Greece has rejected claims made by the British Museum on Friday that marbles taken from the Parthenon were “removed from the rubble” by Lord Elgin.
The museum’s deputy director, Dr. Jonathan Williams, told a Unesco meeting on Friday: “Much of the frieze was in fact removed from the rubble around the Parthenon.
“These objects were not all hacked from the building as has been suggested,” he said.
The Guardian points out that campaigners, citing witnesses at the time, have long contended that the sculptures were violently detached from the 5th-century BC temple with the aid of marble saws in the full knowledge of Elgin, Britain’s then-ambassador to the Ottoman empire.
The use of saws and other machinery loomed large in correspondence between the Scottish diplomat and Giovanni Battista Lusieri, the Italian painter he entrusted to oversee the removal of the antiquities in 1801.
In one letter, Lusieri beseeched Elgin “to send a dozen marble saws of different sizes to Athens as quickly as possible.”
Parthenon Marbles is a case of “blatant serial theft”
Lina Mendoni, Greece’s culture minister, emphatically refuted the British Museum’s claims.
She told the Guardian that “Over the years, Greek authorities and the international scientific community have demonstrated with unshakeable arguments the true events surrounding the removal of the Parthenon sculptures.”
“Lord Elgin used illicit and inequitable means to seize and export the Parthenon sculptures, without real legal permission to do so, in a blatant act of serial theft,” Mendoni proclaimed.
The British Museum bought the antiquities from Lord Elgin in 1816. It has fifteen metopes, seventeen pedimental figures, and 75-meters of the original 160-meter long frieze in its collection.
Greece steps up campaign for the Parthenon Marbles
Greece has campaigned for the return of the sculptures, which saw a marble fragment of the temple permanently returned to Athens from a museum in Italy on Friday.
The government announced the “so-called Fagan fragment,” which was included in the collection of the 19th-century British consul general to Sicily, Robert Fagan, could “stay in Greece forever.”
“Sicily paves the way for the return to Greece of the Parthenon marbles,” the country’s culture ministry said on Friday.
Last week it emerged that Greece and the UK have agreed to hold talks on the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, UNESCO announced.
A report from the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP) says that Mendoni and Lord Parkinson, the minister of the United Kingdom’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have agreed to meet “in due course.”