The museums being asked to return artifacts include the Getty Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection at Harvard University.
Turkey passed a law in 1906 that ensures ownership of all antiquities, on the ground and in water, to the government.
The Los Angeles Times reported that most of the American museums contacted by Turkey contain some artifacts, which they acquired since the 1960s, without having properly documented ownership records, suggesting they could have been bought illegally.
A Turkish official said that all these museums have been provided with evidence about smuggled artifacts.
The US Department of State has strictly mentioned the Turkish law for antiquities in its international travel guidelines for Americans.
“Turkish law has a broad definition of antiquities and makes it a crime to remove any from the country. Offenders are prosecuted,” it writes on its official site.
It continues: “All historic sites, and everything in them, on the grounds, or in the water, are the property of the Turkish government. If you buy antiquities, uses only authorized dealers and obtain the museum certificate for each item they are authorized to sell. At departure, you may be asked to present a receipt and the certificate. Failure to have them can result in your arrest and jail time.”
The request from Turkey government comes after five US museums returned over 100 illicitly acquired artifacts to Italy and Greece recently.
Turkey is not trying to start a fight. We are trying to develop cooperation and we hope these museums will also understand our point of view, Murat Suslu, Turkey's director general for cultural heritage and museums, was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times.