The Turkish government has been making some waves in international circles lately with attempts to reclaim antiquities found within its borders now located in public museums and private collections abroad. Clearly there are rights and wrongs on both sides of the debate, and each case must be judged separately on its own merits.
I read an interesting item in my local newspaper the other day. A gentleman in the US was cleaning out the North Carolina home of his recently deceased parents when he came across a fragment of a stone tablet and the head of a small statue. The inscription on the tablet is in Greek, and, though no official dating has been carried out, the items are likely to be between one and two thousand years old. Apparently this gentleman’s father served in the US armed forces and was based for many years in Turkey. His son Mark assumed that his father ‘requisitioned’ (I think is the military euphemism) the items at that time, and has informed the appropriate Turkish authorities that he wants to return them to their rightful home.
If this were an isolated incident it would be noteworthy and laudable, and certainly Mark is to be commended for his honesty. Surprisingly, the article goes on to say that, in the last five years, 3616 similar items have been returned to museums and antiquities authorities in Turkey.
|Roman sarcophagus found near Antalya|
In the mean time, there are plenty more ancient relics waiting to be discovered beneath the soil and waters of this amazing land. Just last week, a Turkish recreational diver spotted what he thought was a white plastic deckchair partially buried in sand. On closer investigation, it turned out to be an elaborately carved marble sarcophagus. According to the report, the guy was swimming in the sea not far from the ruins of the ancient city of Justinianopolis near modern Antalya, so his find is not altogether surprising. Still, I imagine there are not too many countries in the world where a diver would come across such a treasure by accident.
The curator of the Bodrum Museum, which specializes in undersea relics, said the sarcophagus is an excellent specimen, dating from Roman times, with relief carvings of Eros and Medusa on three sides. It took a salvage team six hours to raise it from the seabed where it had lain for more than a millennium.