US returns hundreds of bronze-age artifacts to Thailand

More than 500 ancient artifacts from the prehistoric era were formally returned to the kingdom from the United States at a ceremony yesterday afternoon.

W. Patrick Murphy, the top US diplomat in Thailand, and Culture Minister Veera Rojpojanarat presided over the return of the 554 items Wednesday at the National Museum in Bangkok, where a number of the objects were displayed.

“Each and every one of  these artifacts symbolize the rich history of Thai people,” Veera said. “On behalf of the people of Thailand, I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to the US government for their kind support in delivering the artifacts back to their rightful place.”

Veera described the contents of the trove as including 222 pottery pieces, 197 bronze ornaments, 79 bronze instruments, 35 beads, 11 stone objects including axes.

For its part, Murphy said all nations fall victims to cultural looters, and the United States was happy to be part of returning the items to Thailand.

“Over the past seven years, nearly 7,000 items have been returned to some 30 countries around the world, including this region,” he said. “It’s a very good today Thailand has joined those countries, retaking the ownership of artifacts that should not have left the kingdom.”

California Attorney General Kamala Harris helped secure the return of the objects from the Bowers Museum in Southern California. The bronze-age artifacts arrived in Thailand on Oct. 3 under an agreement that in return indemnified the museum from legal action.

Some of them will put on display at the Ban Chiang National Museum in Udon Thani due to interest from local residents. Another portion will be put on display at the national museum in Pathumthani.

Having them back will bring several benefits for Thailand, archaeology adviser Somchai Na Naknonphanom said. Historians will gain more knowledge of how people lived in pre-historic Bang Chiang, including a better understanding of the tools and methods they’d developed.

Also they might help identify related objects, such as ornamental glass and beads, that have ended up in private collections.

Photos: Watsamon Tri-yasakda


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