Germany returns Sphinx of Hattusa to Turkey
May 13, 2011, 16:43 GMT
Berlin - Germany announced Friday it will return to Turkey a priceless sphinx statue which is currently in Berlin's Pergamon antiquities museum - but stressed it was not a precedent for other nations to demand the return of museum treasures.
The sphinx, with a lion's body and a human head, is one of a matching pair found in 1915 in the ruins of Hattusa, the ancient capital of the Hittites, a literate Bronze Age people of Anatolia.
'Both sides agree that the Sphinx is a one-off case that is not applicable to other cases,' said Bernd Neumann, Chancellor Angela Merkel's top culture official, after talks. Its return was 'a voluntary gesture of friendship between Germany and Turkey.'
The Sphinx of Hattusa is to fly home on November 28, the 25th anniversary of Hattusa's recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Germany has consistently rejected any return of the 3,300-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti, one of Berlin's greatest treasures and tourist attractions, which Egypt is asking for. It says Nefertiti, now in the Neues Museum, was given to the German excavators in a legally valid division of spoils.
They admitted they could not claim such good title to the 4,000-year-old Hittite sphinx.
The pair were found smashed in 1907 and taken to Germany in 1915 for restoration.
The Germans only sent one sphinx back to Istanbul in 1924. They made a copy and the new pair has been exhibited in the Pergamon Museum in the heart of Berlin since 1934.
Turkey this year threatened to stop German archaeologists excavating at Hattusa. The 105-year, Berlin-financed dig there is one of Germany's most acclaimed archaeological projects.
The Hittite empire included much of Anatolia, north-western Syria and Mesopotamia and reached its height around the 14th century BC.
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