Ancient Artifacts in the Modern World: Provenance, Possession, and Cultural Heritage

2071 Words 9 Pages
After a recent lecture by Dr. Dyfri Williams, Research Keeper of Greek and Roman antiquities at the British Museum, several members of the audience stood up on behalf of Greece and expressed their outrage at the British Museum’s refusal to return the Parthenon Sculptures, or the Elgin Marbles, to the city of Athens. Dr. Williams answered their scathing interjections with a well-rehearsed summary of the issues key points and complexities of the issue, and it was clear he encountered such protests regularly. By now, even the casual student of history is at least aware of the debate surrounding the ownership of the Parthenon Sculptures. On the one hand, the British Museum appears to have legal ownership over the sculptures according to the …show more content…
It was only after this event that the Parthenon took on its shape as it is seen today, blending in with the many other ruins that fill that part of the world. However, even after the explosion, much of the sculpture from the frieze and metopes remained, occasionally falling on the unsuspecting pedestrian, and it was in the early nineteenth century that the newly appointed British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, began to remove them with the full written permission of the emperor.
There were certainly documented protests by ethnic Greeks regarding the removal of the sculptures. At various points in the removal of the sculptures, residents around the Parthenon as well as Greek workers engaged in the operation claimed that the removal of the sculptures had upset the balance of the spirits inhabiting the marble. However, it is unclear if these protests were ever lodged in any official capacity, and if they were, neither the local authorities, nor the Ottoman Emperor recognized their legitimacy. (Hamilakis 307)
At this point, it would be easy to justify the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to the newly constructed Parthenon Museum in Athens, where the empty walls seem to be waiting for the main attraction, which has still yet to arrive. However, the issue is not as simple as…