Seven years after it was discovered in Geneva, a fabled sarcophagus carved with depictions of the 12 Labors of Hercules will be returned to Turkey on Sept. 6. Dating back to the 2nd century B.C., the sarcophagus was smuggled from Turkey in the 1960s before customs officials stumbled upon it during routine controls in a free trade zone in 2010.
Turkish and Swiss officials reached an agreement in March to return the artifact, which is among the thousands smuggled from Turkey. Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Culture Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said his ministry's experts worked like "detectives" to track down smuggled artifacts and they exerted every legal effort to ensure the return of the artifacts. The sarcophagus, currently housed in a museum operated by Geneva University, will be sent to Antalya, the southern Turkish city where it will be put on display in a museum. The sarcophagus was discovered in an illegal dig in the necropolis of the ancient citadel of Perge located in modern-day Antalya's Aksu district. After fruitless efforts over decades to retrieve relics smuggled abroad, Turkey launched a new initiative in the past decade to hunt down those artifacts that are on display in prominent museums across the globe or in private collections.
Since 2003, Turkey has been pursuing a legal process for the retrieval of several artifacts. Over 4,000 smuggled historical artifacts have been repatriated to Turkey between 2004 and 2016, according to statistics.