ANKARA, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- An ancient gold crown, which dates back to the 4th century B.C., has returned to its homeland Turkey, after a robust battle by the Turkish authorities to reclaim lost antiquities from overseas.
Last Sunday, Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the crown, which was stolen from the burial chamber of Hecatomnus in the town of Milas in 2008, will be exhibited at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in the capital Ankara.
The minister also hailed the return of the Mountain Goat figurine, which dates back to around 2000 B.C. and was stolen from a museum in the eastern province of Erzurum.
"We pursue artifacts like detectives. We try to bring them back. It takes about six to seven years for an artifact to be brought to Turkey," he told the local press.
In Turkey, the strict laws on the protection of cultural and natural properties stipulate that state-owned ancient cultural artifacts cannot be possessed by individuals.
"The law is very clear and makes the return of illegally-held artifacts easier, but the most important thing is to make the Turkish citizens conscious of their history and protect it," an official from the Archeologists Association told Xinhua.
"There are dozens of illegal excavations across Turkey every year and most of the culprits are Turks," he said on condition of anonymity.
Kurtulmus said the special task forces in his ministry have been actively pursuing dozens of artifacts illegally smuggled abroad.
"Some 55 artifacts are currently waiting to be brought back," he said.
The gold crown is worth 335,000 U.S. dollars in the market but priceless for Turkey's history, the minister noted.
Hailed as one of the seven wonders of the world, the tomb of Hecatomnus in Bodrum was plundered in 2008. The stolen gold crown was found in Scotland two years later.
Modern Turkey is home to several ancient civilizations spanning centuries, and the rich distribution of relics has attracted smugglers to the tombs and other archeological sites in the country.
"It takes years to bring a piece of artifact back to Turkey. In some cases, it takes five, seven, 10 years and even more," a diplomatic source told Xinhua.
The Carians who made the gold crown were an Iron-Age civilization in southwestern Anatolia mentioned by Homer and in the Bible.
According to the Culture and Tourism Ministry, a total of 44 artifacts were returned to Turkey over the past year.
Among them was the Roman sarcophagus of Hercules, returned from Switzerland in September after 50 years abroad.
The 2,200-year-old treasure was stolen during illegal excavations in the early 1960s in southern Turkey known for its abundance of Greek and Roman artifacts.
A rare 16th-century copy of the Quran is another item that Turkey is seeking to recover. It was put on sale in a London auction house in last October but withdrawn after the Turkish government intervened.
In the case of the gold crown, the most embarrassing thing is that its former Turkish owner could be involved in its smuggling, according to the British press.
Murat Aksakalli, 50, who manages a cafe in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, claimed that he inherited the gold crown from his grandfather and he decided to sell it because of financial troubles.
But a Scottish court ruled in late 2017 that it should be returned to Turkey.