Retrieving Our Culture

An array of artifacts from the ancient civilizations of anatolia and the more recent Ottoman Empire are on exhibit in several great museums around the world

And some of those artifacts were spirited abroad without official permission, in other words by smuggling. Now, through the efforts of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism over the last ten years, more than 4,000 of those artifacts large and small have been returned to Turkey. Among the important items returned in the last year are the Boğazköy sphinx and the top half of the 2nd century Weary Herakles statue. Among the other monuments whose return is being sought are the Altar of Zeus in Berlin and a tile panel from the Tomb of Sultan Selim II at the Louvre.

Louvre (Paris)
Tile Panel From the tomb of Sultan Selim II
The intact panels not in need of repair are thought to have been transported to Paris and added to the Louvre Museum collection during a restoration in 1882-1883 by Albert Sorlin Dorigny, who was engaged for the task. Efforts to retrieve the missing sections have been under way since 2006.

Pergamon Museum (Berlin)
Altar of Zeus
This monument was discovered by Carl Humann, a German engineer tasked with road construction in the Bergama region in the 1870’s. Artifacts recovered by German archaeologists were transported to Berlin under Humann’s contract with the Ottoman government. Work has commenced on framing a new policy for the recovery effort, which has been under way since 1991.

Aphrodisias - Statue of the old Fisherman
The torso of the statue of the Old Fisherman, the head and legs of which are at the Aphrodisias Museum in Geyre, are at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

Victoria & Albert Museum (London)
Head of Eros
Efforts have been under way since 2010 to recover the head of Eros believed to belong to the lid of the Sidamara Sarcaphagus in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.