Ancient looted art returned to Cambodia

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Cambodian students look at jewelry from the Angkorian era in the capital Phnom Penh
NOS News

A special collection of ancient jewels has been returned to Cambodia. It concerns looted art that came into the hands of a well-known British art collector years ago, who is accused of dealing in stolen art.

From the jewelry collection, 77 pieces have now returned to Cambodia, the country’s Ministry of Arts and Culture reported. The collection includes crowns, chains, rings and amulets made of expensive precious metals from the Angkorian era. Angkor was a powerful kingdom in the area that is now Cambodia between the ninth and fifteenth centuries.

British collector Douglas Latchford owned the jewels. In 2020, he was charged in the United States with, among other things, trafficking in looted antique objects. He would have forged the documents of the objects to cover up the origin.

Cambodia wants more art back

According to experts, most of the items he owned had been looted during Cambodia’s wartime period. Many objects were stolen from the famous Angkor Wat temple complex during the French colonial period. Many other temples in the country were robbed in the 1970s, under the communist regime of the Khmer Rouge.

It is not known how the British art collector got hold of the jewels. Latchford passed away in 2020 and with his family’s approval, the jewels have now been returned. A year after his death, the first stolen sculptures were already returned.

Cambodia’s Minister of Culture encourages museums and private individuals who own Cambodian objects to return them.

Looted art in the British Museum

In recent years there has been more discussion about looted art and Western countries and museums are more often sending objects back to their country of origin. These objects were often captured during colonial times. For example, last year a British museum sent dozens of bronze and ivory art objects back to Nigeria, originating from the former kingdom of Benin. Germany also returns bronze statues.

Much of the art is in the British Museum in London. For example, Egypt has wanted the famous Rosetta Stone back in the museum for years. Talks are being held between the museum and Greece about the Elgin Marbles, famous marble sculptures originating from Athens. Greece has been trying to get the art back for decades.

  • Looted art back to Egypt? Not when it comes to large museums
  • Museum in London sends looted art back to Nigeria
  • Abroad

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