A readers’ poll by The Sunday Times showed that 78 percent of participants support the plea for the return of the Parthenon sculptures exhibited at the British Museum to Greece, where they can be joined with the rest of the sculptures on the world-famous Parthenon frieze.
The sculptures were taken from Greece to the UK by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin and ambassador of England in Constantinople, in the late summer of 1801, marking the beginning of the long dispute of their ownership.
The Sunday Times‘ online poll was launched following the publication of their recent interview with the deputy director of the British Museum, who called for a “Parthenon partnership” with Greece.
Public opinion on Parthenon sculptures repatriation
As 11,315 readers answered the question posed in The Sunday Times: “Should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece?” with a simple “yes” or “no,” their answers echoed the rapidly growing public awareness on the Parthenon sculptures repatriation campaign.
This is not the first time that a public opinion poll in UK concludes in support of the Greek claim, but the loud “yes” from 78 percent of the historic British newspaper’s readers is far higher than previous results.
Last November, a similar poll by YouGov showed that 56 percent of participants believed that the Parthenon sculptures should be exhibited in Greece while only 20 percent said they should remain in the British Museum, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Less than a year ago, UNESCO urged the United Kingdom to review its position and enter into a discussion with Greece, rekindling the international debate on the log-running matter.
Celebrities, politicians, and major UK media have since declared their support for the Greek claim. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is among the personalities that have urged for “progress on this issue.”
Speaking to The Huffington Post in July, Khan acknowledged that “there’s a discussion, not just in terms of the Elgin Marbles, but across the globe in relation to some of the wonderful things we have on exhibition in our city.”
London’s Horniman Museum returns African artifacts
On the global antiquities repatriation front, another London museum announced it has agreed to return ownership of seventy-two artifacts looted during a British military invasion in 1897 to Nigeria.
The Horniman Museum and Gardens in London received the request from Nigeria in January 2022, and, after detailed research, the decision of the Horniman trustees to return the items to Nigeria was approved by its regulator on August 5th.
“The evidence is very clear that these objects were acquired through force, and external consultation supported our view that it is both moral and appropriate to return their ownership to Nigeria,” said Eve Salomon, Chair of the Trustees of the Horniman Museum and Gardens. The museum will now discuss the “possibility of retaining some objects on loan for display, research and education” with Nigeria.
The push for repatriation of cultural treasures acquired with questionable means has become more widespread in recent years.
In the case of the Parthenon sculptures, campaigners have long contended that those were violently detached from the 5th-century BC temple with the aid of marble saws in the full knowledge of Elgin, who then exported them to Britain “without real legal permission to do so,” according to the Greek side.
The British Museum, which bought the antiquities from Lord Elgin in 1816, has denied the claims and supports that the sculptures were removed from the rubble around the temple.