ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A more than 3,000-year-old gold signet ring that was stolen from an Aegean island during World War II, crossed the Atlantic, was bought by a Hungarian scientist who won the Nobel Prize winner and ended up in a Swedish museum found her way back to Greece.
It was the latest in a series of coups by Greek authorities seeking to recover works looted from the antiquities-rich country – although an initial effort by the Swedish museum to return the ring apparently fell through the cracks. from the net of the bureaucracy of the 1970s.
Greece’s Culture Ministry said on Friday that the Mycenaean-era gold work of Rhodes, decorated with two facing sphinxes, was voluntarily returned by Swedish officials who provided full assistance in documenting the artifact. and its origin.
Greek experts confirmed the identification and the piece was delivered to Stockholm by Vidar Helgesen, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, to whom the ring had been bequeathed by the Hungarian biophysicist.
The foundation, which issues annual awards for outstanding achievement in several fields, had awarded it to the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm.
Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni thanked the Nobel Foundation and Swedish authorities for the repatriation, saying it “shows their respect for modern Greece and our constant efforts to combat the illegal trafficking of cultural property.”
The ring, believed to have been a status symbol for a local nobleman in the 3rd millennium BC, was discovered in 1927 by Italian archaeologists in a Mycenaean tomb near the ancient city of Ialysos in Rhodes. The southeastern Aegean island belonged to Italy until it was incorporated into Greece after World War II.
The Department of Culture and Sport said the ring was stolen from a museum in Rhodes during the war – along with hundreds of other pieces of jewelry and coins still missing – and resurfaced in the States -United.
It was purchased in the United States in the 1950s or 1960s by Georg von Békésy, a biophysicist and art collector whose collection was donated to the Nobel Foundation after his death in 1972 and from there distributed to several museums.
Helgesen of the Nobel Foundation said there was no doubt about the ownership of the ring.
“For us, it was obvious that the ring had to be returned”, he said. “This artefact has a very high cultural and historical value for Greece.”
The Stockholm museum initially identified the Ialysos ring in 1975 and contacted Greek authorities, the ministry said.
“But he remained in Stockholm for reasons which are not clear from the existing records”, Friday’s statement said. The work will now be exhibited in a museum in Rhodes.