Benin bronzes and museums

What actually belongs to us? Today we explore the Benin bronzes and museums’ looted treasures.

The return of the six artefacts to Nigeria, titled Medicine Man, from the Wellcome Collection in London has revived a conversation.

On which heirlooms of British Empire should be repatriated.

And whether that would empty our museums.

And rid us of the opportunity to learn the history of the world.

Of course museums are a centre point of many people’s holiday experience.

So we’ll flag up here the contentious items kept in British museums.

The ones their original owners want back.

So, of course, you know where to visit them.

And where there is a figurative chalk line from where they were confiscated by the British Empire.

Game of Marbles

Doesn’t look like Athens… does it?

Elgin Marbles, British Museum, London: And oddly the disgraced Boris Johnson would have been the Greeks’ best chance.

Of getting back their Parthenon sculptures.

The carvings were seized by the Earl of Elgin between 1801 and 1812 and brought back to Britain.

And like all ‘borrowers’ he said he was doing it for their own good.

Spoiled and ruined: At the Acropolis in Athens

Because the Ottomans would only have blown the Athenians‘ prize possession up.

Hellophile, that’s fan of the Greeks, Johnson had given the Greeks hope that they might get them back during his administration.

Or maybe it was just bluster… and a chance to quote Pericles.

Cyrus’s print 

Achy breaky: The Cyrus cylinder

The Cyrus Cylinder, British Museum, London: And who knew but this might just be the earliest form of printing.

And as I’m a scribbler for a living then this looks a bit like nicking someone else’s story which is a real no-no.

This baked clay cylinder is inscribed with the laws of Cyrus, King of Persia, made in the 8th century BC.

This one’s contentious as to who actually has ownership rights.

It was discovered in the ruins of Babylon, modern-day Baghdad in Iraq.

But claimed by the Iranians, and taken to the British Museum.

What’s interesting for us is that the method of printing was that it was rolled across slabs of wet clay to produce copies.

Jewel of India

Crowning story: With embedded Indian jewel

Koh-i-noor diamond, Queen Consort Camilla’s head, London: 

And you’d do well to get it off that lady’s head.

The diamond is believed to have been purloined from the sands of India thousands of years ago.

And was revered by gods such as Krishna.

That didn’t stop it finding its way into the royal courts.

And onto the crown put on the Empress of India Victoria’s bonce.

It’s kept for safe keeping in the Tower of London’s jewel house.

And there are koh-i-noors aplenty with the first Glasgow curry house named after the diamond. 

A real gem it was patronised by none other than Billy Connolly.

Easter takeaway

Which way is Easter Island: That’s where I live

Easter Island statue, British Museum, London: And there’s plenty about the Easter story which pointed at a theft.

With the Romans suspecting that Jesus’s followers had pinched the body.

Even though it would have involved rolling back a muckle stone.

No, this Easter tale from thousands of miles across the world saw the British take the 2.4m statue.

Which dates back to 1200AD, back to their island in 1869.

The Easter Islanders aren’t the type of people to let it go though, and ancestors of the carvers have pleaded: ‘England people have our soul.’  

Stone me

Scotland’s Destiny: The stone in Edinburgh Castle

Stone of Destiny, Edinburgh Castle, Scotland: And just to give hope to nations who believe that they’ll never get their artefacts back this stone is back in the Castle.

King Edward I (The Hammer of the Scots) took the ancient stone on which Scottish kings were crowned back across the border with him to Westminster Abbey in 1296.

And it took 700 years for the English to give it back but they did eventually.

Not that the Scots took it lightly over those seven centuries.

And in 1950 a group of students smuggled the stone out, only it to be tracked down.

If you’re thinking of doing that with your nation’s prized artefact.

Then maybe make sure you can fit it under your coat.

So a recap there of the Benin bronzes and museums’ looted treasures… and just remember if you touch you pay for breakages.



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