Elgin Marbles `scraped clean'

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The Independent Online
BRITISH Museum officials are to call in international experts to discuss damage caused to the Elgin Marbles.

They acted yesterday following claims in a book charting the sculptures' history that museum staff had irreparably damaged them 60 years ago.

William St Clair, a historian, claimed workers scrubbed the marbles with metal scrapers in an effort to make them white - an episode which, he claimed, was denied and covered up by museum trustees.

But Andrew Hamilton, a museum spokesman, denied there had been a cover- up and said the museum released details publicly in the late 1930s after becoming aware of "over-cleaning" by staff.

Although some of the surfaces were lost, the damage had been exaggerated, he added.

"The marbles were over-cleaned by museum staff using methods not approved of at the time and without the approval or knowledge of the curator."

Mr Hamilton continued: "Mr St Clair calls for a public inquiry, but we feel how we'd like to deal with it is by inviting him to discuss the issues with the museum and other outside scholars."

The marbles, which are around 2,430-years-old, were brought to Britain by Lord Elgin in 1801.

Some people believe he looted them from the Parthenon, in Athens, later selling them to the British Museum for pounds 35,000 in 1816.

Mr St Clair's claims could provoke a fresh diplomatic row with Greece, whose government has battled for decades to get the sculptures returned.