Friday, December 7, 2012

Antiquities Going Home

One of the reasons I have not blogged for months and months has been because I was busy with Loot Busters - www.Lootbusters.com. Stage one was trying to add photos of all items reported missing since 1970 (I need to update the web site to remove some of the following items, and no, we still don't have all the material up online). Within days of starting we'd found our first missing piece, and we've been continuing to do so - our policy is to let museums / dealers / collectors take the credit for "doing the right thing" and that seems to be working very well.

Anyway, here's a selection of archaeological material that's been found recently and is on its way home - we found one or two items, but most of these returns were due to the hard work of the Greek and Italian police and the fabulous team at the Turkish Ministry of Culture.

The hippocampus from the Lydian Hoard has been stolen twice - first by the tomb looters ending up in the Metropolitan Museum, and this time it was found in Munich (incidentally where most coins stolen from Turkey have been surfacing since Switzerland started to crack down).


This was clearly an inside job, and the real piece was replaced by this fake and no-one noticed for quite some time ... :


The History Blog has a nice post about it here. I would like to remind people that many other items from the Usak Treasure are still missing (see here).

This stone with a Byzantine inscription of Michael VIII Palaeologos was stolen from Yoros Castle in 2010 - it was found last week by Istanbul Police unfortunately damaged (see here).


This is the photo of it in situ, and hopefully it will go back:


This sphinx started life in Ptolemaic Egypt, was brought to Italy by the Romans, used in the necropolis of Monte Rossulum outside Viterbo, stolen for a looters ... found by the Italian police (they found ceramics, photos of Egyptian items including this, raided the thief's place, etc):


All the material stolen from Olympia earlier this year has been found. The raid turned out to be the work of amateurs, who still had all the material and were caught in a sting when they tried to sell it.


This Orpheus mosaic with a Syriac inscription was looted directly from the site and never reported stolen, but circumstantial evidence led the Dallas Museum to contact the Turkish Embassy with their worries - all other known mosaics of this type come from Edessa in Turkey, the site was excavated only in 1979, and a number of other mosaics of Orpheus were reported stolen in 1981 (see here), etc.


And it turned out that, despite the mosaic having been published, Dallas Museum was right to be concerned as images turned up of it in situ taken by the looters:


Dr Maxwell L. Anderson of Dallas Museum should also be praised, not only for approaching the Turks when he was made aware of issues with the museum's mosaic but also for setting up the AAMD Object Registry where museums list archaeological items they acquire so source countries can check they were not looted. If all museum directors were like him, life would be so much better.

Christie's often tend to get criticised for dodgy antiquities that pass through them, but I would also like to say that they have gone out of their way to help whenever we've asked them to.

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