A lot of people think of museums as just these cultural places that educated us on history and art. The worst thing that most of us could say about a museum is that some of them can be a bit boring. But other than that we don’t really see anything wrong with them. But did you know that a lot of museums actually display stolen treasures? Quite a few of famous art pieces displayed for the public to see in some of the most famous museums in the world were actually stolen from their homeland, then illegally resold from one owner to the next, and then finally they ended up in a museum. You could be looking at someone’s stolen artefact or a piece of cultural history that’s been stolen on your next visit to a museum. Here are some of the most famous stolen treasures.
These ancient jewels and accessories belonged to the people of the Ottoman Empire. They’ve been found by a German archaeologist who was looking for treasures mentioned in the Odyssey and the Iliad. He decided that his rule of thumb is “finger’s keepers” and that’s how these treasures ended up first in London, museums, then in Germany. Eventually, after World War 2 they ended up being stolen by the Russian Red Army and are to this day displayed at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.
The Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone is a famous historical artefact, because thanks to that stone, the scholars have been able to understand and decipher hieroglyphics. This famous stone has the same message written on it in three languages: ancient Greek, Egyptian demotic (used by most people in ancient Egypt and Egyptians hieroglyphics (mostly used by priests at the time). It was first found by Napoleon in Egypt, but later fell into the hands of the British when they defeated Napoleon. The Rosetta Stone is still displayed in the British Museum in London, despite the fact that the Egyptian government has asked them to return it to its rightful place many times throughout the years.
The Ishtar Gate
Ishtar Gate is a beautiful blue structure that used to serve as many of the entrances to the city of Babylon. But in the early 1900s the area of land that is now modern-day Iraq, was governed by the Ottoman Empire and the laws then allowed to excavate things and move them to Europe. And that’s exactly what happened with this structure. It was moved to Germany and is to this day displayed in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
The Bust Of Nefertiti
As you can probably imagine, this artefact, this beautiful bust of an Egyptian Queen wasn’t made or found in Germany originally. It dates back to 1340s BC, but it was excavated by a German archaeologist back in 1912 and has since been residing in Germany. It is displayed in one of the museums in Berlin, and it’s a rare work of art that seemingly doesn’t care about the passing of time because it shows no signs of ageing. It’s made of limestone and gypsum, with the addition of wax, yet it has stayed in perfect condition for thousands of years now. Even the paint is still intact. The Egyptian government has attempted to reclaim it but the Germans won’t let it go.
Old Fisherman From Aphrodisias
This marble statue is unlike any other because it’s not a statue of a war hero, a member of royalty or a god. It’s a statue of a fisherman carved out of marble 200BC. It was found in the city of Aphrodisias (modern-day Turkey) by a french archaeologist by chance and eventually sold to Germans. What’s interesting is that only the chest of the statue was found and displayed in Germany, the head was discovered later, during a separate excavation, and that still remains in Turkey. What you see in a museum in Berlin is the real chest of the statue with a cast of the head made from plaster. It sounds ridiculous, but the Germans are clinging to it and refuse to give it back to Turkey.
The Elgin Marbles
The Elgin Marbles are a collection of Statues from Greece that use to be part of the Parthenon in Athens. It was Earl of Elgin, who was an ambassador to the empire who decided that these sculptures needed to be moved to England to be preserved from the Ottoman Empire and their indifference towards art. This became quite ridiculous since just a few years after the sculptures were moved, the Ottoman Empire recognized Greece’s independence. But the deed was done and the statues were bought from Elgin by the royal family and now resides in the British Museum. First, they wouldn’t agree to give them back to Greece because they said Greece didn’t have the right facilities to preserve them. Later, when a $200 million museum was built next to the Acropolis in Athens, the Brits offered to loan them to Greece but only if they acknowledged that it was a loan and it was owned by Britain. The Greeks refused to agree to such terms, so the statues are still in the British Museum