Stone age artifacts returned home
Stolen Stone Age artifacts returned to Greece from Germany
The Associated Press
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
ATHENS: A stolen collection of about 100 artifacts dating from more
than 8,000 years ago - including what may be very early human
portraits - has been returned from Germany to Greece, officials said
The Neolithic-era artifacts were stolen by armed burglars from a
private collection in Larissa, central Greece, in 1985 and seized by
the German police in Munich a year later. The case remained virtually
forgotten until a Munich court ruled in August that the finds should
be returned to Greece.
"These works are exceptional examples" of the Neolithic culture,
Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said. "We are very happy to get them
back, as we consider antiquities theft a global scourge."
The 94 stone and pottery works - statuettes, tools and tiny vases -
mostly date between 6500 and 5300 B.C. and come from the central
Thessaly region, where Greece's most important Neolithic settlements
have been excavated.
Nikos Kaltsas, an archaeologist who is the director of the National
Archaeological Museum in Athens, said the artifacts, which are up to
12 centimeters, or 5 inches, high, "date to the dawn of human
awareness" and appear to include portraits of Neolithic women.
The stolen pieces were smuggled to Munich, where the thieves tried to
sell them to a local museum, Liapis said. Museum officials tipped off
the police, who seized the works. Nobody was convicted for the theft,
and the Greek authorities only began a serious legal bid for their
return six months ago.
"The case had been put on the back burner," Liapis said. Liapis did
not explain the delay, but his predecessor, George Voulgarakis, who
initiated the bid in April, blamed "state inefficiency."
Constantinos Theodoropoulos, the collector from whose house the works
were stolen, has donated the artifacts to the state. They will be
temporarily exhibited in Athens before being transferred to a museum
in Larissa, where the rest of Theodoropoulos's collection - about
2,500 Neolithic artifacts - will be housed.
Theodoropoulos said more than 60 stolen pieces were still missing.
The Neolithic age, stretching roughly from 6800-3200 B.C., saw the
creation of Greece's first farming settlements, mostly in the fertile
plains of Thessaly and Macedonia.
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