It is the second highlight of Ertugrul Gunay's career at Turkey's Ministry of Culture.
The first one was in last July when he revealed the 3000-year-old statue of a Hittite king as an amazing example of ancient art in Anatolia.
And yesterday, he presented the media a rare piece of Roman mosaic which was looted from Turkey and recently returned by The Dallas Museum of Art.
5-foot-by-5-foot (1.5-by-1.5-meter) Orpheus Mosaic is thought to be almost 2500 years old. According to an official from The Dallas Museum of Art:
“The Turkish ministry maintains a website that shows illicitly removed objects. And on that website were a series of Orpheus mosaics from the site of Edessa illegally removed, starting in the 1950s. The mosaics included examples that were virtually identical to this one. And with the same Seriac inscription, specifically identifying the site from which the mosaic was obtained. And therefore, it raised questions for me.”
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The Turkish government has managed to return over 4000 historical artifacts over the last five years.
Although this is the best record of the current government in my opinion, it is still inconceivable that the Louvre is allowed to exhibit stolen artificats in its new wing of Islamic art.
Turkish history magazine NTV Tarih had documented and graphically proved last month (below) that some beautiful tiles of Piyale Pasha mosque, as well as Sultan Selim II and Eyup Sultan shrines in Istanbul were stolen between the 1920s and the 1950s. Some of the thefts were organized by French citizens in Istanbul who hired Turkish robbers.
A comparison of Eyup Sultan shrine's tiles and strikingly similar pieces in the Louvre leaves no room for doubt that the latter were just stolen.
The Turkish awareness about the stolen national treasures was not only on official or political levels. The Observer reported today that a Turkish lawyer would sue the British Museum in the European Court of Human Rights next month. The experts that they talked say that the prospects are realistically high.
What I really don't understand is the utter apathy of some of the world's largest museums, which own hundreds of stolen artifacts, victimizing especially Turkey and Greece.
If you are a person who bought a second-hand Ferrari for a thousand dollars and can drive it around happily, the authorities wouldn't believe you when you say that you didn't know that the car was stolen.
What these museums should do is to check their inventories and verify that each piece was obtained legally and return the stolen ones like The Dallas Museum of Art has honorably done. Otherwise, you would be stained like the Louvre.