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Petition Asks British Museum to Return “Karpathos Lady” Statue

Karpathos lady
“The Karpathos Lady” as she is displayed in the British Museum. Credit: Zde/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The “Karpathos Lady” statue has been, like the Parthenon Marbles, housed in the British Museum for more than a century, but a petition was launched on Monday to bring her back to Greece.

The online petition, which is seeking signatures from the public, is targeting both the British Museum and the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports in a bid to “bring her home.”

The Karpathos Lady

The statue in question is 6,000 years old, and originates from the island of Karpathos. She found herself in London following her discovery by British adventurer Theodore Bent.

Bent came upon a statue of a female deity on the Greek island of Karpathos in 1885, and decided to smuggle her off the island and back to Great Britain. He then sold his discovery to the British Museum, where it is still housed. The ancient Greek statue holds the title of the oldest such statue in the British Museum.

Until 2014, for almost 130 years, the statue had not moved from its permanent exhibit in London.

This all changed when a successful radio series which was produced by the BBC in collaboration with the museum skyrocketed the statue to fame. The series, named “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” saw people around the world wanting to view the Karpathos Lady from up close.

A tour of museums began under the same name, whichsaw the statue traveling across the world. The Karpathos Lady’s international debut was in Taipei, Taiwan – her first journey outside Europe. In 2015, she went to Japan, with exhibitions in Tokyo, Kyushu and Kobe.

The statue’s travels then took her to a new continent in 2016, being put on show in Perth and Canberra in Australia before heading back to Asia in 2017, where she wowed them in Beijing and Shanghai. 2018 saw the statue back in Europe for the exhibition in Valenciennes, France. Finally, in May 2019, the Karpathos Lady returned to Asia and stayed in the Hong Kong Jockey Club for four months.

Even through all of these travels, the statue has never returned to her native Greece.

Petition to “bring her home”

Although it may be intuitive to display the Karpathos Lady in the closest museum to where the artifact was excavated, the Archaeological Museum of Karpathos in Pigadia has never done so.

Instead, they are only able to dedicate a small cabinet to this incredibly important statue, encasing a photograph and a description of it inside.

The new online petition is calling for the Karpathos Lady’s return to Greece following her almost 130-year lease to the British Museum. The petition is to encourage the two parties of the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Museum to negotiate for the statue’s return to the place where it was created.

The organizer’s idea is for a “summer season” in Pigadia, Karpathos, hopefully in 2022, when tourists and locals alike could admire the beauty already seen by so many all across the world. This would signify not only the rectification of a great wrong after the statue was looted but also a joyous return for the Karpathos Lady to her native island.

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