Friday, June 19, 2009

Cyprus, 1963-1974: large private collections of looted antiquities

This is a supplement to the previous, more important post, which was an estimate of the total number of looted antiquities collected between 1963 and 1974.

Those numbers may seem inconceivable, but it must be remembered that the large private collections had thousands of artefacts each. As previously mentioned, Karageorghis (1999b: 17) recognised the Pierides Collection, the Hadjiprodromou Collection and the Severis Collection as the most important ones formed through the silent accord and amnesty [during which, private collection of looted antiquities was first encouraged, then legalised].

It has not been possible to determine how many of the Pierides Collection's around 2,500 artefacts were looted antiquities, and how many of those were collected through the silent accord or legalised through the amnesty, because the collection has been built up by generations of the family, over the course of two hundred years.

But Hadjiprodromou (2000: 141) stated that his 2,000 artefacts were all collected during the silent accord (although he may have acquired some legal antiquities at the same time).

And in his catalogue of 257 artefacts in the Severis Collection (Karageorghis, 1999a), Karageorghis stated that the whole collection of more than 2,500 artefacts 'was formed mainly during the.... "silent accord"' (1999b: 17).

Corroborating the expectation that the vast majority of the artefacts collected during the silent accord were looted antiquities, archaeologist Marc Fehlmann (2008) used Gill and Chippindale's (1993) method for assessing Cycladic collections to assess Cypriot collections.

Fehlmann (2008) found that '98.4% of the objects' in Karageorghis's (1999a) catalogue of the Severis Collection had 'no provenance [find-spot] or previous owner at all'. Given the impact of the silent accord upon Cypriot cultural heritage, some might think it ironic that Leto Severis was the founder of the (Cypriot) Friends of Archaeology (Herscher, 1974: 2).


Fehlmann, M. 2008: "Cyprus: Further looting – comment". Looting Matters [weblog], 21st August. Available at:

Gill, D W J and Chippindale, C. 1993: "Material and intellectual consequences of esteem for Cycladic figures". American Journal of Archaeology, Volume 97, Number 4, 601-659.

Hadjiprodromou, C. 2000: "The looting of private collections". In CPCHC (Committee for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage of Cyprus), (Ed.). Cyprus: A civilization plundered, 141-144. Athens: The Hellenic Parliament.

Herscher, E. 1974: Antiquities of Cyprus: The Severis Collection. Nicosia: Zavallis Press Ltd.

Karageorghis, V, (Ed.). 1999a: Ancient Cypriote art in the Severis Collection. Athens: Costakis and Leto Severis Foundation.

Karageorghis, V. 1999b: "The Severis Collection of Cypriote antiquities". In Karageorghis, V, (Ed.). Ancient Cypriote art in the Severis Collection, 17-18. Athens: Costakis and Leto Severis Foundation.

[The brief explanation of the silent accord and amnesty was added on the 22nd of June 2009; but it was already properly explained in the previous post on the estimate.]


  1. Evidence for "Chippindale's law"? Thanks for drawing attention to this.

  2. Seems so; I'm looking forward to seeing Marc Fehlmann's work.

    Unfortunately, my estimate is a bit more tentative; but that seems to complement Marc's findings, and the implications of the Department's and the collectors' descriptions of their collections.

    (They acknowledge antiquities were being looted, and they acknowledge collectors were collecting, but they try to avoid referring to named collectors and looted antiquities in the same sentence.

    But no matter how passive the grammar of the sentence, the looted antiquities were being collected by someone, and the private collectors were collecting something.)