21 July, 2024

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Priceless Stolen Property

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Where the Koh-i-Noor diamond was found is impossible to tell because that was a long time, perhaps more than five centuries ago. It is an alluvial diamond meaning it was found in shifting sands in a location that had once been a river bed. It passed through the hands of Nadir Shah (from whom we have the English word ‘nadir’) who sacked Delhi four times between 1738 and 1767, inflicting untold suffering on the city. On one occasion he took the diamond back to Persia as war bounty where it adorned the Peacock Throne. It remained there until Nadir was assassinated in a palace coup. Thereafter the diamond travelled to Afghanistan, and back briefly into the possession of an Indian Maharaja Duleep Singh. Then only 11 years old and scarcely able to comprehend what he was doing the kid Duleep gifted his kingdom to the East India Company and the Koh-i-Noor to Queen Victoria. It reached England in 1850. 

The legendary Koh-i-Noor Diamon

However, King Chuck III’s consort Camilla Parker Bowles, will not wear the Kohinoor for the coronation on May 6 because of protests in India about misusing the stolen diamond. She will instead wear Queen Mary’s crown made in 1911 for Mary of Teck which contains a crystal replica of the Koh-i-Noor. 

The story of the Mona Lisa is hardly less ignoble. It was looted by Napoleon together with about six hundred art treasures from all over Europe. Napoleonic looting was a series of confiscations of precious objects by the French from Italy, SpainPortugal, the Low Countries, and Central Europe. Looting began around 1794 and continued till Waterloo. An immense quantity of art was acquired, destroyed, or lost through treaties, public auctions, and unsanctioned seizures. The French justified this as both a right of conquest and an advancement of public education and Enlightenment ideals. Many works were given back but many remained in Paris due to resistance to return within France. The Mona Lisa, the world’s most famous portrait, will remain firmly in the Louvre until at least WW-III.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

What apart from their legacy as stolen treasure, do the Koh-i-Noor and the Mona Lisa have in common? Valuation. What are they worth? People call them priceless but there is one marker – insurance charges. The cost of insurance is a rough marker. It is a defective pointer because in is perturbed by markets and by recent events such as trends in the theft of art works. Both the diamond and the Mona Lisa have been insured at between US$ 500 million and US$ 800 million at various times. But that doesn’t work. If you owned a Manhattan property valued at eight million dollars nobody will give you the Koh-i-Noor or the Mona Lisa in exchange for 100 of these flats. Another comparison is that Apple, the largest company in the world, has a global stock capitalisation of about $ I trillion. Think of it, the Koh-i-Noor and the Mona Lisa are each worth a significant proportion of the global stock capitalisation of the world’s largest corporation. Hmm, just for a lump of colourless carbon or a painted piece of canvass!  

It is morally correct, and reflects basic property laws, that stolen or looted property should be returned to its rightful owner. Here is an abbreviated version of a report in the Guardian newspaper. “Cultural objects belong together with the cultures that created them; these objects are a crucial part of contemporary cultural and political identity. Six artefacts looted by British troops 125 years ago from Benin City, in what is now Nigeria, are being repatriated to their place of origin, there is pressure on European museums to follow suit. Objects, including two 16th-century Benin bronze plaques ransacked from the royal palace, were handed to the director general of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments who said he hoped other museums holding looted artefacts from Benin City would be encouraged to do the same. In particular, he believed an agreement could soon be reached with the British Museum, the national cultural flagship that holds 900 objects, the largest collection in the world”.

“Germany handed over two Benin bronzes and put more than 1,000 other items from its museums’ collections into Nigeria’s ownership. “It was wrong to take the bronzes and it was wrong to keep them. This is the beginning to right the wrongs,” said the German foreign minister. In a separate dispute the Greek prime minister raised the repatriation of the Parthenon marbles – one of the most important collections of classical art in existence – at a meeting with King Charles at Windsor Castle. The marbles have been on display at the British Museum since 1892, after Lord Elgin had them stripped from the Parthenon and shipped to Britain”. 

The British Museum’s (BM) collection has grown since 1753 when it acquired the founding collection from Sir Hans Sloane. Here is the story of some famous pieces of looted art.

Benin Bronzes are in many European museums Parthenon Marbles proudly displayed at the BM.

The Rosetta Stone which is in the BM enabled researchers to decipher the ancient Egyptian script and understand the cultures and history of ancient Egypt.

