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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 April, 2005, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Who should own historic artefacts?
Obelisk of Axum in Rome
The first part of an ancient obelisk has arrived back in Ethiopia, nearly 70 years after it was stolen by Italian troops.

The Axum obelisk, regarded as one of Ethiopia's national treasures, was seized by Mussolini as a trophy of war.

Its return is likely to renew calls for other countries to return looted treasures.

In Britain the British Museum is adamant that the Elgin Marbles should remain in a place where they can be seen by international visitors.

Are you pleased that the Axum obelisk has been returned to Ethiopia? Should historical artefacts be returned to their country of origin? Or are they better looked after where more people can see them?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received so far.

The return of the Axum obelisk is a symbolic reconciliation
Solomon, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The return of the Axum obelisk is a symbolic reconciliation, putting aside all the past differences between Ethiopia and Italy, and the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the people of both countries. Restoration of historical artefacts to their origins helps for better understanding of history and culture of the people.
Solomon, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Ownership of cultural property has been a very controversial subject in times of war and cultural imperialism. Historical artefacts ideally belong to their countries of origin, but returning them would mean that the historic and national museum of all the imperialistic states would empty. I don't believe that the "better looked after" argument stands in the modern world of today, where grants can be given to poorer states so that they can preserve and own their history!
Elena Doganis, Athens

Any property taken away without the consent of the owner: such an action amounts to theft. Hence the right of retention does not remain with the thief. In principle then, all other historical artefacts must be returned to the rightful countries of origin.
Charles I Nyambe, Lusaka, Zambia

To say that any artefacts taken by force should stay where they are now is to validate all the atrocities that were done in the past. I think all historical artefacts should be returned to the place they belong. It is a civilised behaviour to do so and to make a wrong right. I give the Italians thumbs up for what they have done here. It shows that they are better people than what their forefathers were.
Mebea Tesfaye, Richmond, VA USA

Historic facts are more valuable when they are in their original places. For it is a sign of social and economic developments to the country than the other part of planet.
Sintayoh, Axum, Ethiopia

Let not the return of the obelisk be used as political propaganda for the coming May election in Ethiopia
Abdii, Sweden
It is a priceless treasure that Africans should be proud of. It does not belong to any ethnic group or languages contrary to what Meles Zenawi said one time ago, and let not the return of the obelisk be used as political propaganda for the coming May election in Ethiopia.
Abdii, Sweden

Why on earth did they slice the obelisk into three parts? Would it not have been more efficient and cost-saving to ship the entire structure in one piece back to Ethiopia, just as Mussolini did in 1937? It is a travesty when artefacts of such antiquity are consciously altered.
Robert Tanen, Washington, DC, USA

When is looting not looting? Sometimes museums thought they were acquiring artefacts from legitimate owners, and paid accordingly. By this definition, 'return all looted items' policy would leave US museums and galleries looking pretty bare as well.
Dale, New Zealand

The sad truth is that in some cases, the artefacts will be privately sold to collectors by corrupt museum officials, if returned to original countries. I say let them remain where they are for now, until the time comes when the original owners can recognize their value.
Saif, USA

The return of the obelisk to Axum is a great event, not only for Ethiopia, but also for all countries that were colonized and lost their properties. They have to demand the return of their historical artefacts so their real beauty can be manifested when they are in their home land.
Azeb Assefa Mersha, Mekelle, Ethiopia

All historical artefacts should be placed and viewed in their country of origin
Berhane Asfaw, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
All historical artefacts should be placed and viewed in their country of origin. That is where they belong and that is where they should be looked at. Anybody who wants to see them should see them in their appropriate place - their original country.
Berhane Asfaw, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

I am extremely happy one of our national treasures is finally coming home where it belongs. This is the start, there are more and more artefacts and national treasures that were looted, stolen and taken to Britain, Italy, Germany and so on. We will struggle to do what ever it takes to bring them back. Our forefathers created those historical treasures, they are ours and we want them back. What gives you the idea they will not be looked after? How do you think they existed for thousands of years before they were stolen?.
Suhulmikael Abay The Bihere Tigrai, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

I saw the Elgin Marbles when they were exhibited in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. I was truly sickened by the damage done to the statues during their time here. Theft is theft - their return ought to be offered along with a full apology and compensation for the blatant vandalism inflicted.
Gerry Best, Oxford, UK

