In 1969 an international team of investigators began excavating the Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone at Cyrene in the province of Cyrenaica of what is today eastern Libya. The project was begun under the sponsorship of the University of Michigan's Kelsey Museum and was taken over in 1973 by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Fieldwork ceased in 1981 after nine seasons of activity directed by Penn's Dr. Donald White, largely because of the deteriorating relations between the governments of Libya and the United States.
During the years between 1969 and 1981 a very substantial quantity of stone sculpture was unearthed from the sanctuary's ground. Professor Susan Kane at Oberlin is the principal investigator responsible for the publication of this material.
It is now our sad duty to report that a major theft of this material was carried out some time in late 1999 or early in 2000. A gang of persons as yet largely unidentified broke into the University of Pennsylvania's storerooms at Cyrene through a broken window and removed what appears to have been a total of 15 sculptures. A list of the stolen pieces was provided to us by Professor Emanuela Fabbricotti of the Italian Mission to Cyrene in November 2000. Given the practical difficulties facing Professor Fabbricotti in verifying what was actually taken from our storage, the total number may have been higher than 15 and could, at least in theory, even be slightly lower. These objects represent some of the most interesting and archaeologically valuable artifacts found by us in the course of the entire excavation.
While the current location of the stolen pieces is still a matter of speculation, it is likely that they were transported across the border into Egypt fairly soon after the initial theft. None of the principals responsible for the thefts have been apprehended by the Libyan authorities, and many details surrounding this event remain obscure owing to the on-going absence of direct communications between us and the Libyan Department of Antiquities headquartered in Tripoli.
Fortunately we possess a complete documentation of all of the pieces reportedly lost. In the meantime we appeal to the public at large as well as to all of our scholarly colleagues to report to us any information they might have about the missing pieces.Donald White
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
33rd and Spruce Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6324
Department of Art
Oberlin, OH 44074