Stolen Trove of Angkor Royal Jewelry Returned to Cambodia After Resurfacing in London

​Credit – Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts

A trove of precious jewelry from Cambodia’s past has been repatriated after surfacing in London.

Totaling 77 artifacts from the medieval kingdom of Angkor, they are believed to have been trafficked from the country during the tyranny of the Khmer Rouge and the civil wars that plagued the country during the 20th century.

Angkor was one of the greatest powers in the East between the 9th and 14th centuries. Their theocratic capital of Angkor Wat is considered one of the 7 Wonders of the Medieval World, and today is still the largest religious complex on Earth.

The treasures date squarely to this period of flourishing and some of the crowns are believed to have sat on royal brows. They include items “such as gold and other precious metal pieces from the Pre-Angkorian and Angkorian period including crowns, necklaces, bracelets, belts, earrings, and amulets,” the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts said in a statement.

Credit – Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts

The items came from the estate of recently-late serial art trafficker Douglas Latchford, who for many years was considered an expert antiquities appraiser, but was later discovered to have worked alongside the Communist Khmer Rouge to traffic hundreds of artifacts from the country.

Now, many of the nation’s historical treasures are returning, and this trove is just the most recent tranche.

Last year, US citizens or institutions returned either voluntarily or by court order, 30 items sold by Latchford, including a 10th-century sculpture of the Hindu god Skanda atop a peacock considered a “masterpiece.”

The year before that, the estate of Latchford, who died in 2020 before he could be convicted of antiquities trafficking, sent back five bronze and sandstone sculptures to Cambodia.

“We consider such returns as a noble act, which not only demonstrates important contributions to a nation’s culture but also contributes to the reconciliation and healing of Cambodians who went through decades of civil war and suffered tremendously from the tragedy of the Khmer Rouge genocide,” said Cambodia’s culture minister, Phoeurng Sackona.

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