Türkiye determined to get Trojan treasures back
Located in the northwest of present-day Türkiye, the ancient city of Troy has yielded a multitude of treasures to archeologists unearthing its secrets. But many of these artifacts have been smuggled abroad, with Ankara today is working to bring those pieces of historical heritage back home.
According to Zeynep Boz, who heads the Anti-Trafficking Department of Türkiye's Culture and Tourism Ministry, told Anadolu that officials have long been working to repatriate these treasures, determined to accomplish the task despite reluctance by many countries performing historical research on Trojan artifacts.
Speaking at the Troy Cultural Road Festival in Canakkale province, home to the ancient city's ruins, Boz said negotiations between governments on returning historical artifacts take time, adding that this was why there was no exact date on their repatriation.
"But just as we managed to secure the return of a group of artifacts with origins in Troy from the US in 2012, we believe we'll also ensure the return of our artifacts in Russia, the UK, and Germany in the same way," she said.
- Organizational crime
Officials are also working to beef up measures against more artifacts being taken abroad illegally, said Boz.
"We're engaged in various activities aimed at increasing awareness among our people and fostering a sense of ownership of our cultural heritage.
"Sometimes, these activities are directed towards our children, while other times they target adult groups," she said.
Underlining the importance of cooperation with destination countries to prevent trafficking, Boz said Türkiye had signed smuggling prevention agreements with the US and Sweden in 2021 and 2022, along with 12 others with various countries.
Besides the matter of historical heritage, the existence of an illicit market for artifacts poses a major crime problem as well, Boz stressed, adding that smuggling has been used to finance terrorism and organized crime.
Türkiye is working to bar this type of criminal activity by seeking the return of historical items, she added.
- Over 12,000 artifacts returned in 2 decades
Boz said that nearly 4,000 artifacts were returned to Türkiye in 2023 alone for a total of more than 12,000 in the last 20 years.
"We believe that in the near future, we will secure the return of some valuable artifacts, a part of which has been subjected to extensive looting in Turkey, and we will announce this," she said.
She noted that the Culture ministry had initiated a process for the return of works originating in Anatolia after some were stolen and lost at a warehouse of the famous British Museum, put on sale online.
"Our discussions regarding the return of certain artifacts with the British Museum were ongoing. We are deeply concerned about the current situation.
"The fact that more than 2,000 artifacts were taken by an individual working there and the delay in the necessary actions despite this being reported to the museum has greatly troubled us," she said.
"Currently, an investigation is ongoing in the UK, and a criminal process has begun. At this stage, we may not receive a quick response to our efforts, but I have no doubt that they will put it on their agenda eventually."
*Writing by Merve Berker