Discussion of the archaeological ethics surrounding the collecting of antiquities and archaeological material.
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The Horiuchi Sarcophagus
Colleagues over on "Chasing Aphrodite" have provided further information about the seized Roman sarcophagus. It now appears that the sarcophagus went from Nino Savoca to Becchina, sold to Becchina (August 1981), imported to Switzerland (August 1981), sold to George Ortiz (1981), offered to the Getty (1982), displayed at the Historical Museum in Bern (1982-83); jointly owned by Becchina and Ortiz (1986); subsequently acquired by the Japanese dealer Horiuchi.
This seizure is likely to bring renewed focus on the Miho Museum in Japan. It also raises concerns about the role of George Ortiz, the subject of detailed research work by Gill and Chippindale.
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 …
One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.
Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.
The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.
A fragmentary relief of Mithras was discovered in 1964 at Tor Cervara on the outskirts of Rome. It was acquired by the Museo Nazionale Romano.
A further fragment of the relief was acquired by the Badisches Landesmueum in Kalrsruhe in 1976. The source was an unstated Swiss dealer. This fragment has been reunited with the rest of the relief [press release].
Today a further fragment of the relief was reunited with the other pieces. This had been recovered during a raid in Sardinia.