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British Museum Asks Public To Help Recover About 2,000 Stolen Artifacts

The British Museum asks public to help recover stolen artifacts from their collections. In August, the museum said that about 2,000 items couldn't be found and were probably stolen.

Sep 28, 2023670 Shares51.5K ViewsWritten By: Johnny K.Reviewed By: Luke Williams
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British Museum Asks Public To Help Recover About 2,000 Stolen Artifacts

The British Museum asks public to help recover stolen artifacts from their collections.

In August, the museum said that about 2,000 items couldn't be found and were probably stolen. On Tuesday, officials revealed in a newsrelease that 60 of those missing works had been found. They said that another 300 things that were found to belong to the museum would be returned "very soon."

The news came after George Osborne, the head of the British Museum, said how bad the thefts were. The thefts were found when objects from the museum's collections started showing up for sale online.

British Museum Asks Public To Help Recover Stolen Artifacts

Gold ring and green gemstones stolen artifacts
Gold ring and green gemstones stolen artifacts

The British Museum has asked for help from the public to find about 2,000 stolen artifacts that were taken from the museum's collection over a number of years. On Tuesday, the famous museum set up a new website and email hotline to ask for help sharing information that could lead to the return of the items. The museum's websitesays:

If you are concerned that you may be, or have been, in possession of items from the British Museum, or if you have any other information that may help us, please contact us.- British Museum

In August, the museum said that they thought about 2,000 items worth millions of pounds had been stolen from their collection. It said that 60 things had been brought back to the museum and that another 300 were being found and brought back.

The theft has brought up old arguments about disputed artifacts in the museum's collection, many of which were bought when Britain was in charge of the colonies. Some countries, like Greece and China, have asked the museum to send artifacts back to the places where they were made.

Some of the lost artifacts are goldjewelryand semiprecious gemstonesfrom the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD. Most of them were kept in a museum's storage room and were not shown to the public.

Gems, cameos, or intaglios are small objects, often set in ringsor other settings, or left unmounted and unfinished. They may be made of semi-precious stone (for example sard, sardonyx, amethyst) or glass; they may be cast from a mould or engraved by hand.- British Museum

The majority of gems are from the Hellenistic and Roman world, but some may also have been made in modern times in imitation of ancient gems. They may feature images of famous individuals from the Classical past, of mythological scenes, animals or objects. These gems are of varied quality.- British Museum

The British Museum said on its website that recovery experts told it not to give out full details about the stolen and damaged items. However, it did say that "The vast majority of the items are from the Department of Greece and Rome and mainly fall into two categories: gems and jewelry.”

Some of the lost items are gold rings and earringsfrom the Late Bronze Age (roughly between the 15th and 11th centuries BC) and the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Gems from ancient Greece and Rome, as well as a gold band from the 2nd or 3rd century AD, are also missing. It's not clear if any of the stolen items from the British Museum are actually from Britain.

Art Loss Register's Director of Recoveries James Ratcliffe said in the museum's announcement:

The British Museum’s approach has carefully balanced the need to provide information to the public to assist the recovery efforts with the fact that providing too much detail risks playing into the hands of those who might act in bad faith.- James Ratcliffe

The museum said that it had put all of its missing artifacts in the Art Loss Register, an online database, and had started working with an international group of gem and jewelry experts to help figure out what had happened to the lost items. It has also set up an email hotline where people can send information that could help the recovery attempt.

Shortly after saying that some artifacts had gone missing, the British Museum fired an employee who was suspected of stealing and damaging items, including gold, gems, and glass from hundreds of years ago. Officials said in mid-August that the museum would take legal action against the former employee. The Economic Crime Command of the Metropolitan Police also began to look into the case.

The thefts seem to have happened at least as early as 2021 when a Danish art trader said he saw what he thought were museum pieces for sale online. In August, the museum said:

An independent review will be led by former trustee Sir Nigel Boardman, and Lucy D'Orsi, Chief Constable of the British Transport Police. They will look into the matter and provide recommendations regarding future security arrangements at the Museum. They will also kickstart - and support - a vigorous programme to recover the missing items.

The British Museum and the Metropolitan Police are still working together to try to get the artifacts back. Officials said last month that most of the missing items were small pieces from one of the museum's collections that had been kept in a storage room. These pieces were mostly kept for academic and research reasons, not for public viewing.

Final Words

The British Museum has asked people to help it find and bring back some of its lost ancient artifacts. Around 2,000 treasures went "missing, were stolen, or were damaged" over a "significant" amount of time. Last month, a staff member was fired, and the police began an investigation.

The museum has now said that most of the gems and gold are from Greece and Rome and has shown pictures of similar pieces. Sixty things have been given back.

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