Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point
On Air
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Wednesday, July 15, 1998 Published at 00:13 GMT 01:13 UK


UK

Britain returns ancient marbles to Turkey

Britain has agreed that the Castor marbles return to Turkey

Britain is to hand over seven ancient statues to Turkey on Wednesday, four years after they were discovered lying in the wreckage of a ship off the coast of Kent.

The marble sculptures are date back to the 2nd century, and are said to have much archaeological importance as creations from the Greco-Roman period. Among the discoveries are a figure of Venus and a bust of the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius.

Veronica Robbins, from the Receiver of Wreck, which administers the wreck and salvage of ships in British territorial waters, described the return of the marbles to Turkey as "the end of one of the most extraordinary maritime archaeological stories in recent years".


[ image: Tombstones with inscriptions were also discovered]
Tombstones with inscriptions were also discovered
The marbles were stumbled across by British divers in 1994, while on a recreational dive to view the wreckage of the vessel, SS Castor.

The Glasgow-built ship sunk in 1894 after colliding with a German barque in dense fog off the Kent coast. No lives were lost and the wreckage itself only came to be offically located in 1977 in the coastal town of Dungeness.

Homeward bound

SS Castor had been carrying the marbles on behalf of the Dutch vice-consul in Smyrna, Turkey, who traded in antiquities despite Turkish legislation forbidding this.

It has been established that the marbles were part of a two-crate consignment bound for the Leiden Musuem in Holland. However, the second crate, containing another complete statue, has never been found.

On their discovery, much of the research into the indentification of the Castor marbles was carried out by the Canterbury Archaelogical Trust (CAT). Until their ownership was established, they were housed in the Folkestone Museum in Kent.

Discussions took place between the governments of Britain and Turkey, the latter of whom had claimed ownership of the marbles. This was upheld by The Receiver of Wreck, which administers the wreck and salvage of ships in Britain.

Historical significance

The value of the Castor marbles is estimated to be around £25,000, but their archaeological significance is a great deal more.


[ image: Research suggests this the young Marcus Aurelius]
Research suggests this the young Marcus Aurelius
Richard Cross, who led the research into the identification of the marbles on behalf of CAT, said: "The sculptures are precious because they are of good quality and show a significant style and form.

"The bust of Marcus Aurelius has historical importance because it appears to depict the Roman emperor as a young man," he said.

The amicable settlement between Britain and Turkey concerning the ownership of the marbles also raises a reminder of the ongoing and as yet unresolved debate between Britain and Greece over the rightful home of the Elgin marbles.


[ image: The Elgin marbles are on display at the British Museum]
The Elgin marbles are on display at the British Museum
These 2,500-year old sculptures were removed from the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elgin last century, but for years the Greek government has been urging Britain to return them.

But Mr Cross says: "The story of the Castor marbles is unique in that the cargo of statues was part of the systematic looting of antiques from Smyrna to build up European collections.

"After 104 years under water, they can now return to their home place for further restoration and to be put on display," he said.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Scotland
Wales
England
Relevant Stories

16 Jul 98†|†Europe
Greece renews marbles demand

09 Jun 98†|†Europe
Greece demands damaged Marbles





Internet Links

Folkestone Museum

Parthenon Marbles

British Museum


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online