A Philadelphia archeology museum will indefinitely loan ancient jewelry known as “Troy gold” to Turkey in an arrangement that will allow the museum to host a future exhibit of artifacts related to King Midas, officials announced on Tuesday.
The deal is part of what Penn Museum officials called a landmark agreement with the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism to work more collaboratively on field work and exhibitions over the next several years.
“It will lead to great opportunities — for Penn, for Philadelphia and for the wider archeological community — to experience more of Turkey’s rich cultural history and heritage in the future,” museum director Julian Siggers said.
Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay said the 24 pieces of jewelry are among thousands of historical artifacts returned to the country over the past two decades, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology acquired the early Bronze Age objects in 1966 from a now-defunct art dealership, but the origin of the items — including earrings, pendants and pins — was unclear.
The purchase eventually led museum officials in 1970 to adopt a then-unusual policy of refusing to acquire artifacts of unknown provenance that might have been looted.
Siggers said the jewelry remained in storage for years. Then in 2009, academics found a grain of dirt on one piece that allowed them to identify the collection as most likely being from the historic city of Troy. Discussions for the objects’ return began with Turkish officials last year.
Brian Rose, an archeology professor who co-directs the museum’s excavations at Troy and Gordion in Turkey, said the jewelry is on indefinite loan because the Troy provenance is likely, but not certain.
The pieces are expected to be displayed at a new archeological museum being built in Troy that will open within two years, according to the Anadolu agency. Troy is in northwest Turkey, near the city of Canakkale, about 240km from Istanbul.
In 2016, the Penn institution will host an exhibition of treasures excavated from what is believed to be the tomb of King Midas’ father.