Turkish minister to demand return of Bronze Age sphinx

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Turkish Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay will meet his German counterpart in Berlin on Tuesday and demand the return of an antique sphinx housed at the Pergamon museum, his entourage said.

"The minister will meet the German secretary of state, Bernd Neumann, and the question of the sphinx will no doubt be raised," the source said, requesting anonymity.

Gunay, who was to attend a tourism fair in Berlin, said last month that if Germany refused to return the Bronze Age sculpture, Ankara would withdraw excavation licences from German archaeologists working in Turkey.

The sculpture of a lion's body and a human head was discovered in the ruins of the ancient Hittite capital Hattusha in central Turkey in 1915. The German team took it to Berlin's Pergamon to restore it, but nearly a century later it is still there.

Turkey set a June deadline for the return of the sphinx, threatening to replace Germans working on the Hattusa dig with a local team.

German archaeologists have been working at Hattusha since 1906.

The Pergamon was built in Berlin in 1910 to house the frescoes of the great altar of Pergamon -- whose modern name is Bergama -- in western Turkey, discovered in the late 19th century.

© 2011 AFP

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