Cases of returns and restitutions under the aegis of the ICPRCP

2011 Germany - Turkey


Boğazköy sphinx © Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey

In 2011, under the aegis of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP), the Federal Republic of Germany returned the “Boğazköy” sphinx to the Republic of Turkey.

“Boğazköy” stands for the Boğazköy district of the Çorum province in the North-Central Anatolian Mountain Region in the Republic of Turkey, where the historical Hittite capital Hattusha* was founded and where two sphinxes sculptures were discovered. The excavations at the archaeological site of Hattusha started in 1905 as part of a collaboration between a German archaeological team and the Imperial Museum of Istanbul. In that year and the years that followed, two sphinxes, carved during the imperial Hittite period over 3,000 years ago, and more than ten thousand tablets were found and transferred to the Imperial Museum of Istanbul. These findings were loaned by the Ottoman Empire to Berlin’s Museum of the Ancient Near East (Germany) for cleaning, restoration, and publication purposes after an agreement was concluded between the two countries. 

Between 1924 and 1942, approximately three thousand tablets and one of the two sphinx sculptures returned to the Republic of Turkey, but numerous Hattusha findings stayed in Germany. These findings were asked by the Republic of Turkey, which presented the documents proving they had been sent to Germany for scientific purposes under the condition that they would be returned. However, in the aftermath of the Second World War, and with Germany being divided in two, the attempt to return the artefacts was put to a halt. This attempt resumed only after establishing diplomatic ties between the Republic of Turkey and the German Democratic Republic in 1974. 

  • On July 24, 1987, the Republic of Turkey called upon the UNESCO ICPRCP to support its claims (24C/94) to the German Democratic Republic. In October of the same year, a meeting was held in Berlin, where representatives of the Democratic Republic of Germany and the Republic of Turkey agreed on terms for the transfer of 7,400 cuneiform tablets and decided to reignite negotiations about the remaining sphinx sculpture.
  • In 1991, given Germany’s historical reunification, the negotiations concerning the Boğazköy sphinx, to which ICPRCP participated (26C/92), were interrupted. Consequently, The Republic of Turkey and the ICPRCP (26C/92) established contact with the reunited Federal Republic of Germany that led to new bilateral negotiations (28C/101). 
  • In 1996, the “Bogazköy” sphinx case was directly reviewed during the ninth session of the ICPRCP, where the German representative stated the will of the German authorities to maintain negotiation through bilateral channels. The two next sessions saw the issuance of a set of recommendations by the ICPRCP to maintain documentation exchanges (30C/REP.14 /Recommendation No.2) and the pursuance of negotiation (CLT-2001/CONF.202/2). 
  • In 2011, following two meetings held between the Turkish and the German delegations and on the basis of the ICPRCP sixteenth session’s Recommendation (CLT-2010/CONF.203/COM.16/5), a bilateral agreement on the transfer and future cooperation was reached. 

The Boğazköy sphinx was transferred to the Republic of Turkey on July 27, 2011. After being restored in the İstanbul Archaeological Museum, it was transported to Çorum to be integrated into the Boğazköy Museum, where it is still on display and accessible to the public since November 26, 2011. There, it is reunited with its counterpart, formerly exhibited in the İstanbul Directorate of Archaeological Museums. 

* Hattusha enjoyed considerable influence in Anatolia and northern Syria in the 2nd millennium B.C; the archaeological site of Hattusha was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1986.

2010 Swiss Confederation - United Republic of Tanzania


© UNESCO

On 10 May 2010 in Paris, the restitution ceremony of the Makonde Mask to the United Republic of Tanzania took place under the auspices of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and in the presence of UNESCO.

Since 2006, the Committee (ICPRCP), the Swiss authorities, ICOM and the UNESCO Secretariat had maintained discussions with the parties involved in this case: the United Republic of Tanzania and the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva (Switzerland), until the parties concluded a bilateral agreement in 2010.

ICOM press kit (in french)

1988 United States of America - Thaïland

In 1988, the United States of America returned the Phra Narai lintel to Thailand. The case was resolved through mediation by the Committee (ICPRCP).

1987 German Democratic Republic - Turkey

 


Boğazköy cuneiform tablet © Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey

In 1987, the former German Democratic Republic gave back 7,400 Bogazköy cuneiform tablets to the Republic of Turkey with the support of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP). 

“Boğazköy” stands for the Boğazköy district of the Çorum province in the North-Central Anatolian Mountain Region in the Republic of Turkey, where the historical Hittite capital Hattusha* was founded and where the cuneiform tablets were discovered. The excavations at the archaeological site of Hattusha** started in 1905 as part of a collaboration between a German archaeological team and the Imperial Museum of Istanbul. Within the first year, thirty-five cuneiform tablets were already found. Then, around the “Great Citadel”, in 1906, a sizeable Hittite cuneiform tablet archive was unearthed. Thus, in that year and the years that followed, more than ten thousand tablets but also two sphynx sculptures were found and transferred to the Imperial Museum of Istanbul. These findings were loaned by the Ottoman Empire to Berlin’s Museum of the Ancient Near East (Germany) for cleaning, restoration, and publication purposes after an agreement was concluded between the two countries. 

Between 1924 and 1942, approximately three thousand tablets and one of the two sphinx sculptures returned to the Republic of Turkey, but numerous Hattusha findings stayed in Germany. These findings were asked by the Republic of Turkey, which presented the documents proving they had been sent to Germany for scientific purposes under the condition that they would be returned. However, in the aftermath of the Second World War, and with Germany being divided in two, the attempt to return the artefacts was put to a halt. This attempt resumed only after establishing diplomatic ties between the Republic of Turkey and the German Democratic Republic in 1974. 

  • On July 24 1987, the Republic of Turkey called upon the UNESCO ICPRCP to support its claims (24C/94) to the German Democratic Republic. In October of the same year, a meeting was held in Berlin, where representatives of the Democratic Republic of Germany and the Republic of Turkey agreed on terms for the transfer of 7,400 cuneiform tablets.

Pursuant to the agreement, the tablets returned to the Republic of Turkey in 1987 in two shipments on November 14 and 21. 

* Hattusha enjoyed considerable influence in Anatolia and northern Syria in the 2nd millennium B.C; the archaeological site of Hattusha was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1986.
** The archive of cuneiform clay tablets from Boğazköy presents the only extant recorded material about the civilisation of Hittites, one of the most powerful political organisations of the Middle East during the 2nd millennium B.C. This archive adds up to nearly 25.000 tablets that include the records of the era’s social, political, commercial, military, religious, legislative, and artistic lives. The archive comprises tablets of the Treaty of Qadesh signed between Hittites and Egypt. This well-known “treaty of eternal peace” guaranteed peace and security throughout the area. Furthermore, the archive of cuneiform clay tablets from Bogazköy was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2001.

1986 United States of America - Jordan

Within the framework of an exchange, and following a request submitted by Jordan in 1983 to the ICPRCP, the Cincinnati Art Museum (United States of America) and the Department of Antiquities of Amman (Jordan) decided, in 1986, to jointly exchange moulds of the respective parts of the sandstone panel of Tyche with the zodiac in their possession, in order to be able to present the work in its entirety. This case was resolved following mediation.

1983 Italy - Ecuador

In 1983, Italy returned over 12,000 pre-Columbian objects to Ecuador following the resolution of a seven-year litigation process. The moral support expressed by the ICPRCP was recognized by the Ecuadorian authorities as a significant factor in the success of this case.