By Muhammet Emin Avundukluoglu
After a decades-long separation, missing pieces of the haunting “Gypsy girl mosaic” are set to be back on Turkish soil later this month.
"On November 26 ... the mosaics will be returned to our country," Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy told parliament’s Planning and Budget Committee on Monday.
The famed mosaic from the ancient Roman city of Zeugma in Turkey’s southeast has been missing the pieces for at least 50 years. The 12 fragments, purchased in 1965, had been on exhibit at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, the United States.
The mosaic of a young girl with piercing eyes was discovered in the early 1960s during excavations in Zeugma in the southeastern Gaziantep province.
In 1965 the university paid $35,000 to buy the mosaics, and 47 years later Turkey tried to retrieve them but the university wanted $260,000.
The Foreign Ministry rejected the offer as unethical, but last month the Turkish Consulate in Chicago approached the university after a change in administration.
Ersoy told the committee that Turkey has signed all protocols with U.S. authorities for return of the mosaic.
According to the Culture Ministry, over 4,300 smuggled antiques have been returned to Turkey since 2003.
If returned, the pieces would likely be displayed at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum near Gaziantep.
Modern Turkey bears the traces of numerous ancient civilizations, including the Hittites, Greeks, Phrygians, and Romans.