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Swiss hand back to Greece stolen statue of Apollo from Crete June 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.

The torso of a marble statue of Apollo, dating back to the first century A.D., is displayed at Greece’s National Archaeological Museum in Athens June 14, 2007. The 1.3-metre statue is of great value for Greece’s cultural heritage.

 apollo_statue.jpg  Switzerland has returned an ancient Greek statue stolen 16 years ago and recently discovered in the collection of an antiquities dealer. The marble statue of god Apollo, discovered in the late 19th century in the town of Gortyna in Crete, was sought by Greece ever since it was reported stolen in 1991 together with nine other items.

The recovery of the 1,900-year-old headless marble sculpture comes as Greece campaigns for the repatriation of illegally exported antiquities. The Federal Culture Office said the 1.3-metre torso of a young man was loaded on a plane in Zurich bound for Athens, where it arrived on Thursday. The Culture Office added that Switzerland was implementing measures to combat the illegal transfer of cultural goods. Switzerland has concluded several agreements on the import and repatriation of cultural heritage with countries including Greece, Italy and Peru.

The Greek Culture Minister, Giorgos Voulgarakis, said the statue returned had been  traced in March to the Swiss city of Basel. “Today’s event is a result of international cooperation to protect our cultural heritage. More results will be announced soon,” Voulgarakis said after the statue was delivered to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. He said the statue would be returned to Crete at a later date.

The returned statue, possibly the Greek god Apollo, had been registered as stolen on an international police database. Its location was reported to Interpol in March by an unknown individual, Yves Fischer of the Swiss Federal Culture Office told the Associated Press. Voulgarakis said the Swiss-based antiquities dealer was persuaded by authorities to surrender the statue and voluntarily drop all claims to it. Voulgarakis formerly headed  the Ministry of Public Order, in charge of law enforcement, and has stepped up efforts against the rogue antiquities trade since becoming Culture Minister last year.

Recently returned antiquities include sculptures from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Voulgarakis’ campaign coincides with the construction of a new Museum at the foot of the ancient Acropolis which is due open in early 2008. The site will be purpose-built to house the so-called Elgin marbles, the Parthenon sculptures currently on display at the British Museum in London, if returned.

“The new Museum will soon be a reality,” Voulgarakis said. “We are striving for the Parthenon marbles to be reunited. It would be a shame for such a Museum at such a special site to remain half-empty.”

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