It would be educationally better to keep precious artefacts in places that have experience in looking after them. The British Museum is one such ideal place. London is accessible to foreign visitors and its collection of artefacts is open for the world to see and learn the history of. It doesn't even charge other countries for the burden of upkeep. I fear that if we allow rare treasures to go elsewhere, they will either be destroyed through incompetent negligence stemming from inexperience, or be hidden away zealously where the world public and historians alike cannot see them. That would truly be a shame and a loss for us all.
Joe Carpenter, London, UK

The artefacts must return to its place of origin. Stolen artefacts have no connection with the country that stole them. All religions on earth oppose stealing.
Solomon Tekola, Fairfax, Virginia

I think important historical artefacts should be given back to their home country if they are going to be maintained and made available for public viewing. They do represent the history of a particular country and culture which is not our own (often anyway). I think our mentality has changed enough that we appreciate the context enough to not just be curious onlookers (although that is a bit reason to visit museums too). Just think of all the loot from the Napoleonic wars that are just collecting dust in the archives of the Louvre which are not available for public viewing.
M Kroll, Fife, Scotland

To the victor go the spoils. It has always been and should always remain this way. If everyone has to now give back everything ever taken, how far back in history do we go? A hundred years? A thousand? Longer? It's ridiculous.
Frank, USA

Countries have no right to be stingy with artefacts that they stole from another country. Museums have been known to lend out their exhibits for international tours. If you want to see foreign history see, it that way or travel. Don't steal it!
Elizabeth, USA

The return of the obelisk to Ethiopia is a sign of the complete victory of Ethiopia and Africa over colonial system. Not only the Axum obelisk but also all the stolen historic artefacts should be returned to their countries at the expense of the countries which stole them.
Terefe Bolteno, Chicago, US

I'm extremely pleased for the Ethiopians, but concerned that it returns in three pieces. The Italians already left another obelisk in shambles 70 years ago and it lies ruined in Axum to this day. Ethiopian governments since then have fought hard for the return of this obelisk and this day will mean much to a country whose people's national pride runs deep and true. Ethiopia is a country rich with artefacts which rival those to be found in the museums of Europe and North America. Attention of the international community should now turn to supporting the Ethiopian government and people in the proper preservation of these extremely precious resources.
Eileen, Ottawa, Canada

Of course they should be returned to where they belong. What else do we have? The only thing we have is our history and identity, we can't compromise that for anything. Ethiopia, as one of the oldest country in the world, has a rich history - give us back our history, we are good in keeping it.
Tewodros Haile, Atlanta, USA

I am so glad for the return of the Axum stele. I have monitored its progress over the past year or so. Depending on the circumstances under which they were taken, I believe that artefacts stolen by Europeans (eg Benin 'bronzes' stolen from Nigeria by the British) should be returned to their rightful homeland. The issue of whether the true owners can look after them better is at best immaterial and at worst a downright insult - they are not toys to be dished out.
Noel Murrell, Portsmouth

The problem with returning artefacts to some part of the world is that the country of origin may not have the money, skill, desire etc to preserve the artefact to ensure its survival for future generations. I have seen artefacts in some countries poorly maintained and exhibited badly. In some places I could have quite easily broken off and walked off with a piece had I been so minded. Attached to the agreement to return artefacts should be guarantees for the preservation of the items and possibly offers of help, financial or in expertise, to ensure this.
Marion Brown, Poole, England

I personally believe that monuments such as Ethiopia's and the Elgin Marbles should be returned to their birth place. Their value will be more appreciated since they will be back in their natural environment.
Elina Petousi, Patra,Greece

The West has stolen enough from other parts of the world, especially Africa (dignity, human life, artefacts, etc) so it should return the things which are returnable. The fact that museums are accessible to many people is irrelevant. The point is many of those artefacts were stolen, and if the West has any inkling of morality, it should return them.
Linovene Haikola, Namibian in Virginia, USA

Artefacts should only be returned if the recipient country can display competence to preserve them
Frank, London, UK
Artefacts should only be returned if the recipient country can display competence to preserve them. The disgraceful destruction of the Bamiyan monuments in Afghanistan shows that political instability should be an absolute bar to returning such items. Following this argument, there is no reason for the British Museum retaining the Elgin Marbles other than that they were purchased, rather than stolen.
Frank, London, UK

