Letter: Scrubbed marbles
Monday 15 November 1999
My claim - apropos of demands that the British Museum hand over the Elgin marbles to an as yet undesigned museum in Athens - that the marbles taken by Lord Elgin are today in better condition than those that remain in Athens is not "a reflection of long-running British arrogance" but a demonstrable statement of fact.
If Dr Solomonidis will not accept this, I would challenge her to defend a comparison of blocks recently taken down from the temple of Athena Nike and housed in the Acropolis Museum with those from the same temple housed in the British Museum.
That Greek buildings and carvings have been damaged by pollution and, on occasion, by bungled restoration is recognised and regretted by Greek and British scholars alike. Flogging the British Museum today over the unauthorised use of copper chisels by restorers during a restoration in the 1930s, when (much harder) steel chisels and wire brushes were authorised in Athens in 1953, smacks of selective amnesia if not intellectual dishonesty.
Dr Solomonidis now insists that Americans, not Greeks, should bear responsibility for that later restoration. This is unjust and ungracious. It is a matter of record that the cleaning "was undertaken after consultation with the Greek archaeological authorities" (Archaeology, 7, 1954).
A letter sent from the American director of the programme to the British Museum's head of science in 1953 reported that "The Greek archaeological authorities inspected the work both during its progress and after; they expressed themselves well pleased."
East Barnet, Hertfordshire
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Why this father didn’t hide his daughter’s heroin overdose in her obituary
- 3 Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins
Sherlock series 4: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have to be 'persuaded' to return, says Steven Moffat
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
A victory for gender equality on the high seas
Oldest footage of London landmarks released
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election