Saturday, 30 July 2011

Turkey Ramps up the Fight Against Antiquity Smuggling

A recent article in the Southeast European Times suggests that Turkey is embarking on an energetic looted cultural property restitution campaign which reflects a changing attitude, and a renewed appreciation within the country of the vast wealth of Anatolia's cultural heritage. Turkey's rise as a political and economic force on the world stage partly explains the campaign. With the shift in balance of power, Turkey now sees itself as a major regional power which increases their confidence in their ability to ask for things which perhaps they didn't have the confidence to ask for before.

The long-running dispute about the "Weary Herakles" has finally been brought to a resolution, but only after Turkey stepped up its attempts to get the looted half of the statue back a few years ago. Ankara is also targeting museums in Serbia, Germany, France, and half a dozen other countries, and has started playing tough.
In May, Germany's Pergamon Museum reluctantly agreed to return a 3,500 year-old Hittite sphinx after Turkish Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay threatened to ban German teams from several archaeological digs in the country. Late last year, Ankara took the unprecedented step of revoking excavation licenses for three French and German teams that had been digging in Turkey for decades, in a move widely seen as a warning shot in the antiquities battle."This is a revolution," Gunay was quoted as saying in the New York Times following the sphinx agreement.
Nora Seni, director of the French Institute of Anatolian Studies, believes that a new mindset is emerging regarding Turkey's wealth of historic sites and artefacts.
"The Turkish state was created by differentiating itself from the Ottoman Empire and all that came before it -- there was a taboo about discussing Byzantine culture," she said. But the Justice and Development Party government that came to power in 2002 brought with it a neo-Ottomanism that opened the door both to Anatolia's pre-Islamic, as well as its Islamic past, she argues. "Turkey is taking hold of its heritage," she said.

Alexander Christie-Miller, 'Turkey ramps up fight against antiquities smuggling' Southeast European Times, 28/07/2011


kyri said...

more journalists in turkish jails than china.i would never trust turkey when it comes to recording ancient sites acurately.they hate the fact that 90% of "their"heritage is greek.look at what they done to cyprus,ancient sites,espeacially churches vandalised,demolished or turnd into stables with thousands of mosaics and icons going on to the black market.turkey has a bad track record when it comes to other peoples heritage and history.i wouldnt sing their praises too much,anything they do,in my eyes has a hidden agenda.if you read turkish newspapers,as i do sometimes,their ambition is to create a new ottomam empire and this spells danger to anyone in the region.dont forget,they have only been in the region for 500 years,all the ancient sites in modern day turkey are foreign to them.

Paul Barford said...

So, what do you suggest we do about the "Turkish threat"? Steal all their culture, cos you know a certain German politician a few decades ago said if you kill a culture, you kill a nation?

You seem to urge us to take the US approach, if its their friend they'll stop illegal trade in cultural property, if you are not... cultural property from your territory is all basically up for grabs.

Personally I could not really care on whose land an archaeological site is, I do not want to see it squandered by looting to fuel the international trade in looted objects. When Turkey enters the EU lets hope the archaeology picks up.

[As a matter of accuracy, we should really look to Alp Arslan and the 1070s as the beginning of a Turkish presence in Anatolia, so their presence there is not much junior to Poland, Bohemia and Muscovy is it?]

kyri said...

all archaeology is sacred,what im saying is ,like the nazis were trying to do,turkey also sees archaeology from only a turkish perspective and any excavations they publish may be skewd to further their interpretation of the past.
turkey in europe?i dont think this will happen in our lifetime.most western europeans are against the idea and there is the cyprus/kurdish long as turkey acts as a regional bully and denies basic human rights to its own citizens than joining the eec will remain a dream for them.

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