It's illegal to buy,
sell, possess or—especially—export from
Turkey antiquities (usually
defined as carpets,
coins, icons, colored tiles and ceramics,
paintings, statues and sculptures,
metal objects, etc.) more
than one or two centuries old (ie,
older than antiques.)
Penalties are stiff, and usually include
a prison sentence for serious
How can you tell if the Turkish
carpet you're buying is an antiquity,
or just old? If you have doubts,
legally you're supposed to take
it to a museum and have an expert
examine it and write an official
assessment telling whether or
not it can be exported.
This is impractical,
of course, and usually unnecessary.
Many carpet shops in Turkey now provide
you with a form from a museum certifying
that the piece you're buying is not an
antiquity and may be legally sold,
bought and exported.
A true antiquity will
normally be priced so high that you
wouldn't buy it if you didn't know
you were buying an ancient treasure.
Most carpets you'd
buy as souvenirs have been made in
the last 100 years, probably even the
last 10 years, and perhaps in China
or India, so you needn't worry—unless
you really are shopping for 17th and
What about old statues, statuettes
and coins? Farmers often come
across these items while plowing.
They may offer them to tourists for
sale, not knowing it's illegal and
that these items by law must be surrendered
to the nearest museum.
Don't buy them!
For one thing, you may be buying a fake,
because there is a brisk trade in fake
ancient statuettes, figurines and coins.
Unless it's an obvious fake (with,
say, "Made in China" on the
bottom), you may still be arrested
for violating antiquities law when
you leave the country because the customs
officer spot-checking your
bags may not be able to tell
a fake from the real thing, either.
Turkey holds a treasure trove of antiquities,
and Turks rightly want to protect this
patrimony for present and future generations. A
huge amount of this cultural patrimony
was taken from Turkey during
the 19th century and now resides in
museums in Europe, America and other
places. Lawsuits brought by the Turkish
government against museums which had
procured Turkish cultural treasures illegally have
resulted in some treasures being returned
The illegal international
trade in stolen antiquities is a
dirty business. Don't let
yourself be associated with it in
any way, even by innocent error.
Stay clear of antiquities of all
kinds—except for admiring them in