I am very much happy that the obelisk has finally been returned to its homeland. The return of the obelisk has got many advantages in attracting tourism and also introducing Ethiopia to other part of the World.
Zerihun Alemu, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Many artefacts were obtained when no nation existed. Now in many cases, new nations want artefacts taken in war or when the political reality was different. What about nations that start wars and lose? Quite frankly, the spoils should go to the victors as a pretty good reason not to start a war. Perhaps nations would think twice if they knew they risked losing their treasure (and land).
Michael S. Nowak, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

All artefacts should be returned to the land of their origin, whether stolen, gained by deception or legally excavated. However, historical artefacts are the heritage of all man and existed before imposed boundaries rendered tracts of land countries - so there should be some sort of international agreement that they will be available for everyone to see and not locked away somewhere. As to the British Museum's feeling that they should remain where 'International' visitors can see them - many of these artefacts are from very poor countries - how many of their nationals can afford to travel to see them? If the countries are unable to care adequately for the artefacts, surely with the amount of importance attached to them by the international community, a foundation could be set up to assist them in this and to promote travel to the new locations.
Ami, USA

The British Museum is a revolting phenomenon. Please note that stolen and ancient artefacts are being auctioned off on a daily basis in London. So lets be clear, this is not a problem of the past, but one that persists to this day. Shame on those that take pride in these illegal institutions.
Ali, Toronto, Canada

Countries that insist on holding on to looted treasure are only attempting to preserve and justify their past dominance. One can easily see through the empty argument for international display in museums. Artefacts have a lot to say about culture and history but this is best told within the context of the country and culture of their origin.
Jack Bini, USA

All the countries of the world have the right to have their precious national treasures returned to their homeland. At the same time, it would be a disaster if ever country on earth only owned artefacts from their own nation. All Egyptian works would be in Egypt, all Chinese works in China - meaning that it would be nearly impossible to learn about foreign cultures. Countries should organize compromises with other nations to ensure that artefacts are safe as well as educational to the entire planet.
Matthew Rarey, Chicago, Illinois, US

As an Egyptologist, I believe that this is an extremely thorny issue. Some artefacts could and should be returned to the countries, but only if conditions are in place to keep and maintain them in their current state. In the case of the Elgin Marbles, the British Museum should return them, as I'm sure the Greeks would be able to look after it. However, on the Egyptian side, I believe that a lot of work has to be done in Egyptian museums before any of the important pieces, such as the Rosetta Stone, can be returned. Although I myself have never been to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, I've heard horror stories about pieces slowly falling apart, and not enough security on the pieces, allowing children to climb on precious artefacts. Most of these pieces are important for the entire human race, and should only return when everything is in place to ensure their survival for future generations.
Mark, Toronto, Canada

I can only quote Napoleon when he said that he didn't steal the French Crown, he found it lying in the gutter and picked it up with his sword. We are the sons and daughters of pirates and conquerors - this is what kept us free and what made us who we are today. To hand back these treasures would be the denial of our entire history as a people - and the end of our nation.
Iain Howe, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Even though I believe the return of the obelisk is a proper thing, I strongly condemn our government for refusing the offer made by Italian government. The Italian government offered about 45 million dollar, which could save the lives of millions and which could have helped the government build roads, hospitals, and schools. Sometimes, we have to see which one is more crucial. After all the obelisk represents the god of fertility which was being worshiped during King Axum time, which is meaning less to most Christians and Moslems in Ethiopia.
Kali Kalit, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

While I applaud Italy's actions and agree with the premise of returning looted artefacts, I fear that the original home countries of some treasures will not be able to afford the cost or provide the expertise required to maintain these artefacts for future generations. That said, I would prefer most artefacts to remain in a museum; however, if Ethiopia, a country stricken with poverty, can find a way to properly maintain its national treasures, then I will fully support the majority opinion.
Drew, Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies

I think it is important for artefacts to be in countries other than their own. It allows people to know about other cultures without having to travel.
Andre, Brussels, Belgium

If countries had to return all their historical artefacts to their countries of origin, British museums would shut down due to lack of exhibits!
Paul Serwinski, New Britain, CT, USA

