08 February, 2008
Two ancient marble statues of Artemis and Apollo stolen from southern Albania in the '90s were officially returned to Albania by the Greek state on Thursday, in a special ceremony held at the New Acropolis Museum. The two statues are to be returned to their natural environment in Butrint, southern Albania next week following an initiative by Greek Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis.
The marble statues had been found and confiscated by Greek authorities in 1997, when they were discovered in the hands of two private owners in Koropi, Attica.
They were then handed over the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus, which traced their origins to the artifacts stolen from Butrint.
Liapis and Albanian Culture Minister Ylli Pango officially announced at the Acropolis Museum's lecture theatre, which was inaugurated earlier the same day, that the return will take place on Monday.
Liapis stressed that the move demonstrated the Greek State's respect for international law and that it was putting into practice its policy for the return of stolen antiquities to their place of origin. He also referred to the close ties between the museums of all countries with touring exhibitions, exchanges, joint programmes and loans of archaeological treasures.
Pango thanked Liapis and his predecessor George Voulgarakis for their efforts to repatriate the two statues, as well as staff at the two museums for showing "great professionalism".
The president of the New Acropolis Museum Dimitris Pantermalis referred to the museum's comparative advantages and the ideal conditions it provided for the return of the Parthenon Marbles held in Britain.
The two statues both date to the 2nd century B.C. when Butrint was a Greek colony known as Bouthroton - which is still the Greek name for the southern Albanian town today. Both are missing their heads and both finds have been published, the female form in 1924, while the male form has a catalogue number from the Butrint Museum and has also been published.
Source: Athens News Agency