Enthusiasts spread objects of Anatolia’s heritage across the world, guaranteeing its legacy for the future.
By Joshua Allen and Nicole O’Rourke
Some of the oldest civilizations in the world emerged from what we know as current-day Turkey. From Assos to Zeugma, to early settlements in the caves at Cappadocia, Turkey is a land rich with ancient heritage. So it’s no surprise that the rest of the world came to have a look, and sometimes left with ‘souvenirs.’ We rounded up some of the more important objects that are no longer in their country of origin, and whose circumstances of movement are disputed. To cover everything would be quite difficult, as, in 2013 alone, Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism reported as many as 59 taken artifacts.
Head of Eros at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This was originally attached to the 3rd-century BC Sidamara sarcophagus, the rest of which is on display at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. When British archaeologist Charles Wilson found it in Konya in 1883, he reburied the sarcophagus and took the head with him to London; that’s one way to get ahead in life.
İznik Ceramic at the Louvre, Paris
According to The Ministry of Culture and Tourism, these tiles were taken from various Ottoman structures, including Istanbul’s Piyale Paşa Mosque, the tombs of Selim II, Murat III and Eyüp Sultan, and the Library of Mahmud I in the Hagia Sophia. The only information from the Louvre is that the museum received the tiles from art historian Germain Bapst, who is conveniently dead.
Top half of Roman statue, once at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts
The statue known as ‘Weary Hercules’ was excavated in Perge in 1980 – but the entire top half was missing. The following year the MFA displayed the top half of the sculpture, amid claims from Turkey that the fragment had been stolen. For 20 years the museum denied the theft, eventually signing an agreement in 2011 that reunited the very weary Hercules with his legs in Turkey.
Sphinx (Formerly) at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin
From the Hittite capital of Hattusa, the Turkish and German authorities argued over this cryptic beast for 70 years. The case was finally decided when Turkey threatened to ban German archaeologists from the country, and the animal is now winging its way back home to join its twin at the Boğazkale Museum.
Pergamon Altar at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin
Giving the German museum its name, this massive structure, with the longest frieze made before the Parthenon, is also the biggest draw for visitors at the museum. The panels show the battle between the giants and the gods, as well as the exploits of Telephus, Achilles, and Hercules. Turkey has agreed that the artifacts were indeed handed over legally, ensuring that Berlin remains its resting place – for now.
Sion Treasure, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.
Also known as the Kumlaca Silver, this collection of 6th-century Byzantine religious silverware was stumbled upon by a villager in 1963 and then mysteriously turned up on the American continent. Negotiations with the US have been ongoing ever since, with the Washington museum denying that Turkey has ownership of the Christian hoard.