Tipu’s Tiger: The tiger was made for Tipu Sultan, ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore in India in the late 18th century. I don’t know where it is at present

Maori heads, decapitated, dried, and tattooed Maori heads are on display at various European museums, including the BM. They look gruesome.

Drawings of Saartjie ‘Sarah’ Baartman. Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman was a Khoikhoi woman who was taken from South Africa to London and exhibited as a freak show attraction in the 19th century. She was given the derogatory name “Hottentot Venus,” using a deregulatory term for the indigenous Khoikhoi people. When Baartman was sixteen, her husband was murdered by Dutch colonists, and she was sold into slavery. In 1810, Baartman was said to have signed a contract with a British physician who was her master’s friend, and was taken to Europe to be paraded around for her large bottom. She became the subject of scientific interest and racialized eroticism. Even after her death in 1815, Baartman’s remains were displayed at a museum in Paris for decades. In 2002 President Mandela successfully negotiated for her remains to be returned to South Africa and given a proper burial.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    No one has the right to decide which era or date we should consider for ownership rights of any ancient artifacts. The reason why I say this is because every artifact or most of them has no original location certification or ownership certificate. The best example is, who can prove where the “Koh-I-Noor” was first found, first owned, and above all, when one diamond is gifted then to whom it belongs when the gifter is a child? If a child’s decision is challenged then what are the other decisions of this child that have to be challenged? It’s possible over the years they could have been owned by various governments or kings or even individuals. So what is the best solution?

    All the ancient artifacts which are not in the custody of the countries where they originated from should be owned by an “International Artifacts Organization -IAO”. To this IAO, all such artifacts’ custodianship has to be turnover. IAO will be the custodian of all such ancient artifacts and this IAO like the UN should then allocate or formulate on a rotation basis to display these artifacts at various museums around the world. The funding of IAO should be done by all countries which are now in possession of ancient artifacts that are not their own based on the number of artifacts each of these countries possess.

    • 0
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      Buddhist1,
      “No one has the right to decide which era or date we should consider for ownership rights of any ancient artefacts. The reason why I say this is because every artefact or most of them has no original location certification or ownership certificate”
      Herein below the link would reveal all that you have raised as a query!?
      https://island.lk/president-raps-archeological-dept-for-obtaining-funds-from-monks/
      FR’s, AR’s in the shade and Monkeying at random in esteem!!?? Enables one to soon realise who is “MONKEYING” with the system and manipulating matters!!??
      Money – Funds enables the ‘Monkeying’, even by Saffron Robbed CLOWNS & CHARLOTANS!
      Why look anywhere else!!!

    • 0
      1

      I think that piece of rock should be put back in the river bed where it was found.
      Whoever took it had no right to possess it or sell it or gift it for others to steal it as well.

  • 4
    0

    “it was found in shifting sands in a location that had once been a river bed.”

    It’s true owner is the earth: give it back. ……….. Ashes to ashes ……… dust to dust.


    10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. ………… Do not lust after other’s possessions.

    9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife ……….. let there be peace and harmony between husbands and wives in Pittsburgh ……. and in 153 bus-route …….. from now on.

  • 3
    0

    Western countries are generally reluctant to return treasure and artefacts that they have stolen. Why then do they return treasure looted by the Nazis to the descendants of Jewish families?

    • 1
      3

      Ha, Ha, Ha

      How much of the gold on the dogs’ dick are you willing to return to the Tamil widows, whose husbands were murdered by the Rapist Army? It was those widows who were wearing that gold on their Thalikodies. Is there any gold still left under the Peacock Place swimming place sand or Japan had bought all of them at wholesale price? Listen, after Russia fell back to Ukraine, I stopped reading the lonely Tamils Communist’s propaganda essays. His Single-issue CC was the lowest rated failed political strategy in the history of world democracy. The royals robbed about 20-30 B, but Putin’s wealth is rated near to $500B. The USSR bastard bankrupted the entire USSR block when they were being dismantled. But when Britain was leaving, Ceylon was the 2nd richest country in Asia.

