In a startling disclosure, artifacts from London’s renowned British Museum valued at nearly $64,000 were found listed on the digital marketplace eBay for a mere $50.
The unearthing of the treasures on eBay prompted an internal probe by the museum, The Telegraph reported. It also led to the termination of curator Peter Higgs, who had worked at the museum for over three decades.
The pilfered items, which included jewelry crafted from gold, semi-precious stones and glass spanning from 1,500 BC to the 19th century AD, made their appearance on eBay three years after the museum was warned that a staff member had been stealing items, according to The Telegraph. Some of the invaluable pieces reportedly bore signs of damage.
An ancient Roman jewelry artifact, carved from onyx and valued between $32,000 and $63,000, was listed on eBay in 2016 with an opening bid of just $50. Despite its historical and monetary value, the piece failed to attract any bids, the outlet reported.
In response to his father’s arrest, Greg Higgs, the curator’s 21-year-old son, came forward to defend him.
“He’s not done anything. He’s not happy about it at all. He’s lost his job and his reputation and I don’t think it was fair,” the 21-year-old said, according to The Times of London.
The Telegraph reported that, because the museum’s expansive collection — which boasts over 8 million artifacts — is still not fully catalogued, thefts slipped under the radar. An independent review is underway to measure the magnitude of missing items and to introduce countermeasures against future thefts.
“Major things do get cataloged. There are a lot of minor things which are not, or which are all lumped together,” Professor Martin Henig, a Roman art expert at the University of Oxford, told the outlet.
A museum spokesperson also remarked on the incident, saying, “We have conducted a thorough investigation, identified the person we believe to be responsible, and that person has been dismissed. We are also taking further robust action to ensure this can never happen again.
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