Having played host over the centuries to Greeks, Romans, the Byzantines and other great cultures, the land that comprises modern-day Turkey is filled with numerous and valuable archeological sites. To view some of the more extraordinary finds from many of those sites, though, requires going to museums in other countries. For example, the altar of Zeus from the ancient city of Pergamon, dug up by a German team in the late 1800's, resides in Berlin, while other valuable artifacts originally found in Turkey are housed in assorted European and American museums.
Filled with a renewed sense of political and economic self-confidence, Ankara is now looking for ways to regain those antiquities, resorting, if need be, to playing hardball. From a very interesting recent Newsweek article on the subject:
The Turkish government has decided that it can score nationalist points by launching a vocal campaign to recover ancient Anatolian artifacts from foreign museums. Over the last year the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism has resorted to ever-more aggressive measures, from threatening to suspend the excavation licenses of foreign archeological teams to blocking the export of museum exhibits. Last month, for instance, the ministry announced that it would not issue export licenses for several dozen museum pieces due to be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. As a result, important exhibitions—Byzantium and Islam at the Met, The Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam at the British Museum, and The Ottomans at the V&A—have either had to scramble to find alternative artifacts in non-Turkish collections or delay the exhibitions altogether.
Archeologists in Kazakhstan have discovered the grave of a gold-clad ancient Scythian warrior who has already earned himself a nickname: “The Sun Lord.” Researchers uncovered the find in a Scythian grave consisting of seven burial mounds in Karaganda Region east of the capital, Astana.
The opulence of the warrior’s burial indicates that he was a leader as well as a fighter, expedition leader Arman Beysenov explained. “He was probably a ruler and a warrior simultaneously,” Beysenov said in remarks quoted by the Kazinform news agency on July 16. “The person’s torso was entirely covered with gold. The figure of a leader like this was associated with the sun. He was a sort of ‘sun lord.’”
The warrior was likely buried in the 4th or 5th century BC in a grave that was actually discovered half a century ago, though excavation work only started last year.
Robbers had looted the grave in ancient times, Beysenov said, but it still contained quite a horde of ancient treasure. One of the burial mounds alone yielded 130 gold objects that included the figure of a feline predator, pendants and parts of sword belts. Archeologists also found hundreds of gold beads and 14 bronze arrowheads in the grave.
Inevitably, the archeological discovery is being trumpeted as comparable to that of the Golden Man, found in the Issyk burial mound just outside Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, Almaty, in 1969. The Golden Man, who’s believed to have been a young Scythian prince who lived in the 4th or 5th century BC, was interred wearing some 4,000 gold ornaments.