In 2010, the Swiss customs discovered an exceptional Roman sarcophagus in carved marble, in a warehouse of the Ports Francs of Geneva. Following a thorough investigation by the Geneva Public Prosecutor’s Office, in collaboration with the Swiss and Turkish federal authorities, this magnificent object was found to have originated from an illegal search near Antalya, Turkey.
Carved in the 2nd century AD, the sarcophagus represents the 12 works of Hercules on its flanks and weighs nearly three tons. It was found in the ancient site of Perga (near Antalya) , known today for its ancient theater, its long path lined with columns, its monumental fountain and its necropolis.
Ordered in 2015, the restitution of the sarcophagus to Turkey was the subject of various appeals. After two years of mutual legal assistance, the Herculean sarcophagus will finally return to its country of origin. Before its departure for Antalya, the University of Geneva and the Geneva Public Ministry, with the agreement of the Turkish authorities, agreed to exhibit the sarcophagus in Geneva, during the summer, in order to invite visitors to reflect on the problem of illicit trafficking of cultural property.
The ceremony of restitution, took place on June 19 2017 at the University of Geneva ; in the presence of the Director of the Geneva Museum of Art & History , the Rector of the University of Geneva, and the Minister of Culture of Turkey, H.E. Professor Nabi Avci and UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova.
The event highlighted the importance and effectiveness of UNESCO’s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.
“Illicit trafficking is a cultural and social scandal that deprives people of their history, their past, and therefore their future.The example of international cooperation between Turkey and Switzerland in this restitution shows also the great power of cultural diplomacy in building bridges,” stated the Director-General.
The Minister of Culture of Turkey, H.E. Professor Nabi Avci, thanked the Swiss Government for their cooperation and added: “Turkey will make every effort to help strengthen the UNESCO 1970 Convention, which is very important to halt illicit trafficking.”
This exhibition offers an insight into the life art of the ancient city of Perga.
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