Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Gold Koran Returned Volume 53 Number 3, May/June 2000
by Mark Rose

[image] (Mehmet Biber) [LARGER IMAGE]

Eighteen chapters of a ninth-century gold Koran have been returned to the Republic of Turkey. Valued at $1.9 to 2.9 million, the chapters had been removed from Istanbul sometime after an inventory in 1756, while the remaining chapters were left behind. They were acquired by Johns Hopkins in a 1942 bequest. Turkish officials asked that the chapters be returned after they were displayed at Baltimore's Walters University Art Gallery in 1997. Written in gold-leaf Arabic letters, the Koran was probably made in north Africa or Iraq and is the only known complete example of its kind. The chapters are to be housed with the rest of the volume in Istanbul's Nuruosmaniye Library.

Meanwhile, a collection of 133 artifacts from the Hittite through Byzantine periods, looted from Turkish archaeological sites and smuggled into the U.S. in 1997, has also been returned. The artifacts, valued at $4,000 to $5,000 by U.S. Customs, included glass vials and flasks; bronze, silver, and stone jewelry; small sculptures; buttons; seals; crucifixes; and an oil lamp. A California art dealer has pled guilty in the case, and arrests have been made in Turkey.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America