The Montezuma Plume, the Elgin Marbles … These are the most disputed ‘expatriate’ treasures

  • The Plume of Moctezuma

    He Montezuma plume that López Obrador has brought back to the present day is preserved in the Anthropological Museum of Vienna and has been claimed by Mexico since 1991. The fan of quetzal and gold feathers, in the state of great fragility, symbolizes the maximum power of Ancient Mexico which ended with the Spanish conquest in 1521 and also the alleged looting of their wealth.

    It has been for years the jewel that the authorities have longed to repatriate for 2021, when the celebrations of the 700 years since the founding of Tenochtitlán, 500 years of the conquest and 200 years of independent life.

    It’s about a ceremonial fan with 68 pieces of 24 karat gold, 400 quetzal feathers and a war shield that represents power and wisdom in the Nahuatl cosmogony. History points out that the plume belonged toMoctezuma Xocoyotzin (1466-1520), the emperor who received Hernán Cortés in 1519.

    According to versions Let them be consulted, Moctezuma gave the plume to Cortés, who gave it to King Carlos I of Spain and V of Germany, or Cortés stole it along with the baton, the coat of arms and the ruler’s pennant.

  • Elgin Marbles

    The Elgin Marbles have been pitting the Greek government against the British for years. The controversy reached a new high point with Brexit, as it was rumored that they would be within the agreements between the United Kingdom and Europe. Nothing is further from reality. The director of the British Museum, where they have been found since the last century, was in charge of denying it with controversial statements in which he affirmed that taking the valuable pieces of the Parthenon had been a “creative act.”

    The coveted 2,500-year-old pieces were part of the interior frieze that ran through the temple of the Acropolis. An Italian sculptor and his assistants, paid by Lord Elgin in 1802, separated the parts that seemed most beautiful to them during the Ottoman rule of Greece. The sculptures show the procession of the Panateneas: 378 human figures accompanied by 245 animals.

    In the new Acropolis Museum, located a few meters from the Parthenon, you can admire the frieze, that is to say a small original part and the rest plaster copies of what is on display in London.

  • Bust of Nefertiti


    On December 6, 1912, the 3,300-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti was found by German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt while excavating the ruins of the ancient city of Amarna. There the pharaoh Akhenaten and his famous wife settled and also his new cult of the god Aten, in which many see the origin of monotheistic religions.

    Borchardt’s expedition was financed by the patron, collector James Simon, who would take care of give the bust of limestone and plaster of twenty kilos and 47 centimeters high to the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, which in turn would exhibit until 1943, when he was transferred to a safe place because of the Second World War, in which Museum was destroyed (1945). During the Nazi regime, he considered returning the piece, but Hitlerhe refused in a resounding speech: ‘I will never give up the queen’s head. It’s a masterpiece a jewel, a real treasure ». After the war, it was exhibited in various Berlin museums until its back to the Neues Museum in October 2009 after the rehabilitation of the building.

    Precisely around that time a new episode was experienced in the claims by the Egyptian authorities, although Berlin argues that the piece arrived in the country legally and that its condition is too fragile to transport it. However, Zahi Hawass once again asked for the return of the iconic bust, after information was published in Germany and the US about a supposed “secret document” that ensured that Borchardt “deceived” the Egyptians at the beginning of the last century about the truth of the transfer of the bust out of the country of the Nile.

  • Priam’s Treasury, the last Trojan war

    Heinrich Schliemann was an intelligent German merchant who decided to retire from business and pursue his passion, archeology, and his obsession, find troy. He did it in 1873 in the now Turkish province of Çanakkale, just 4.8 kilometers from the Dardanelles Strait (northwest of the country). During that decade he found thousands of remains from the city’s more than 4,000 years of history. Among all of them, a very special one, known as Priam’s Treasure, composed of more than eight thousand pieces between weapons, gold rings, diadems and chalices.

    Much of what this amateur archaeologist discovered in Troy stayed in Turkey, but some went to Berlin. In World War II, after victoriously entering Berlin, the Red Army troops they took the treasure as spoils of war and the treasure ended up in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.

    Disputed by Russia, Greece, Turkey and Germany, the last campaign was launched in 2008 by the Turkish government taking advantage of the inauguration of the Trojan Museum, for the 20th anniversary of the declaration of the ruins as a cultural heritage of humanity by Unesco. The authorities relaunched the conversations with museums around the world who possess Turkish archaeological pieces in an attempt to repatriate them back to their country of origin.

  • Tesoro Quimbaya

    He «Treasure of the Quimbayas» It is a set of gold and tumbaga objects that were part of the trousseau of two tombs of this pre-Columbian culture. It was gifted by the Colombian Government to the Spanish Crown in 1982 and today it is part of the collections of the Museum of America in Madrid, in which it is exhibited permanently.

    The problem in this case hardened when, in 2017, the Constitutional Court of Colombia determined that this flow should be reversed with the 122 pieces of gold, silver and copper alloys found in Spain. It was at the request of Colombian citizens in a process started in 2006, eleven years earlier.

    And here comes the Ministry of Culture and Sports to explain its position. The first, Spain did not plunder the Treasury from Colombia, This arrived completely legally and thanks to the generosity of the Colombian people and Government in republican times, at the initiative of its president Carlos Holguín. for the role of our country in the arbitration award on the borders between Colombia and Venezuela.

    In this regard, from Culture they also explain that “international claims for the restitution of plundered property, such as the Nazi plunder or similar situations with which it has been compared They are the product of illegal acts committed by different countries and institutions». In other words, it would be false for a repatriation to be a repair for an illegal act of plunder, because it was a gift from the Colombian Government.

    Recently, in a new book by university professor Pablo Gamboa Hinestrosa, he asks for the Treasury to be returned, which «Means for Colombia what the bust of Nefertiti, in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, means for Egypt; what the Parthenon friezes in the British Museum mean to Greece; or what the sculpture of La dama de Elche, found in 1897, the most remarkable work of Iberian art, could have meant to the Spanish before the French returned it in 1936 ».

    The Spanish Government, for its part, has a web page where it dismantles the accusations regarding its actions with the Treasury. “The ten most frequent mistakes about the Treasury”, is called the page.

  • Istar Gate

    The Istar Gate it was originally one of the 8 monumental gates (14 meters high by 10 wide) of the inner wall of Babylon. The name of Ishtar receives it from the goddess of the same name to whom it was consecrated. It was built in 575 BC. C. by Nebuchadnezzar II on the north side of town. It is made up of numerous glazed bricks, most of which are blue in color due to lapis lazuli. The latter are arranged by drawing the silhouette of dragons, bulls, lions and mythological beings.

    The remains of the original gate were discovered in Babylon during the German archaeological campaigns from 1902 to 1914. Most were moved to Germany, where the gate was rebuilt in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin in 1930. There are pieces also in museums in Istanbul , New York, Detroit, Boston … As with Greece and the Parthenon, to use the classic example, Iraq continues to claim this wonder of ancient Babylon.

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