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UN supports return of ancient artifacts to owners

 

January 2019

Following the discussion of a draft resolution brought to the United Nationís General Assembly by Greece, the body adopted without a vote a resolution for the "return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin" on December 13.

This major development is seen by many as a Greek victory in the long dispute with the United Kingdom over the issue of the Parthenon marbles which were taken by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin.

The official announcement issued by the UN notes, "by its terms, the Assembly calls upon all relevant bodies, agencies, funds, and programmes of the United Nations system to continue to address the issue of return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin and to provide appropriate support accordingly".

During the discussion, the Greek representative to the UN, Maria Theofili argued that "the international community shares a common responsibility to protect cultural property", adding that "the past few decades were characterized by an increase in the illicit trafficking of such artifacts".

Theofili also warned that " the conflict in the Middle East is leading to unprecedented destruction, looting and theft" noting that "the text highlights the direct link between such illicit trafficking and terrorism".

The announcement of the UN, mentions that joining Greeceís call, the representative of Libya noted that over the past 500 years, his country has been subjected to plundering of its cultural heritage, with Libyan artifacts being on display around the world, "including pillars that adorn the garden of a certain European royal family". In recent years, widespread theft of ancient artifacts has also occured in Iraq and Syria.

The Parthenon Marbles, also known as Elgin Marbles are a collection of ancient Greek marble sculptures made under the supervision of the famous architect and sculptor Phidias and his assistants. They were originally part of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens but in the early 19th century, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin removed nearly half of the Parthenon sculptures, as well as sculptures from the Propylaea and Erechtheum temples of the Acropolis. The Marbles were transported by sea to Britain and are now exhibited in the British Museum of London.

 

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