Cultural Postcards + [Southern Europe]

Heritage: Large number of Neolithic artefacts returned to Greece
A low-key event was held in downtown Athens on Monday with Greek and German officials to mark the successful return of over 10,600 Neolithic objects taken out of Greece illegally during World War II.

Large number of Neolithic artefacts returned to Greece
Photo released today showing some of the ancient artefacts
 repatriated from Germany [Credit: Ta Nea]

The objects include pot shards, stone tools, obsidian and flint blades and bone material that were dug up illegally between June and December 1941 by Nazi occupation troops, in an effort to claim that northern peoples, ancestors of Greeks, had an established presence in Europe from prehistoric times.

The event at the Culture ministry's Directorate of Registration and Protection of Cultural Material was attended by the German ambassador, the director of the Pfahlbaumuseum - which was instrumental in the return - and Greek and German archaeologists. Culture and Sports Minister Konstantinos Tassoulas also attended and spoke of the efforts of archaeologist Angelica Douzougli to locate the missing artefacts.

Douzougli, an honorary ephor of antiquities whose doctoral dissertation led to the discovery of the material, spoke of how her search began in the 70s, from a prehistoric archaeology seminar at the University of Nuremberg, Germany, where she was studying and where her interest focused on agricultural and animal breeding communities of Thessaly.

The materials repatriated on Monday come from several sites in Thessaly, an area in central Greece that has yielded a richness of Neolithic material. Most of it can be traced to the Visviki Magoula, or tumulus, dated to between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago. The Visviki material was packed in 28 boxes, 5 of which were returned to Greece in the 50s.

The material will be housed for now at the National Archaeological Museum, which also has the material from the 50s. The study of the material will be augmented by photographs from the 40s showing modern lake communities of Thessaly in and around Lake Karla (no longer extant) which resemble those of Lake Constantia, in Germany, recreated by Germany's Pfahlbau Museum Unteruhldingen - focusing on Stone and Bronze Ages - which assisted in the repatriation of the material. "Unfortunately, the most important material, 8 boxes that remained in Volos in 1941, is now lost," museum director Gunter Schoebel said.

Ministry officials reviewed the directorate's efforts to repatriate material stolen during the WWII occupation, including 26 cases handled by the bureu involving 1,158 objects, 41 boxes with Hebrew manuscripts and other paleolithic findings. Director Suzanna Houlia-Kapeloni said that of all the cases, objects were returned to Greece by Germany (12 instances), Austria (3), Switzerland (3), Italy (2), United States (2), Britain (2), Australia (1) and Bulgaria (1).

The ministry's director of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage, Maria Vlazaki, said the repatriation of the material was "a double cause of joy...as German, Greek and Austrian archaeologists worked closely together to make this happen."

Minister Tassoulas referred to the symbolism of the gesture, noting that such moves contribute decisively to the strengthening of bilateral ties.

A more formal ceremony for the return of the antiquities was held at the Pfahlbaumuseum in Unteruhldingen last Wednesday, according to the Culture ministry.

Source: ANA-MPA [July 08, 2014]