Sion Treasure


In 1963, Dumbarton Oaks acquired a collection of 6th century AD Byzantine liturgical silverware, comprising dishes, crosses, candlesticks and other items. The Dumbarton director John Thacher had viewed the silver in Switzerland, where it was in the possession of Turkish antiquities dealer George Zacos, before it was purchased by Mrs Robert Woods Bliss for $1 million and donated to the museum. The material had been found buried in a mound at the small town of Kumluca (ancient Corydalla), about 20 miles from Antalya. Unbeknownst to Thacher, however, the material on offer was only part of a larger trove, and the remainder had been acquired by Antalya Museum and dispatched to Istanbul for study by Nizeh Firatli of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Firatli understood that the material he was studying was incomplete and mentioned that fact at a 1964 meeting in Athens while he was presenting a paper on his research. Nevertheless, Dumbarton Oaks subsequently displayed the silver as part of the “Sion Treasure” (BZ.1963.36.1-3,11 and BZ.1965.1.1,5,12), noting that while a significant part of this treasure was in Dumbarton Oaks, much of it is was in the Antalya Museum. The treasure was named from a niello inscription on an oblong polycandelon (multiple-lamp holder) mentioning “Holy Sion,” possibly the church or the monastery for which the objects were made. The monastery of Holy Sion was 60 miles from present-day Kumluca.
Meyer, Karl. 1973. The Plundered Past. New York: Atheneum, 58-61.
Rose, Mark and Őzgen Acar, 1995. “Turkey’s war on the illicit antiquities trade,” Archaeology 48, 45-55.