Easter Island wants the statue England took from them in 1869

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/06/04/easter-island-wants-the-statue.html


I bet Egypt is going to be watching the outcome of this request very, very closely.


“They can have it when they pry it from our cold, dead museum experience!”

Remember kids, wait long enough it’s archaeology, not grave robbing!

But if you didn’t ask, it all still counts as looting, though.


There’s a reason the first Indiana Jones movie wasn’t called Conservators of the Lost Ark.


There’s a pretty big flaw in Nazis thinking they could use THE Jewish icon too…


Indy was just as bad as anyone else when it came to stealing artifacts. He nabbed that idol in the beginning of the movie when the native people were still actively worshipping it.

Imagine if some indigenous South American person sailed to Italy and stole the Shroud of Turin.


You gotta imagine that the temple full of deadly booby traps might also be a hint that they might not be cool with you taking their shit. I mean, I’m not an anthropologist, but I feel deadly booby traps are a message that transcends culture.


The British Museum, otherwise known as The Museum of We Raped and Pillaged Across the Globe and Stole Other People’s Stuff and Threw it in These Rooms Where It Is Exhibited With Little to No Context.


The more closely you follow the career of Dr. Jones the less “it belongs in a museum!” sounds like a noble mission to further knowledge of our shared human history and more like “I don’t care who that thing belongs to, I’m gonna take it and I’ll murder anyone who gets in my way.”


We all like to think we’re righteous, generous and kind. We are advanced civilization and we respect other peoples’ traditions. The reality is quite different: we do see wrongs other commit, but we don’t see ours. Some will say, this was taken 150 years ago, there were no laws then. It’s not like someone was killed, so we can’t resurrect them. It is a thing which can be returned to its rightful owners.

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In defense of the “It belongs in a museum” line, that line was spoken regarding a Christian artifact discovered on American soil, spoken to a collector with no apparent cultural attachment to said artifact.

Getting into a fight with private collectors and blowing up their boat is definitely an overreaction, but I feel the sentiment is reasonable for that particular artifact. You can argue which museum it belongs in (I think it was Spanish in origin, but lost by its owner in America) but regardless as to which country you think has the right to it, they’d probably both want to put it in a museum.


Even so, the collector’s claim on the artifact was considerably more legitimate than Indy’s claim on that Peruvian idol.


I think that’s the name of most Victorian British museums though.


Should Indy give his schtick back to the 1900s pulp films that it was ripped from ?

Etched in very small letters on marble.
Usually Greek…


Fair, but I have only been to the British Museum. I found the experience a bit traumatizing (I grew up with San Francisco museums, which are of a totally different caliber) but also a bit rad: encountered the amulet (from Nesbit), the ship (from Cooper), and the “scimitars” and armor (from Lewis/Baynes).

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Egypt sort of spear headed the pathway for this sort of thing. A lot of major Egyptian artifacts have already been repatriated. A lot of stuff you see out around the world is on semi-permenant loan from Egypt’s museum or state archeology board or whatever. They get more out of it financially by having stuff visible elsewhere, and more out of it research wise by working heavily with other nations. But their Antiquities authority has been racked by serious scandals the last decade.

The British Museum doesn’t seem particularly on board with that sort of thing though. And the Moai thing has been an ongoing fight for years. With the Brits seemingly in violation of international norms on the subject.


Interesting. There’s a lot of appreciation of their own history & archaeology on the island (another former island governor has a degree in archaeology from Berkeley). It would be great if their “Stolen Friend” was returned.

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“And it is the right time to maybe send us back (the statue) for a while, so our sons can see it as I can see it. You have kept him for 150 years, just give us some months, and we can have it (on Easter Island).”

Sounds like they’re just wanting it back temporarily for their kids to see. That should happen. And if the British Museum was smart they’d offer a trip to the BM for the inhabitants after it was returned back to the Museum.

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Well, y’see, it’s not quite that simple. Yeah, England “took” the statue in 1869, but they kind of owned it after mariners/traders bought up the deceased islander’s land (who ahem died from tuberculosis introduced by Europeans). By 1869, there were only about 400 islanders left.

To further complicate things, it’s not a separate nation; Chile annexed it, and made all remaining islanders (whose population slowly did recover) Chileans. So if the statue goes back, it becomes Chilean property, and they never had ownership of it in the first place. So, from the viewpoint of the museum (and I know this will sound shitty):

  1. We bought it fair and square.
  2. Those who owned it are dead.
  3. Entities who owned it have been absorbed.
  4. Sort out those little details satisfactorily, and we’ll discuss the matter further.
  5. Feel free to visit the gift shop on your way out.