10 Stolen Artifacts that Should Be Returned to Their Original Country

by Rishika Jain12 months ago
Picture 10 Stolen Artifacts that Should Be Returned to Their Original Country

The stealing of property or taking control of the property was fair when wars were fought and the winning party took control over the losing party. Many priceless artifacts have been stolen, smuggled, or taken by force from their original country to other countries. Some of the artifacts are returned to their original countries, but many artifacts still reside in many countries’ museum collections that actually don’t belong to them. Some of these artifacts should be returned to their original countries to restore the balance of the world cultural order. Let’s learn about 10 artifacts that should be returned to their original countries.

1 Ka-Nefer-Nefer Mask

This is an Egyptian noblewoman’s funeral mask excavated in 1951. Later, it was purchased by the Saint Louis Art Museum and became a part of it. Egypt claimes that the mask is stolen and should be returned.

Ka-Nefer-Nefer Mask
Image credit: illicitculturalproperty.com

Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask is a funeral mask which means “The Twice-Beautiful Ka” of an ancient Egyptian noblewoman who lived during the 19th dynasty.

An archeologist named Mohammed Zakaria Goneim excavated the mask in 1951 from the body of a long-deceased woman. Her body was not mummified, and she wore a big mask covering her head and shoulders. Her mask was excavated by Goneim 3,000 years after her death and named the “Ka-Nefer-Nefer.”

In the 1970s, the Egyptian government learned about the disappearance of the mask. The Saint Louis Art Museum in America purchased the mask in 1998 for just $500,000 from a gallery and art supplier, Phoenix Ancient Art of New York.

When the mask became part of the museum, suspicions arose that it was stolen from Egypt and should be returned. The Saint Louis Art Museum disregarded Egypt’s Hawass claims, and it remains in Saint Louis. The US Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in 2014 that the mask will remain at Saint Louis. (1, 2)

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2 The Elgin Marbles

Elgin Marbles are more than 2,500 years old. They symbolize the foundation of Greek and European culture. Many of the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon in Athens are now in the British Museum under the name of “Parthenon Marbles” The European Union demands the return of Elgin Marbles.

Elgin Marbles
Image credit: Shutterstock

The Elgin Marbles, also known as Parthenon Marbles, are more than 2,500 years old. These marbles symbolize the foundation of European and Greek culture. These classic collections of Greek marble sculptures were originally part of the Parthenon Temple.

The ancient collection of Elgin Marbles is now placed in Duveen Gallery in the British Museum under the name of “Parthenon Marbles.”

These Elgin Marbles were taken from Acropolis by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, and transported to Britain in 1801 and 1812. The Acropolis Museum displays portions of friezes of the sculptures along with the position of missing pieces marked and waiting for them to return to Athens.

Greece demands the missing sculptures. They say that the dismembered sculptures offend their European culture and should be returned to Athens. (1, 2)

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3 Koh-i-Noor Diamond

Koh-i-Noor diamond is from India and is the biggest diamond in the world. It dates back to the Medieval Period. In 1813, it ended up with Ranjit Singh, a Sikh ruler, and later passed to his son. The British convinced the young boy to give up the Koh-i-Noor as part of the Treaty of Lahore. Today, the Koh-i-Noor diamond rests at the center of the British Queen Mother’s crown.

Koh-i-Noor
3D rendering illustration. Image credit: Shutterstock

Koh-i-Noor is the biggest cut diamond in the world dating back to the Medieval Period of India. Its original weight was around 186 old carats. The diamond was probably mined from Kollur Mine and was owned by various Indian rulers.

It was acquired by Alauddin Khaljiin in the 14th century, then became the possession of the Kakatiya Dynasty, and Babur acquired it in 1526.

In 1628, Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, had it fixed in his Peacock throne. In 1739, it came to be in the possession of Nadir Shah when he invaded Delhi. In 1813, the diamond was owned by Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh Empire, and later transferred to his son, Dulip Singh, after his death.

On 29 March 1849, when Dulip Singh was pressured to sign the Treaty of Lahore, he was also induced to hand over the single-most precious diamond in the whole subcontinent, the Koh-i-Noor, to the Queen of England.

The Koh-i-Noor is regarded as a cursed diamond and brings bad luck if kept in possession of men. Today, the Koh-i-Noor resides on the crown of the Queen Mother of England. India still wants its precious diamondback, but the British have refused to remove it from crown jewels. (1, 2)

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4 Benin Bronzes

Benin Bronzes is a collection of plaques from the 13th and 18th centuries. These artifacts were stolen by British forces from the Benin Kingdom (modern-day Nigeria). Nigeria has repeatedly asked for its artifacts to be returned, but the British Museum remains unrepentant of its ownership of the 700 pieces of Nigerian bronze.

Benin Bronzes
A display of Benin Bronzes at the British Museum. Image credit: joyofmuseums via Wikimedia.org

The royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin, now known as Nigeria, was decorated with more than a thousand Benin Bronzes. These Benin Bronzes date back to the 13th century and were created by the Edo people artists. During the Benin Expedition of 1897, most of the Benin Bronzes were looted by British forces.

Most of the pieces of these bronzes are in British museums, while others were purchased by Austria, Germany, and US museums. Nigeria has repeatedly asked the British Museum to return the stolen artifacts to the national museum in Lagos.

Although the artifacts were stolen by British forces, the British Museum is unrepentant of their ownership of these 700 bronzes, and today, these Benin Bronzes still reside in the British Museum. (1, 2)

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5 Old Fisherman from Aphrodisias

A more than 2000-year-old marble torso known as the “Old Fisherman from Aphrodisias,” currently resides in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, Germany. Turkey has repeatedly asked for the torso to be returned, but Germany refuses to return it. They say that it was bought from an art market.

Old fisherman
Image credit: Marcus Cyron via Wikimedia.org

The 2,000-year-old marble torso called the “Old Fisherman from Aphrodisias” currently resides in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, Germany. It was stolen and smuggled into Germany from Aphrodisias in 1904.

In 1905, a man named Gaudin was employed to do the construction of the Damascus-Medina Hedjaz railway. While forming the railway, he found various artifacts during excavations. After he died in 1921, his wife sold the artifacts to various museums.

Turkey is determined to bring back the torso. They say it was illegally smuggled out of Turkey. They requested multiple times to return the “Old Fisherman” torso, but German authorities have refused to do so by saying that the torso was bought from an art market and is legal.

They have a receipt and can prove that the torso is legally residing in Germany, so they have no plans of returning it. (1, 2)

Also Read:
10 Interesting Rock Art From the Ancient World

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