NEWS

The quest for the stolen artifacts often involves help of embassies

It took 13 years to finally repatriate in 2004 part of a marble bust belonging to a colossal equestrian statue stolen from the Amphirion Museum. The 0.40-meter-tall piece was to be auctioned on June 16, 2004, by Corny & Mosch, in Munich. It was part of a statue from the time of Augustus, with a relief depicting Nereus and Hercules. Greece enlisted the services of Interpol, the Greek Embassy and a lawyer to ensure the immediate repatriation of the artifact. A stolen bronze statuette from the Heraion archaeological site on Samos, measuring 11 centimeters, was slightly easier to recover. The ancient statuette had probably been plundered from the museum during the Second World War, when illegal trading in antiquities was quite common. A British antiquity trader, James Ede, found out from his Manchester professor, Dr James Prag, that the artifact was from the Vathi Museum on Samos. He contacted the Greek Embassy in London, which confirmed after investigating the matter that the statuette had indeed been removed from the state’s archaeological collection. The antiquity, purchased for 6,000 pounds in Switzerland, was willingly delivered to the Greek Embassy by the British trader. In most cases, Greek embassies abroad become involved in the repatriation of antiquities, and have been particularly active in this area over the last 10 years. The 50 coins unearthed by the Swedish Institute in Asini, in the Peloponnese, in 1922 are a characteristic example. The coins were taken to Sweden to be preserved and never returned. In 1977, they were discovered at the University of Lund by the former director of the Swedish Institute in Athens, Berit Wells. The discovery of the coins was published in 1980 by Ulla Westermarck. When the Fourth Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities requested coins from the Asini excavation for an exhibition at the Nafplion Museum, the Swedish Institute told them of the 46 coins at the Lund University and of two in Uppsala University. After negotiations with the universities and the Greek Embassy in Stockholm the lost treasure was returned.