Germany Agrees to Give Sphinx of Hattusa to Turkey

In February, A.D. Riddle wrote here about the Turkish government’s demands that Germany give them the Sphinx of Hattusa.  Turkey threatened to revoke the German license to excavate Hattusa, the capital of the Hittites.  The Germans have been excavating this site before the modern country of Turkey was even founded. 

Alexander Schick has informed us of an article in the German press that reports that Germany has surrendered to Turkish demands and will be sending the Sphinx to Istanbul (rough English translation here).  Schick has also sent along photographs of the artifact.  (Our previous post included only photos of the replica.)

Sphinx of Hattusa, photo by Alexander Schick

The Sphinx of Hattusa (circled in red) will be given to Turkey.  The replica is on the right.  Also on the right is a stela of Esarhaddon from Sam’al/Zincirli, from 671 BC.

Sphinx of Hattusa, photo by Alexander Schick

The Germans brought the Sphinx to Berlin in 1915 to restore it.  At the time Germany and the Ottoman Empire were allies as the First World War was beginning.

Sphinx of Hattusa, photo by Alexander Schick

If I was a German archaeologist working in Turkey, I’d plan to wrap my work up very soon.  Those who succeed in blackmail are not likely to change their ways.

All photos courtesy of Alexander Schick.


5 thoughts on “Germany Agrees to Give Sphinx of Hattusa to Turkey

  1. Why is it "blackmail"? That Turkey has had to resort to extremes to elicit compliance by the Germans with the original terms of allowing them to take the sphinx to Germany is more indicative of German disdain for agreements. Turkey has finally gotten the Germans to return a piece that they had no right to hold onto. Good for them.

  2. Kevin,
    The point being made is Germany did not take it from Turkey in 1915, because Turkey did not exist until 1922/1923. If Germany "took" it from anyone, it was from the Ottoman Empire which no longer exists. It's not clear at all what Turkey's claim to ownership might be in this case.

  3. If this opens the door, Germany better watch out. Their whole museum complex (an amazing place) is filled with stuff from other places who might have a claim.

    BTW, I walked right by this last Feburary and didn't even notice it.

  4. A.D., that has nothing to do with defining it as blackmail. Blackmail is extortion of something one is not entitled to at all. In this case, whatever the legal claims, there was a legitimate agreement between the predecessors of both Germany and Turkey that the sphinx would be merely restored and then returned. The Turkish authorities were within their rights to compel compliance, as they were no doubt exasperated. Keep an eye out for the same tactic to ve used in Egypt, in future. It has been threatened before.

  5. Kevin – thank you for your comments. I may be wrong in my use of the term blackmail (which I took from the headline of the article), though one dictionary gives these two definitions, neither of which addresses the issue of entitlement:

    -to exact or attempt to exact (money or anything of value) from (a person) by threats or intimidation; extort

    -to attempt to influence the actions of (a person), esp by unfair pressure or threats

    I guess the question is whether it is reasonable for Turkey to threaten to cut off all excavation permits for German projects for the return of a single object. Such an action negatively affects many who have nothing to do with the sphinx.

    Turkey's actions in recent years have been troublesome and a heavy-handed approach may backfire. Germany has done much more for Turkey than the other way around, including filling Turkish museums with artifacts (many of which are poorly displayed or preserved).

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