After a string of adventures, the ancient gold ring is back in Greece

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ATHENS, Greece – A 3,000-year-old gold signet ring stolen from an Aegean island in World War II, crossed the Atlantic, bought by a Nobel Prize-winning Hungarian scientist and ended up in a Swedish museum on its way back to Greece.

It was the latest in a series of coups by Greek authorities to bring back looted works from the antiquities-rich country – although the initial attempt by the Swedish Museum to return the ring apparently fell into the cracks of the 1970s bureaucracy.

The Greek Ministry of Culture said on Friday that Rhodes’ Golden Mycenaean-era work, decorated with two facing sphinxes, had been voluntarily returned by Swedish officials who had provided full assistance in documenting the pattern and its origins.

Greek experts confirmed the identification, and the piece was handed over by the Nobel Foundation’s executive director Vidar Helgesen in Stockholm, where the ring was given by a Hungarian biophysicist. The Foundation, which presents annual awards for outstanding achievements in various fields, has donated it to the Mediterranean and Near East Antiquities Museum in Stockholm.

Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni thanked the Nobel Foundation and Swedish authorities for the repatriation, saying it “shows their respect for modern Greece and our continued efforts to fight against the illegal trafficking of cultural products.”

The ring, which became a status symbol for a local nobleman in the 3rd millennium BC, was discovered by Italian archaeologists in 1927 in a Mycenaean tomb near the ancient city of Yalisos in Rhodes. The southeastern Aegean island belonged to Italy until it became part of Greece after World War II.

The culture ministry says the ring was stolen from a Rhodes museum during the war – along with hundreds of other jewelry and coins that are missing – and was released in the United States. It was purchased there in the 1950s or 1960s by George von Becksey, a biophysicist and art collector, whose collection was donated to the Nobel Foundation after his death in 1972 and distributed to various museums.

Helgesen of the Nobel Foundation said there was no doubt about where the work should be.

“To us, it was clear that the ring should be returned,” he said. “This pattern is of great cultural-historical value to Greece.”

The Stockholm Museum initially identified the ring from Yalisos in 1975 and contacted Greek authorities, the ministry said.

“But it remains in Stockholm for reasons not clear from the existing archives,” the statement said on Friday. The artwork will now be on display at a museum in Rhodes.

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