Herodotus Returns

Italy orders return of Getty’s “Victorious Youth”
February 15, 2010, 11:02 am
Filed under: Repatriation | Tags: , , ,

According to a report from Bloomberg, Italy has issued a court order that the “Victorious Youth” which was found off the coast of Italy and allegedly sold illegally, be confiscated from the Getty Museum in Malibu, California. Of all the various repatriation plots – Elgin Marbles, Rosetta Stone, Nefertiti etc. – this is my favorite. I’ll give a quick summary, but I recommend you read this LA Times piece from a few years ago, which relays the story – complete with a colorful cast of drunk fisherman, corrupt priests, jailbirds, an oil baron and a whole town of impassioned Italians – in full. In 1964, Italian fisherman just off the coast of a town called Fano found a bronze statue of a young Greek boy. Its heavy encrustations told them that it might be very old and potentially valuable. Instead of turning it over to antiquities officials, they decided to sell it. In a hushed deal, a local antiquarian bought it for $5,600. That was the first of dozens of transactions that eventually brought the statue to the Getty Museum. Since these three bumbling fisherman sold the piece, it has been recognized as priceless, potentially the work of Lysippos, Alexander the Great’s personal sculptor. In the interim, the small town of Fano, located on the coast about 90 miles east of Florence, has united in a – somewhat quixotic, I’ll say – struggle to bring the sculpture back to what they believe is its rightful home. Most agree that they don’t have a case, given that the statue was found in international waters (nevermind sold illegally from the get-go), but the town’s fervor has to be admired.

The Fano Archeological Club gathered 8,000 signatures for a petition saying it should be returned. The Fig Tree Fraternity, a group of retired fishermen who gather under a fig tree by the port, still debate what they would have done had they been the ones to find it. A theater company recently retold the Lysippos’ tragicomic tale in the local dialect, filling a 600-seat theater for a week. The statue’s name adorns a local travel agency and the town’s monthly magazine.

Check in for more. Every few months, Fano (whose cause has apparently been adopted by the rest of Italy) finds a new way to try to bring the statue home.


British Museum discovers two tablets related to Cyrus Cylinder
January 12, 2010, 8:25 am
Filed under: Repatriation | Tags: ,

The British Museum, which faces demands from Iran to lend an ancient artifact known as the Cyrus Cylinder, said it would delay sending the object there after making a discovery.

On Jan. 5, inscriptions similar to the Cylinder’s were found on two pieces of cuneiform tablets from Babylonia in the museum’s collections. The pieces will be studied to shed light on the Cylinder’s “missing” or “obscure” passages, the museum said, and presented at a London workshop involving Iranian colleagues.

After that, “it is intended that the two new pieces should be exhibited for the first time in Tehran, together with the Cylinder itself,” the museum said in an e-mailed release.

“The agreement has been made with our colleagues in Iran that we’ll postpone the loan to investigate this exciting discovery with them,” said Hannah Boulton, head of press and marketing at the British Museum. “That’s the reason for the postponement.”

More on the British Museum’s decision to withhold the Cyrus Cylinder.

Jordan asks Canada to seize Dead Sea Scrolls
January 3, 2010, 5:28 pm
Filed under: Repatriation | Tags: , , ,

Jordan has requested that Canada seize Israel’s 2000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls, currently on display in the Royal Ontario Museum.

The London-based Globe and Mail reports that Jordan has asked Canada to seize Israel’s 2,000-year-old Dead Sea scrolls that are currently on display in Toronto. The scrolls are on display until until Sunday at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Jordan claims that the scrolls were found in “disputed territory” that Israel captured from Jordanian control in 1967, and asks Canada to hold them until the question of their ownership is settled. Jordan’s control of Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley – which it called the “West Bank” – from 1948 until 1967, was recognized internationally by only two countries: Great Britain and Pakistan….

Jordan made its demand two weeks ago, summoning the Canadian chargé d’affaires in Amman. Citing the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, Jordan claims that Israel acted illegally after 1967 when it took the scrolls from the Rockefeller Museum in eastern Jerusalem and transferred them to the Israel Museum. The Palestinian Authority made a similar request several months ago.

The Dead Sea scrolls are about 900 documents and Biblical texts, discovered in one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century in the 1940’s and 50’s in caves in and around Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. The texts include some of the only known surviving copies of Biblical documents made before 100 B.C.E., and preserve evidence of Jewish life during the Second Temple period.

More on the debate over the Dead Sea Scrolls

Turkey May Want Santa’s Bones Back
December 30, 2009, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Repatriation

Turkish government may issue a request to Italy for return of St. Nicholas’s bones to his hometown in modern-day Demre, Turkey.

The 3rd Century saint – on whom Santa Claus was modelled – was buried in the modern-day town of Demre in Turkey.

But in the Middle Ages his bones were taken by Italian sailors and re-interred in the port of Bari.

The Turkish government said it was considering making a request to Rome for the return of the saint’s remains.

While Christmas is by and large not celebrated in Muslim Turkey, the Christmas figure of Santa Claus certainly is, in the Mediterranean town of his birth.

He was born in what was then the Greek city of Myra in the third century, and went on to become the local bishop, with a reputation for performing miracles and secretly giving gold to the needy – on one occasion being forced to climb down a chimney to leave his donation.

More on the story here.