Gold seal in rubble

Paying out finder’s rewards is always a headache for the Central Archaeological Council (KAS), but there is one they would willingly pay out so that the Culture Ministry might acquire a rare find. It is a striking gold Minoan seal ring dating from 1500 BC that depicts the custom of bull leaping. Minoans would grab a charging bull, leap into the air and sit on its back. But this item belongs to a private owner, Anna Filopoulou-Tzoustaki, who made an application last spring for an owner’s permit. How did she acquire this piece of jewelry? As KAS was told, her father-in-law found the ring in the 1950s or ’60s, in Anafiotika, above the church of Aghios Symeon, toward the northern slope of the Acropolis. It was found among rubble from work being done on the Acropolis for the extension to the Acropolis Museum. Apparently Filopoulou-Tzoustaki’s father-in-law hid the ring in a house, and it was found when that house was demolished. The seal ring is now at the National Archaeological Museum for safekeeping. Preliminary chemical tests indicate that it is both genuine and rare. There is one other such ring in Athens, and it was found in the Ancient Agora. During the discussion at KAS some reservations were expressed about its authenticity. «I’m not convinced about the provenance of this ring,» commented one member of the archaeological service, who believes that it was found on an archaeological site, thus raising doubts about issuing an owner’s permit. «Athens is an archaeological site in many built-up areas,» commented another. «Would it have been better if she had not handed in the ring and had sold it abroad?» By general admission, the manner in which the animals are depicted on the ring is original and the portrayal of the shapes is unusual. KAS ruled in favor of the permit, while setting up a three-member committee to investigate whether the ring is, in fact, Minoan and to determine its monetary value. A similar case came before KAS three years ago, of a rare gold seal ring from 1500 BC, weighing 27 grams and depicting tree worship. A masterpiece of Minoan workmanship, it was valued at 400,000 euros, and the person who handed it in was paid half that amount as a finder’s reward.