March 30, 2007

More coverage of the Getty’s gold wreath return

Posted at 12:49 pm in Elgin Marbles, Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

Further coverage of the return to Greece of a gold wreath believed to have been looted. Greece also used this occasion to re-iterate its requests for the return of the Elgin Marbles, currently held in the British Museum in London.

Athens News Agency

Artifacts returned by Getty, PM lauds efforts for repatriation of Parthenon Marbles

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday praised the culture ministry’s systematic work aimed at the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, as well as the return of all antiquities illegally excavated or smuggled out of Greece, part of efforts to safeguard the country’s cultural heritage.

Karamanlis was speaking to reporters after a handover ceremony marking the return of two important ancient Greek artifacts from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, held at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, where the artifacts will be on display.

The artifacts are a 4th century B.C. gold funerary wreath from the northern Greek province of Macedonia and a archaic-era statue of a ‘kore’ (young woman) made of Parian marble. The agreement for their return had been announced a few months ago.

The agreement with the Getty Museum, where the antiquities were housed, was reached after the Greek govermnment contested the legality of their export from the country.

Karamanlis further said that a bill aimed at curbing the illegal trade and smuggling of antiquties would be tabled in parliament by the culture ministry in the near future.

“Policy is vindicated when it yields tangible results. Our goals become action, day by day,” Karamanlis added.

Meeting with EU’s Wallstrom

Earlier, Karamanlis received EU Commisssion Vice-President Margot Wallstrom, who also holds the Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy portfolio.

The two leaders reportedly discussed issues relating to the European Union. No statements were made after the meeting.


Greece renews fight for lost marbles
POSTED: 11:56 a.m. EDT, March 29, 2007
By Anthee Carassava for CNN

ATHENS, Greece (CNN) — Emboldened by the return of two ancient artifacts claimed to have been spirited from Greek soil a decade ago, Greece’s Prime Minister has lashed out at the British Museum, saying its grounds for refusing to relinquish possession of Greece’s most famous antiquities, the Parthenon Marbles, were “feeble.”

Kostas Karamanlis’ criticism Thursday sounded as a gold funerary wreath from the fourth century B.C. and a marble woman’s torso from the sixth century B.C. went on display at Athens’ National Archeological Museum, three months after the J. Paul Getty Museum agreed to hand them over to Greek authorities.

Both works, according to the Getty, were relinquished last December after Greek authorities presented trustees and attorneys of the world’s wealthiest art institution with evidence supporting claims that both pieces had been illegally removed from the country in the early 1990s.

“It is our urgent priority to reclaim every ancient artifact that was illegally exported to museums and collectors abroad,” Karamanlis said at a ceremony at the Athens National Archeological Museum.

Flanked by the wreath and torso, Karamanlis said the repatriation of the two artifacts, which the Getty purchased in 1993 for about $4.4 million, “helped evaporate the feeble arguments put forward for the non-return” of the Parthenon Marbles by the British Museum.

Known as the Elgin Marbles, the sculptures were stripped from the Parthenon’s frieze 200 years ago by Lord Elgin, Britain’s top diplomat to the Ottoman empire that then ruled Greece.

Greece has sought the return of the sculptures, which are housed at the British Museum, in a decades-old campaign Greece has billed as its “top cultural priority.”

The British Museum, however, insists that Lord Elgin legally obtained the marbles from Greece’s then rulers, in 1801. It also argues that the marble masterpieces are better preserved in London.

With Greece set, this summer, to open the New Acropolis Museum — a state-of-the-art institution intended to showcase the Parthenon Marbles — pundits predict moral pressure may mount against Britain.

Last year, a museum in Germany and another in Sweden repatriated a pair of fragments from the Parthenon, firing hopes that the British Museum may follow suit.

Most encouraging to Greece, however, was the Getty’s decision last year to return the 2,500-year-old floral crown and three other ancient items.

All items had been purchased by the museum’s former curator, Marion True, who faces criminal charges in Athens and Italy for conspiring to traffic in looted antiquities.

True has denied all charges levied against her.


Greece eyes Elgin marbles
Fri Mar 30, 2007 12:43PM BST
By Karolos Grohmann

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece displayed two ancient, looted artefacts on Thursday that had been returned from the J.P Getty Museum and said the recovery of its most famous antiquities — the Elgin Marbles — was only a matter of time.

The Los Angeles-based Getty gave back a 4th century BC Macedonian gold wreath and a 6th century BC marble statue of a woman as part of their deal with Greece to return four objects from their collection that Greece says were the result of smuggling and illegal sale.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said their homecoming would strengthen international calls for the return of the Elgin marbles, which are called the Parthenon marbles in Greece.

The marble friezes and sculptures were removed from the Acropolis above Athens by British diplomat Lord Elgin some 200 years ago and are currently housed in the British Museum.

Lord Elgin acquired his collection between 1801 and 1810. It was bought by the British Museum in 1816 and has been a major attraction there since.

“The ecumenical demand for uniting the marbles of the Parthenon is gaining in strength and reach,” Karamanlis said, flanked by the wreath and statue inside the National Archaeological Museum.

Britain has refused to return the marbles, claiming they are better preserved in London.

Karamanlis said the completion of the new Acropolis Museum and the return of two fragments from the ancient monument by Sweden and Germany last year “evaporate the vague excuses for their non-return.”

Culture Minister George Voulgarakis said the government’s work “will some day lead to the return of the Parthenon Marbles.”

In December last year Getty, embroiled in an international scandal involving their former antiquities curator Marion True, agreed to return the two objects that Greece has long said were the result of illegal excavation and smuggling.

This is the second batch of ancient artefacts the Getty has handed back to Greece.

The Getty, one of the world’s richest institutions, said it approved the return of all four items after a scholarly review of information compiled by the Getty and supplied by Greece that indicated they rightfully belonged to Greece.

True faces criminal charges in Italy and Greece. She has denied the charges of conspiring to receive stolen goods.

A 2,400-year-old, black limestone stele – grave marker – and a marble votive relief dating from about 490 BC were returned in August.

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