Friday, September 08, 2006

Greece to loan Minoan antiquities to British Museum

Source: Middle East Times

AFP

September 8, 2006

ATHENS -- Greece has agreed to loan London's British Museum a collection of priceless Minoan-era antiquities for an exhibition to be held by 2009, the Greek culture ministry has said.

Among antiquities on display will be the renowned bull-leaping frescoes from the Minoan palace of Knossos, Crete, a 3,700-year-old site excavated by British archaeologist Arthur Evans in the early 20th century.

The loan will be possible because of ongoing restoration works on Crete's Heraklion Museum, where the antiquities are currently housed, a culture ministry official said Friday.

Greek daily Eleftherotypia Friday reported that the loan "aims to reopen talks for the return of the Parthenon Marbles," a collection of sculpted friezes depicting gods, men and monsters shipped to Britain in the early 19th century on orders from Lord Elgin, British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

The Greeks have for 20 years demanded their return, complaining that the works - masterpieces executed at the height of the Greek classical period 2,500 years ago - were illegally removed and are part of their national heritage.

The restitution to Athens this week of a Parthenon marble statue fragment from Germany's Heidelberg University has rekindled Greece's determination to secure all the missing parts of the temple, which was badly damaged in a 17th century Venetian siege.

According to the Greek culture ministry, pieces of the 5th-century B.C. temple are currently found in London, Paris, Vienna, Rome, Palermo, Copenhagen, Munich, and Wuerzburg.

Named after the mythical king Minos, master of the fearsome Minotaur, the Minoan civilization flourished during the Bronze Age, covering a period from 2700 to 1200 before the common era.

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