Plun­dered ‘Gypsy Girl’ mo­saics back in Tur­key

Oman Daily Observer - - REGION -

GAZIANTEP: Miss­ing frag­ments from one of Tur­key’s most strik­ing an­cient trea­sures, the haunt­ing, wide-eyed “Gypsy Girl” mosaic, have re­turned home more than half a cen­tury af­ter they were plun­dered and smug­gled to the United States.

On Satur­day, the re­turned pieces went on dis­play along­side the nearly 2,000-year-old mosaic of the girl, whose pierc­ing gaze and di­shev­elled hair have be­come a sym­bol of Tur­key’s south­east­ern city of Gaziantep.

Turk­ish ar­chae­ol­o­gists dis­cov­ered the mosaic 20 years ago dur­ing an ex­ca­va­tion of the old city of Zeugma, founded by one of Alexan­der the Great’s gen­er­als, near the mod­ern city of Gaziantep. They also re­alised that sev­eral ac­com­pa­ny­ing pieces had al­ready been looted.

Those pieces had been smug­gled out of the coun­try in the 1960s and bought by Bowl­ing Green State Univer­sity in Ohio in the United States, which dis­played them until 2012 when their true prove­nance was es­tab­lished and Tur­key asked for their re­turn.

The univer­sity ini­tially asked Tur­key to buy them back, a re­quest which Ankara re­jected, ac­cord­ing to Se­dat Gul­lu­oglu, Tur­key’s tourism min­istry at­tache in the United States.

Af­ter more than five years of talks, an agree­ment was signed for their re­turn. “The univer­sity has signed off on a very im­por­tant and sig­nif­i­cant co­op­er­a­tion by re­turn­ing these pieces to our coun­try as good­will,” Gul­lu­oglu said by e-mail.

He added that Tur­key would pro­vide the univer­sity with ex­act repli­cas of the mo­saics to dis­play.

The old city of Zeugma, on the Euphrates River, flour­ished un­der Greek and then Ro­man rule be­fore it was de­stroyed in war in the 3rd cen­tury AD. The 15-square me­tre Gypsy Girl mosaic is the most prom­i­nent sym­bol of that his­tory.

On Satur­day, the pieces were put on ex­hibit at the Zeugma Mosaic Mu­seum in Gaziantep in a cer­e­mony to cel­e­brate their re­turn, be­fore which a song com­posed to cel­e­brate the home­com­ing of the mosaic pieces was played by a harp artist.

Tur­key’s Cul­ture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Er­soy, who lifted a cover to un­veil the mosaic as visitors poured in to see the art­work, said the re­turned pieces would greatly con­trib­ute to tourism in Tur­key and Gaziantep.

Gaziantep mayor Fatma Sahin said putting the full mosaic back to­gether was a na­tional tri­umph.

— Reuters

Visitors tour the mu­seum where the miss­ing pieces of the his­toric ‘Gypsy Girl’ mosaic are on dis­play in an ex­hi­bi­tion, in Gaziantep, Tur­key.

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