Saturday 16 February 2019

Another Probably Looted Thai Antiquity Discovered in SOAS’s Collection

A FOIA request reveals that in 2013, SOAS, University of London, accepted the gift of a 2,000-yr old Thai ceramic from Ban Chiang, Southeast Asia's most important - and famously looted - prehistoric site, without doing any due diligence (SOAS Watch, 'Another Probably Looted Thai Antiquity Discovered in SOAS’s Collection'  15th Feb 2019):
In October 2013, Elizabeth H. Moore, then Professor of South East Asian Art and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London, donated to SOAS a ceramic vessel about 2,000 years old from Ban Chiang, Southeast Asia’s most important prehistoric site. The Ban Chiang archaeological site was rampantly looted, particularly during the early 1970s, which is when Prof. Moore said her former husband bought the vessel in Bangkok or Singapore. The vessel, if indeed a Ban Chiang antiquity as Prof. Moore stated, is very likely grave goods looted and illegally exported from Thailand. SOAS officials accepted the vessel without conducting any due diligence. This is the second example exposed so far of SOAS accepting a Thai antiquity without proper due diligence. [...] The role of SOAS art historians in both cases highlights the engagement of academic staff in the art market – and the lack of SOAS ethical guidelines for such activity.
The first example occurred in March 2018, when SOAS art historians encouraged and facilitated the university’s acceptance of an unprovenanced 13th-century Thai Buddha sculpture valued at 60,000 euros from a pair of Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art alumni. These cases raise the question of whether SOAS owns more illicit artefacts from other countries around the world. Very little information about SOAS’s collection, mostly held in storage, is publically available.

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