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<   No. 2020   2008-08-07   >

Comic #2020

1 Minnesota Jones: {driving motorcycle after the Nazi truck through the streets of Paris} You know, the Palladium rightfully belongs to the lineal descendants of the survivors of the sacking of Troy.
2 Minnesota Jones: Taking precious archaeological artefacts from their home land and putting them in foreign museums is an anathema.
3 Minnesota Jones: Once we get the Palladium, we should return it to the Turks.
4 Prof. Jones: {in sidecar} And I suppose we should give the Greeks back their marbles too?
4 Minnesota Jones: That'd be an Elgint solution.

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The Elgin Marbles are a collection of various sculptures and reliefs that, prior to 1801, adorned the Parthenon and other buildings of the Acropolis in Athens. One Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, was the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the time. The Ottoman Empire then occupied what is now Greece, and accorded Elgin, an avid student of antiquities, permission to perform various vaguely specified archaeological studies on the Acropolis site, including the removal of some of the ruins material.

Elgin was dismayed that the Ottomans didn't seem to care much about the decaying ruins, and decided the best course of action was to remove as much of the sculptural material as possible and ship it back to England. Over the next 11 years, Elgin's agents sliced up enormous chunks of the Parthenon and other buildings on the site, so that the marble blocks could be transported off the site and to England by ship. Elgin's motivation seems to have been to preserve the material from the ravages of neglect and the various hostilities that were besieging the Balkan region at the beginning of the 19th century.

Back in England, Elgin's action stirred outrage and controversy, with many prominent citizens protesting that it amounted to vandalism and theft. The public debate filtered up all the way into Parliament, which eventually exonerated Elgin and recommended to the British Museum that it purchase the Marbles. The Museum did so, and set them up on display in a grand gallery.

Since gaining independence, Greece has demanded the return of the Elgin Marbles, as cultural treasures of Greece. The British Museum has refused outright, citing various reasons including:

Undeterred, the Greek Government has built the brand new New Acropolis Museum with gallery space specifically designed for the display of the Elgin Marbles. The Museum is due to open later this year, with some of the remaining antiquities from the Acropolis moved into it for protection and conservation. The large gallery designed for the Elgin Marbles will be occupied by plaster replicas until and if the originals are ever returned, with the replicas obscured by veils in a rather blunt statement.
2019-12-07 Rerun commentary: The New Acropolis Museum indeed opened just under one year from the original publication of this comic. The Elgin Marbles remain in the British Museum.

In 2014, UNESCO made an offer to the British Government to mediate the disagreement between Greece and the UK over where the marbles should reside. UK Government ministers expressed the belief that any such "mediation" was intended primarily to return the marbles to Greece, and not a genuine attempt to come to any other sort of compromise. The Greek Minister of Culture insisted that the dispute was between the two nations, and not between the British Museum and the Acropolis Museum.

Ultimately, however, the UK declined UNESCO's offer of mediation, stating that the dispute was between museums, not nations, and that therefore UNESCO, as an agency that works with governments, was not entitled to act as a mediator.

So it seems that not only do Greece and the UK disagree on where the Elgin Marbles should be, but they also disagree on the nature of the disagreement.

Stay tuned.

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