Deeper into the Dorak Treasure Hoax
Deeper into the Dorak Treasure Hoax
August 23, 2012
Tea with Dorak Affair authors Kenneth Pearson and Patricia Connor
See also, The Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology
"He [Aydin Dikmen] lived in the most affluent sector of Konya where the streets were lined with detached villas and blocks of white-plastered apartments. We climbed to his first-floor flat and sat with a drink while he disappeared below. The living room was furnished at some expense in a style reminiscent of the early thirties. Wooden armed chairs were scattered on a highly decorated carpet, and lamps of convoluted chromium stood on almost every side table. But its main feature was the glass case that divided Dikmen's dining-table from the rest of the room. It contained at least four rows of exquisite antiquities; only a taste of what was to come.
We left the flat and followed him down to the basement. And there, in a white-washed room about sixteen feet long and eight feet wide, was his museum. The walls were covered, almost without interruption, with display cases which were packed with a dazzling variety of precious objects: Lydian gold wreaths, vases of Rome and Greece, boxes of coins. His collection, he said, contained in all about 1,900 items. They were worth at a rough estimate well over 10,000 pounds.
As beautiful as the entire exhibition was, there were several objects arranged neatly in a corner case which attracted our immediate attention. It was like homing on a radar beam. Dikmen had an obsidian mirror from Catal Huyuk, its unmarred surface in infinitely better condition than that of the examples preserved in the Ankara museum. He also had obsidian blades and a necklace. There were other objects which he claimed came from Catal Huyuk and were therefore Neolithic, but in fact they were early Bronze Age artifacts from a site at Can Hasan further to the south. Alongside these, Dikmen had placed several pots from Hacilar, Mellaart's other dig." -- Kenneth Pearson and Patricia Connor (1967, The Dorak Affair)
"One cannot complain of having no clues... There are clues here in abundance." -- Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express
James Mellaart (left), Aydin Dikmen (right), Photos, courtesy Patricia Connor
British journalist David Aaronovitch commented recently in The Times of London's editorial pages on the death of archaeologist James Mellaart, whose passing has largely gone unnoticed in the media even though Mellaart's discoveries in Turkey in the late 50s at Hacilar and Catal Huyuk led to a universal rethinking of civilized life in the ancient Near East. In the August 9 Times piece, which highlights Mellaart also fabricating a treasure, the Dorak Treasure, leading to scandal following publication of drawings of the artifacts, Aaronovitch cites my cracking the Dorak hoax through analysis of a letter supposedly sent from the owner of the collection to Mellaart authorizing him to publish the evidence (see Dorak Series linked above). Aaronovitch refers to my observation that capital "I" instead of "1" was used to date both Mellaart's personal correspondence at the time the Dorak episode was unfolding as well as the letter from the imaginary owner, Anna Papastrati. Without naming him, Aaronovitch also points to my interview with UC-Berkeley archaeologist David Stronach, a former colleague of Mellaart's and author of part of Mellaart's Dorak monograph, who told me Dorak was in reality Mellaart's "dream-like episode," one that grew into an "enterprise." What Aaronovitch doesn't mention is the fact that both Stronach and Mellaart were friends of archaeologist Max Mallowan, and more importantly, of his wife Agatha Christie.
I thought it might be good to revisit my conversation with former Sunday Times writers, Patricia Connor and her husband, the dramatist Kenneth Pearson (now deceased), which focused on the connection between James Mellaart and Turkish collector-dealer Aydin Dikmen. As I mentioned in "Getting to the Bottom of the Dorak Affair," Aydin Dikmen is thought to have served as some inspiration for Mellaart's fantasy.
Pearson and Connor wrote The Dorak Affair, the book that first chronicled events. I spoke with them at their home on the outskirts of London in June 1991 where they revealed to me over tea and toast with honey that they had thrown away all their notes and switched careers, even though Dorak remained one of the great unsolved mysteries of the 20th century I was further surprised to learn that they had not spoken with "Jimmie" Mellaart in 20 years.
The interview follows:
Suzan Mazur: Why did you go to Konya to see Aydin Dikmen?
Patricia Connor: Because he lived there. I can't remember.
He did live there. He lived in a small house, I believe, on
the outskirts of the town. And I think that at that time we
were wanting to meet as many people as possible to do with
archaeology both professionally or in the trade, so to
speak. What was very difficult in those days was to
distinguish between somebody who was a genuine collector --
a Turkish collector -- and somebody who was in the business
of running stolen artifacts out of the country.
And I can remember we met that man in Istanbul, didn't we, who had this fabulous collection. I can't remember his name.
Patricia Connor: Some years ago we threw away all our notes on the basis that we wouldn't need them anymore.
Suzan Mazur: But when did you first meet Dikmen and how did you know to look him up?
Patricia Connor: Because as far as I can remember, although we'd done the business with the dealers -- although we'd had contact with dealers in the covered bazaar, there were nonetheless collectors as distinct from dealers we'd been told to go and see. And Aydin Dikmen's name kept cropping up. But I think as a collector rather than as a dealer.
Suzan Mazur: He was a collector at the time.
Patricia Connor: He was a collector.
Suzan Mazur: You called him a "jazz-musician collector."
Patricia Connor: That's right. I mean, I know because I looked at the picture.
Suzan Mazur: And now he calls himself an archaeologist.
Patricia Connor: He certainly wasn't that.
Kenneth Pearson: He would know a lot about it by handling stuff -- you know real stuff.
Patricia Connor: I'm trying to remember the name of the other collector we went to in Istanbul. And I think I may have it here. Because I have all the press cuttings that came out.
Suzan Mazur: So because you thought of Dikmen as a collector, you weren't even thinking in terms of his being a smuggler.
