Due to the coming opening of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, the institution is catching fire, since the government of Nigeria is officially demanding the return of the world-famous Benin bronzes, a group of a thousand metal plaques and sculptures that decorated the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin, modern-day Nigeria, and are now scattered halfway around the world. Their way to Berlin is highly problematic: the centuries-old sculptures were stolen in 1897 by British soldiers who destroyed the old royal city in a "punitive expedition". Later European dealers “bought” more pieces.
This incident brought to light that many of the finest pieces of cultural heritage are currently in countries other than their home, particularly in Europe and the USA, despite the 1970 UNESCO convention prohibiting import, export and transfer of cultural property. Another object that is still away from home is the Rosetta Stone from Egypt, written in Demotic, Greek, and hieroglyphics, carved in 196 BCE found by French soldiers in 1799. Sent to England to be deciphered and since housed in the British Museum in London. For more than a decade, Egypt has been asking the UK to return the stone, but to no avail, creating tensions.
Priam’s treasure is a Turkish trove of gold, shields, weapons discovered in the 1870s by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, that belonged to Trojan King Priam, has been at the crux of a "cultural war" for decades. Also known as the Trojan Gold, dates back to between 2600 and 2450 BCE found at ancient Troy, northwestern Turkey. It was illegally smuggled overseas for display in European museums. During World War II, ancient artifacts were among the many different bounties axis powers stole and hid. Half a century later, Russia displayed it at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, after hiding it for decades, with Turkey wanting it back and Germany arguing it was stolen from them.
Nefertiti’s bust, discovered in a 1912 excavation by a German archaeologist. Described as one of the "first ranking works of Egyptian art" due to its color and modeling, has resided in Berlin’s Egyptian Museum since 1923, sold to the museum under false pretenses. Meanwhile, Germany insists it owns Nefertiti and curators at Berlin's Egyptian Museum say even a short loan could damage it.
During the 19th century, British noble Thomas Bruce, also known as Lord Elgin – was fascinated with Greece’s Parthenon, removing frescoes and ancient marble sculptures to export to Britain under the guise that the Ottoman occupiers said he could take whatever he wanted. After many trials and tribulations on Elgin’s part, the Parthenon marbles eventually went to the British Museum in 1817 where they have been ever since. Since the 1980s, Greece has maintained that the marbles were taken under dishonest circumstances and has asked them back, along with all Parthenon sculptures in the museum. British officials argue that transferring the marbles back would do more harm than good as the carvings could get damaged and the museum's visitors would no longer see them.
🗞 Entrevista | Sabine Haag, directora del Museo de Historia de Arte de Viena— EL PAÍS América (@elpais_america) October 22, 2020
“El penacho de Moctezuma también es parte del ADN de los austriacos"
🔴 https://t.co/BOecILYfwm pic.twitter.com/hmvSkjvIec
Bonus artifact: the Mexican government has requested to Austria, for decades now, to return the exquisite quetzal feathers and gold headdress that originally belonged to Aztec emperor, Moctezuma, and that ended up on the museum of ethnology in Viena and has been the source of dispute between those two countries. Austria denies those requests claiming the delicate state of it, and that by now, the headdress is part of the Austrian people DNA.
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