    • 1
      3

      The Evil says that they were first to destroy Langkang farming by importing China Hunu. Now they are the first to build a green university to learn how to export mouthless wildlife and such their blood and offer the altar of the Sinhala Buddhism. What a merciless Evil he is to repeatedly put fancy projects like that instead of opening the Universities to the Western educational institutions to teach some science, math, and International Languages & trade to the kids. If Britain had not paved the rail roads in Ceylon two centuries ago, the Communists and Sinhala Buddhist Modayas would be still climbing up and down in the southern mountain until their raping ball rubbed off to one single atom. Do not tell us your shameless stories. Unless the Colonialists and Tamils are there you would not be able to eat a one-time meal. nor would have won one single election after 1948. Do not bank your Amude-less bottom as we know nothing so going to believe in your Mahanama wild lion stories.

      • 4
        1

        Wow what a lot of illiterate hatred! Look after your heart Mallaiyuran.

        • 1
          1

          Is he the only one here?
          The CT should be ashamed to promote such poison while being strict about some silly personal comment.

    • 1
      1

      Paul,
      Have they?? Good on them for setting an good example!!!

    • 0
      0

      Paul, you are asking embarrassing questions.

      • 0
        0

        “you are asking embarrassing questions” Sure; you may be right. but only in your narcissistic culture, but not in Human’s! What an idea bankrupted lousy Pussycat you are!

        Neither you nor your colleague Paul answered one of my questions, but thinking to show the teeth widely, bluffing and celebrating each other as heroes; you one must look for a Langkang Modayas bankrupted country for 75 years when you two are around here? For how long you and the Langkang Modayas are hoping to be pushing your carts like this empty Brains? Kaluthai Punnuku Puliti Marunthu. Remember, if the calf cries the cow gives out milk. Take your so-called “entertainment” and enjoy what you like.

        You are convulsing hard to demonstrate how much “Paul” (in reality, it is you, but the naive nature is only hiding under a name of “Paul.” – Remember you were hiding three or four names in CT, which is the number one hate of yours, taking your hate blows for many years) otherwise, would you have jumped in that hurry to give “Mindu ” to Paul & SLFP? Or if you might be embarrassed, but if that can awaken the one like you, would Langkang have fallen for 75 years with a party created by Solomon?

      • 0
        0

        Your action of hating CT is understandable, because Chinese, at least poop in a ship to sell that to you, but shameless comedians in CT poop on the plate while they eat out of it. Otherwise, would you do this to CT, coming here with the aim of distorting the political discussions taking place here with your third-grade sarcasm. You came and introduced yourself as Savasekaram, who had come to clean the CT. Then you put your legs in three boats and thus fell in the river. You got up & twisted your mustache, claiming that you are not a commentator, but only a comedian, yet the CT readers do not have flair for comedies. We know, we understand that anything you say is silly, third grade, capacity-less comedy only, but the sad part of your elitism and mixed communism exposes you to think you can twist our comedies as hate, don’t you? You are a worthless talker, struggling to look for a way out by interpreting your traitorous action as comedy. For that you are calling others hate mongers. Come on Uncle Savam, do not lick your wound, hoping to hide the past.

        Let us ensure that whatever you excreted on the plate, you finish and empty it.

        Let us clean the CT, staring at you.

  • 7
    1

    At the time these so called treasures were stolen ( I assume they had an intrinsic value? like gold is valuable only because people say so) what were the social concepts and legal principles operating in the world ?

    For example, the Mugal horsemen conquered India with ease and claimed everything India had at the time, including slaves and women. Did any one challenge that ? Or was that the natural order then ?

    At one time for the Egyptians the pyramids had no value at all ,they had made them rubbish dumps and public toilets.. Some one later told them history is valuable in itself. The same with Anuradapura/sigiriya, left to the jungle

    If a Sri Lankan driver finds the gold of a sheik in Kuwait, will he consider it Kuwaiti property or will he smuggle it home ? I wonder..

    Who actually developed the fine legal concepts of historical property , human rights and native lands ? We must get an unbiased opinion here.

    • 2
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      Deepthi,
      The best person to enlighten anyone on this subject is perhaps the ‘GREAT ROBBER BARON’, who manipulated the Great Robbery and Ownership of the Elam Bank, after the fall of Killinochi, circa April/May 2009 and what forms of disposal were applied and were applicable for disbursement of the Pawned Jewellery kept therein (Captured Elam Bank) for safe-keeping awaiting to be redeemed, when they took charge of the Loot!!! I am told that LOOT was looted out to safe-keeping by them!!! They must have had a Canon Law to do that part!!!
      Same way, War Spoils, over the years (Centuries) have been dealt with – Nothing Different!
      The GUY is an amenable fellow and would agree to enlighten you!!??

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