ATHENS – The more than 3,000-year-old gold ring, which was stolen from an island in the Aegean Sea during World War II, crossed the Atlantic, was bought by a Hungarian Nobel Prize-winning scientist and found in a Swedish museum, found its way back to Greece.
It was the latest in a series of coups by Greek authorities seeking the return of works looted in an antique-rich country – even though the Swedish museum’s initial attempts to return the ring appear to have fallen between the bureaucratic cracks of the 1970s.
The Greek Ministry of Culture said on Friday that the Mycenaean-era gold work from Rhodes, adorned with two sphinxes, had been willingly returned by Swedish officials, who had provided full assistance in documenting the artifact and its origin.
Greek experts confirmed the identification, and the work was handed over in Stockholm by Vidar Helgesen, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, to whom the ring was bequeathed by a Hungarian biophysicist.
The foundation, which presents annual awards for outstanding achievements in several fields, donated them to the Museum of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm.
Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni thanked the Nobel Foundation and the Swedish authorities for the repatriation, saying it “demonstrates their respect for modern Greece and our ongoing efforts to combat the illicit trafficking of cultural property.”
The ring, which was a symbol of the status of a local nobleman in the 3rd millennium BC, was found by Italian archaeologists in 1927 in a Mycenaean tomb near the ancient city of Ialyssos on Rhodes. The island in the southeast of the Aegean Sea belonged to Italy until it was incorporated into Greece after World War II.
The Ministry of Culture and Sports said the ring was stolen from a museum in Rhodes during the war – along with hundreds of other jewelry and coins that are missing – and surfaced in the United States.
It was purchased in the United States in the 1950s or 1960s by Georg von Bekesi, a biophysicist and art collector whose collection was transferred to the Nobel Foundation after his death in 1972 and from there distributed to several museums.
Helgesen of the Nobel Foundation said there was no doubt where the ring belonged.
“It was clear to us that the ring needed to be returned,” he said. “This artifact is of great cultural and historical value to Greece.”
The Stockholm Museum originally identified the ring from Ialyssos in 1975 and contacted Greek authorities, the ministry said.
“But she stayed in Stockholm for reasons unknown from the existing archives,” the statement said on Friday. Now the work will be exhibited in the museum in Rhodes.
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