Lost ancient artefacts found after 50 years

Lost ancient artefacts found after 50 years
Photo: DPA
Nearly 50 ancient artefacts have been returned to the Bode Museum, Berlin, decades after being looted by Soviet soldiers. The find has sparked hope that more objects lost during the war will turn up.

The objects were found in storage at Leipzig University’s Egyptian Museum, where they have been sitting untouched for over 50 years.

“The objects being returned was a great stroke of luck,” said Hermann Parzinger, president of the Berlin state cultural authority, said in a statement. “Ancient artefacts don’t turn up so often these days, because of the demand for them on the black market.”

The pieces, which include metal oil lamps and a fertility-ritual mask which was found in an ancient Egyptian burial chamber, will go on display in the museum until March 25.

Soviet soldiers pillaged thousands of items from Berlin museums at the end of the Second World War, many of them were returned in 1958 but the two chests that contained artefacts from the Bode Museum ended up in the East German city of Leipzig.

Bosses at the museum asked around neighbouring cities but no-one claimed the ancient knick-knacks, and so poor communication and cataloguing meant that they were never returned to their original collection.

In the two chests were 39 ancient Egyptian everyday items. Another five were from the West Roman Empire and three remain a mystery – authorities know neither what period they date from or which museum they belong to.

During the Second World War, thousands of artefacts from the cities museums were put in storage in an attempt to protect them from bombing raids and theft. Around 3,000 were stashed in a bunker in the city but a fire is thought to have destroyed half of the collection.

In 2005, several of the pieces that were thought to have been destroyed in the fire turned up at an exhibition in Moscow. This find, along with the Leipzig discovery has given historians a glimmer of hope that more of the missing objects will be found.

A new catalogue is being developed by the museum, which will make it easier to keep track of the tens of thousands of objects owned by the museum.

The Local/jcw

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