The Heidelberg University's Museum of Antiquities will be returning a piece of the Parthenon sculptures in its possession to Greece, following the university Rectorate's recent decision to present the Acropolis Museum with an 8x11 cm fragment of a relief of the Parthenon's northern frieze that is currently part of the university's Collection of Antiquities.
"The University of Heidelberg is returning this fragment "exclusively in recognition of the significance of the Parthenon as part of the world's cultural heritage," Prof. Angelos Chaniotis, Vice Rector of the University, told ANA-MPA.
"Our incentive is to promote the unification of the Parthenon as a unique monument of world culture. This specific fragment, which has never been put on display in the Museum's collection, acquires its significance only through its reunification with the rest of the frieze," Chaniotis said.
Professor Chaniotis, who has been living and working in Germany for the past 23 years following extensive studies in archaeology and history both in Greece and abroad, said it was unknown how the fragment emerged in Heidelberg. He said the fragment was first listed in the Museum of Antiquities' catalogue in 1871, and consequently it was surmised that it had been donated by a private individual, since during the 18th and 10th centuries visitors to the Acropolis frequently collected small fragments from the monument, which they easily transported abroad.
The fragment depicts a section of a man's leg, with the word "Parthenon" inscribed on the reverse side, which finally led archaeologist German Hafner, in an article appearing in 1948/49, to attribute the fragment to the sculpted frieze of the Parthenon, and designate its precise position as the lower right corner of section 8 of the north frieze.
The transfer of the fragment to Athens, the return of which had been requested of the University of Heidelberg in early 2005 by the president of the Hellenic Committee for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles, Angelos Delivorias, will be made in 2006.
In accordance with the current international practice when fragments of art monuments are brought together, the University of Heidelberg looks forward to the Greek Ministry of Culture donating another work art to its Collection of Antiquities.
A similar attempt of exchange for a fragment of the Parthenon frieze at the Salinas Museum in Palermo, Italy, failed in 2002. Sections of the Parthenon frieze are also found in many museums in Europe, apart from the Acropolis Museum, and of course the extensive sections in the British Museum.
Greece has long been vigorously campaigning for the return of the priceless 5th century B.C. Parthenon Marbles -- friezes and other architectural parts of the Parthenon -- to Athens.
The Marbles, which date from between 447 BC and 432 BC, were removed from the Parthenon -- the temple dedicated to the ancient goddess Athena that crowns the Acropolis -- by British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century with tacit permission of local Ottoman administrators then ruling in the area. Elgin removed the friezes and other parts of the impressive Parthenon temple and later sold them to the British Museum.
Source: Athens News Agency