BACK HOME AGAIN, ICONIC ‘GYPSY GIRL’ AWAITS VISITORS
RIGHT after its pieces were returned by Ohio’s Bowling Green State University to Turkey, the iconic ‘Gypsy Girl’ mosaic discovered in the ancient city of Zeugma is now ready for visitors in a temporary public exhibit in Gaziantep as of Saturday
THE FAMOUS “Gypsy Girl” mosaic is finally complete after its missing pieces were retrieved from the United States decades after they were smuggled abroad. Now Turkey is set to display the newly arrived mosaic pieces on Saturday for visitors.
The mosaic will be on display in a temporary public exhibit in Gaziantep, the southern Turkish province where it was discovered in the ancient city of Zeugma.
After the exhibition, they will be restored to their original place among the larger mosaic.
The 12 stolen pieces of the mosaic, one of the most famous artifacts unearthed in Zeugma, arrived in Turkey aboard a Turkish Airlines flight late November.
Bowling Green State University in Ohio had agreed to return the pieces decades after they ended up in the univer- sity’s possession after unknown smugglers took the pieces out of Turkey. The pieces were on display at the Wolfe Center for the Arts at the university, where they were displayed under a glass panel on the floor at the entrance of the center.
The pieces were handed over to Turkish officials early November at a formal ceremony, a year after Gaziantep municipality and Ministry of Culture and Tourism started negotiating their return with university officials.
The mosaic pieces were smuggled in the 1960s, a time when smuggling from excavations was not tightly monitored. The pieces were purchased by Bowling Green University in 1965.
The other remaining parts of the Gypsy Girl mosaic - named such as the figure resembles a young gypsy girl, although debate on her (or his) exact identity is not settled yet - was discovered in 1998 in Zeugma which is located in present-day Gaziantep’s Nizip district.
Zeugma is home to Roman houses, believed to belong to nobles, dating back to the 2nd and 3rd B.C. Most were adorned with beautiful mosaics currently on display at the mosaic museum.
Turkish archaeologists say that the upper and central part of the mosaic, the only parts not smuggled, were under a broken column found in the ruins, apparently undetected by smugglers. The mosaic was on the floor of a dining room of a Roman villa and captivated many visitors for its bright depiction of the wide-eyed “Gypsy Girl” with disheveled hair and earrings. Since its discovery, it became a symbol of Gaziantep, a city bordering Syria which is also known as for its traditional baklava dessert and rich cuisine.
Stephanie Langin-Hooper, an art historian at Southern Methodist University, is credited for discovering the link between the pieces on display at the Ohio University and ancient city of Zeugma. Her research in 2012 helped Turkey reclaim its ownership of the pieces, which were sold to Bowling Green University for $35,000.
Since 2003, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has obtained 4,311 artifacts that were illegally exported from Turkey and is currently tracking down another 55 pieces in 17 countries.
Many artifacts uncovered in Turkey are displayed in various famous museums throughout the world even though they were illegally smuggled out of the country. Legal procedures to retrieve these artifacts take a long time. Most recently, Turkey retrieved a statue of Heracles from Switzerland.