By Raza Mehdi
Dec 07, 2022
The Rosetta Stone dates back to 196 BC and now sits in the British Museum. This monumental object enabled researchers to decipher the ancient Egyptian language. Napoleon Bonaparte acquired it from Egypt, but the Britishers seized it after defeating the Frenchman’s army during the early 1800s.
Rosetta Stone, Egypt
Greece's repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum is much disputed. The marbles depict the celebration of goddess Athena's birthday and the mystical battle between Centaurs and Lapiths. The artefacts were taken from the Parthenon in Greece between 1801 and 1812.
Parthenon Marbles, Greece
The Ottoman Empire ruled Greece for nearly 400 years since 1453. Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Empire, had successfully removed about half of the remaining sculptures from the Parthenon's ruins. But Greece has since contested for their recovery.
Thousands of bronze sculptures adorned the castle in the Kingdom of Benin, now Nigeria, during the 13th century. But in 1897, the British Empire attacked and destroyed the Kingdom of Benin. Here, British soldiers can be seen with objects looted from the royal palace during the military expedition.
Benin Bronzes, Nigeria
Image: Wikipedia Commons
More than 900 historical objects from the former Benin kingdom — around 200 bronze plaques included — are a part of the British Museum’s collection of "contested objects."
In 1868, a British expeditionary force laid siege to the mountain-top fortress of Maqdala, bringing more than a thousand religious manuscripts back to Britain. 350 of those manuscripts ended up in the British Library.
Maqdala Manuscripts, Ethiopia
After the suicide of King Theodore in 1868, a crown and chalice of solid gold were some of the most spectacular items looted by the British from the fortress of Magdala. They are exhibited now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
The gold crown of Magdala, Ethiopia
This statue comes from the ceremonial village of Orongo on Easter Island. It is known as moai and is one of the many statues found on the island, dating around 1000 C.E. It was taken in 1868 by the crew of a British ship and was presented to Queen Victoria.
Hoa Hakananai'a, Easter Island
King Ashurbanipal used the royal Lion Hunt to decorate North Palace in the city of Nineveh, modern-day Iraq, now displayed in the British Museum. Made about 645–635 BC, they are a masterpiece of Assyrian art. They show a ritual "hunt", where they release captured lions, and the king slaughters them using arrows or his sword.
Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal, Iraq
Image: Wikipedia Commons
The Koh-i-Noor is the largest cut diamond in the world that sits at the top of the Queen of England's crown. The jewel originally adorned the Mughal Peacock Throne. It changed hands several times until the British annexed India in 1849, and the gem was entrusted to Queen Victoria. Today, the diamond is on display at the Tower of London's Jewel House.