Kenneth Pearson: I think one has doubts. No. No. Not with him. I think one had doubts about everybody one met. Anybody who was a collector. It's like in the modern world of museums. If you have a man who's a famous curator in a field of activity who collects for his museum, does he collect for himself on the side? If he buys a piece, does he buy it for his museum or for his own apartment? I meant that's been known in the past both in America and in this country. So when you're looking at a small time collector, and Dikmen was small in those days, as I remember him getting everything out on the table. I associate him most with obsidian mirrors.
Patricia Connor: He had those very small pieces. I don't remember him having anything very spectacular -- particularly looking at the picture we took of him then with his collection. It's not what you would call a major collection of artifacts.
Kenneth Pearson: But he might have had a lot hidden which we…
Patricia Connor: But I think he would have shown us. The point about it is -- I think that at that stage we were going around and seeing everyone who was a collector because every one of them must have bought their material from somewhere. I think what we were trying to do was to build up an idea of the network that was going on in Turkey at that time between collectors, dealers, illegal excavators, legal excavators and all that sort of thing.
Suzan Mazur: You were probably one of the first to be doing this type of story in Turkey.
Kenneth Pearson: I think so, and it was purely to protect the reputation of James Mellaart, the English archaeologist. When I say protect him -- as a journalist you don't go out to protect anybody. You go out to find out if the story is right. Now if it turns out that he is a crook and he is smuggling things, then you've got a great story. If he isn't a crook, then you've got another good story because he's been defamed by another nation.
Suzan Mazur: Did you know him from...
Patricia Connor: Yes. It's as it's set out in the book. I was an archaeology student and just at the time I was joining the Sunday Times Kenneth said to me, "What's the greatest site in the world that could be written about?" A hypothetical question.
Kenneth Pearson: For an Englishman -- remember?
Patricia Connor: No, at that point you said, "What would be the most exciting site in the world to write about?" And I was particularly interested in the site Catal Huyuk because when I was a student I was interested in the Neolithic Age.
Suzan Mazur: Where did you study?
Patricia Connor: I did my archaeology at Cambridge. We then said maybe there's a piece for the color magazine about Catal Huyuk. Even now Catal is acknowledged as a site of absolute world importance in terms of the history of urbanization.
Suzan Mazur: But it's stopped, hasn't it? The archaeology stopped when Mellaart left?
Patricia Connor: Yes of course, that was the whole point. What happened then was we started to investigate how we could get out to Catal, see Mellaart excavating and then the whole can of worms was opened up. Because they had been refused. The British Institute of Archaeology had been refused an excavation permit. And we said well, why would the Turks do that if this dig were of such importance?
And BIA said, oh well, don't you know the story?
That's when Mellaart's -- the whole Dorak story was told to us first of all. We said that is far more interesting than the Catal Huyuk story. So we went to Turkey at 10 days' notice to try and trace this through and find out what it was all about. It was a very much spur of the moment departure Jimmie was going off. Because we met Jimmie in a restaurant and he told us about the excavation at Catal.
Suzan Mazur: When did you first meet him?
Kenneth Pearson: We took him to lunch.
Patricia Connor: It was in London in May of 1966. We met him and he said as soon as I've got my dig permit I'll let you know and you'll come out this summer, in August or something.
Suzan Mazur: This was after the Dorak affair.
Patricia Connor: 1966 was when we investigated the story. The Dorak business had gone on in the late 50s and into early 60s -- I can't remember the exact chronology. It's all laid out in the book. The whole business had been dragging on through the Turkish press after the publication of Mellaart's big article in the Illustrated London News. The Turks were so incensed by this that they'd withdrawn Mellaart's excavation permit. And Mellaart was the only man who could dig at Catal Huyuk because it was a very specialized site. It was his site.
So we agreed with him that as soon as he got his dig permit, he would let us know and we'd all go out to Catal Huyuk that summer and see him working on the site. Next thing we know, we call up the institute and they say: Oh he's already gone and no, there's no permit.
We said, Why? And they say: Well don't you know the whole story?
I can't remember what the exact line was, but it was very elliptical. So we thought, well this was a story to investigate.
Suzan Mazur: Mellaart didn't let on at all when you met him in the restaurant that something had gone awry?
Patricia Connor: No. No. No. And we went out to Istanbul and we met him. I think at that point he didn't think there would be a complication. I think he thought everything was going to be alright.
Kenneth Pearson: I think he was hoping it wouldn't happen. I think he was a very complex person. But that's only as far as I would go.
Patricia Connor: I think he's naive. I think he's a naive person. He hadn't realized. Now 20 years on, he would know full well implications of all this.
Suzan Mazur: It's really devastated his life, hasn't it?
Patricia Connor: I would imagine so. We haven't seen him for years and years. We don't know what he's doing now.
Suzan Mazur: I was told he's never excavated again.
Patricia Connor: No.
Suzan Mazur: Anywhere.
Patricia Connor: He's always got great plans. But it was doubly complicated because his wife is Turkish. Her family was very distinguished, Istanbul high society. Mellaart was very well connected in Istanbul, and that was another complication. He obviously didn't want to be declared persona non grata in the country. But I think in this instance he was naive. He hadn't realized the implications, how the Turks would be angered by what was going on. He hadn't really thought it through.
Kenneth Pearson: But I also think, if you think of Milliyet as a kind of Istanbul Daily News -- passionately nationalistic regardless of the issues.
Patricia Connor: In those days.
Kenneth Pearson: Yes, in those days. And therefore, not quick off the mark to check facts. Rumors got printed as facts. When we started looking at the story that they'd run, I think that they were hopelessly inaccurate. And they ran stories against us.
