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Short Post: Returning Stolen Treasures

Cage's stolen Tyrannosaurus bataar dinosaur I saw this article earlier today in the NYT about actor Nicholas Cage agreeing to return to Mongolia a dinosaur fossil that he had legitimately bought (paying top dollars for) but that turned out to have been stolen earlier from Mongolia.  Following is an excerpt of the story.

I wish people and governments around the world also think about returning back to China the thousands and thousands of stolen cultural relics that have been looted from China the last century or two.  When one takes the politics out, one can see this as the only virtuous thing to do.  But alas, when it comes to facing to history of the last few centuries, so many in the West become so self-righteous and indignant.

Still, we can hope and dream … one day …

Eight years ago, the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar was the star artifact in a natural history-themed luxury auction in Manhattan. It sold for $276,000 to an anonymous buyer.

As it turns out, the skull had been stolen from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, and the buyer was Nicolas Cage, an actor who among his dozens of films, has starred in a movie franchise about the hunt for rare treasures.

A publicist for Mr. Cage confirmed that he bought the skull from the Beverly Hills gallery I.M. Chait in 2007, according to Reuters. The Department of Homeland Security contaced Mr. Cage about the skull last year, and the actor agreed to turn it over.

“Cultural artifacts such as this Bataar Skull represent a part of Mongolian national cultural heritage,” Glenn Sorge, a special agent with Mr. Bharara’s office, said in a statement. “It belongs to the people of Mongolia. These priceless antiquities are not souvenirs to be sold to private collectors or hobbyists.”

“We’re losing science, we’re losing education, we’re losing valuable specimens,” Kevin Padian, a paleontologist at University of California, Berkeley, told The Times after the sale of the skull in 2007.

Mr. Cage is known as an avid collector, with interests that include real estate, rare cars and comic books: In 2011, he sold a like-new copy of Action Comics No. 1, which featured the first appearance of Superman, for $2.1 million.

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  1. December 22nd, 2015 at 15:09 | #1

    I think it’s important to add that this isn’t a China-specific problem, but rather a problem of the global south, that suffered immensely from European colonization. I have no doubt there are countless archaeological treasures out there that’s possessed by western oligarchs & museums, rather than their rightful owners.

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