After a two-year work of the Culture and Tourism Ministry’s Anti-Smuggling Department, 14 works of Anatolian origin, stolen by the U.S. art collector Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s greatest collectors of antique art, have been handed over to the New York Consulate General by the Manhattan Prosecutor’s Office for their return to Turkey. The artifacts will be exhibited at the Istanbul Archeology Museum after being introduced with a special launch in Ankara.
Upon the information that Steinhardt had artifacts belonging to Anatolia, the ministry contacted the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Homeland Security Intelligence Unit of the U.S.
Photographs of the artifacts, seized during a raid on Steinhardt’s property, were sent to the Anti-Smuggling Department. Some 180 $70-million cultural assets belonging to 11 countries, mainly Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Syria, were identified.
All illegal excavation records from the 1960s to the present, researches reporting illegal excavations, scientific publications, ministry representative reports, notes obtained from smugglers and entered into the ministry archives, newspaper reports, records of the General Directorate of Security, and eyewitness information were examined. As a result of the examination of thousands of files and photographs of the artifacts, it was determined that 14 pieces of artifacts, including deer-type riton, gold dress apparatus, mother goddess idol, mountain goat figurine, bird idols, and Kilia Idol, were of Anatolian origin.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the American Homeland Security Intelligence Unit delivered the Anatolian-origin artifacts, seized in December 2021, to the New York Consulate.
On the other hand, within the scope of the investigation initiated in 2013 by the Anti-Smuggling Department of the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums, 12 coins of Anatolian origin, 10 of which belong to the Alexander period, two of which are from the Lydian period, and two Kilia Idol heads were also sent to the consulate general in New York. The artifacts, which will be sent to Ankara in the coming days, then will be put on display at the Istanbul Archeology Museum.
“For decades, Michael Steinhardt displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold, or the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe,” Manhattan Attorney General Cyrus Vance has said in a statement.
Steinhardt is a major donor to institutions such as New York University and the Metropolitan Museum, which named a gallery after him.
Hurriyet Daily News