Greece announces deal to recover 161 ancient treasures from US

Athens, Greece — Greece has reached a complex deal for the eventual return of an American billionaire’s private collection of 161 top-quality ancient Greek artifacts dating back more than 4,000 years, marking a new approach in the country’s efforts to reclaim its cultural heritage .

Government spokesman Yannis Oikonomou said on Tuesday Greece’s parliament would vote on a bill to ratify the deal, which involves New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, a leading Greek museum and institute. cultural based in Delaware.

He said the deal would recognize Greece’s ownership of the 161 artifacts from the Bronze Age Cycladic civilization – known for its elegantly abstract but enigmatic marble figurines – which were donated by a New York collector to the Delaware Institute. The works will first be exhibited later this year at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens and then at the Metropolitan Museum, he said.

The Metropolitan Museum declined to comment.

Oikonomou did not name the American collector involved. But two people with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press that the artifacts came from Leonard’s collection. N. Stern, an 84-year-old pet supplies and real estate businessman and philanthropist. They spoke on condition of anonymity pending official announcements.

“Many of (pieces) are extremely rare, if not unique, examples of art and craftsmanship from the Cycladic civilization of the 3rd millennium BC, and offer new data to scientific knowledge of the period,” Oikonomou said. in a statement after a Cabinet meeting discussed the matter on Tuesday.

He did not provide any details on how the works were excavated and exported from Greece, and described them as “unknown” artifacts. Archaeologists warn that antiquities of unspecified provenance are usually looted and therefore devoid of any useful information about their function and cultural significance that a legitimate excavation would have provided.

Oikonomou said the deal, which avoids any legal disputes or payments by the Greek government, could serve as a model for further restitution. It is expected to be tabled in Parliament early next week.

“It creates a procedure and a means that encourages other collectors of Greek antiquities to take similar steps…that does not have the inconvenience of a legal process,” he said.

A Greek official said the 161 antiquities would gradually be returned to Greece for permanent display, but no specific timeline was available.

The Cycladic civilization flourished in the Cyclades group of islands in the Aegean Sea approximately between 3000 and 2000 BC. She is best known for the iconic white marble figurines of nude female forms that inspired artists such as Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brancusi. Their enormous popularity among private collectors and museums around the world sparked an orgy of illegal excavations across the Cyclades in the 20th century. Largely because of this, their precise original function remains unclear.

For decades, Greek authorities have struggled to recover antiquities illegally mined and exported from the country, which can be sold for millions of dollars.

Athens has long and unsuccessfully lobbied to recover large parts of the 5th century BC sculptures that originally decorated the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis and are now in the British Museum in London.

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