10,600 Neolithic objects return to Greece

An event was held in Athens with Greek and German officials to mark the successful return of over 10,600 Neolithic objects taken out of Greece illegally during World War II.

The 10,600 objects include pot shards, stone tools, obsidian and flint blades and bone material that were dug up illegally between June and December 1941 by Nazi occupation troops aiming to claim that northern peoples, ancestors of Greeks, had an established presence in Europe from prehistoric times.

The event took place at the Culture ministry’s Directorate of Registration and Protection of Cultural Material and was attended by the German ambassador, the director of the Pfahlbaumuseum, Culture and Sports Minister Konstantinos Tassoulas, the archaeologist Angelica Douzougli and Greek and German archaeologists.

Angelica Douzougli is an honorary ephor of antiquities whose doctoral dissertation led to the discovery of the material and spoke of how her search began in the 70s, from a prehistoric archaeology seminar at the University of Nuremberg, Germany, where she was studying and where her interest focused on agricultural and animal breeding communities of Thessaly.

The materials repatriated come from 38 sites in Thessaly, an area in central Greece. Most of the objects can be traced to the Visviki Magoula and dated to between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago. The materials were packed in 28 boxes, 5 of which were returned to Greece in the 50s, while the 23 boxes returned on July 3, 2014.

The objects will be housed for now at the National Archaeological Museum, where the objects from the 50s are kept. The study of the material will be augmented by photographs from the 40s showing modern lake communities of Thessaly in and around Lake Karla (no longer extant) which resemble those of Lake Constantia, in Germany, recreated by Germany’s Pfahlbau Museum Unteruhldingen – focusing on Stone and Bronze Ages – which assisted in the repatriation of the material.

“Unfortunately, the most important material, 8 boxes that remained in Volos in 1941, is now lost,” museum director Gunter Schoebel said.

Ministry officials reviewed the directorate’s efforts to repatriate material stolen during the World War II occupation, including 26 cases involving 1,158 objects, 41 boxes with Hebrew manuscripts and other paleolithic findings.

Director Suzanna Houlia-Kapeloni said that of all the cases, objects were returned to Greece by Germany (12 instances), Austria (3), Switzerland (3), Italy (2), United States (2), Britain (2), Australia (1) and Bulgaria (1).


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