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British Museum Artifacts Sold on eBay for $50

Parthenon Marbles British Museum of London
The Duveen Gallery, which houses the Parthenon marbles. Credit: Solipsist / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-2.0

Stolen items from the British Museum’s collection have been put up on eBay, one of the world’s largest online marketplaces. Artifacts, including those from the time of Ancient Rome, were sold for $50, although their real price reaches $65,000.

Among the missing treasures are various pieces of jewelry made of gold, glass, and semi-precious stones, The Telegraph reported. They date back to between 1500 BC and 19th century AD.

The stolen items have been listed on eBay since at least 2016. At the same time, alarm bells began sounding three years earlier. Namely, an expert on the collection of ancient times warned the museum about his suspicions that one of the employees could be stealing items from the vaults, British media say.

The Museum reported a lawsuit against an unnamed employee. The case is being handled by the Scotland Yard’s Economic Crime Unit. The amount of damage caused was not disclosed. However, according to The Times newspaper, one can talk of damages in the approximate amount of $102 million.

Suspect Has Worked at the Museum for 30 years

After an internal investigation, Peter Higgs, who had been working in the museum for over thirty years, was fired. He began his career in the museum in 1993 and served as head of the Greece and Rome department. It is suspected that Higgs stole unclassified antiquities and then sold them on eBay.

Throughout his career, Higgs authored several books and curated the exhibition Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors, and Heroes, which has showcased ancient sculptures, jewelry, armor, and sports equipment. The exhibition began in 2021 and is still open to visitors.

His family denies Higgs’ involvement in the missing artifacts and claims he is innocent. His son, Greg, in a commentary for The Times, called it unfair that his father lost his job and reputation.

Reaction in Art Circles

At the same time, the disappearance of valuable exhibits and their display on eBay caused a reaction among the leaders of the museum sector in the UK. Art Recovery International, a restitution law firm, tweeted that the Parthenon marbles may not be “safe in the UK after all.”

The organization has expressed its opinion that “they should be moved to a museum in Athens where they can be well cared for.”

As previously reported, the British Museum is working to record missing and damaged items. Their goal is to establish a comprehensive casualty record and strengthen their security measures for the future.

Ghana’s Gold in the British Museum

Earlier this year, Ghana called on the British Museum to repatriate gold artifacts held by the institution, which were originally from the Asante Palace in Kumasi and acquired during the 1874 conflict with the British. The museum is considering temporarily leasing these items to Ghana, in line with growing demands for cultural restitution.

The situation echoes broader calls from Greece, Ethiopia, and Nigeria, highlighting the international conversation about art repatriation.

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