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Ancient artefacts returned to Greece

More coverage of the recent return of various looted artefacts [1] from a number of sources to Greece. As with any restitution act involving Greece, parallels are immediately drawn with the case of the Parthenon Marbles.

Associated Press [2]

Fifth century BC objects returned to Greece
1 day ago

ATHENS (AFP) — Greece on Tuesday reclaimed scores of ancient objects dating to the fifth century BC that Belgian, British and German authorities returned, the culture ministry said.

The list includes over 100 clay fragments and coins held by the Belgian Archaeological School, 70 ancient funerary offerings seized by German customs officials in Nuremberg in 2007 and a marble decorative fragment from a Byzantine church donated by a British ceramist, the ministry said.

“Today societies increasingly realise that cultural goods are not just art objects…but vital links of peoples’ historic identities and continuity,” Greek Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said.

The ancient clay fragments and coins returned by the Belgian government came from digs at Thoriko, south of Athens, and the island of Salamis. They were taken out of Greece 40 years ago and were found at the museum of Ghent during an inventory check.

The Byzantine church fragment had been picked up in the 1950s by a British tourist from the Athenian Agora, the city’s ancient marketplace, Greece’s cultural attache Victoria Solomonidou told AFP.

“After his death his wife offered it to a British ceramist who delivered it to the Greek embassy in London,” she said.

In recent years Greece has stepped up efforts to recover ancient objects that illegally left the country and ended up in the possession of foreign museums and collectors.

Its main aim is to reclaim the Parthenon Marbles, priceless friezes removed in 1806 by Lord Elgin when Greece was occupied by the Ottoman Empire, which the British Museum refuses to repatriate.

The capital’s new Acropolis museum that will be inaugurated on June 20 has a special section reserved for the disputed friezes.

Reuters [3]

Britain among countries to return antiquities to Greece
Tue May 19, 2009 5:19pm BST

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece got back more than 200 classical and medieval antiquities from European countries, a step it hopes will help bring back the Parthenon marbles from Britain.

Greece’s Culture Ministry Tuesday presented the artefacts — from ancient coins and vases to parts of a Byzantine church — at a special ceremony in Athens.

“We are moved to receive today… these parts of our cultural heritage,” Culture minister Antonis Samaras told reporters at the Athens Archaeological museum. “These are not just pieces of art, but precious links to people’s historical identity.”

Greece has campaigned for decades to get back from the British Museum the Parthenon sculptures, also known as Elgin marbles, saying they are an integral part of one of the world’s most important monuments.

The British Museum, which contains roughly half of the 160 metre frieze that adorned the 2,500-year-old temple and was removed in 1801 by Lord Elgin, then British ambassador to the Ottoman empire, has refused to return the treasures.

Greece hopes to strengthen its case when it opens the new Acropolis Museum, especially designed to host the marbles, in June. It has campaigned for the return of treasures from around the world.

Germany, Belgium and Britain returned the hundreds of items shown Tuesday following Italy’s offer of two Parthenon fragments to the new Acropolis museum last year.

Athens News Agency [4]

Antiquities returned to Greece

Culture Minister Antonis Samaras on Tuesday addressed a special event held at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens to mark the return of hundreds of ancient artifacts to Greece by Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The majority of the antiquities on display dated from the 5th to the 2nd centuries BC, apart from a section of a Byzantine-era carved window sill or architectural element dating from the 11th-12th century AD, possibly from the Plaka area in Athens, that was presented to the Greek Embassy in London by a private citizen.

The artifacts returned by Belgium were handed over by the Belgian School of Athens, while those from Germany are believed to originate from a Hellenistic-era graveyard in Thessaly and were found and confiscated by German customs authorities in Nuremberg in May 2007, inside a truck from Greece.

Noting that the items had found their way back to Greece through both voluntary private initiatives and organised state intervention, Samaras said that this reflected a change in attitudes.

“Today, societies are coming to realise more and more that cultural goods are not just works of art and creations of a specific historic moment but valuable links in the historic identity and continuity of peoples,” he said.

CBC (Canada) [5]

Greece displays repatriated antiquities
Last Updated: Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Greece unveiled hundreds of looted antiquities on Monday, saying they had been returned by Germany, Belgium and Britain.

Among the items displayed at the Archaeological Museum in Athens was an 11th or 12th century marble fragment, which Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said had been returned from Britain.

A family member of a British tourist who took the piece from a Byzantine temple in the 1950s had returned the fragment to the Greek Embassy in London, Samaras said.

Greece is stepping up pressure on the British Museum to return the Elgin Marbles, ahead of the opening of the Acropolis Museum in June.

The British Museum has refused to repatriate the fifth-century marbles, saying Lord Elgin removed them from the Acropolis legally, with the blessing of the Ottoman Empire that then ruled the region.

Athens plans to open its 100-million-euro ($157-million Cdn) museum at the foot of the Acropolis on June 20.

It argues the marbles will have a suitable home in the new museum where they can be seen by thousand of tourists.

Italy offered two Parthenon fragments to the new Acropolis museum last year.

Greece also has reclaimed antiquities from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Shelby White collection in New York.

A fifth-century coin and other artifacts returned from Belgium were displayed at the Archaeological Museum in Athens on Tuesday.

Artifacts from Germany included third-century copper and ceramic pots and vessels that were seized by customs officials in Nuremberg, Germany, in 2007. They were being smuggled into the country from Thessaly in northern Greece.

“Many of these items were returned with the co-operation of German authorities and the Greek consul general in Munich,” Samaras said.