British Museum announces major update in hunt for priceless stolen artefacts

The beleaguered British Museum has launched a website in a bid to recover around 2,000 antiquities that have been stolen.

The site, which went live at 1pm today, is dedicated to the recovery of the precious historical items, the news of the disappearance of which caused former museum director Hartwig Fischer to resign.

The Art Newspaper reports the museum has said 60 items have now been retrieved and a further 300 have been identified and are “due to be returned imminently”.

Unusually however, the website does not display photos or descriptions of the missing items but rather give “types” and images of “similar” objects.

According to the Art Newspaper the new website doesn’t record specific details of what is missing but simply “the types of objects that are missing” with photos to aid the public to identify “whether they might have come in contact of any stolen items”.

In a statement on the website the museum addressed the fact it had not pictured or directly described any of the missing items, it said: “On the advice of recovery specialists, we are not sharing full details of the lost and damaged items at this time. What we can share is the type of material that we believe has been stolen.

“The vast majority of the items are from the Department of Greece and Rome and mainly fall into two categories: gems and jewellery. The items illustrated here are similar to those that are missing, but are still in the collection.”

The first category of missing historical artefacts are said to be “Classical Greek and Roman gems”. The website said the “gems, cameos and intaglios” were “small objects, often set in rings or other settings, or left unmounted and unfinished”.

It added: “They may be made of semi-precious stone (for example sard, sardonyx, amethyst) or glass; they may be cast from a mould or engraved by hand.”

The second category which the museum said items were missing from were “gold rings, ear-rings and other pieces of jewellery”.

It said: “These date from across antiquity, especially from the Late Bronze Age (about 15th to 11th century BC) and the Hellenistic and Roman periods.”

The British Museum announced on August 17 that items from its collection were found to be missing, stolen or damaged. It also said that legal action would be taken by the museum against an unnamed member of staff.

Former chancellor George Osborne, who is now chairman of the museum’s trustees, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last month that the museum did not have a complete catalogue of everything in its collection amassed over several hundred years.

He said: “Someone with knowledge of what’s not registered has a big advantage in removing some of those items.”

Interim director at the British Museum Sir Mark Jones has pledged to “restore the reputation” of the institution.

A Metropolitan Police investigation into the matter is under way.

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