A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Word has been received from Donald White at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia and Susan Kane at Oberlin College's History of Art Department that at least 15 stone heads have been stolen from the storerooms of the former University of Pennsylvania Expedition to Cyrene. All 15 were excavated by the University Museum from the Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone between 1969 and 1981; they are among the most interesting and archaeologically valuable finds from the site. The theft occurred in late 1999 or early in 2000. It is likely that the sculptures were smuggled into Egypt fairly soon afterward. None of the thieves have been apprehended.
Alerted of the theft by Emanuela Fabbricotti of the Italian Mission to Cyrene, White and Kane created a website, www.cyrenethefts.org, on which they posted information about the loss his January 22. Two heads--one of a male and the other possibly of Demeter--were relocated within as many days of the appearance of the website, thanks, says White, "to the energetic interventions of Jean-David Cahn, president of the International Association of Ancient Art Dealers, and Jerome M. Eisenberg, director of the Royal-Athena Galleries." The case highlights the potential of the web in publicizing the theft of antiquities and helping in the recovery of stolen artifacts.
The Cyrene sculptures are the subject of a monograph, now in press, by Susan Kane. Preliminary descriptions of them have been published in articles in Libya Antiqua 9 (1997) and 13-14 (1976-77), American Journal of Archaeology 79 (1975) and 80 (1976), and Expedition 18 (1976), pp. 22-23. See www.cyrenethefts.org for specific references and more information about the theft.
Photographs of the objects appear below. (Click on images for larger, detailed views and description.)
Mark Rose is managing editor of ARCHAEOLOGY.