Suzan Mazur: Really.
Kenneth Pearson: Oh yes.
Suzan Mazur: But you don't have any problems traveling back there?
Pearson and Connor: No. No. We went back.
Patricia Connor: We went back the following year for a long, long thing as guests of the Turkish Government.
Kenneth Pearson: Yes, that's right. It was only Milliyet, wasn't it. I mean you read in the story about how we went to see the governor who listened to what we had to say and rang the police station to give us access. That would never happen in England, and I doubt whether it would happen in the United States. We were absolutely amazed when the governor did it, and when we got to the police station they had had the phone call. We were able to question everybody and go through their files. And the Milliyet story didn't hang together.
Patricia Connor: Do you read Turkish?
Suzan Mazur: No.
Patricia Connor: Then you will know as little about what these articles mean as we did.
Suzan Mazur: These are from Milliyet?
Patricia Connor: Yes. These are the articles that came out after our article in the color magazine. Commenting on what we'd done. They all picked it up. And the whole thing was reactivated not so much after the book but after the Sunday Times article. Because they were the first rebreaking of the story behind that.
Kenneth Pearson: Is that the man in the bazaar? He, you know they were so two-faced. He was going to sell us a Catal Huyuk figure as a genuine.
Suzan Mazur: And it was fake.
Kenneth Pearson: Then
afterwards he said it was a fake. I said, "Can I take your
He said, "No, because you've got a wide-angle lens." But we took a photograph and of the object.
Suzan Mazur: You mentioned when you went to Aydin Dikmen's home that there were pieces there from Hacilar and Catal Huyuk, which is where Mellaart excavated.
Patricia Connor: Is that what we say in the book? Can you remember the page reference? Because I can't find it.
Suzan Mazur: It says Mellaart was excavating there in both places.
Patricia Connor: Oh here it is. I've got it. Jimmie excavated at Hacilar first through the late 50s and early 60s. And, of course, once an excavation finishes, the local peasants move in to see what they can find on the site. So there's immediately a very, very profitable trade in apparently pieces that have been excavated, most of which are probably fake. As you probably know, if you know about Hacilar antiquities -- a lot of Hacilar pots in the world's museums are fake, probably 90% -- beautifully made, beautifully finished.
Suzan Mazur: I thought there were Hacilar figures.
Patricia Connor: No there were Hacilar pots as well.
Suzan Mazur: In Dikmen's collection?
Patricia Connor: Oh, in Dikmen's collection. I can't remember.
Suzan Mazur: I think the photograph you have, there are Hacilar pieces there. The Neolithic goddess.
Patricia Connor: Yes. There are. I'm sorry I thought you meant generally. Yes.
Suzan Mazur: What was the relationship between Dikmen and Mellaart?
Patricia Connor: None. I don't think.
Kenneth Pearson: We never found any. What does he say?
Suzan Mazur: He said there was.
Patricia Connor: Who says?
Suzan Mazur: Dikmen. Says in the book, of course he knew him. And he says he got the pieces from Mellaart's people, from his workers.
Patricia Connor: Yes, but not necessarily at the time when…[Connor looks in Dorak book]
Suzan Mazur: So the reason why you didn't name other smugglers in Konya or in Turkey was because you were looking at Dikmen as if he was a collector. Or did you see him as the biggest local baddie?
Pearson and Connor: No. No. No.
Patricia Connor: I mean, my impression looking at the whole picture...
Suzan Mazur: You gave Dikmen a full page picture.
Patricia Connor: Yes. But he was a collector. The point one was making was there were collectors in Turkey. I don't remember ever making a judgment in the sense that. I mean it wasn't a judgmental book about collectors and smugglers as a whole. What we were trying to isolate was who had duped Mellaart in the case of the Dorak treasure. One could never assume that Dikmen was anything to do with that. He probably would have been too young at the time.
Suzan Mazur: Too young for?
Patricia Connor: Well, we were meeting him 10 years after the Dorak thing had happened. And he was a fairly young man then. He was what in his early 30s. It's unlikely that he would have been involved in a big scam like the Dorak thing 10 years before. I'm sure that was orchestrated as a much more…
Suzan Mazur: You met him in 1966.
Patricia Connor: '66.
Suzan Mazur: And Dorak happened in--
Patricia Connor: '58-'59.
Kenneth Pearson: I can't remember.
Patricia Connor: The letter from Anna Papastrati to Jimmie giving him the authority to publish the material was the 18th of October 1958. Now he had waited a long time for that letter. I mean I really don't remember. I haven't looked at this stuff since 1966…
Suzan Mazur: Nobody could ever find Anna or the house.
Patricia Connor: No. I mean we went down the street, up and down the street, counting out the numbers and everything. I think that the -- in terms of Aydin Dikmen -- so many people talked about the really powerful smugglers, who I didn't think we had met, were shipping stuff out it was generally held through the American base at Izmir.
Kenneth Pearson: Izmir. We photographed it. But we didn't actually go up to the Americans and say are you smuggling? It would be a very simple answer. "No."
But it was generally thought -- being the sort of ally that nobody was questioning -- that bags or diplomatic bags, anything could go out. That's on the main, top level. On the lower level, you've got possibly small collectors like Dikmen and you can't tell whether they're collecting for themselves or whether they have a basic collection and sell bits off one end and take bits on the other, which I think they do. Then you have the peasants who pounced on a site once the archaeologists left and started to find one or two genuine pieces, which as Pat said, make masses of fakes.
I remember the man who went away and got that jar. The photograph of him looking at this pot, with gold wristwatches and everything, which he traded. It was so muddy. You really couldn't point the finger at anybody and say exactly what he was.
Suzan Mazur: But he [Dikmen] had a pretty healthy collection at the time you met him.
