Sunday, February 19, 2012

A dozen mosaics from ancient Turkey that recently received a...

 

A dozen mosaics from ancient Turkey that recently received a new, dramatic home at Bowling Green State University may be looted bounty.

Dating to the second or third century, the mosaics were restored and installed in the floor of the Wolfe Center for the Arts, which opened in December. They're lit and covered with thick protective glass.

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They were purchased for $35,000 in 1965 at the suggestion of former art faculty member Hugh Broadley with the blessing of then-BGSU president William Jerome. Both men are deceased. Letters settling details for the purchase 47 years ago indicate they were from Antioch, Turkey. There's apparently no information, however, about why such an unusual purchase was made for BGSU nor how it was paid for.

A new faculty member planning to write a paper about the works first questioned their origin several weeks ago.

Stephanie Langin-Hooper, assistant professor of ancient art history, found disturbingly little paperwork about the purchase. "I became a little concerned. Some of the details and information was not as much as I was expecting," Ms. Langin-Hooper said.

Art objects usually are accompanied by papers authenticating their history and pedigree. She found just a few letters setting out terms of the purchase from Peter Marks, a gallery owner in New York.

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Ms. Langin-Hooper contacted an expert in Antioch mosaics, Rebecca Molholt of Brown University, and the two combed through images of more than 300 mosaics that were removed from homes in that city.

"We couldn't find them in the catalog," said Ms. Langin-Hooper, who was hired at BGSU in August.

Ms. Malholt questioned whether the mosaics may have originated in Zeugma, another Turkish town, where unauthorized excavations occurred in the 1960s. She compared images of the BGSU mosaics to photos from homes in Zeugma and found a potential match with floor panels from a home that had similar geometric patterns, sizes, and colors. Color, size, and pattern were selected by Roman homeowners, Ms. Langin-Hooper said.


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