Standing nine inches high, the Guennol Stargazer is a 6,000-year-old marble idol, named aptly because its head tilts slightly upward toward the sky.
As one of the finest and largest preserved Anatolian marble female idols of Kiliya type, it is considered an iconic work of art from the third millennium BC and one of the most impressive known to exist – and its ownership remains to be of debate.
According to Reuters, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled that Turkey cannot recover the idol from British auction house Christie’s and hedge fund billionaire Michael Steinhardt after waiting years to claim it had been looted. The court said Turkey “had reason to know” by the 1990s that the artifact might have been wrongfully removed from its territory.
By waiting to sue Christie and Steinhardt, Turkey had “slept on its rights,” until April 2017 when the auction house listed the artifact for sale. Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler noted, “Turkey sat on its hands despite signals from its Ministry of Culture that the Stargazer was in New York City.
Lawrence Kaye, a lawyer representing Turkey, said that the country is considering its next steps.
Turkey cited the 1906 Ottoman Decree to claim ownership, which subjects all antiquities found within the country’s borders to state ownership claims. The Turkish government noted that it would offer evidence that the artifact was found in Turkey but was excavated and exported while the 1906 decree was in effect.
The lawyers for the plaintiffs, Christie’s and Steinhardt countered that the Turkish government has “no direct evidence of where or when the Stargazer Idol was found, excavated or exported.”
The Stargazer was displayed at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1968 to 1993 and 1999 to 2007.