Tuesday 13 April 2021

Turkey stops Sotheby’s Auction of Stolen Mosque Tiles

   The gap in the whole left by an artefact hunter's greed

Daily Sabah, 'Turkey stops Sotheby’s auction of stolen mosque tiles' April 13th 2021. Turkey has stopped the Sotheby’s auction of Islamic tiles that had been stolen from a mosque. They were shown to be part of the group of 223 Iznik tiles stolen from the Ulu Mosque in the province of Adana in southern Turkey 19 years ago.

Officials combing the "Arts of Islamic World and India" auction catalog came across two tiles which were published about one month before the auction. The tiles were described as “Iznik ceramic tiles with palmette decorations, approximately dating back to 1575, originated from Turkey.” Experts pieced it together when the tiles appeared to complete the missing pieces of tiles at the Adana mosque. In 2009, a police raid in Istanbul had managed to retrieve 67 tiles, seven years after the theft and authorities have applied to Interpol to find the other tiles suspected of having been smuggled abroad. One of the missing tiles showed up at another London auction by Christie’s auction house but Turkey managed to stop the sale in 2011. A meticulous examination discovered the tiles had the same size, motifs and other features same as the stolen tiles, which was used as evidence to convince British authorities to stop the sale. Ankara now awaits a response from Sotheby’s for their request to return the tiles.
It is notable that the experts at Sotheby's had not picked up the connection between the objects they were offered and the stolen ones known still to be at large. The consigner of the stolen tiles was not named.

The gap in the whole decorative scheme at the Ulu Mosque in Adana province left by the artefact hunter's greed, dismembering part of a site for collectors to pocket, is a metaphor for what metal detector users do to archaeological sites in Europe, hoiking out collectables, leaving a huge gaping gap in the site, ruining it.

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