The World’s Top Plundered Artifacts

Plundered Art fills many museums around the world (and constitutes the core of countless private collections). Time Magazine once issued a list of the Top 10 Plundered Artifacts, but the list included such ‘non-art’ artifacts as the Skull of Geronimo! Moreover, the list included artifacts that were already repatriated (given back) to their countries of origin, like the Egyptian Frescos at the Louvre, the Euphronios Crater given back to Italy by the MET, etc.

When I think of the most important plundered artifacts, five artifacts come to my mind, and I placed them all in the slide hereunder. I did not include the artifacts looted from Iraq because –supposedly- efforts are underway to recover them. Have a good look, and try to figure out the names of the artifacts in the slide before scrolling down to read their names.

Plundered Art

Here are the answers:

1. The Elgin Marbles (Greek – Currently at the British Museum)
2. The Rosetta Stone (Egyptian – Currently at the British Museum)
3. The Benin Bronzes (Nigerian – Currently in several museums around the world)
4. Nefertiti’s Bust (Egyptian – Currently at the Egyptian Museum of Berlin)
5. Priam’s Treasure (Turkish – Currently at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow)

Obviously, you can add to the list!

From Wayang Dolls to Bar Mitzvah: Culture is about the Story

“Culture is an abstraction until a story is told, and each culture has its proper story.
So, where to begin? I can mention thousands of things that somehow have a relation to culture: a string quartet, a Latin lesson, a baroque baptismal font, a Greek theatre mask, an Alfa Romeo, a wayang doll, a Brioni suit, a Bar Mitzvah, a stone votive statuette of Jizo, a medieval manuscript, a reverence, a mosque, an etching, a computer…the injection that causes the death of a condemned person in an American prison, is it culture as well? And if so, does it form part of the American culture? What about the Sharia Law? The bell that rings in the Stock Exchange? The Big Brother? The Carnival? A song festival? The female genital mutilation? A duel? The Basque hymn that plays when a terrorist is buried? The film about the Quran by Wilders? Is there something that is not culture?”

Excerpt from “Abstractions, Tales” by Cees Nooteboom
Published in El País, March 5th, 2011

Cees Nooteboom is an award-winning Dutch author and intellectual.

It really is the story that ‘breathes life’ into inanimate matter and otherwise mundane objects, allowing them to transcend their material nature and adhere a new status as ‘cultural objects’.

A dagger used to sacrifice people is a weapon, but if it is an Aztec ritual knife, it becomes culture;
a mask is an object, but if it is the Mask of Agamemnon, it is culture;
a stone is ‘nature’, but if it is the Rosetta Stone, then again, ‘culture’…
These ‘objects’ are culture because they tell us a relevant story of a person, a nation, a civilization…they help us understand something otherwise difficult or even impossible to understand.