Germany returns the priceless Achaemenid painted beams to Turkey
Above: One of the original restored paintings Below: One of the constructed paintings
(Click to enlarge)
LONDON, (CAIS) -- Priceless pieces of the Tatarlı tumulus smuggled to Germany in the 1960s have been returned to Turkey. The wooden tumulus, built in 470 B.C.E. in the Afyonkarahisar province in Turkey’s Aegean region by a Persian noble and survived for 2,500 years without being damaged, was plundered by treasure hunters in 1969. Anatolia was part of Achaemenid Iran until its fall in 330 B.C.E.
The beams of the ancient tumulus, which has a great significance in terms of human history and especially Iranian heritage, were dismantled with pickaxes and shovels. The treasure hunters also sawed off two painted beams. But they were not able to sell the beams so they kept them in a warehouse at a cargo depot for a number of years. When the significance of the pieces was discovered, they were included in the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection in Munich.
After being displayed in Istanbul, the Tatarlı tumulus will return to Afyonkarahisar. Speaking about the return of the Iranian artwork, Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay thanked Bavarian officials and Munich Ludwig Maximilians University for their cooperation. “Preventing the illegal international trafficking of movable cultural and natural assets is a very important issue. Sensitivity and collaboration of countries will make great a contribution to the productivity of these efforts,” he said.
Professor Latife Sümerer from the Munich University Classical Archaeology Institute, who discovered the beams in Germany, said the protection as well as the return of the pieces was very important.
Alexander Von Kienlin from the Historic Building Research and Conservation Institute said lots of ancient artifacts had been plundered. “While damaging these artworks, people are not aware of what they lose.”
Ancient Persian warrior pants produced
The exhibition “Tatarlı – The Return of Colors,” which opened at the Yapı Kredi Culture Center Vedat Nedim Tör Museum, will run until the end of September. A huge tumulus built according to the structure’s original shape welcomes visitors to the exhibition. The inside of the tumulus, which reminds one of a wooden house, is illuminated and ancient compositions on the wooden beams invite visitors to travel back to a mythological time.
Even though the most important part of the exhibition is the tumulus, the most interesting piece in this hall full of historical artifacts is a pair of zigzag designed warrior pants that were made according to the designs of the ancient styles on the beams. The ancient-style pants, which are displayed on the left side of the exhibition hall, were reproduced using some of the oldest methods in the history of humanity.
Sümerer said by reproducing the pants they wanted to recreate the ancient period for visitors. “Thanks to these pants, we attempted to show the daily life at the time. Elastic clothes did not exist in the ancient ages when these pants were produced. They were produced with a very different method. Zigzag designs made the activities of warriors easier.”
Beams produced from the same tree
Sümerer said they had made the exhibition fully interactive to draw the attention of visitors. Sümerer also spoke about the significance of the tumulus. “According to written sources, the genre of wood painting was widespread in antiquity. But since it is a perishable material, it is almost completely lost to us. This is why it is a lucky coincidence to find such archaeological artifacts. It is very rare to find painted artifacts that remain under humid soil for many years. The Tatarlı tumulus is a kind of miracle,” she said.
Sümerer said the two beams were very well preserved in Germany compared to those in Turkey. Responding to the question of how she realized that the beams belonged to the Tatarlı tumulus, she said, “After discovering the beams, we carried out scientific research and determined that the beams in Germany and Turkey were produced from the same tree.”
‘We want to create a discussion’
Sümerer said they wanted to create a discussion with this exhibition. “Our question is the following: How do we protect our cultural heritage or how don’t we protect it?”
Von Kienlin, who evaluated the tumulus from an architectural perspective, drew attention to its significance in terms of the history of art and architecture, and defined the tumulus as “a rarely seen structure.” He said it was very important to return the tumulus to Turkey.
“Even though it is a pleasing development, unfortunately, this return does no make us forget the damage that the tumulus received during the looting in 1969. A lot of important information about the history of humanity was lost during the looting and it is impossible to get this information back.”