Then Director of the Department of Antiquities, Sophocles Hadjisavvas estimated that the 'most serious disaster' for Cypriot cultural heritage was the Turkish invasion and occupation (2001: 135), in which, over the course of 25 years or so, 'more than 60,000 ancient artefacts' had been stolen in 'systematic and to some extent "official" looting, with the "blessing" of the occupation army' (2001: 136).
I believe my low estimate suggests that, in the course of the 10 years of intercommunal conflict, just the registered private antiquities collectors bought somewhere around 58,750 looted artefacts.
If the unregistered private antiquities collections were included, I believe an estimate of the total number of looted antiquities collected during the Troubles could be somewhere around 205,625.
If this is correct, the greatest disaster to strike Cypriot cultural heritage may have been between 1963 and 1974, and it may have been caused by the policies of the Department of Antiquities itself.
I'll briefly summarise the background of the illicit antiquities trade and more fully explain the method of estimating the number of looted antiquities collected, then present my best estimate; but any of the sections can be missed. (This is largely taken from the first draft of my thesis.)
Background of the illicit antiquities trade
In my research, examining the illicit antiquities trade in Cyprus, I have broken it into three main periods - looting between 1869 and 1958, looting between 1958 and 1974, and looting since 1974.
1958 was the first time the intercommunal conflict directly contributed to the illicit antiquities trade, but it was only with the explosion of violence in December 1963 that the conflict and the trade became one problem.
The intercommunal conflict and the antiquities trade changed again (together) in 1974, after the Greek coup and the Turkish invasion and occupation of northern Cyprus; but the structure of the antiquities trade since 1974 was established during the intercommunal conflict between 1963 and 1974.
When the intercommunal conflict exploded in December 1963, it prevented the authorities suppressing the illicit antiquities trade. 25,000 Turkish Cypriots retreated into enclaves, guarded by the paramilitary TMT, and surrounded by Greek Cypriot National Guard or paramilitaries.
The poverty-stricken enclaved Turkish Cypriots made some money by looting antiquities in the enclaves and selling them into the free areas, either to Greek Cypriot or international collectors. Whether TMT passively "taxed" the sale of looted antiquities, or actively smuggled and sold antiquities, it profited from the illicit antiquities trade.
The Greek Cypriot administration claimed that it "rescued" Cypriot cultural heritage by buying the looted antiquities and reaching a "silent accord" with private Greek Cypriot collectors, through which they were allowed to collect looted antiquities (Karageorghis, 1999b: 17); but the silent accord incidentally funded TMT, and actually fuelled and funded increased looting and destruction of Cypriot cultural heritage.
The total number of looted antiquities collected between 1963 and 1974 may be staggering. On top of the established antiquities collectors, who used the amnesty to build their collections with looted antiquities, there were the more than 1,250 greedy people who only registered as private antiquities collectors in order to collect looted antiquities (Hadjisavvas, 2001: 135).
One private antiquities collector who created his (albeit exceptionally large) collection through the silent accord and the amnesty, Christakis Hadjiprodromou (2000: 141), collected more than 2,000 archaeological artefacts - and, as Hadjisavvas (2001: 135) reminded, 'all antiquities acquired [through the amnesty] were illegal' because 'all came from illicit excavations'.
Method of the estimation
Luckily, there is one source of information that enables an estimate of the number of looted antiquities collected between 1963 and 1974: after the Turkish invasion, the Turkish Cypriot administration took private antiquities collections into protective custody.
The Turkish Cypriot administration published a 1975 inventory of private antiquities collections found in the Greek Cypriot Varosha/Maraş suburb of Famagusta town; it listed 5,903 archaeological and ethnological artefacts in 56 collections, 'of which only 15 were registered by the Greek Cypriot Administration' (TRNCMFADSCS and TRNCMNECDAM, 1986: 5).
It is important to be careful with the numbers. (As a basic, preliminary precaution, I will round down any fraction in any calculation to the nearest 0.5.)
Some of the collections, or some of the antiquities in them, would have been acquired before 1963, so not all of the artefacts in the Turkish Cypriot inventory of Varosha collections had been collected under the silent accord or the amnesty. Yet Hadjisavvas (2001: 135) dismissed the number of collections begun before 1963 (across the island) as 'insignificant'.
Those previously collected artefacts that were accidentally included in the inventory would have been more than compensated for by the 'many' artefacts that disappeared from the collections before the making of the inventory, some 'illegally exported abroad', and some taken 'south with the Greek Cypriot refugees' (van der Werff, 1989: 12).
Moreover, I will exclude the 874 inventoried artefacts of Christakis Hadjiprodromou's collection (Cormack, 1989: 30) – which was even larger, but was partly looted – so that the estimate will be a low estimate, based upon only the small collections.
(And the theft of more than half of Hadjiprodromou's collection is indicative of how low the estimate from the small collections' remaining artefacts will be.)
In addition, there were not separate counts of the archaeological and ethnological objects in the collections; but I will work upon the assumption of a half-and-half split between archaeological and ethnological objects, and base my estimate upon half of the total number of objects in the Turkish Cypriot inventory of Varosha collections.
