10 Stolen Artifacts that Should Be Returned to Their Original Country

by Rishika Jain6 months ago0 comments

6 Imperial Treasures

Over 23,000 priceless artifacts that were looted in the 19th century from Beijing now reside in the British Museum. The Chinese state-run media requested multiple times that they return the artifacts, but Britain continually refuses to return them.

Imperial Treasures
Image credit: British Museum via Twitter.com

In 2013, the British Prime Minister David Cameron received multiple requests from the Chinese state-run media regarding the return of their priceless artifacts which were looted from Beijing in the 19th century.

The British Museum holds over 23,000 priceless Chinese artifacts which China desperately wants back. In the 19th century, the Boxer Rebellion was put down by an Eight-Nation Alliance, and Britain was part of the alliance. Britain looted the Forbidden City and destroyed the Old Summer Palace in Beijing.

However, the British Museum continues to reject the pleas and stated that these artifacts are world heritage objects and should be kept in London for visitors. (1, 2)

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7 Magdala Ethiopian Treasures

In 1868, Britain captured the Abyssinian Empire, Magdala, which is now Ethiopia. They took several royal treasures including a three-tiered gold crown of Abud. In 2007, Ethiopia claimed all artifacts taken during the siege should be returned, but Britain refused to return them. One museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, is offering to return some of them as long-term loans to Africa.

Magdala Treasure
Plundered Ethiopian Maqdala treasure in UK museum. Image credit: thisisafrica.me

In 1868, Great Britain captured the capital of the Abyssinian Empire, Magdala, which was in modern-day Ethiopia. After the victory, the British stole several thousand priceless royal treasures that were precious to the Ethiopian Empire.

Several elephants and hundreds of mules were used to transport the items which were subsequently auctioned off. Richard Holmes, under the auspices of the British Museum, purchased various items including the gold, three-tiered crown of Abud, which once sat atop the head of the leader of the Ethiopian Church.

Ethiopia has requested the return of their stolen artifacts including the gold crown, but the British continuously refuse. However, the Victoria and Albert museum offered to return some of the artifacts as long-term loans to Africa, but still, they were not entirely transparent about returning the items. The Ethiopians declined the offer, and the items can still be seen in the British Museum. (1, 2)

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8 Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is a 1,680-pound slab of black basalt dating back to 196 BCE. It contains a three-language dynastic decree in three languages: Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Demotic language, and also in Greek. In 1801, it was taken by the British after they defeated the French Regime in Egypt. It has resided in the British museum since then despite many efforts by Egypt to reclaim it.

Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone is our key to understanding the meaning of hieroglyphs. Image credit: artyfactory.com

The Rosetta Stone is a 1,680-pound slab of black basalt dating back to 196 BCE. It was first discovered in 1799 by the French engineers while making repairs to a fort near the town of Rosetta (Rashid). In 1801, the stone was taken by the British after they defeated the French in Egypt.

The stone is made of granitoid, and it shows a decree which was issued in 196 BCE about the generosity and devoutness of Egypt’s ruler, Ptolemy V, written by Egyptian clergy.

The decree was written in three languages: Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Demotic language, and Greek. The Rosetta Stone still resides in the British Museum collections despite several efforts from Egypt to reclaim the stolen artifact. (1, 2)

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9 Kingdom of Dahomey Anthropomorphic Statues

In 1892, France looted the Abomey Palace of Benin. They took many objects including 26 statues that were made between the 17th and 19th centuries. In 2019, France and Benin signed a deal regarding the return of these artifacts by the beginning of 2021, so hopefully, these statues will be returned soon.

Kingdom of Dahomey Anthropomorphic Statues
Image credit: Manfarid1 via Wikimedia.org

In 1892, the Abomey Palace of Benin was looted by France after the defeat of Dahomey. They looted expensive jewelry, clothes, and other precious artifacts including 26 anthropomorphic statues from the Kingdom of Dahomey.

These wooden statues were detailed and painted, which also included the royal crests that represented various rulers from the Dahomey Kingdom that had flourished between the 17th and 19th centuries. 

The artifacts that were taken in the 1890s by French colonial military leader Alfred-Amédée Dodds were asked by Benin to be returned several times. In 2019, France and Benin signed a deal regarding the return of artifacts in which France ensured the return of artifacts by the beginning of 2021. Hopefully, the statues will be returned soon. (1, 2)

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10 Priam’s Treasure

In 1871, an archaeologist excavated the Turkish city of Hisarlik. He found many things along with a trove of ornamental gold jewelry which he named “Priam’s Treasure,” and brought them all back to Germany. In 1945, Soviet troops took Priam’s Treasure after defeating Germany. In 1996, Priam’s Treasure was placed in Pushkin Museum in Moscow, and now both Germany and Turkey are claiming Priam’s Treasure.

Priam’s Treasure
Artifacts from Priam’s Treasure. Image credit: psu.edu

In 1871, Priam’s Treasure was discovered by archaeologists Frank Calvert and Heinrich Schliemann during the excavation of the Turkish City of Hisarlik. During the excavation, Schliemann found enough evidence to declare it as the ancient site of Troy.

He found a cache of gold ornaments and other artifacts which he named “Priam’s Treasure” after the name of King Troy. He took Priam’s Treasure to Germany.

In 1945, the Soviet troops defeated Germany and took Priam’s Treasure. For decades, the USSR denied taking Priam’s Treasure, but after the fall of the USSR in 1993, the Russian government admitted that Priam’s Treasure was in their possession.

In 1996, Priam’s Treasure was placed in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Now, Turkey demands Priam’s Treasure to be returned to its original place, whereas Germany is also appealing for the return of Priam’s Treasure to their country. (1, 2)

Also Read:
10 Ancient Art That Is Unique and Interesting

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