Researchers to examine source of artifacts smuggled from Türkiye

Researchers to examine source of artifacts smuggled from Türkiye

Researchers to examine source of artifacts smuggled from Türkiye

With a project initiated by state museums in Berlin for the return of smuggled historical artifacts, a team of Turkish and German historians will examine the source of the objects found at the archaeological sites in Zincirlihöyük, Didim and Samarra.

The researchers will focus on whether the excavation process of historical artifacts belonging to different geographies exhibited in museums in Berlin or their arrival in Germany constitutes illegality.

Including Turkish and German researchers, the pilot project firstly will examine the source of objects at the archaeological sites in Zincirlihöyük in the southeastern province of Gaziantep, Didim in the southwestern province of Aydın and Samarra in Iraq, the territory of the Ottoman Empire.

If, as a result of research, it turns out that the excavation works were unauthorized or it is understood that historical artifacts were smuggled, return protocols will be applied between the countries.

It was also emphasized that this project may also pave the way for the return of many historical artifacts smuggled from Türkiye.

Origin studies in Germany have so far focused on artworks and colonial-era acquisitions potentially looted by the Nazis.

“Visitors increasingly want to know where objects came from,” Hermann Parzinger, head of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, said at a news conference in Berlin.

In the excavations of the 19th and early 20th centuries, permits granted to foreign teams often included agreements in which unearthed items were distributed between visiting archaeologists and the host country.

On the other hand, Christina Haak, deputy director of the Berlin State Museums, said that these agreements are often violated and findings were taken illegally.

The three archaeological sites whose objects are being investigated in the pilot project are located in the Ottoman Empire, Haak added.

Martin Maischberger, deputy director of the classical antiquities collection, said that some suspicious cases need to be investigated.

Maischberger said about 8,000 photos in the Berlin archives can provide vital clues as how to excavated objects were handled.

The museums are also preparing an exhibition examining the archaeological cooperation between Germany and the Ottoman Empire in the coming period.

One of the most important works in Berlin smuggled abroad from the territory of Türkiye is the Pergamon Altar.

The Turkish authorities have been making efforts for many years to return the Pergamon Altar, which was smuggled from Türkiye to Prussia in the 1870s and is currently on display in Berlin, to its home.

This project might pave the way for the return of the altar to its home.

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