Despite the unscientific nature of the presumption of a 50:50 split, it again lowers the estimate for the number of looted antiquities collected: for example, Hadjiprodromou (2000: 141) counted his archaeological and his ethnological objects separately, and had 2,000 archaeological artefacts, but just 250 ethnological objects, so he had 89 archaeological artefacts for every 11 ethnological objects.(1)
Also, there were not separate counts of the numbers of antiquities in registered collections and in unregistered collections, and the unregistered collections might have artificially increased or decreased the average, depending upon whether the unregistered collections were commercial or hobby; the existence of both types of collection may cancel out each type's influence.
Despite these caveats, there is one basic, good reason to accept the estimates of looted antiquities collected: the registered collections had been established solely to collect as many looted antiquities as possible in the time available.
So, even if all of the unregistered collections had been commercial ones, they would probably not have been able to increase significantly the total average number of artefacts in each collection above the average number of artefacts in each registered collection.
Estimate of the total number of looted antiquities collected between 1963 and 1974
Even if the 874 inventoried artefacts of Christakis Hadjiprodromou's (even larger, but partly looted) collection were excluded from the total of 5,903 artefacts in 56 collections in Varosha (leaving 5,209 in 55), and even if half of the remaining artefacts were excluded as ethnological (leaving 2,604.5 in 55), the average collection would have had about 47 archaeological artefacts in it.(2)
From the Turkish Cypriot inventory, it appears that there were 2.73 unregistered collections for every registered one (so, in calculations of estimates, just 2.5; thus, 3,125 unregistered collections, and a total of 4,375 registered and unregistered collections).
Nevertheless, even if only the 1,250 registered private antiquities collections were used, an estimate for the number of looted antiquities collected between 1963 and 1974 would be about 58,750.
If the unregistered private antiquities collections were included, an estimate of the total number of looted antiquities collected during the Troubles would be 205,625.
These numbers are based on a sample of 55 from a population of 1,250. According to a sample size calculator, even if I only had a sample of 41, there would be a 95% probability of these estimates being true, to within 15%.
So, if I didn't make any mistakes in my method (and rounding down fractions to a number of "whole" artefacts), there's a 95% chance that registered collectors bought between 49,937 and 67,562 looted antiquities; and there's a 95% chance that together, registered and unregistered collectors bought between 174,781 and 236,468 looted antiquities.
I've also written a (far shorter) follow-up post on the large private collections of looted Cypriot antiquities.
- So, if all of the 55 small collections' 5,209 artefacts had been Hadjiprodromou's:
- about 4,636 of them would have been archaeological artefacts, rather than my working assumption of about 2,604.5;
- the average number of artefacts per small collector would have been about 84, rather than 47;
- the number of looted antiquities in registered collections would have been about 105,000 (89,250-120,750), rather than 58,750; and
- the total number of looted antiquities in registered and unregistered collections would have been about 367,500 (312,375-422,625), rather than 205,625.
- Possibly reassuringly, a Turkish Cypriot inventory of Turkish Cypriot collections registered in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus recorded 64 '[a]ntique [c]ollectors' having 2,423 'artefacts' altogether, or about 38 artefacts each, which is quite similar to the average of the Turkish Cypriot inventory of the Varosha collections (TRNCMFADSCS and TRNCMNECDAM, 1986: 14).
But it is not clear whether they were only archaeological artefacts, or whether they were archaeological and ethnological, in which case the unscientific assumption of a 50:50 split in the collections would give an estimate of just 19 archaeological artefacts each.
Furthermore, that Turkish Cypriot inventory listed its data by district, revealing that, while there had been 15 registered Greek Cypriot antiquities collectors in Varosha suburb of Famagusta town, there were only 12 registered Turkish Cypriot antiquities collectors in all of Famagusta district (TRNCMFADSCS and TRNCMNECDAM, 1986: 14).
This appears to affirm Turkish Cypriots' relative exclusion from the culture of antiquarianism and archaeology, which began with British colonial antiquarianism and archaeology's institutionalisation of Philhellenism.
Cormack, R. 1989: "Appendix II: Report". In Van der Werff, Y, (Ed.). 1989: Information report on the cultural heritage of Cyprus (Doc. 6079), 20-34. Brussels: Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
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.
Hadjisavvas, S. 2001: "The destruction of the archaeological heritage of Cyprus". In Brodie, N J, Doole, J and Renfrew, C, (Eds.). Trade in illicit antiquities: The destruction of the world's archaeological heritage, 133-139. Cambridge: McDonald Institute.
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.
TRNCMFADSCS and TRNCMNECDAM (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defence Social and Cultural Section and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Ministry of National Education and Culture Department of Antiquities and Museums). 1986: Cultural heritage of northern Cyprus: Its protection and preservation. Lefkoşa: TRNCPIO (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Public Information Office).
Van der Werff, Y. 1989: Information report on the cultural heritage of Cyprus (Doc. 6079). Brussels: Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.