Culture crime news 22–28 March 2021


Hot this week: Much movement on Benin Bronze return

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Book Review

The Silence of Scholars: Review of John Boardman’s “A Classical Archaeologist’s Life: The Story so Far”
(Archaeopress, 2020)

In this guest review, Prof Erin L. Thompson discusses the interactions between classical archaeologist John Boardman and the market for illicit antiquities as described in his recent memoir.


What It Means When an Auction Lot Is Withdrawn
(23 March 2021; Artsy)

La diplomacia de las reliquias: antiguos tesoros saqueados vuelven a sus verdaderos dueños (Relic diplomacy: ancient looted treasures returned to their true owners)
(26 March 2021; La Nacion)


Doubts cast over provenance of unearthed Sappho poems (; Egypt, USA)
(25 March 2021; The Guardian)

How the ancient city of Cyrene near Libya, a world heritage site in danger, faces threats of bulldozers and loot (Libya)
(25 March 2021; Firstpost)

Ancient city of Cyrene looted for its treasures (Libya)
(25 March 2021; The Times)

Bulldozers and looting threaten Libya’s ancient treasures (Libya)
(25 March 2021; France 24)

Germany moves towards full restitution of Benin bronzes (Nigeria, Germany)
(22 March 2021; The Art Newspaper)

Berlin Museum Won’t Show Benin Bronzes, Begins to Pursue Return of Artifacts (Nigeria, Germany)
(22 March 2021; ARTnews)

Germany is In Accelerated Talks to Definitively Return Its Benin Bronzes to Nigeria (Nigeria, Germany)
(23 March 2021; Observer)

Berlin’s plan to return Benin bronzes piles pressure on UK museums (Nigeria, Germany)
(23 March 2021; The Guardian)

Britain stole the royal, sacred Benin Bronzes from Nigeria—so why is Germany leading their return? (Nigeria, UK)
(23 March 2021; The Art Newspaper)

`The movement is unstoppable’: African scholars and activists hail German plan to return Benin bronzes (Nigeria, Germany)
(24 March 2021; The Art Newspaper)

University of Aberdeen to return pillaged Benin bronze to Nigeria (Nigeria, UK)
(24 March 2021; The Guardian)

At least 114 objects exhibited in Dutch museums were stolen from Nigeria (Nigeria, Netherlands)
(27 March 2021; NLTimes)


‘Those objects have a power’: Descendant of Chief Poundmaker working to repatriate his belongings (Canada)
(27 March 2021; CTV)

Arte sacro: patrimonio en riesgo (Sacred art: heritage at risk; Mexico)
(26 March 2021; El Sol de México)

Trujillo: delincuentes roban objetos religiosos por más de 10.000 soles (Trujillo: criminals steal religious objects worth more than 10,000 soles; Peru)
(26 March 2021; La República)

FBI offering reward for 1978 Truman Library theft (USA)
(25 March 2021; The Examiner)

US museums hold the remains of thousands of Black people (USA)
(24 March 2021; The Conversation)

The Crime Scene of Stolen Objects at the Peabody (USA)
(24 March 2021; The Harvard Crimson)

This is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist, Netflix’s courageous effort to recreate the incident creates a sensation (USA)
(26 March 2021; Bullet News)

Heist, recovery story of de Kooning painting to be turned into film (USA)
(27 March 2021; Silver City Daily Pres)


£75m Klimt masterpiece stolen by Nazi from his Jewish lover is returned to her family at last (Austria)
(28 March 2021; The Sunday Times)

Ghent Altarpiece: ‘most stolen’ artwork has new €30m home in bulletproof glass (Belgium)
(25 March 2021; The Guardian)

Greece Lifts Long Ban on Divers Exploring Old Shipwrecks, Planes (Greece)
(26 March 2021; The National Herald)

Oliver Dowden rejects bid to return Elgin Marbles to Athens – ‘impossible to go back’ (Greece, UK)
(27 March 2021; Express)

Ex-Culture official charged with Hermitage Museum embezzlement extradited from Austria (Russia, Austria)
(25 March 2021; RAPSI)

Works of art returned to rightful owner by police in Valencia (Spain)
(25 March 2021; EuroWeekly)

Best Friends Convicted After Selling Bogus Paintings for Millions (UK)
(21 March 2021; Trill! Magazine)

Lorry driver is jailed for two years for trying to smuggle ancient coins, arrowheads and statues into UK to sell for Bulgarian mafia bosses (UK, Bulgaria)
(22 March 2021; The Daily Mail)

Charley Hill, art detective who found `The Scream’ and studied the Gardner heist, dies at 73 (UK)
(23 March 2021; The Boston Globe)

Revealed: police barred from searching Queen’s estates for looted artefacts (UK)
(25 March 2021; The Guardian)

Museums buy more Treasure finds as metal detecting discoveries soar (UK)
(23 March 2021; Antiques Trade Gazette)

National Trust ‘concerned’ as 100 metal detecting holes appear at Magna Carta site (UK)
(27 March 2021; Surrey Live)

Police probe following damage at Bonnybridge World Heritage Site (UK)
(25 March 2021; The Falkirk Herald)

Antonine Wall metal detectorists sought by police (UK)
(26 March 2021; The Scotsman)


When Picasso’s Weeping Woman Was Stolen By Art Terrorists (Australia)
(24 March 2021; Mental Floss)

How many antiquities in Australian museums are stolen from our neighbours? (Australia, India, Thailand, Cambodia)
(28 March 2021; ABC Australia)

South and East Asia

Two 10th century sculptures of Gautam Buddha unearthed during excavation in Hazaribag stolen (India)
(22 March 2021; Hindustan Times)

Buddha idols stolen from Hazaribag recovered from Ranchi (India)
(26 March 2021; The Times of India)

Manhattan District Attorney’s Office: Manhattan D.A.’S Office Returns Pair Of Statues Seized Pursuant To The Investigation Of Subhash Kapoor (Sri Lanka, USA)
(25 March 2021; {Patch})

Manhattan District Attorney returns 18th Century Buddha statues to Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka, USA)
(27 March 2021; Colombo Gazette)

Ancient lintels coming home (Thailand, USA)
(26 March 2021; Bangkok Post)

Two Thai artifacts in a San Francisco museum were stolen. Now, they’re on their way home (Thailand, USA)
(26 March 2021; Los Angeles Times)

West and Central Asia

British cannonballs to be returned from Acre’s fortress walls (Israel, UK)
(27 March 2021; The Times)

In Other News

Australian art festival cancels plan to soak UK flag in indigenous blood (Australia)
(24 March 2021; BBC News)

The Oldest Evidence of Life on Earth is Being Stolen (Australia)
(26 March 2021; Inside Science)

Uprooting Colonialism From the Fossil Finding Field (General)
(22 March 2021; The New York Times)

How to hunt fossils responsibly: 5 tips from a professional palaeontologist (General)
(25 March 2021; The Conversation)

Serpentine drops Sackler name following `rebranding’ (UK)
(25 March 2021; The Art Newspaper)

3 students cited in theft of rare tree in Wisconsin (USA)
(26 March 2021; KGMI)