Patricia Connor: I'm just reading what we said.
Suzan Mazur: He was probably putting that together for a few years.
Patricia Connor: Well, yes. Absolutely. I've got no doubt now looking back that he was collecting and dealing presumably. Most collectors become dealers if only in the sense that they get tired of pieces and they want to move on.
Suzan Mazur: Dikmen could have known Mellaart if he's been collecting from his 20s. He was 30, 31 when you met him...
Patricia Connor: I don't think -- apart from what we say and hear, I don't think we should discuss whether or not he knew Jimmie Mellaart.
Suzan Mazur: But he says in the book that he does.
Patricia Connor: Well he claims.
Kenneth Pearson: No, he said he knew him. But I mean...
Patricia Connor: There should not be any implication that Jimmie was selling him material otherwise it's just going to blow up again. And without going back to square one, I don't think one can make any comment.
Kenneth Pearson: I would have thought the way that they did it, if they did anything, was to operate round the edges of these camps. Get to know the people who were digging.
Patricia Connor: Well, this is what he says.
Kenneth Pearson: And offer them bits of money to pocket an obsidian mirror. Find three, own up to two, and sell one off, you know. I would think that's how. And the archaeologist in charge would not have to know that this was going on. I think actually Dikmen's the kind of man who claims to know everybody. This is what big dealers do -- don't they.
Suzan Mazur: What was he like?
Kenneth Pearson: He's a smoothie. I mean what could you tell in one small interview.
Suzan Mazur: He talks a lot?
Kenneth Pearson: Yes. He's a talker.
Suzan Mazur: Did you speak with him in Turkish?
Pearson and Connor: No. No.
Patricia Connor: In English. We didn't have an interpreter.
Suzan Mazur: He speaks fluent English?
Patricia Connor: We didn't have an interpreter.
Kenneth Pearson: He spoke pretty good English as I remember
Suzan Mazur: Really.
Patricia Connor: Yes. I think he did.
Suzan Mazur: That's very interesting.
Patricia Connor: Why does he claim he doesn't speak English?
Suzan Mazur: Well maybe it's because he's been living in Munich.
Kenneth Pearson: We didn't have an interpreter with us.
Patricia Connor: No. And I don't believe that if we had an interpreter with us, he would have shown us the collection as he did.
Suzan Mazur: You don't remember how you came across him. Who introduced you?
Patricia Connor: Did we say in here?
Suzan Mazur: I don't think so.
Kenneth Pearson: One of the obvious connections. You can tell.
Suzan Mazur: Do you feel paranoid about this book at all?
Patricia Connor: Paranoid?
Suzan Mazur: Because there are still questions about the book.
Pearson and Connor: No.
Suzan Mazur: Has it affected your lives negatively in any way?
Patricia Connor: No, we did the book, We did a complete job in the sense that we came up with a conclusion. Our own conclusion. It didn't resolve anything as far as Jimmie Mellaart was concerned. But we're journalists. We then moved on to the next job. You know. That was it. We did the next thing.
Suzan Mazur: What do you think about Anna Papastrati? Do you think she actually existed? Do you think this affair actually happened?
Patricia Connor: I don't believe Jimmie is the kind of person who would have made it up. He's not that. As I said, he's a very naive man and I think he got embroiled through his naivety. We've always felt that And I still believe that. I have no reason then or since to change my mind about that. I don't think he's a criminal or a crook. I think he was taken for a ride.
Suzan Mazur: And these were his sketches that were published in the Illustrated London News.
Patricia Connor: I'm sure. Because he showed us the original material. He's got rubbings and things which you have to take off material. You don't just make it up.
Kenneth Pearson: I'm trying to guess now after all these years. I really don't believe that he -- maybe I'm wrong -- maybe I'm naive -- but I really don't believe that he could have put together a scam of that grandeur. To start inventing rubbings and doing drawings.
Suzan Mazur: But now in Turkey all these fakes that exist -- people make such a business inventing artifacts. Is it possible that some of these pieces may have been invented that he took rubbings of?
Patricia Connor: Oh yes. Oh yes! Of course. And the collection certainly wasn't homogeneous. They claimed that it was from one tomb but it certainly wasn't. And the idea generally speaking was that it had been put together as a collection and that some pieces were better than others. Other pieces may have been fake. One simply doesn't know. That they then needed an academic to give it, to lend it authority. They fell on Jimmie whether it was because they knew he was naive or that he was gullible. I don't know why. Whether he was working in the right period. He was the man they wanted. This is the theory we ended up with. And I think it's possibly true
Kenneth Pearson: Yes. I think even today there's so much money involved. I mean the Goldberg thing [Kanakaria Mosaics] -- there's so much money involved that it's worth the investment of time. Building up a collection. Thinking the story. Making the story. Adding little bits where there are gaps and building up a treasure and then hanging on to it for 10 years. Rumors go round Zurich or whatever and people get interested. It's a great game if you want to spend your life playing it. I think that's what really happened with this.
Suzan Mazur: So you think some pieces were not genuine.
Patricia Connor: I don't know. We never saw it. All we saw were his drawings.
[Note: In The Dorak Affair, Connor and Pearson describe examining Mellaart's 60,000 word Dorak monograph, which they say gave a "physical description and provenance of all the objects that were said to come out of the two [Yortan] tombs."]
One can't possibly judge that easily which was genuine. The point is, as we've said before, an archaeologist never thinks in terms of fakes because an archaeologist is used to seeing pieces come out of the ground. Unless a site has been assaulted, the material coming out of the ground is genuine. So an archaeologist doesn't automatically look at a piece and think it's a fake. He might think -- oh it poses problems about stratigraphy and that sort of thing, but he doesn't think in terms of fakes. That's just not the way an archaeologist thinks. A museum person thinks in terms of fakes. A dealer does. But not an archaeologist. At least then that was true. It may not be true now. I don't know how an archaeologist would think. I can't believe any English archaeologist working on a site would see an object and think: "Oh God, is it fake?"
