Apr 9, 2012 1:00 AM EDT
Turkey’s government is playing hardball to repatriate archeological treasures.
In the summer of 1878 a German road engineer named Carl Humann armed himself with an excavation permit from the sultan and a team of workers paid for by wealthy Berlin backers and began digging on the slopes of a hill in Bergama, near modern Izmir, Turkey. The ancient Altar of Zeus that he unearthed, with its dramatic frieze of the battle between the Gods and the Giants, proved to be one of the most beautiful and important discoveries in the history of classical archeology. The altar was exported—with the sultan’s permission—to a specially built museum in Berlin. But the German archeologists remained, and over the last 130 years have painstakingly excavated the ancient city of Pergamon, making it the best-chronicled and second-oldest (after Olympia in Greece) ongoing archeological dig in the world.
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