January 14, 2006

Will heel fragment hasten marbles return?

Posted at 10:31 pm in Elgin Marbles

More coverage of the announcement a few days ago that Heidelberg University is to return a portion of the Parthenon Frieze to Greece.

BBC news

Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 18:27 GMT
Heel ‘may hasten Marbles’ return’

A German university has backed the return of a fragment of the Parthenon temple to Athens but it wants Greece to give it an artwork in return.

The piece of marble – a carving of a man’s heel – from the frieze of the ancient temple measures 11cm by 8cm.

The Greek government has hailed the university of Heidelberg’s decision as “a highly important symbolic gesture”.

It hopes it will boost its case for the return of the Parthenon, or Elgin, marbles in the British Museum.


The heel is from one of the slabs of the frieze which ran round the top of the 2,400-year-old temple, depicting a religious procession in ancient Athens.

Most of the what survives of the slab is in the Acropolis Museum in the Greek capital.

The Greek government has for years campaigned for the return of the British Museum’s Parthenon marbles – most of the surviving parts of the frieze and other sculptures.

These were removed by British envoy Lord Elgin at the beginning of the 19th Century.

The museum says it is not at liberty to return the sculptures, and believes they are well looked after and available for millions of visitors to see in London.

Heidelberg University vice-rector Angelos Chaniotis told the BBC News website that the return had been agreed “because the scientific, cultural, and educational significance of this fragment consists exclusively in it joining other fragments in Athens.”

“The transfer would be in exchange for another work of art. The object of the exchange will be subject to negotiations between the university and the Greek ministry of culture,” he went on.

It is not known how the fragment arrived at Heidelberg, where it was first recorded in 1871.

“It may be assumed that it was originally taken as a “souvenir” by a traveller in the 19th century and donated to the university,” said Mr Chaniotis.

Monsters and Critics

Science News
German university sends piece of Parthenon back to Greece
Jan 13, 2006, 23:58 GMT

Heidelberg, Germany – A German university said Friday it was returning to Greece a small piece of the Parthenon, the temple in the centre of Athens, 130 years after it was removed by a collector.

The 8 by 11-centimetre piece of stone carved in relief comes from the north frieze over the Parthenon and fits a panel of which most of the rest is preserved in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

Much of the frieze is preserved in the British Museum in London in a collection known as the Elgin Marbles, which Greece regards as looted. Greece has vainly demanded that Britain ‘restore’ them.

A University of Heidelberg spokesman denied wavering on the issue, saying the university would expect a present of some other Greek item in exchange for the donation of the marble fragment.

The sole reason for sending it to the Acropolis Museum was the scientific one of promoting reassembly of the remains at the site, which has special status as a world cultural heritage, he said. This did not create a precedent and would not apply to other artworks.

The Greek Ministry of Culture welcomed the item’s return, saying it was ‘a step in the right direction’.

The university spokesman said it was unknown how the stone, showing part of a sandalled foot, came to Germany. It had first appeared in a university inventory in 1871. It was marked ‘Parthenon’ in block capitals on the back, probably by a souvenir hunter.

Greek media had reported this week that a senior University of Heidelberg official, Professor Angelos Chaniotis, informed Athens that the item was headed for Athens.

The Parthenon was erected between 447 and 432 BC.

© 2006 dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur

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