Suzan Mazur: You must have thought about this endlessly. What do you think happened to the treasure and Anna Papastrati?
Patricia Connor: We don't know about Anna Papastrati. I mean, I think she was just a girl who was used. She was part of a group. Whatever. I don't know what happened to her.
Kenneth Pearson: She could have been set up.
Patricia Connor: She could have been set up.
Kenneth Pearson: Not set up. She could have been part of the whole parade.
Suzan Mazur: Do you think she was an agent of the Turkish Government?
Pearson and Connor: No.
Kenneth Pearson: Set up by whoever was trying to sell the collection.
Suzan Mazur: Why show it to Mellaart?
Patricia Connor: They needed an archaeologist to authenticate. How do you authenticate this? Mellaart says yes I will make notes and I will publish it. And as soon as something is published in the Illustrated London News, certainly in those days, it becomes an accepted object. An accepted collection. Well, of course by the time it appeared in the Illustrated London News it had been shipped out of Turkey and was sitting in a vault somewhere ready to be shown to a collector who was prepared to buy it.
Suzan Mazur: But it's never turned up.
Patricia Connor: Oh bits of it have turned up. Well, we don't know that. Bits that look remarkably like it have turned up over the years.
Suzan Mazur: Where?
Patricia Connor: Some bits have turned up in Boston. Some bits have turned up in Texas.
Suzan Mazur: I've been told the collection in Boston is not from the right area. It's from Mersin.
Patricia Connor: Oh. Yes. Well there's that.
Suzan Mazur: So it can't be part of the Dorak Treasure.
Patricia Connor: But I heard various pieces turned up in Texas. Midwest. Private collectors who hoard the stuff.
Suzan Mazur: Anyone in particular?
Patricia Connor: No. I can't remember.
I really can't remember. I honestly don't remember.
What I'm saying is in the five, ten years after the book came out, one knew the journalists who were interested in this whole thing. And I would get phone calls saying: Have you heard that this has turned up? And I'd say: How interesting. But we had moved on to other things. I wasn't interested in hearing it.
Suzan Mazur: You don't think he [Mellaart] was set up by the Turkish Government?
Patricia Connor: The Dorak thing happened as an event in 1958. He was excavating Catal until the mid 60s. Why would the Turkish Government set him up in the late 50s so that seven or eight years later, on the chance he might be developing an important site they could discredit him? It doesn't make sense. Whoever says that hasn't worked it out. I don't know who it is.
Suzan Mazur: A friend of James Mellaart.
Patricia Connor: Really. Well. James Mellaart doesn't really want to talk about this at all.
Suzan Mazur: James Mellaart doesn't want to talk about this at all
Patricia Connor: I'm sure he doesn't. I'm sure he doesn't. I mean it's blighted his life. He was very pleased when the book came out. There was no feeling that it had done him down. Because although we didn't exonerate him, we didn't blame him either. I think it was a fair and honest examination of everything that had happened in a purely dispassionate way.
But after that nothing actually was resolved. Things didn't get better And I would think in the 20 years -- we haven't seen him since probably 1970 -- in the 20 years that have gone by since then, clearly things haven't gotten better. The situation in Turkey has gotten worse, and it has genuinely blighted his life as an archaeologist.
I mean he is a brilliant archaeologist. But to say that the Turkish Government set him up in the 50s is crazy. Why on earth should they? He was a research student at the British Institute of Archaeology in Ankara. He was terribly, terribly junior. He wasn't seen as an eminent archaeologist in those days.
If somebody set him up, and as I said, I don't believe it was the Turkish Government -- if somebody set him up, it was because he was known to be extremely clever and had an authority in the sense that he came from the British Institute in Ankara. But he wasn't a target in that sense because of his eminence and his career. It was because he was being useful to them not the other way around.
Kenneth Pearson: And if he was involved in it in a bad sort of way, why would he take the risk in ruining his life as an archaeologist? He's got absolutely nothing out of it.
Suzan Mazur: I've heard that he was authenticating pieces in general. But this I guess would be after the Dorak affair. He was authenticating Hacilar pieces. He was giving endorsements.
Patricia Connor: There's only one way to authenticate Hacilar pieces -- through a thermoluminescence test. You have to take a boring from the pot and you have to do a date test. That's the only way you can authenticate it. You can authenticate it stylistically and if it's a good fake, an archaeologist is actually not going to tell the difference.
These things are faked so well because there's so much money involved, so you have to authenticate if scientifically. An archaeologist can't do that. They have to go to a lab.
Kenneth Pearson: And it wasn't available. Not in a wide sort of way.
Connor: Well it was available. The one at Oxford was
authenticated by the Oxford lab. Yes. It could be done. But
Jimmie couldn't do it except stylistically and by the feel
of the glaze and that sort of thing, unless he saw it come
out of the ground.
Suzan Mazur: Right.
Kenneth Pearson: Then it could have been buried there and you could spot that if you're an archaeologist. The fact is that he was brilliant.
Suzan Mazur: But that's help to a dealer.
Patricia Connor: What is?
Suzan Mazur: If an archaeologist authenticates a piece.
Kenneth Pearson: Well yes.
Suzan Mazur: I'd heard along the way from dealers that he had been doing this and you can do it in such a way that it helps a dealer set a piece at a higher price.
