 1989 from the Bothmer Purchase Fund (details from the Museum's website, inv. 1989.11.4). The krater surfaced through Sotheby's New York in June 1989.

It is unclear who consigned the krater to Sotheby's New York.

It has now been revealed that the krater has been handed over to the US authorities after a warrant had been issued (Tom Mashberg, "Ancient Vase Seized From Met Museum on Suspicion It Was Looted", New York Times July 31, 2018).

It appears that the museum did make an attempt to resolve the case in December 2016. Mashberg notes:
The Met, for its par…