Reclaiming Hercules

By Matthews, Owen | Newsweek International, April 18, 2012 | Go to article overview

Reclaiming Hercules


Matthews, Owen, Newsweek International


Byline: Owen Matthews

Turkey's government is playing hardball to repatriate archeological treasures.

In the summer Of 1878 a German road engineer named Carl Humann armed himself with an excavation permit from the sultan and a team of workers paid for by wealthy Berlin backers and began digging on the slopes of a hill in Bergama, near modern Izmir, Turkey. The ancient Altar of Zeus that he unearthed, with its dramatic frieze of the battle between the Gods and the Giants, proved to be one of the most beautiful and important discoveries in the history of classical archeology. The altar was exported--with the sultan's permission--to a specially built museum in Berlin. But the German archeologists remained, and over the last 130 years have painstakingly excavated the ancient city of Pergamon, making it the best-chronicled and second-oldest (after Olympia in Greece) ongoing archeological dig in the world.

But now this generations-old scientific effort is under threat. The Turkish government has decided that it can score nationalist points by launching a vocal campaign to recover ancient Anatolian artifacts from foreign museums. Over the last year the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism has resorted to ever-more aggressive measures, from threatening to suspend the excavation licenses of foreign archeological teams to blocking the export of museum exhibits. Last month, for instance, the ministry announced that it would not issue export licenses for several dozen museum pieces due to be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. As a result, important exhibitions--Byzantium and Islam at the Met, The Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam at the British Museum, and The Ottomans at the V&A--have either had to scramble to find alternative artifacts in non-Turkish collections or delay the exhibitions altogether.

"It's hard to see this as anything other than blackmail," says one Western museum curator, who requested anonymity because she still holds out hope for improved cooperation with Turkey in the future. "To threaten international archeological efforts as a way of forcing the return of disputed artifacts is absolutely unethical," as is the "disruption of exhibitions designed to improve international cultural understanding."

The Turks, for their part, are unabashed. "It is our dream to build the largest museum not only in the Middle East and the Balkan area but in the world," says culture and tourism minister Ertugrul Gunay, referring to a vast new museum planned for Ankara that is due to be complete by the 100th anniversary of the Turkish republic in 2023. "We are very happy because of our recent successes in bringing back artwork that has been illegally smuggled from Turkey."

And indeed, everyone in the archeological community agrees that Turkey has a legitimate claim to recover antiquities illegally excavated by thieves and exported by unscrupulous smugglers. One such artifact recently brought back to Turkey--by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself after an official visit to Washington, D.C., last year--was the top half of an 1,800-year-old statue of Weary Hercules. The statue was smuggled out of Turkey 40 years ago and unwittingly bought by Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, which voluntarily returned it. The Metropolitan Museum in New York has also handed back a stolen hoard of Lycian gold to Turkey, an ancient pot to Italy, and 19 items illegally taken from the tomb of King Tutankhamen to Egypt. In total, some 4,519 stolen artifacts have been brought back to Turkey since 1998.

But political problems have arisen with less clear-cut cases--usually involving items exported in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks have demanded the British Museum return a carved stone exported from a part of Turkish territory that was under French administration in the 1920s, for instance.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Reclaiming Hercules
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.