I think all artefacts should be returned so long as their home country can take care of them
Hannah, The Hague, the Netherlands
I think that all artefacts should be returned so long as their home country can take care of them in all necessary ways, such as security, etc.
Hannah, The Hague, the Netherlands

Sweet words aside, many parts of the world would have lost their cultural treasures altogether had it not been for the patronage, academic investment and determination of certain 'Western' countries and individuals. The motives were not always honest, but to slate them out of hand is naive. Anyone who has walked around a historical site in the Third World will have been approached by locals trying to sell real or fake artefacts. Impoverished locals do not have high ideals when it comes to their cultural treasures. If I were in Ethiopia now and passed the word around that I would purchase fragments of the Axum obelisk, I am sure I would get some.
Clinton Davis, Zimbabwe

These items were mostly looted, bought, or excavated many years ago and that itself is part of history. We might as well start asking for reparations from the Danish because I'm sure the Vikings pinched lots of our national treasures...
Dan, Manchester, UK

History finds the world in constant flux and the transport and movement of objects is definitely a part of this dynamic. My main issue is the preservation of these "historic" artefacts. It seems to me that a place like the British Museum could preserve a historic treasure much better and for much longer than a developing nation, thereby saving it for many future generations.
Andrew Langdell, Minneapolis, USA

It is a nice gesture to return historic artefacts. The British Museum is chock full of such things, as are many of the world's museums. But who do you "return" them to? Many of the artefacts belong to cultures long gone, and the "countries" which claim them may have little tangible connection. Perhaps it is more a local political issue. There are exceptions to be sure, but given the destruction of historic artefacts by the Taleban in Afghanistan, it is clear that blindly "returning" them has some risk. Many artefacts may be considered evil or religiously offensive and be destroyed when returned. What purpose would that serve?
Michael, California, USA

A question for those of you demanding the return of artefacts to their countries of origin: if the British had stolen the statues of Buddha at Bamiyan, would you have demanded their return to Afghanistan? Would they have been better cared for by those who stole them, or by their rightful owners (who blew them up because they were pagan idols)?
Pete, Chicago, IL, USA

Twaddle. If you follow this inane argument to its "logical" conclusion, you are saying that the Louvre should have only artwork by Frenchmen. Or the National Gallery only American art. I thought art was supposed to be universal. Instead it's been hijacked by political agendas.
Peter C. Kohler, Washington DC USA

One problem that strikes me is definition. The obelisk has an obvious and stark connection with Ethiopia, does the same apply to the Scottish stone of destiny? How about an item of Maori memorabilia first acquired as a souvenir, should this be returned to New Zealand? What about a letter or diary written by a political prisoner, who has a claim to that? The grey area between normal and "cultural" property may be difficult to delimit in the less extreme cases.
MMC, Glasgow, Scotland

Yes I am pleased that the Axum obelisk returned to Ethiopia where it belongs. With a little help for Ethiopia, more people can still see them. Ethiopia can be a tourist place to be visited. I hope rich countries will be support Ethiopia as it is a beautiful country with rich culture.
Kedi , Atlanta, USA

This topic was suggested by AJ, Scotland:
The Italians have returned a national treasure to Ethiopia. Should the British Museum do the same with the Elgin Marbles?

Everything looks nice in its original place, especially a big Ethiopian historical obelisk from a country which was one of the four strongest empires in the world thousands years ago (Ethiopia, Persia, China and Rome).
Hereg, Mumbai, India

If countries like Britain did not pillage Egypt of all its treasures, looters would have, and they would have been lost forever. Surely some of these prizes deserve to be kept where they are.
Paul G, Toronto, Canada

All looted historic artefacts should be returned to the country they came from.
Prakash Aryal, Kathmandu, Nepal

It must be kept in mind that the artefacts taken by foreign (mostly European) countries were removed at a time when countries that lost them had no say in the matter. It therefore amounts to plunder or theft. The goodwill earned in their return would be enormous. Just the way citizens of US or UK are attached to the statue of liberty or the tower of London, so we are and are the citizens of Asian or African countries. There is no reason for their non-return.
Anand Singh, India

As long as the government of the day in the return country will not destroy or neglect historical artefacts, then of course they should be returned.
Dan, Hampton, UK

