An American museum on Monday, March 28 returned to Cambodia a 10th-century sandstone sculpture of the Hindu god Rama decades after it was looted from a jungle temple during the kingdom’s civil war, AFP reports.
The 62-inch-tall torso, which was stolen in the 1970s from the Koh Ker temple site near the famed Angkor Wat complex, was handed over by the Denver Art Museum at a ceremony in Phnom Penh.
The statue — still missing its head, arms and feet — had been in the museum’s possession since 1986, the Cambodian government said in a statement.
“We are joyful with the torso of Rama returning home,” Cambodian official Yim Nolson said at the ceremony, adding that the joy was tempered by the fact that the head was still missing and its whereabouts unknown.
“The royal government of Cambodia appeals to all museums and collectors around the world to follow this good example by returning the Rama’s head to Cambodia,” he added.
The artwork was returned to Cambodia following new research into its provenance by the museum, the government statement said.
Cambodia was once home to the mighty Khmer Empire, a Hindu-Buddhist dynasty that built what were then some of the world’s mightiest cities and temples, including the famous Angkor Wat complex.
But decades of French colonialism and civil war saw vast swathes of Cambodia’s architectural and religious heritage looted and sold overseas.
In more recent years the country has hunted down lost artworks and statues, many of which ended up in western museums.
While some items have been returned after negotiations, others have required legal battles.
Last year a statue of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman which had been looted from the same temple as the Rama torso was returned by the Cleveland Museum of Art.
In 2013 two other 10th-century Khmer-era statues known as the “Kneeling Attendants” were returned from the United States. They had also been taken from the same temple complex.
In January a French museum returned the head of a statue taken in 1886 during the colonial period.