Patricia Connor: Well sure. I can understand that people would say, oh well, yes, Mellaart when he failed to continue to work as an archaeologist, he was making his living signing certificates for dealers.
Suzan Mazur: I don't know at what point he was doing this, whether he was still doing archaeology when he was authenticating pieces.
Patricia Connor: I'm worried about this conversation because we haven't seen Jimmie for 21 years. I don't know what he's been doing since and I don't think we should discuss it. I'd be happy to discuss Aydin Dikmen. What we remember about him. But I'm not prepared to discuss what Jimmie's been doing with other dealers. All that I know is what went on at the period that we'd written the book.
Suzan Mazur: There were two dealers you referred to in Izmir in the book. Do you remember who they were?
Patricia Connor: What were their names.
Kenneth Pearson: It wasn't Istanbul. It was Izmir.
Patricia Connor: It was.
Kenneth Pearson: Kosibas.
Patricia Connor: Kosibas was the big one we went to on the day we had the World Cup football final. Do you remember?
Kenneth Pearson: He had an upstairs apartment.
Patricia Connor: He had a two-story shop that was absolutely amazing. I do have some notes on that. Do you remember that very nice journalist who took us there? I've got a letter from him. His name was Dundar Ozar. Because he was going on after we left. He was going to go on and try and do something.
Suzan Mazur: Was he with one of the publications?
Patricia Connor: No, I think he was tourist officer actually.
Suzan Mazur: And he introduced you to dealers?
Patricia Connor: He didn't introduce us. He took us there. He acted as interpreter. He said, "The Sunday Times. I send you here with copies of Yeni Tanin, which condemned your article by interviewing the people you mentioned and photographed." Here are the passages of their comments. [Connor reads Turkish press.]
Suzan Mazur: It must have been a great adventure.
Patricia Connor: There's also the two-story shop that we went to in Izmir, which is amazing. Do you remember? And was that not Kosibas's shop?
Kenneth Pearson: Well I thought it was. It was a very dark apartment with glass cases in it.
Suzan Mazur: That sounds like Dikmen's.
Kenneth Pearson: No it wasn't Dikmen's.
Suzan Mazur: He had a glass case in the apartment full of...
Patricia Connor: Yes. But they all have that. They're all modern apartments with marble floors.
Suzan Mazur: Dikmen's had furniture from the 30s and I think chromium lamps.
describe Dikmen's apartment from the Pearson & Connor
"He lived in the most affluent sector of Konya where the streets were lined with detached villas and blocks of white-plastered apartments. We climbed to his first-floor flat and sat with a drink while he disappeared below. The living room was furnished at some expense in a style reminiscent of the early thirties. Wooden armed chairs were scattered on a highly decorated carpet, and lamps of convoluted chromium stood on almost every side table. But its main feature was the glass case that divided Dikmen's dining-table from the rest of the room. It contained at least four rows of exquisite antiquities; only a taste of what was to come."]
Kenneth Pearson: The obvious thing why he's in Munich, presumably, is because of the enormous number of Turkish workers in Germany. If you have a half-million workers of any nation, there are going to be some good crooks among them, aren't there? There has always been a good connection between Berlin and Istanbul pre-First World War. The kind of affinity between the low life in Germany and whatever would enable Dikmen to operate quite easily. And when you think you've got Turkish workers on the move, it's like engaging people to take cocaine.
Suzan Mazur: Were you surprised to see Dikmen's name pop up in the Goldberg case?
Kenneth Pearson: Yes. Really.
Patricia Connor: Who was it bought the picture from us then? One of the television companies, didn't they, quite recently. About a year ago. Oh no. And it was in The Independent. We billed The Independent for it. These pictures pop up.
Kenneth Pearson: Without any reference to us. I rang them up and kindly reminded them that they used our photo.
Suzan Mazur: And did they pay you?
Kenneth Pearson: Quite handsomely. Do you know Karl Meyer? Is he still alive?
Suzan Mazur: Yes. Editorial Board, New York Times.
Patricia Connor: Well, he's one of the people who used to ring me up and say: Hey, there's a bit of Dorak cropped up. Have you talked to him?
[Discussion about Meyer's book, The Plundered Past.]
Suzan Mazur: But he seemed like a pretty resourceful guy when you met him, Aydin Dikmen? He was working as a draftsman. He was playing jazz in Konya -- working all the time. Was he married then?
Kenneth Pearson: I don't remember.
Patricia Connor: No, I don't think so. He's a Turk. We wouldn't have seen his wife, would we? I have the impression that he wasn't. But I don't know why I say that. I don't remember seeing any evidence of any sort of domestic life around him, if you know what I mean.
I remember going into his house. There was a doorway and we went in. It was rather a nice garden. There was a lot of greenery. And the room where we took those photographs was a sort of sunroom on the front of the house. Do you remember that? I can remember it quite clearly.
[Note: James Mellaart in conversation with Pearson and Connor, The Dorak Affair--
Pearson and Connor: "Mellaart took a scrap of paper and began to sketch an outline of the first floor."
Mellaart: "It [Anna Papastrati's house] was very old, with two or three floors... I was given a small bedroom in the corner here, next to the dining-room. It had a balcony and that overlooked a garden at the side and round the back."]
Kenneth Pearson: I don't remember anything except sitting in front with that stuff from Milliyet.
Patricia Connor: Well, have a look when you get back because there are three or four pages on it [in Karl Meyer's book].
Suzan Mazur: About Dorak.
Patricia Connor: Yes. He might well be able to give you some hints because I know he stayed on it much longer than we did and came up with little snippets. He would get in touch with me. He even came here for dinner once and we talked about the bits and pieces that were appearing.
And Julia. Have you come across a friend of ours called Julia Cave?
Suzan Mazur: No.
