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Turkey wants Knidos Lion to be returned

The town of Datça in Turkey is asking for the return of the Knidos Lion & a statue of Demeter, artefacts from the area currently in the British Museum. This request follows on from others that Turkey has made in the past [1] for artefacts that have been taken from the countries ancient sites.

Today’s Zaman [2]
23 October 2008, Thursday

Datça to seek return of ancient sculptures
The town of Datça, in Muğla province, is planning to apply to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for the return of a sculpture known as the “Knidos Lion” and a statue of Demeter. The pieces are currently being exhibited at the British Museum in London.

Speaking to the Anatolia news agency, the mayor of Datça, Erol Karakullukçu, said they want to take back the carvings, which were found in the ancient city of Knidos near Datça and that they will petition the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for their return. Karakullukçu said, “In order to keep the public aware that these sculptures were made in Datça thousands of years ago, and that they were taken to be exhibited in Britain, we made marble replicas of the original sculptures and exhibit them at the city park.”

Adding that there was another famed sculpture from the ancient site, the “Knidos Aphrodite,” which has now been lost to time, Karakullukçu said: “If we try hard we can have these two sculptures returned to us. The Datça Municipality also gives its full support to NGOs that make people aware of this issue. As soon as our signature campaign ends, we will officially contact the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.”

Giving information about the history of the sculptures, a professional tourist guide, Osman Akın, who works for the Datça Municipality’s Department of Culture, said the lion figure, which dates back to 2000 B.C., weighs some eight tons. “The monument was made to celebrate a naval battle victory near Knidos. It was set on a headland which ended in a sheer cliff 200 feet high, and it was built in such a way that it was able to be seen by all ships sailing near the city. The lion was taken by the English officer and archeologist Charles Newton in 1855. It was not taken without permission, as unfortunately the Ottoman palace consented to it,” he said. Stating that the most significant piece that was taken was the “Knidos Lion,” Akın said the lion is the first thing that visitors to the British Museum see at the museum entrance and is evidence of its great importance.

Stating that there were many other historical artifacts taken from the ancient city of Knidos to other places, not just Britain, Akın also noted that the sculpture of Demeter is also of great historical value. “These sculptures are part of this area, and they are the products of the region’s inhabitants of thousands of years ago. They should be brought back to where they belong,” he added.