It is not everyday you return from holiday with a 4,500-year-old souvenir. But inadvertently that is exactly what happened to Mrs Thelma Bishop of Gatley, near Stockport.
Last year Adam Partridge Auctioneers and Valuers in Macclesfield were approached by Mrs Bishop seeking further information on a ceramic jug she and her husband Malcolm had bought after visiting Ephesus in Turkey in the early 1960s.
Mrs Bishop, a regular client of Partridge’s studio ceramics sales, knew her Lucie Ries from her Hans Copers but was at a bit of a loss as to the authenticity of the jug. Luckily, Jason Wood, Specialist Consultant in Studio Ceramics at Partridge’s, was on hand. Wood, who is also an archaeologist, made contact through his Turkish wife with several experts who confirmed the jug to be a genuine Early Bronze Age artefact belonging to the Yortan culture (c.2500 BC) and of a type commonly found as a burial offering in many graves in western Anatolia at this period. It is beak-spouted, black-slipped and burnished with an almost-perfectly rounded base and looping handle with small raised lugs to the body. It is in remarkably good condition for its age and stands 26.5cm high.
What to do?
Although it was bought in good faith over 50 years ago, it was now clear that the jug should never have left Turkey. Wood therefore advised Mrs Bishop that it would be wrong to sell the jug at auction and that it should be returned to Turkey. Mrs Bishop agreed to this course of action and Wood then contacted the Turkish Embassy in London for advice on the necessary procedure to follow.
The jug will be handed over to the Turkish authorities in London on Monday 16 January 2017. It will find a new home in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in the Turkish capital Ankara.
Jason Wood: ‘It is not everyday that a prehistoric pot from Anatolia is unearthed near Stockport. Given its age, fragility and how far it’s travelled, I’m also astonished at its remarkable condition – better than some 20thcentury ceramics I’ve catalogued.’
Adam Partridge: ‘I’m so pleased this rare Turkish artefact is returning to its country of origin. Not all auction houses faced with this situation would act in the same way. I hope we have set an important precedent for similar cases in the UK.’
Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism: ‘Turkey has been fighting against illicit trafficking of cultural artefacts for many years and working for their repatriation. The Turkish Directorate General for Cultural Heritage and Museums expressed Ministry’s thanks to Mrs Bishop and Adam Partridge Auctioneers for contributing to the protection of Turkey’s cultural heritage. Their sensitive actions set an example to the auction community, while stressing the importance of transparency in the art market. The Ministry will be pleased to welcome Mrs Bishop and Adam Partridge Auctioneers to Turkey and will be presenting them with museum passes to use in all the museums in Istanbul.’
As one of the leading source countries of the world’s oldest civilizations, Turkey banned the export of cultural artefacts more than a century ago in 1884. The country’s recent efforts have seen the repatriation of numerous artefacts, including notably the Weary Heracles Sculpture from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Boğazköy Sphinx from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, and the Orpheus Mosaic from the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. In the 1990s, Turkey was successful in world-wide legal cases that ensured the return of the Lydian Treasury from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Elmalı Treasure from an American private collector. Turkey continues its negotiations and legal proceedings for the repatriation of cultural assets.
Photogrpahy©Adam Partridge Auctioneers & Valuers