BANGKOK – The United States has returned 554 archaeologically significant items, most of which are from the prehistoric era, to Thailand.Mr. W. Patrick Murphy, Charge d’affaires of the US mission in Thailand, Department of Information Director-General Sek Wannamethi and Department of Fine Arts Director-General Bawonwet Rungruchi witnessed the official handover of the artifacts on Wednesday. The occasion was presided over by Culture Minister Veera Rojpojanarat.
Over 500 ancient vases, bowls, axes, and other artifacts were illegally looted from Thailand decades ago. Most of the artifacts were from Ban Chiang, a Neolithic settlement and burial site occupied from 1500 BC to 900 BC.
The returns are the result of a non-prosecution agreement between the Bowers Museum, located in Santa Ana in California, and the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney Office, stemming from federal raids in 2008. The case involved a criminal investigation led by the Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) Los Angeles and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The items consist of 222 articles of clay pottery, 197 bronze ornaments, 79 bronze tools, 35 articles of decorative beads, 11 articles of stone tools and axes, and 10 articles of sandstone molds. Most of the artifacts are prehistoric items from archaeological sites in Thailand’s Northeast. A number are prehistoric items from sites in Thailand’s Central Region.
A few other items are newer artifacts, not from the prehistoric period.Mr. Bawonwet said a portion of the collection will be put on display at Ban Chieng National Museum in Udon Thani due to interest from local residents. Another portion will be put on display at the National Museum in Pathumthani.