Patricia Connor: Well, she works for the BBC. She used to worked for the archaeology program. She's done an enormous number of television programs about smuggling. She's one of the great experts in this country.
Kenneth Pearson: She's at South Kensington.
Patricia Connor: No, Shepard's Bush. Kensington Path.
Suzan Mazur: What was your impression of Dikmen generally?
Patricia Connor: Oh. I mean probably charming. I mean most of these people.
Kenneth Pearson: Simple.
Patricia Connor: No. I don't think he was simple at all. He was extremely clever. He was telling us what he wanted to tell us. You know what it is like. You go and interview people and you become extremely disingenuous to get more and more and more. He plays the same game. We reported what he said, and I don't think we disbelieved him.
Suzan Mazur: Did he say anything about his roots?
Patricia Connor: Well, we found out he was a trumpet player or whatever we called it.
Kenneth Pearson: I think looking back, it's very interesting in the sense that we weren't -- all the big smuggling stories that have happened in the press and television and film have happened since then. But I don't think that we were there as inside journalists getting hold of the hot story of smugglers. We met two French journalists [Jean Vidal and Rene Dazy] while we were there who were doing for Paris exactly what we were doing looking at Mellaart.
Suzan Mazur: This was before the UNESCO Convention Treaty. So it was a different time.
Patricia Connor: Oh sure.
Kenneth Pearson: You may think we could make a career out of this, but when we went to Turkey to do this, we were both interested in the archaeology of the place. Intensely interested in it. We were much more interested in looking at what trouble an English archaeologist had without any sense of what might happen at the end of the investigation. Whether he's a crook or whether he's one of the greatest maltreated archaeologists. Other things that could have come up on the rim didn't interest that much. In fact, the very next thing we did. I mean Turkey is overwhelmed by its 18 civilizations -- was to do a multi-part series for the Sunday Times color magazine on the 18 civilizations of Asia Minor. So you can see how our interests, both of which allied with each other, are about the history not about who's smuggling the bits out of it.
When you saw Dikmen, you didn't think -- Ah! There's a crook! You thought, here's a man who's collecting.
Patricia Connor: Dikmen was collecting
pieces on Catal Huyuk. After all, Konya is very near Catal
Huyuk. He had some Hacilar pieces. The only thing that was
relevant to us was to establish whether or not he acquired
the pieces from Jimmie when the site was being excavated or
after it was being excavated. In other words, how he got
That was the only thing we were interested in those two specific sites and those two specific little collections he had, which weren't very spectacular compared to the classical material and the Alexandria material. They were not very impressive. I mean, one would never have fallen over them and said, my God, what a major coup he's had getting this stuff.
Kenneth Pearson: You could have picked that stuff off the surface. In fact we did.
[Note: Curiously, this is not the way Pearson and Connor describe Dikmen's collection in The Dorak Affair:
"We left the flat and followed him [Dikmen down to the basement. And there, in a white-washed room about sixteen feet long and eight feet wide, was his museum. The walls were covered, almost without interruption, with display cases which were packed with a dazzling variety of precious objects: Lydian gold wreaths, vases of Rome and Greece, boxes of coins. His collection, he said, contained in all about 1,900 items. They were worth at a rough estimate well over 10,000 pounds.
As beautiful as the entire exhibition was, there were several objects arranged neatly in a corner case which attracted our immediate attention. It was like homing on a radar beam. Dikmen had an obsidian mirror from Catal Huyuk, its unmarred surface in infinitely better condition than that of the examples preserved in the Ankara museum. He also had obsidian blades and a necklace. There were other objects which he claimed came from Catal Huyuk and were therefore Neolithic, but in fact they were Early Bronze Age artifacts from a site at Can Hasan further to the south. Alongside these, Dikmen had place several pots from Hacilar, Mellaart's other dig."]
Patricia Connor: When we went to Hacilar and we collected, we walked across the site. You could pick up potsherds everywhere. We had them in a bag. They were only pieces, but you wouldn't have to look very hard to turn up bits that were even more interesting than we did. I can remember sitting on the dock at Jimmie's or [ rather] Arlette's parents' house in Istanbul on the Bosphorus -- absolutely beautiful house.
I can remember sitting over drinks with bags of bits of pottery that we'd collected all over Anatolia and Jimmie looking at them and saying: "Greek" and throwing it in the Bosphorus. "Oh, Roman" and throwing it away. There was so much that it was of no importance. Nobody wanted it. We brought home some Hacilar pieces. I've got some somewhere in a bag. We walked out of customs like this and we were arrested in Hacilar.
Kenneth Pearson: The first thing when the police arrested us was -- the first thing I did was to pick this bag up. It was always open. It's one thing to get caught hiding something. Picked it up and showed it to them and said -- that's come off the surface of the ground, you can see.
When eventually we left Istanbul at night, I went through customs holding it between us and nobody asked what it was because it was there. I thought if it were in a bag [suitcase], they'd say: Ah, it's there in the luggage. Well what's this? Come this way.
So that was easy. With good eyesight you could pick a lot of stuff up that Dikmen had off the ground. Or bought it.
Suzan Mazur: You brought them home.
Patricia Connor: Oh, but they're only tiny sheRds. There isn't any object. They're only potsherds.
Suzan Mazur: No actual figures.
Pearson and Connor: Oh no. No. No.
Kenneth Pearson: You have to keep your nose as clean as a whistle if you're going to do the story. There were Turkish newspapers waiting to pounce on us if we'd had anything on us that was dirty...
Patricia Connor: But you see when we were arrested in Hacilar, it was actually quite frightening because we were picked up in a car. We were in a car, we had a chauffeur. The police just swooped in on either side and we were taken away to the police station. Then, of course, they were interviewing us about what we were doing in Hacilar, why we'd been taking to the peasants, etc., etc., etc. Our interpreter was dealing with the interviewer. We had no idea what was being said.
