Bowling Green State University has quickly and candidly responded to accusations of owning looted mosaics from the Turkish site of Zeugma. The Turkish government requested that the mosaics be returned after Brown University’s Rebecca Molholt revealed that their claimed origin of Antioch was false. BGSU administrators were unaware of the original provenience of their artifacts when they purchased them from a dealer, who forged evidence suggesting that they came from Princeton University’s legal excavation in the 1930s. The mosaics likely come from the Roman garrison town at Zeugma, a site heavily looted in the 1960s, where subsequent excavations have produced stunning Roman-era mosaics.
The case is being handled amicably, and Turkey’s foreign ministry has praised Bowling Green’s response. Over the past decade, calls for repatriation have often morphed into litigious battles over finances and cultural heritage, but this case has prioritized the ethical presentation and treatment of artifacts.* The investigation on the original provenience of the mosaics is ongoing, and BGSU is exploring sensible solutions.
* See sidebars to “Egypt’s Chief Archaeologist Defends His Rights (and Wrongs)” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2011, and “Archaeological Views: A Case Against the Repatriation of Archaeological Artifacts” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2011.