I think historical artefacts ought to stay where they are. Can you imagine the upheaval there would be if each and every country wanted back their possessions? For example, France would have to give back the Mona Lisa to Italy!
Steve Fricker, Warsash, UK

The return of Ethiopia's Axum Obelisk has symbolic significance to many African countries colonized by Europeans. Historical artefacts looted at the time of colonisation must be returned as they are culturally owned by the colonised country. Who is to say those countries wouldn't look after their own heritages? Does that mean the Europeans are better if in caring for artefacts?
Tewodros, San Francisco, USA

I was shocked to see how many stolen artefacts were kept at the British Museum. I think in some cases, instability in the countries of origin make them being kept elsewhere acceptable. However, there should be conditions, one being that the artefact is not of extraordinary cultural or historic value to the country of origin. In addition, if another country does keep the artefact, the source country should be compensated, or even better, given a similar valued local artefact in exchange for their museums.
Brett, Arizona

If a return is difficult maybe monetary recompense would be acceptable
John Powelson, Australia
Historical artefacts should be returned to the original countries if they have been stolen or looted (even if it has been over 100 years). Concern should be expressed when returning an item if the country is not stable or the item could just be resold. If a return is difficult maybe monetary recompense would be acceptable.
John Powelson, Australia

Ownership rights should have precedence over all other considerations, with one exception. In a sense, we all have some ownership interest in artefacts which are part of the mosaic of human evolution. With respect to such irreplaceable artefacts, security is a crucial consideration. Some of the archaeological record, which has been protected in modern museums, probably wouldn't exist if it had been returned to its place of origin. A protocol should be developed based on these principles, to insure all the history of all peoples should be protected.
Jim Hopewell, Maryland USA

Nations should be proud of their history and permit other nations the ability to be proud of theirs by returning what is rightfully theirs, not looted booty in the name of archaeology. This includes the return of the Elgin Marbles to the Parthenon as well. Naming them after their looter (Lord Elgin) adds further insult to the nation that bore their creation.
Rob G, Kansas City, USA

I think it's time for Britain to follow the Italian example and return the Elgin Marbles to Greece. The country has several museums where they could be seen by visitors from all over the world.
Alessandro Rossi, Rome, Italy

It's not about the commercial aspect of having people see treasures, these treasures are significant to the place of origin and must be returned.
Jason, London

It is about time the ancient obelisk returned to its home in Axum. As part of reducing poverty Ethiopia can attract international visitors to see the country and the return of the historic obelisk will play great role in attracting visitors. Great job for the Ethiopian and Italian government for making this happen.
Mekonnen Atsbaha, Atlanta, US

The ethical and cultural arguments notwithstanding, dominant countries should own artefacts. While they are dominant they may wish to reap the spoils of their position. Once this dominance ends, naturally enough they find themselves being forced to return the loot. The problem with the Elgin Marbles is that UK dominance went on for an insane amount of time - no comparison to Italy's brief adventure in Ethiopia.
John, Toronto, Ontario

We don't need any more wars over bickering about artefacts
Todd, Virginia, USA
Possession is 9/10ths of the law or so they say. When 2 parties can reach an agreement, that should be honoured. We don't need any more wars over bickering about artefacts and disputed islands.
Todd, Virginia, USA

The return of the obelisk is great news for the Ethiopians. Historical artefacts that were stolen by invading/occupying countries should always be returned to their country of origin, as long as that country has the means to safeguard it. I think if the UK was more ethical in its treatment of such artefacts, the British Museum would be almost empty, since many of those items were stolen from the former Empire. Whilst it is nice to be able to see such artefacts in one place, the original countries must be able to assert their rights of ownership, which must take precedence over the right to see these items.
Rustam Roy, London, UK (ex-India)

I think that a country should decide how best to keep and observe its own heritage. The real question being asked is should industrialized nations be allowed to continue their paternalistic hold on the rest of the world by deciding how best to keep and preserve what they see as treasures and heritage?
Conswelia, Philadelphia, PA

Anything stolen should be returned to it's owners. I'm glad to see Italy returning it. Crime never pays. I'm sure Greece knows how to handle international visitors; they did just fine with the Olympic Games. But you know the English - to hand the Elgin Marbles back is just not cricket.
Philip Smith, Melbourne, Australia

