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Excavations at Amorgos and Keros


The Sevso treasure
Colin Renfrew Archaeologist
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The Sevso treasure was a very curious case where these wonderful silver platters and silver ewers, magnificent objects of late Roman date, sort of 4th century AD, probably I imagine, found in Hungary. It's called the Sevso treasure because there's an inscription relating to Sevso, the owner of the treasure and there's some evidence, circumstantial evidence, suggesting that it may have been found in a villa on Lake Balaton in Hungary, but it's not altogether persuasive evidence. It didn't persuade the judge in the New York court, which is why it's still in the possession, whether or not with good title, of the Marquess of Northampton, so that we shall have to see what happens there. It's rumoured that the Hungarian government is trying to recover it and maybe they'll pay him a sum of money, which he will feel is sufficient. He had an interesting experience. When he'd had all the expense of fighting and defending a case in the New York courts, and he'd paid a lot of money for the treasure in the first place, he was advised by a new set of lawyers that his original lawyers, Allen & Overy, hadn't done him a very good job and it was even suggested that Peter Mimpriss of Allen & Overy, who was quite a distinguished lawyer, had been in contact with Peter Wilson and hadn't done a very good job to put it politely for the Marquess of Northampton. So his new lawyers helped him to take that case to court and, and there was an out of court settlement, which has never been publicly announced how much it was, but it's thought that Allen & Overy had to pay him about £20 million because they hadn't handled his case very impeccably. But since the good marquis got £20 million there, he shouldn't have to ask, ask too high a price for the Sevso treasure if he sells it on to the Hungarian government or whatever. But that's just a flagrant, it's worth dwelling on as we are doing, it's a flagrant example of the way antiquities have become commercialized, and that matters, not because one's against commercialisation, but because it promotes the looting of antiquities, which of course is what's happened in Iraq after the Gulf War and so on, so that's still, I think, a very active campaign where there's much more work to be done.

Baron Renfrew of Kaimsthorn is a British archaeologist known for his work on the dispersal of the Proto-Indo-Europeans and the prehistory of PIE languages. He has been Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge as well as Master of Jesus College and Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

Listeners: Paul Bahn

Paul Bahn studied archaeology at Cambridge where he did his doctoral thesis on the prehistory of the French Pyrenees. He is now Britain's foremost specialist on Ice Age art and on Easter Island, and led the team which discovered Britain's first Ice Age cave art at Creswell Crags, Nottinghamshire, in 2003. He has authored and edited numerous books, including Journey Through the Ice Age, The Enigmas of Easter Island, Mammoths, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art, and, with Colin Renfrew, Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice which was published in its 5th edition in 2008.

Duration: 2 minutes, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 14 May 2009