Repatriation of Indian Antiquities from the US

Repatriation of Indian Antiquities from the US
Posted on 30-10-2023

Repatriation of 105 Indian Antiquities from the US, and Ongoing Efforts for More Returns

Recently, around 105 antiquities were returned to India from the United States. These artifacts include items like a terracotta plaque depicting a standing figure with two attendants and a bronze sculpture of Lord Krishna. Efforts are also underway to bring back an additional 16 antiquities that were smuggled to the US.

Understanding Antiquities:

  • The article starts by defining what constitutes an "antiquity" according to the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act (1972) in India. This definition covers various items such as coins, sculptures, paintings, and more, all of which must be at least 100 years old to be considered antique. Manuscripts, records, and documents of historical or cultural significance should be at least 75 years old.

International Conventions on Antiquities:

  • The article delves into the international aspect of protecting antiquities by mentioning the UNESCO 1970 Convention. This treaty urges countries to take measures to prevent the illicit trafficking of cultural property and provides a framework for cooperation. It highlights the importance of international efforts to combat the illicit trade of cultural artifacts.

Indian Laws on Antiquities:

  • The piece outlines the legal framework in India for the protection of antiquities, starting with the Antiquities (Export Control) Act of 1947 and later the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958. The focus then shifts to the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act (AATA) of 1972, which restricts the sale of antiquities without a license from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Provenance and Ownership Checks:

  • Provenance is explained as the history of ownership of an antiquity. The process of verifying ownership and reclaiming stolen or illegally exported antiquities is outlined. This includes filing complaints with the police and providing documentation to prove ownership under the UNESCO 1970 Convention.

Detecting Fake Antiquities:

  • The article mentions the registration of antiquities under the National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities to help combat illegal activities. It points out that only a small fraction of India's estimated 58 lakh antiquities have been registered so far.

Repatriation of Antiquities:

  • The article categorizes the three main types of antiquities that may have left India's borders, highlighting the need for bilateral or international efforts to retrieve them. It also mentions that artifacts taken out of the country after April 1976 can be more easily retrieved with proof of ownership and the assistance of the UNESCO convention.

News Summary:

  • The article presents a news summary by referencing an RTI response obtained by the Indian Express. It confirms the repatriation of 105 antique art objects from the USA in August 2023 and mentions ongoing efforts to retrieve more antiquities. It provides information about the time periods to which the returned antiquities belong and states that 16 more items from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York are in the process of being returned. Additionally, over 250 "non-antiquities" are expected to be sent back to India. The article concludes by noting that several antiquities have been successfully retrieved from various countries in recent years.

Thank You