There can be no clear-cut rule on where artefacts belong. When they were taken, how and where they are kept are all relevant factors. Loot from Baghdad, the Mona Lisa, treasures taken during WWII and the Elgin Marbles should not and can not be treated under the same rules. The general rule should be to allow objects taken in history to remain where they are, but to do all that can be done to prevent modern day illicit trade in antiquities.
Michael Sigge, Stockholm, Sweden

Too much love is lost over artefacts, especially during the Holocaust where Jewish treasure was robbed and then slowly returned after the war. The only people not to rob those who they invaded were the Muslims who charged a tax to the non-Muslim subjects. However politics and religious convictions are two different matters, and in Muslim civilisation there was looting and robbing, they looted the Vatican a number of times under Islamic banners. Nazis robbed, the British robbed, the American robbed, the Italians, the French robbed, the Russians have robbed, Europeans are the worst in keeping the commandment thou shalt not steal.
HS, Sama

My first impression of the British Museum was of absolute disbelief
Wikus Erasmus, South Africa
My first impression of the British Museum was of absolute disbelief. The vast amounts of world treasure that can be seen there is astonishing. I would never have seen the wonders, if it hadn't been consolidated in one place. However, the British Museum is monument to piracy where other countries wealth, history and symbols of culture are being kept. Such important artefacts belong to the countries of origin from which they were stolen. The Italian initiative is one of excellent good will. Just because the British were part of the winning side of war doesn't mean they can keep their plunder.
Wikus Erasmus, Johannesburg, South Africa

If we stole them we should give them back. Can you imagine the uproar if someone took Nelson's Column and refused to give it back? Besides, who cares if all the people who come to London won't get to see the Elgin marbles? It's not like the museum's going to go bust as a consequence.
James, UK

Looting is theft and considered illegal in all cultures. If the rightful owner of an object is known, it should be returned to them. The owner should make the decision of who sees the item and how it is looked after.
Dwayne Chastain, West Jefferson, Ohio

I'm very pleased that the obelisk has been returned to Ethiopia. Judging from the many well preserved ancient sites and texts in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian people have proved that they are the best keepers of their own ancient historical texts and monuments. Not all countries, however, have been able to protect their heritage in the same way and there is a good case for keeping artefacts in safe places until the conditions are right for them to return to their place of origin.
Ian, Reading, UK

The cultures that created the artefacts should own them. Having said this, it is important to remember that these artefacts should also be on display so that current and future generations can learn about the pasts of other cultures.
Doug Fisher, Asheville, USA

Historical artefacts should be returned to their country of origin. The attitude that they are better looked after by the same people who broke them apart is colonial thinking at its worst. It is about time the Elgin marbles are returned to Greece. Enough damage was caused to them by their caretakers already.
George Sampson, Athens, Greece

I am very happy that Italy has returned Ethiopia's historical artefacts and hope that the move will be followed by other countries, such as Britain returning Ottoman artefacts back to Turkey where they belong.
Esra Karatash Alpay, Istanbul, Turkey

Well done Italy. In these days of relatively cheap global travel surely it makes sense to leave, or return these treasures to the places in which they were always intended to be. The argument that they are better in places where more people can see them doesn't really stand up anymore. How about relocating the Sphinx to Chipping Sodbury? I don't think so.
Dan, Brussels

Hiding behind tourists holds little water anymore
Bruce Cockburn, Blackburn, UK
The British museum should return all stolen artefacts to their original owners. Hiding behind tourists holds little water anymore.
Bruce Cockburn, Blackburn, UK

Archaeology pieces should stay at the place where actually were risen, they form part of the cultural treasure and legacy.
Josntonio Tam Cordero, Mexico

I find it nigh on impossible to justify the keeping of historic artefacts, obtained unlawfully, by whatever means. The suggestion that such artefacts have been well looked after, particularly where the country of origin became unstable, might have held water for a short time, but that stance is no longer tenable. I'm for returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece, particularly as I understand that the British Museum displays fibre-glass copies.
Ken Cook, Bromley, Kent

I don't think so - everyone keeps on talking about 'historic' items - but aren't these trophies of war part of history?
Gary, Isle of Man

