May 19, 2009

Looted artefacts returned to Greece by Germany, UK & Belgium

Posted at 4:45 pm in Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

Various looted artefacts seized by customs officials in Germany have now been returned to Greece, along with a fragment taken in the 1950s by a British tourist. This return of ancient fragments by the public is similar to another recent case in Rome involving a fragment of the Colosseum.

Deutsche Presse Agentur

Greece recovers stolen antiquities from Germany, Belgium, Britain
Posted : Tue, 19 May 2009 13:59:53 GMT
Author : DPA
Category : Culture (General)

Athens – Germany, Belgium and Breitain have returned hundreds of priceless artifacts to Greece, the oldest a 5th century coin, Greek Culture Ministry officials said Tuesday. Among the items retuned from Germany included 96 copper and ceramic pots and vessels, dating from the 3rd or 4th century BC from Thessaly, in northern Greece.

Officials said the items were seized by customs authorities at Nuremberg, Germany in 2007 in a truck arriving from Greece.

“Many of these items were returned with the cooperation of German authorities and the Greek Consul General in Munich,” Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said at a presentation of the newly displayed items at the Archaeological Museum in Athens.

The minister presented hundreds of fragments of pottery and copper coins dating from the 5th to 3rd century BC which were returned to Greece from Belgium.

Samaras also unveiled a piece of marble, dating from the 11th or 12th century, taken from a Byzantine temple in the Ancient Agora by a British tourist in the 1950’s.

The marble fragment was returned recently to the Greek Embassy in London by a family member of the British tourist, saying they supported the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

Greece’s government has launched a campaign to recover ancient artefacts and religious art smuggled out of the country and acquired by private collectors and museums.

Over the past few years, Greece has reclaimed antiquities from Italy, the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Shelby White collection in New York.

For years Greece has called on Britain to hand back the fifth century BC Parthenon marbles, currently housed in a special gallery at the British Museum.

The friezes, also known as the Elgin Marbles, were removed from atop the Acropolis by Lord Elgin, who was Britain’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the time.

The 2,500-year-old sculptures, depicting 160 metres of religious and mythological scenes, have been held by the British Museum since 1816 after they were sold by Elgin, despite ongoing Greek efforts to have them repatriated.

The British Museum has refused to return them, insisting that the transaction was legal as Elgin obtained permission to remove them from Greece’s then rulers, the Ottoman Empire.

Athens hopes to display them in a new 100-million-euro (130- million-dollar) museum, which is due to be inaugurated to the public on June 20, but the British Museum has said in the past that there was no sense in returning them as more people could see them where they were.

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