Efforts to recover artifacts stolen or legally transported to other countries are gradually paying off for Turkey, as 39 artifacts were returned to the country last year. The newly recovered artifacts bring the total number of artifacts recovered over the past 13 years to 4,268.
The rich history of the country dominated by the Hellenic, Hittite and Ottoman civilizations among countless others, made it the target of artifact smugglers and enthusiastic collectors turning to unscrupulous means to grab a piece of history. Facilitated by turmoil in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and authorities' negligence of cultural legacy, the country experienced the smuggling of an unknown number of artifacts abroad, especially in the late 19th and early 20th century. The government now works to recover the artifacts back to where they belong by a nationwide hunt. The Culture and Tourism Ministry managed to secure the return of 39 artifacts in 2015 - 27 from the United States, 10 from Switzerland, one from Germany and one from Austria.
Artifacts transported back to Turkey are mostly from museums where they have been on display, and many more are estimated to still be stashed in private collections across the globe. Along with pursuing return processes of items on display in museums abroad, Turkey has launched an international appeal to collectors, requesting them to return the artifacts taken from Turkey. The appeal did not go ignored, as Manfred Weinwurm from Austria shipped a Bronze Age bull sculpture to a museum in the southern city of Antalya with a note stating he bought the item in 1963 from Antalya.
Among other artifacts are marble figures, pieces of ancient buildings from Knidos, an ancient settlement situated in the modern-day southwestern town of Datça as well as two stelas and 23 miscellaneous artifacts that were in the possession of the Brauer Museum of Art in the United States.
Though the country relatively succeeds in recovering the artifacts, it faces a new form of smuggling due to turmoil in the surrounding region. The smuggling of historical artifacts into Turkey from conflict-ridden neighboring Syria has significantly increased, figures show. Turkey, meanwhile, stepped up its border security, leading to a rise in artifact seizing as well. The conflict in neighboring Syria, where historical sites have been the target of looting and demolition, has aggravated the smuggling. More than 1,042 artifacts were confiscated at the Turkish border en route to the country, possibly to be sold to Turkish buyers or buyers from other countries, in the past three years.
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