Monday, 11 September 2017

Perga Hercules Sarcophagus to Return This Week

Seven years after it was discovered in a Geneva free port, a rare Roman Empire-era sarcophagus carved with the 12 Labours of Hercules is returning to Turkey this week. [...]  This Wednesday the ornately decorated 2nd-century AD marble sarcophagus, one of only four of its kind in the world which experts say is the most beautiful, is due to be loaded onto a cargo plane at Zurich airport. From there it will be flown to Turkey, where it will be displayed in the Archaeological Museum in Antalya. This marks the culmination of a drawn-out ownership battle over the three-tonne marble coffin [...] The sarcophagus is thought to have been smuggled out of Turkey in the 1970s before Swiss customs officials stumbled upon it during checks at Geneva’s huge free port warehouse complex in 2010.   Geneva-based antiques dealer Phoenix Ancient Art which had legal possession of the sarcophagus, had tried to block the restitution before finally abandoning its efforts before the Swiss courts in March 2016. [...]. “I inherited the sarcophagus from my father who bought it totally legally, like all the objects he bought, in accordance with the laws of the time,” said co-owner Ali Aboutaam. His deceased father Sleiman Aboutaam, a Lebanese art dealer, allegedly purchased the object in the 1990s. During the restitution procedure, Geneva and Antalya prosecutors found that the sarcophagus had been removed from Turkey after being dug up in illegal archaeological excavations in the 1970s on the site of the necropolis in the ancient town of Perga in Antalya. But it is unclear exactly how the priceless sarcophagus ended up being sold and transferred to the Geneva free port warehouse. In 1998, Sleiman Aboutaam died in a Swissair plane crash off the coast of Nova Scotia. The Geneva prosecutor’s office closed its criminal investigation into the sarcophagus in 2015.
Simon Bradley, Priceless Roman sarcophagus heads home after legal saga Sept 11, 2017

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