Thursday, September 6, 2012

Penn-Turkey, Loan Resolution of Restitution Claim

This necklace is one of the items on long-term loanto Turkey.The University of Pennsylvania's Penn Museum has made a deal with Turkey over 24 pieces of ancient Trojan-style gold jewellery that seems to have been looted from northwestern Turkey in the 1960s. It has lent the pieces to that country for an indefinite period.
 In exchange, the Turkish government pledged to lend other artifacts for a one-year exhibit at Penn's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology[...] The country also promised support for ongoing excavations by Penn scholars within its borders. The exchange represents an amicable agreement in a realm often marked by rancor [...]  The 24 pieces of gold jewelry, dated to 2400 B.C., were purchased by the Penn museum from a dealer in 1966, but were not accompanied by any documents that established their origin. [... the evidence of their Turkish provenance...] is highly likely but it's not conclusive," [Julian] Siggers [new director of the Penn museum since July] said. "That's why it goes as an indefinite loan as opposed to being given back. . . . They're delighted to have this back, but I think everybody wins here."
The clinching evidence of the origins of the items was some dirt in one of the loops which was found by  neutron activation analysis to have high arsenic levels.
That amount of arsenic, 40 parts per million, is similar to levels found in northwestern Turkey, he said. But Pernicka, who also studied the metal itself, said he could not prove it was from Turkey, adding that Greece was a possible alternative. This knowledge gap illustrates what can happen when artifacts are not excavated in an academic fashion, said C. Brian Rose, curator of the Penn museum's Mediterranean section and a professor of archaeology. "There's no question that it was looted," Rose said. "We're just not sure of the exact place from which it was looted." The Penn museum purchased the objects because of their similarity to others known to be from Troy - the city that inspired the Iliad, Homer's account of the Trojan War. But officials were troubled by the uncertain origin of the objects, and the museum decided in 1970 it would no longer acquire undocumented artifacts. It was the first museum to make that move. 
It turns out that the items had been bought in 1966 from Robert E. Hecht Jr. who had "bought the items from a middleman and did not know if they had been illegally excavated. He said he was not bothered by the lack of documentation. "The main thing is the beauty of the thing," Hecht said".


Tom Avril, 'Penn museum lends possibly plundered items to Turkey' Philadelphia Inquirer, Sep. 6, 2012,

Kathy Matheson, 'Penn Museum makes deal with Turkey for 'Troy gold', The Associated Press  Sept 4th 2012.

Vignette: One of the necklaces (Charles Fox, )

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