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West End Extra - by TOM FOOT
Published: 4 May 2007
‘I want bowls back,’ says antiques tycoon

Legal threat against university over loaned artefacts

AN antiques tycoon is demanding the return of a collection of ‘magic bowls’ he gave to University College London for storage.
But UCL says it can’t return the bowls until an investigation into their origin is complete.
The 654 Aramaic incantation bowls, that are decked in ‘magical’ text, were used to ward off evil spirits in first-century Mesopotamia.
Martin Schoyen, founder of The Schoyen Collection, which has more than 700 artefacts dating back 5,000 years, gave the bowls to the university for safe keeping in 1996.
But in May 2005 the university launched an investigation after a British documentary-maker claimed the multi-million pound collection was smuggled illegally from Iraq.
The investigation has taken two years and now Mr Schoyen says he has had enough and will sue for their return.
In a newsletter posted on his website he revealed: “The Schoyen Collection had been willing, initially, to collaborate in a programme of verification of the provenance of the incantation bowls.
“However, the Collection began to lose confidence in UCL’s conduct of its enquiries.
“Although the Schoyen Collection continued to give the University the benefit of the doubt for some time, following a series of unsatisfactory meetings and communications, it has now reluctantly come to the view that legal proceedings are the only way forward.
“We have become frustrated with the waste of time and money caused by a lengthy and inconclusive inquiry into provenance and with the spurious reasons being given for not returning the bowls and will not be deflected.”
Professor Michael Worton, UCL Vice Provost, said he was “disappointed” but he insisted the University would not be “deflected” from its enquiries.
He said: “UCL is currently pursuing meticulous and balanced enquiries as to the origin and proper destination of the bowls. UCL’s objective is to resolve all relevant issues in a manner consistent with both law and ethics.
“In pursuit of that objective, it has notified relevant authorities of the facts available to UCL and offered co-operation.
“UCL will not allow that process to be disrupted.”

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