Turkish Jubilation over Recovery of Ancient Sarcophagus

By Pope, Hugh | The Independent (London, England), April 27, 1994 | Go to article overview
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Turkish Jubilation over Recovery of Ancient Sarcophagus


Pope, Hugh, The Independent (London, England)


ISTANBUL - Turkey's new archaeological militancy paid another dividend yesterday as officials unveiled a second ancient treasure returned by US collectors and museums, following anti-smuggling cases launched in American courts.

The Garlanded Sarcophagus will be displayed in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum for six months before being sent to a permanent home in Antalya, on Turkey's Mediterranean coast and near the Pamphylian workshops where Roman stonemasons are believed to have produced such works in the 2nd century AD.

A similar marble sarcophagus is already on display at the Antalya museum, sharing the same deep-cut relief, many- breasted female personifications on the corners and sun- like mask-faces embossed on the sides.

Stocky, naked putti hold up the thick garland looped round the sarcophagus, giving the antiquity its name. "It is the finest garland sarcophagus in the world," Thomas Hoving, former director of New York's Metropolitan Museum, wrote last year. The Met was the first to return antiquities to Turkey, surrendering to legal pressure and sending back the Lydian Hoard late last year. The latest sarcophagus comes from the Brooklyn Museum, where it had been since 1987.

Under Turkish pressure, its owner Damon Mezzacappa, a principal at Lazard Freres investment bank, tried to donate it quickly to the museum and take a highly profitable tax deduction. The museum nearly accepted. But Thomas Hoving said curators changed their minds quickly when "the lid of the sarcophagus was removed at one point and inside were a bunch of Turkish newspapers - and not dating to the 2nd century AD either".

Even that might not have been enough to win its return to Turkey.

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