United States authorities have returned $8 million of stolen antiquities — some of which were plundered as far back as the 1960s — to Turkey, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a US prosecutor on Tuesday.
Among the 41 pieces returned were two Heads of the Roman emperor Caracalla and the Bust of a Lady which were trafficked from Bubon, a Roman-era site in southwest Turkey which was extensively looted in the 1960s.
“During my administration we have returned 90 antiquities to Turkiye, valued at more than $60 million,” said Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, announcing the returns.
The pieces were returned at a ceremony attended by Turkey’s Deputy Culture Minister Gökhan Yazgı.
Bakanlığımızın en öncelikli çalışmaları arasında bulunan kültür varlığı kaçakçılığı ile mücadele yurtiçinde hız kesmeden sürerken, yurtdışına kaçırılan kültür varlıklarımızın iadesine ilişkin yeni haberleri sizlere müjdelemekten mutluluk duyuyoruz.
Manhattan Bölge Savcılık… pic.twitter.com/gX9cuanhen
— Gökhan YAZGI (@yazgi_gokhan) December 5, 2023
“Together I believe we can put an end to the blows dealt to the identity and history of nations,” he said.
The Bust of a Lady dates back to around 160-180 AD and was taken from Bubon before being taken to Switzerland by the late American antiquities dealer Robert Hecht, Bragg’s office said. He sold it to the Worcester Art Museum, where it remained on display until it was seized in June 2023.
The heads, one of a Younger Caracalla that had been at the Fordham Museum of Art and one of an older Caracalla that had been at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, were seized by US authorities on the same day in March 2023.
Since its creation, Manhattan’s Art Trafficking Unit has recovered more than 4,700 antiquities valued at more than $400 million, and returned more than 4,000 of them to 25 countries.