Cultural Artifacts Need To Return Home Argumentative Essay Sample

Published: 2021-06-25 12:35:04
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Cultural Artifacts Need to be Returned
Description of Cultural Artifacts
Axum Obelisk of Ethiopia
Bronze animal heads of China
Khmer sculptures of Cambodia
Lydian Hoard of Turkey
Ways Artifacts were Removed from their Countries
Returning Artifacts to their Places of Origin
Reasons for Returning Cultural Artifacts
Cultural artifacts should be returned to their rightful owners. These form part of a people’s culture and have a clear function in that society. Artifacts are not meant to be just decorative pieces in museums of foreign lands. The reason they were created hold more meaning to the people where they come from. This paper describes some of these artifacts, explains how these pieces were removed from their countries of origins, gives an example of the process of recovering these materials, and explains why artifacts need to come home.
Cultural Artifacts Need to be Returned
For centuries, millions of cultural artifacts have been taken from the developing nations of Asia and Africa. These materials are now displayed in many museums of developed nations. Private collectors, many from Europe and the US also possess cultural artifacts. They hold legal titles of ownership to these items. Some of the countries that were the source of the cultural artifacts are Cambodia, China, Cyprus, Iraq, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Turkey.
Description of Cultural Artifacts
There are many cultural artifacts that are considered very important and valuable. Some of these are described in the succeeding sections.
Axum Obelisk of Ethiopia. The Obelisk is a very tall stone pillar that measures 24 meters high and weighs 160 tons. The stone pillar was said to have been carved about 1,700 years ago. In 1937, the French invaders took the column from Ethiopia according to orders of the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini (Digital Easel, 2008).
Bronze animal heads of China. In 2009, the bronze heads of a rabbit and a mouse were auctioned in Paris for $36 million (O’Toole, 2009). These sculptures were originally decorations of the Summer Palace of China’s Qing Dynasty (UNESCO, 2007). The mouse and rabbit heads were part of 12-animal sculptures.
Khmer sculptures of Cambodia. These Khmer sculptures date back as old as the 12th century. More than 100 of these were stolen from the temples, particularly from Angkor Wat (UNESCO, 2007).
Lydian Hoard of Turkey. These are 363 artifacts worth $1.5 million from Turkey. The collection contains marble statues of sphinxes, wall paintings, jewelry, and gold and silver artifacts. These objects were bought by the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1960s (Digital Easel, 2008).
Ways Artifacts were Removed from their Countries
Most of the cultural artifacts were taken by force from their countries of origin. The looting of a country’s treasures most often was a result of invasions and wars. The Anglo-French armies were said to have burnt down the Chinese Summer Palace but only after looting it of treasures such as the bronze animal heads. The same practice happened in Benin (part of Nigeria) in 1879. The British forces came, invaded the country, and took home more than 3000 artifacts (UNESCO, 2007).
During the time of colonization, European armies destroyed local structures but took home objects of value. In Libya, in the periods of colonization, the stealing of cultural artifacts was an “orchestrated campaign of theft” (UNESCO, 2007, p.47). The wars were not the only occasions that treasures were stolen. Activities such as tourism and archaeology also contributed to the transport of cultural artifacts away from their countries of origin. The archaeological site, such as Angkor Wat, was looted of its Khmer sculptures.
Returning Artifacts to their Places of Origin
The cultural artifacts were taken by invading troops. The countries of origin, developing nations, did not have the firepower to stop the invasions. The artifacts are now in the museums of the First World, countries with the power and the army to take objects and keep these. From an initial assessment, it seems that reclaiming cultural artifacts is a difficult task, maybe even impossible.
It is true that the task of recovering stolen treasures is difficult. These are not only housed in museums but many more are in the hands of private collectors. To be a private collector, a person needs to have lots of money to obtain the artifacts, secure legal titles, and maintain these in appropriate facilities. However, it is not impossible to reclaim cultural artifacts. There are already concrete cases that prove cultural artifacts can be returned to their rightful owners.
According to UNESCO (2007), the Cambodian government received several of their cultural artifacts from a London dealer in 1996. A year later, the head of Siva was also returned by the New York Metropolitan Museum of the Art. The Thai government also did their part by returning to the Khmer temples of Cambodia different objects numbering over a hundred pieces.
In 2005, the Italian Government returned to Ethiopia a very important sculptor taken by Benito Mussolini. This was the Axum Obelisk. It came home to Ethiopia in 2005, but it took the Ethiopian government more than 50 years of work. The very long process was participated by many individuals and organizations. There were researchers, diplomats, and historians involved. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also had a significant role in the whole process ( Digital Easel, 2008). Another artifact that the Italian government gives back to its rightful owners was the sculpture of the Venus Virgin. An agreement has been signed by Italy and Libya specifying the return of the sculpture to Libya (UNESCO, 2007).
In reclaiming the cultural artifacts it was necessary to involve governments and international diplomatic relations. To address the situation of the massive sales of artifacts from Cyprus, the US enforced an import ban of cultural and religious Byzantine artifacts from Cyprus. These can only be allowed entry to the US if the Cyprus government granted an export permit for such materials (UNESCO, 2007). In the case of the Turkey artifacts, the Turkish government conducted investigations to identify the means by which the materials reached the museums. The discovery about the Metropolitan Museum’s knowledge that these materials were stolen when they bought it was an important piece information. The Museum did not want to have such purchase of stolen material have a negative impact on the Museum’s reputation, thus they returned it to Turkey. The ones who stole the treasures and sold it were likewise arrested and put to jail (Digital Easel, 2008).
Reasons for Returning Cultural Artifacts
Guma Ibrahim of Libya, when he addressed the UN Assembly, said that returning cultural artifacts would show that Western nations are “committed to true equality in the modern global age” as well as their recognition of “developing nations with the right to possess their heritage (UNESCO, 2007, p.47). The cultural artifacts are a product of a people’s culture at specific periods in their history. Therefore, just as colonizers’ army have left the colonies, it is but fitting to leave behind treasures that belong to the countries they have conquered. Although these cultural artifacts may draw tourists and add prestige to the place hosting them (Irish Times, 2009), it is not proper to hold on to stolen goods. Modern man’s civilizations have come a long way. It is time to bring back cultural artifacts to where they truly belong, their original homes.
Cultural artifacts belong to the nations and peoples that have produced them. These hold a specific function in that society. Taking the artifacts as symbols of power or evidence of conquests by invading nations is a disrespect to he people who rightfully own them. This paper had described the cultural artifacts that are now being reclaimed by the people and nations that have produced them. The preceding sections have also explained that these artifacts have made it to the museums and private collections of developed nations. A positive development regarding this issue has been the successful return of artifacts to their rightful owner. The process of return is quite long, arduous, and very expensive. However, it is possible. Thus, it is important that nations reclaiming symbols of their cultural heritage do not give up. Cultural artifacts definitely need to return home.
Digital Easel. (2008). Waking up the West: Ethiopian newspapers call for the return of stolen artworks. Digital Easel: A Compendium of Art News. Retrieved from
O’Toole, F. (2009, March 7). Cultural treasures that are stolen goods. The Irish Times. Retrieved from
UNESCO. (2007, January). Return stolen art treasures to the South. UNESCO Voices. New York: United Nations, pp. 46-47.

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