AO Magazine - March April 2023
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For centuries, tomb raiders have been on a mission to plunder valuable artifacts from tombs and other cultural sites, often leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. The impact of these heinous acts is immeasurable, as the loss of cultural heritage and historical context cannot be undone. What's worse is that these nefarious raiders are willing to exploit the dead for their own financial gain, raising serious ethical and moral concerns.
This issue takes a closer look at the harrowing reality of tomb raiding, with real-world examples of the lengths to which these criminals will go. From the desecration of graves in the Nazca desert to the use of explosives and bulldozers by tomb raiders, the scope of damage is alarming. Then the looted treasures have been whisked away to collectors or museums, often without a thought for their sacred significance to the cultures they were taken from.
But what about the artifacts we see in museums and other institutions today? How did they get there in the first place?
The answer to those questions is complicated, and it's one that's being brought to the forefront of the global conversation on repatriation and the ongoing impact of colonialism. As more countries demand the return of their artifacts, museums, universities, and private collectors are facing mounting pressure to right historical wrongs. In this issue, we delve into the themes of repatriation and the decolonization of museums with an interview and the debates surrounding artifacts such as the Elgin Marbles and the Benin Bronzes. But the problem doesn't end there. We also examine how social networks and technology are both aiding and hindering the activities of modern-day tomb raiders.
Despite the challenges we face, there are success stories to be found. We highlight stories like the stolen Orpheus mosaic that was returned to Turkey, the cherished moai statue that was welcomed back to Easter Island, and the crown jewels that were confiscated from a 17th century thief.