BERLIN, Germany — An ancient golden brooch that once belonged to King Croesus of Lydia has been recovered in Germany, seven years after it was stolen from a museum in Turkey.
German officials are preparing to return the artifact to Turkey, Turkish Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay said this week, where both countries agree the treasure belongs.
The 2,500-year-old brooch, in the shape of a winged seahorse, had been missing from the Usak Museum of Archaeology since 2005, the Deutsche Press Agentur reported. It has not been revealed how it ended up in Germany, or where.
According to Turkey's Anadolu news agency, the brooch is considered to be the most precious item from the Croesus (Karun) Treasure, a trove of more than 360 artifacts found in western Turkey and said to have formed part of the ancient king's legendary riches.
The collection – also known as the Lydian Hoard – was illegally excavated in the 1960s by looters who sold on the precious pieces abroad.
Most of them ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which was eventually forced to return them to Turkey after a lengthy court case. (The Met admitted that it had known the artifacts were stolen when it bought them.)
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Yet in 2006 it was revealed that the seahorse brooch on display in Turkey's Usak Museum was a fake, which had been switched for the real brooch the year before.
The museum's director, Kazim Akbiyikoglu, later admitted to selling off the brooch and other treasures to pay his gambling debts, and was jailed for 13 years. According to the Guardian, he blamed his downfall on an ancient curse that is rumored to punish anyone who disturbs the treasure.
Now, finally, the seahorse brooch will return to Usak by early 2013, Culture Minister Gunay has promised. It will go on display in a specially built museum, due to open next month, that will house the complete collection of Croesus's treasures.
The Turkish government is on a mission to repatriate as many of the country's smuggled artifacts as possible. According to Hurriyet Daily News, 464 objects have been returned to Turkey this year alone.