Denver Art Museum returning looted items to Cambodia

Denver Art Museum returning looted items to Cambodia
© Associated Press

Denver Art Museum is set to return four ancient artifacts that were once looted from temples in Southeast Asia to Cambodia.

The move, which was revealed in the forfeiture complaint filed Monday, comes decades after the artifacts were removed from their home country.

According to the complaint, the relics will be given over to the United States government and transferred to Cambodia. Included among the items is the Prajnaparamita, which is a likeness of the goddess of transcendent wisdom, and an image of the sun god Surya, The Washington Post noted.


Both the U.S. and Cambodian authorities have reportedly urged art institutions to look into their collections of Khmer art to determine if they have acquired pieces during times of unrest in Cambodia. Many of those artifacts may have been stolen by looters in large numbers.

Phoeurng Sackona, the Cambodian Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, praised the news of the return of the artifacts, noting that they each have significant cultural value.

“I am delighted by the upcoming return of these four highly significant cultural objects to Cambodia," Sackona told the Post. “Each one has a fascinating story and priceless value to our nation.”

Cambodia's government has made an effort in recent years to collect information on artifacts it believes were stolen. A majority of those pieces have made their way to Western Europe, Australia and the United States, according to the Post.

“We continue to gather extensive evidence of the looting of our treasures, and improper possession of them by others,” Sackona said, according to the Post. “We encourage museums and private collectors with Khmer cultural properties to reach out to the ministry to share provenance documentation and to move toward voluntary repatriation of our Cambodian treasures.”