Of course artefacts should be returned to the original country - they were simply looted or stolen by occupying or invading forces. This would be no different to a burglar coming into your house and stealing your prized possessions. If people want to see them, they should travel to the rightful home and see them. There is simply no excuse for not returning stolen artefacts.
Tarek Alami, Abu Dhabi, UAE

If some item belongs to somebody else you have no right to possess it
Ghouse, Colombo
Basically, if some item belongs to somebody else you have no right to possess it, unless with his approval. That's the human norm.
Ghouse, Colombo

This is very beautiful day. A beautiful moment not only for Ethiopia, but also for the whole African continent. Any excuse are unpalatable and totally unacceptable. I won't compromise my identity for anything.
Aneley, Boston, USA

It belongs to Ethiopia and nobody else.
Chuma Anierobi, Montreal, Canada

Clearly, Ethiopia owns the Axum Obelisk, but why can't Italy return it intact? They got it to Rome that way.
L Dykstra, USA

Last year I visited the Acropolis in Athens, and was horrified to find that the museum there was full of replicas with little notes beside them saying that the originals were all in the British Museum. Historic artefacts should remain as close to where they are found as possible, as they belong to the people of that land. Everything looted by former colonial powers should be returned to it's rightful owners.
Franchesca Mullin, Belfast

Looted treasures should be returned wherever possible; after all, international visitors can visit them where they originated instead of in some stuffy museum where all their grandeur is lost. The caveat to this is that the treasures need to be properly preserved if they are returned or they cease to be treasures.
Fiona, UK

Comparing the Elgin marbles to the obelisk is unfair. The Italians stole the obelisk; Lord Elgin bought the marbles from the Turkish governor of Athens and by doing so almost certainly saved them from destruction. If Jack Chirac sold the Mona Lisa to Britain because the Louver was being demolished, would it be acceptable for a future French premier to demand its return without compensation? The same situation exists between us and Greece over the marbles.
Peter, Nottingham

Is looted not a synonym for stolen?
Des Currie, Umdloti, South Africa

We are hungry, yet we have treasures that are spinning money in other countries of Europe. Let it be known that what is not ours is not ours and what is ours will always be ours. If what is ours is in your possession and we neither gave it to you as a gift, nor sold it to you as a good; then it is best described as stolen. It is not very normal for either a gift or a sold item to be returned; but it is absolutely modest, descent and earnest for stolen items to be returned and we will appreciate to have back all what Europe (especially Britain and France) took away from us Africans.
Chigbu Uchendu, Uturu, Nigeria

Who will see it in Ethiopia? Will the French return their stolen loot?
Christos Economakis, Geneva

Artefacts are better off looked after where they belong
Ophious, London, UK
Artefacts are better off looked after where they belong, that is, where they were looted from. Most of these have religious attachments. If people want to see them, they can visit those places and see the artefacts in their true context.
Ophious, London, UK

The answer is an emphatic 'yes' in my opinion unless the country can't protect and cherish it properly.
Senthil Kumar, Ottawa, Canada

What kind of pleasure can I get by standing in a museum watching a stolen art from another country? All artefacts should be returned (with interest) to their native place. We cannot extradite the criminals who stole the artefacts but we must extradite the art because it represents the symbol and the history of its native place.
Khalid, Morocco/USA

It depends whether the article was stolen (in which case it should be returned), or whether it was gained legitimately e.g. through an authorised excavation (in which case it definitely shouldn't). Many of these objects would never have been found, or properly preserved were it not for the intervention of foreign archaeologists decades or even centuries ago. Looking at artefacts from different civilisations encourages an interest in history and culture and actually promotes tourism - so countries (such as Egypt) who have 'lost' treasures to foreign museums have indirectly benefited hugely by the influx of tourists.
Laura, Brighton

I agree that artefacts should be seen. Take Egyptian relics - having been to the British Museum and the Met in New York, I was inspired to visit Egypt to see the real tombs, boosting my education and the Egyptian economy. And it was well worth the visit.
Angela C, London, UK

I was horrified by the booty at the British Museum when I visited for the first time thirty years ago. It is one thing to display items that were gifts or museum purchases but quite another to do so when the items were looted. It is equally bad to display them in outdoor settings such as plazas etc. making them landmarks in a land that is not their home. Europe needs to begin to return these historical treasures to their rightful owners.
Sharon S, USA



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