Turkey model country in reclaiming its heritage
İZMİR - Anatolia News Agency
Nearly 4,000 historic artifacts including the Weary Heracles statue, jewelry from ancient Troy, and the İznik tiles, have been returned to our country over the last few years.At the UNESCO meeting that was recently held in South Korea, Turkey was shown off as a “model country” due to its recent efforts to retrieve artifacts from different parts of the world, according to the Cultural Artifacts and Museums General Director Murat Süslü.
As a result of efforts exerted by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay, the return of stolen historic artifacts to the country has been accelerated, Süslü said.
“Nearly 4,000 historic artifacts - such as the Weary Heracles statue, jewelry from ancient Troy, and the İznik tiles stolen from the Sinan Paşa Mosque – have been returned to our country over the last few years. Turkey’s demands for the return of other stolen artifacts will continue, too,” he said.
“During the experts’ meeting of UNESCO, which was held sometime ago in the South Korean capital Seoul, Turkey’s efforts to reclaim its artifacts from abroad won approval and it was shown off as a model country,” Süslü said. “Other countries want to benefit from our experience in this matter. This is why we will organize a workshop from Nov. 19 to 21 in [the southeastern province of] Gaziantep and share our experiences with American and European scientists about this issue.”
He said UNESCO had made a decision to “not collaborate with organizations and institutions that hold illegal artifacts and do not return them,” and that this principle supported Turkey’s policy. “Some media organs have been carrying out an irritating campaign against Turkey’s demand for return of its artifacts. But this UNESCO decision is also against the assertions of some organizations and people who claim that they are the authority.”
Süslü said Turkey had suggested “win-win” formulas to museums or institutions holding smuggled artifacts, by providing them the opportunity to display the artifacts temporarily in legal ways.
“Talks with the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria, as well as some other European countries, are still continuing on this issue.”
Collaboration with the world museums
Turkish authorities have so far succeeded in bringing back the Hattuşa Sphinx from Germany, as well as the top half of the Heracles statue from the Boston Museum in the United States, which is now in the Antalya Museum. The top piece was stolen from an archaeological site in Turkey in 1980 and then smuggled to the U.S. Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan flew the 1,900-year-old item back with him at the end of a trip to the U.S. in September last year.
Moreover, a collaboration between Turkey and the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has resulted in 24 pieces of gold jewelry, unearthed from the ancient city of Troy in the northwest province of Çanakkale, being returned to Turkey after 46 years.
Some 1,865 historical works of art that were seized at the border with Bulgaria have also been returned to Turkey with the help of the Serbian Culture Ministry.
Turkey has also reclaimed 17 historical items from the United Kingdom. Overall, around 3,000 historical artifacts have been returned to Turkey over the last four years.