American Who Stole Terracotta Warrior's Thumb Must Be 'Severely Punished', China Says

Terra cotta warriors. Via Wikimedia Commons
Terra cotta warriors. Via Wikimedia Commons

20 February, 2018

Authorities in China have demanded a man who allegedly broke off the thumb of a 2,000-year-old statue be "severely" punished.

Michael Rohana, 24, has been arrested over the theft during an after hours "ugly sweater party" just before Christmas at the Franklin Institute in Pennsylvania where 10 of the figures are on display.

The Terracotta Army was built by the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang in the third century BCE to protect him in the afterlife.

According to surveillance camera footage, after the two other party guests had left the room, Rohana took a selfie with his arm draped over the shoulder of one of the statues.

While there, Rohana allegedly used his mobile phone as a flashlight and took a selfie with one of the warriors before appearing to break something off it and walking out with it in his pocket.

The life-sized statues are considered one of China's most prized archaeological discoveries.

Federal authorities said Michael Rohana, 24, from DE, stole the thumb.

That's when the statue's thumb went missing, though the institute didn't notice the disappearance until well after the event.

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Replicas of Xian Warriors are on display at the "Terracotta Army" exhibition in Villa's Cultural Center Fernan Gomez on November 13, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.

After museum staff noticed the damage on January 8, a special agent from the FBI's Art Crime Team tracked down Rohana in DE a few days later.

The Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Centre has organised over 260 overseas exhibitions over the past 40 years, and has never come across a situation such as this, an official with the centre was quoted in the report as saying.

The center has offered to send its own experts to the institute to help fix the statue, but will file a "claim for compensation", according to news reports. During questioning, Rohana admitted that he had hidden the thumb in his desk drawer.

Another group of terracotta warriors is now on display at the World Museum in Liverpool, England.

Rohana is now out on bail and has handed over his passport, Xinhua reported.

News of the theft has prompted outrage in China, which had loaned 10 statues from among the 8,000 life-size clay warriors that make up the Terracotta Army to the Philadelphia museum.

She blames the incident on a contractor who did not follow security protocols the night of the theft. The exhibit will run until March 4.

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