Turkey wants stolen artifacts back from British Museum

Ankara has turned to the European Court of Human Rights in its attempt to reclaim British Museum sculptures that were once part of Turkey’s Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.

­The dispute is set to become a “test case for the repatriation of art from one nation to another, a potential disaster for the world’s museums,” the Guardian reported.

The ancient structure was a 45-meter-high tomb created between 353 and 350 BC at Halicarnassus, the current-day resort city of Bodrum in southwestern Turkey. Four horse chariots of marble were perched on top of the superstructure, which was designed by Greek architects.

A horse’s head sculpture was also among the artifacts acquired in the mid-19th century by the British Museum, which Turkish activists want returned to their original site, the Guardian reported.

Istanbul lawyer Remzi Kazmaz told the Observer that 30 lawyers will be acting on behalf of the town of Bodrum alongside district and provincial governors in a lawsuit that will be filed in the European court on January 30.

“We thank the British authorities and the British Museum for accommodating and preserving our historical and cultural heritage for the last years. However, the time has come for these assets to be returned to their place of origin,” Kazmaz said.

A petition with nearly 120,000 signatures has reportedly been prepared, along with a documentary on how Turkey lost the ancient treasures.

“We do not believe that the artifacts were removed legally,” Kazmaz explained.

The mausoleum, which overlooked the city of Halicarnassus for years, was eventually ruined by a series of earthquakes. It is believed that some of the sculptures were then taken by crusaders at Bodrum. In the 19th century, a British consul obtained several of the statues that are now on display at the British Museum.

“These pieces were acquired during the course of two British initiatives, both with firmans – legal permits issued by the Ottoman authorities – that granted permission for the excavation of the site and removal of the material from the site … to the British Museum, ” a British Museum spokesperson said.

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