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.
Via Jenny White's Kamil Pasha blog, I just came across the incredible Mashallah News website, which reports on culture, art, politics and lots of other things from several Middle Eastern cities. Their Istanbul section is particularly engaging, with photoessays and videos that explore the outer edges of Turkish culture and go beneath the surface of current events. Highly recommended.
We would like to hear your opinion about the new site. Tell us what you like, and what you don't like in an email and send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org