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Stolen ancient bust to return to Turkey

By RYM BRAHIMI

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 23 -- Turkish Culture Minister Timurcin Savas took delivery Monday from the United States of a valuable ancient Greek bust stolen about two years ago from the ruins of Aphrodisias in southwestern Turkey. The Turkish U.N. mission said the bust was recovered in New York last August by an American professor who notified the FBI. The mission gave no details on the surrounding circumstances of the recovery of the bust nor the full identity of the professor. 'The missing head belonged to one of thirty ancient high relief panels found at Aphrodisias in the Sebasteion temple,' Savas told United Press International. 'The panel to which the head belonged showed a mythological hunting scene, and the youth it represents was probably a Greek mythical hero known as Meleagos,' Savas said. The marble head, which measured approximately 6 inches (20 cm), was spotted by the professor at the New York Fortuna Fine Arts Gallery on Madison Avenue, where it was put up for sale. After the discovery of the bust, negotiations were held between the Turkish culture ministry and the FBI to arrange for its delivery and attempt to track down the thieves. 'Once we discovered that the head was missing from the panel, we informed all the governors of Turkey, the border patrols and Interpol, giving out the description and the measurements of the bust,' Savas said. When asked how the FBI came to be involved in this affair, he told UPI this was not the first incident regarding the return of stolen objects in which the FBI was involved.

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'We gladly welcome all the help we can get from the U.S. customs and the U.S. treasury, to recover our stolen property,' he said. The Turkish U.N. mission said the temple and the panels were dug out in 1980 in Aphrodisias, one of Turkey's major archeological sites. Engin Ozgen, general director of monuments and museums of the Turkish ministry of culture, said at the time the head was dug out separately but it was glued back to its panel and was left in the garden of the excavation house with the rest of the ancient objects discovered. Ozgen said also another piece of the same high relief panel had been stolen and recovered years ago.

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