Kenneth Pearson: In fact, he would ask you a question which would only require a two-word answer. And a long conversation would ensue between him and the chief inspector.
I stopped him. "Just answer what we've told you. Don't have a conversation."
I could see us winding up in a jail.
Patricia Connor: I don't think it's as sinister as that. But when you look at Hacilar -- the people in Hacilar standing in front of holes in the middle of the site. I mean they're digging all the time. They're making stuff all the time. They're selling it. And they're extremely wealthy.
Suzan Mazur: You mentioned in the book Hugo Weissman. You said you've lost track of him. In ensuing years Aydin Dikmen has gotten involved in making fakes and he sold some fake Hacilar pieces to Hugo Weissman that disintegrated in the sink.
Patricia Connor: [Laughs]
Suzan Mazur: So I was interested in talking to Hugo Weissman.
Kenneth Pearson: He was very old.
Patricia Connor: I would think he's presumably pre-war émigré German. He was in his 70s then. I wouldn't think [he'd be alive]. But ask Julia about him. Dikmen's based in Munich?
Suzan Mazur: He moves around.
Patricia Connor: Turkey?
Suzan Mazur: As you described him slippery. He moves around.
Kenneth Pearson: Yes, he would have a number of bases.
Patricia Connor: But one didn't have the impression then that he was the kind of man that was operating at that level.
Kenneth Pearson: Oh he wasn't.
Patricia Connor: But even, perhaps, that he had the potential for that.
Suzan Mazur: He was still a romantic [in the book]. A jazz musician working honestly, etc.
Patricia Connor: Have you met him?
Suzan Mazur: It sounds like he was still trying to decide which way to go. The legitimate way or go for the money.
Kenneth Pearson: I thought when we were dealing with this, as Pat was saying, with Dikmen, he was a young man with a collection. Perhaps sharing the same like of things that we liked. In terms of archaeological artifacts, though we didn't collect. You wouldn't have thought he was going to become this kind of figure that apparently he is now. I remember with the Goldberg story -- when Dikmen's name came out, we were sitting at breakfast and I said, "Good God look at this!"
Patricia Connor: Well what we said was "Good God, look, there's a photograph I took in the paper." That's what we said.
[Note: More recently Dikmen was ordered to return the pieces he acquired from north Cyprus, which he'd hid in Munich over the years, plastered inside the walls of various apartments before being busted in the late 90s. According to Dutch art dealer Michel van Rijn, a former business associate of Dikmen's, "police had expected to find, at most, two or three dozen Byzantine works not 350 pieces worth a cool $60 million." And that Bavarian police had described it as "the largest mix of stolen art and antiquities recovered since caches of Nazi loot were traced after World War II."]
Suzan Mazur: How did they get the image?
Patricia Connor: They just lifted it out of the book. But you haven't talked to Jimmie at all? He won't talk to you?
Suzan Mazur: I spoke to him briefly. He said he didn't want to discuss Aydin Dikmen, which makes me want to find out why.
[Note: Mellaart told me the following in a 1991 phone conversation: "I don't want to discuss that man. I'd rather not. I don't like people who ruin archaeological sites. I know he had a collection of certain objects which are certainly from excavations. I don't like to go on."]
Patricia Connor: To a greater or lesser extent their lives must have been intertwined. There's a sense ... if you've got a man who's living and is a collector five, ten miles from the site you're digging, you're bound to at least 'emesh' somehow... You're bound to be put together by imputation in a sense, particularly if there's a gossip press dealing with it. It's inevitable.
Kenneth Pearson: Well I'll tell you what a shifting world it is. One day we were walking in the covered bazaar, standing looking at showcases with material. Twenty feet from the shop a man comes up and says, "What do you think of that Alexander coin? It's the only one in Turkey."
And I say "What about the other one I saw yesterday?"
"Ah, he says, you are very clever -- come with me."
Five feet further, he's shows something and I say, "Well that's a fake," without knowing it, "That's a fake."
"I see you know something about the business," he says.
And you get slowly and slowly into the shop until you're actually in his tiny office in front of a crummy desk and he says, "You need something special." And he starts to open drawers at the bottom and unwrap old newspaper and produce a goddess or something.
How the hell do you know that's not a fake? ... . Draws you in subtly and subtly by flattery and then says, "Now I'm going to sell you the real thing."
Patricia Connor: The whole business of the bazaar. This was a time when you could go into the Istanbul bazaar and investigate antiquities. If you tried to do it in the covered bazaar in Damascus, you'd come out with a knife between your shoulder blades. It was high stakes. All our mail was opened because we were based in the part of Istanbul which sadly is no more. But it was then... the real old-fashioned hotel. We were sending messages back to the color magazine. At one point we sent questions about some dealer. I can't remember who it was now. And we got a message saying: "Interpol says do not investigate." Yes, it was quite serious stuff.
[Connor reads a letter from The New Yorker 's Joe Alsop, who also traveled to Catal Huyuk in the 60s:]
"About Catal. The whole expedition we took together as I said was entirely my idea. And I doubt indeed whether Mellaart ever heard of me before I wrote to him. And anyone who accuses Mellaart of persuading me to write about him in America is a malicious liar. You may publish this letter if it is of any use to you."
So Alsop got embroiled, I remember that. If he were still alive, he might be somebody worth talking to.
Kenneth Pearson: Well it would be in The New Yorker files.
Suzan Mazur is the author of The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry.Her reports have appeared in the Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, Archaeology, Connoisseur, Omni and others, as well as on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org