Anabaptists, Antonioni, Chateaubriand, Cranston Jones, Dorak Treasure, Edmund Stillman, Elgin Marbles, Erhard Schoen, Fellini, Hacilar, Holy Roman Empire, James Mellaart, John Keats, Joseph J. Thorndike, Kenneth Pearson, Marcel Breuer, Münster Rebellion, Norman Kotker, Patricia Connor, Rome, Washington Irving, Whitney Museum of American Art, Yortan Culture
Another issue I’ve had to divide into two parts.
This issue’s cover shows a Stone Age pottery vessel in the shape of a double-headed female, found at Hacilar in southwest Turkey:
It illustrates a letter from Editor Joseph J. Thorndike, ‘The Smugglers’ Trail’, and the article ‘The Strange Case of James Mellaart, or The Tale of the Missing Dorak Treasure’ by Kenneth Pearson and Patricia Connor of the London Sunday Times, whose book The Dorak Affair was published the same year.
Also in this issue:
Thorndike describes Turkey as ‘the scene of the greatest archaeological looting job since Lord Elgin made off with the sculptures of the Parthenon. Because the Turkish government forbids the export of any ancient art objects, whatever comes out of that country must be smuggled out. And the smugglers’ trail, which begins in remote Anatolian villages, leads in the end, as often as not, to some of the world’s most famous museums.’
Mellaart – himself a Horizon contributor– was the archaeologist who discovered the Hacilar site.
At first glance no one seems less likely than Mellaart to be involved in any dishonorable dealings. His colleagues have commented on his imperiousness and lack of tact, but as the British ambassador to Ankara remarked, ‘He has a nose for a site that amounts almost to genius’…Mellaart [in the 1950s] had the knack of walking a site for hours, picking a spot to excavate, and striking it rich almost at once.
It isn’t luck. He reads signs like a Sherlock Holmes.
Controversy came when Mellaart claimed to have found relics of the Yortan culture, belonging to a neighbour state of Troy from the middle of the third millennium BC. He told a story of having met a woman called Anna Papastrati on a train to Izmir in 1958, who was wearing a solid gold bracelet of a type that had only been found at Troy. He came home with her, sketched the collection of antiquities she owned, and realised that what he had stumbled across was ‘real evidence of a large seafaring nation, ruled by a warrior aristocracy, immediately east of Troy.’ His report on the Dorak treasure was published in the Illustrated London News in 1959:
The news shattered the Turkish authorities. Although an introduction to the article made clear its provenance, and special attention was drawn to the treasure’s imaginative reconstruction, there is no doubt that the Department of Antiquities thought a minor ‘Tutankhamen’ had slipped through its hands.
On July 18, 1960, Mellaart went over the details of his trip with the Turkish authorities. Though he included the name of ‘Anna Papastrati’ and her address, investigations in Izmir drew a blank. The Turks could not locate the woman or her house…The Dorak treasure had vanished.
Mellaart’s troubles were just beginning, because unfortunately it was only too logical for the Turkish authorities to assume that the treasure had been taken out of the country, either with the connivance of the archaeologist or without it…An increasing number of Turks are angered by the removal of their heritage by outsiders. This is the crux of the Dorak affair.
In ‘The Literary Road to Rome’, Norman Kotker chronicles the writers – Italian, French, German, British and American – who have come to Rome over the centuries ‘to seek inspiration among its ruins…Mourning has always seemed the appropriate attitude for writers to adopt in Rome. “Rome its own sad sepulchre appears,” declaimed Washington Irving as he entered the city for the first time. “…death seems to have been born in Rome,” Chateaubriand mused as he walked along the Appian Way.’ The writers include Petrarch, Dante, Tasso, Gibbon, Henry Adams, Hawthorne, Machiavelli, Goethe, Keats, Shelley, Stendahl, Dickens and the Brownings.
He concludes that tourists no longer have to come to Rome:
As the film replaces the written word, Rome in all its decadence can come to them. Now, thanks to the work of such latter-day Roman journalists as Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni, the city is apparently even more fallen than Gibbon’s Rome, more wicked than Stendahl’s, more malignant than Hawthorne’s – all of which may explain why the parade of writers shows not the least sign of slackening.
In ‘Breuer: The Last “Modern” Architect’, Cranston Jones looks at the career of the Hungarian-born and Bauhaus-trained architect who had been practising in the US since the 1930s, and whose Whitney Museum of American Art had just opened in New York:
The first impression…was discouraging. With its massive, raw cantilevers, the building loomed out of a sunken, moat-like sculpture garden; curious, trapezoidal windows were punched in the façade; concrete blinder-walls went up at either side, cutting off the adjacent apartment houses…
What the opening night guests had discovered was that while the building seemed aggressive on the outside, the architectural style of the interior had been carefully planned to accommodate the basic function of the museum – the creation of an ideal display space for art. Spaces are well lighted and inviting. The ceiling is an open grid that allows the movable partitions to be arranged in a variety of ways at the same time that it incorporates air-conditioning and elaborate lighting…His use of surfaces gives the whole museum a hand-crafted feeling which, in an age when architecture increasingly looks as if it could be turned out by the mile, is in itself a source of pleasure.
In the long record of man’s savagery to man, there can be no more brutal episode than the drama of the Anabaptist revolution played out in the small city of Münster in northwest Germany in 1534-35. There, as the medieval world was dying and the modern age dawning, as an ancient social order disintegrated and a new proletariat was born, starving and desperate men conceived a utopian kingdom of eternal goodness and eternal peace – and ended by creating a forerunner of the modern totalitarian state.
Anticipating the French Revolution by more than two hundred and fifty years, and the Nazis and the Communists by nearly four hundred, the Anabaptist revolution in Münster was striking in its modernities of class warfare, thought control, communal farms, an elite military corps, and a proto-Gestapo…
Outside the city gathered all the forces of the Holy Roman Empire, Catholic and Protestant alike. Acting to protect privilege and what they conceived to be God’s true order, they buried their doctrinal differences in a counterrevolutionary alliance and pledged to extirpate the Holy City of the Anabaptists by death and fire. In the end they succeeded, but not until they had matched atrocity for atrocity in the sixteen-month siege of Münster.