Ancient lintels coming home

Ancient lintels coming home

US museum to return them next month

Two ancient lintels believed stolen and put on display at a US museum are to be returned to Thailand next month, Fine Arts Department chief Prateep Pengtako said.

An ancient lintel previously displayed at a museum in the US. It will be returned to Thailand next month. (The Foreign Ministry photo)

The two lintels -- one originally from the Prasat Khao Lon historical sanctuary in Sa Kaeo and the other from Prasat Nong Hong in Buri Ram -- were believed to have been stolen in the early 1960s.

The suspected thefts are thought to have occurred around the same time that a famous lintel depicting the god Vishnu reclining on a naga serpent went missing from Phanom Rung Historical Park in Buri Ram.

It was finally returned to Thailand in 1988 following a campaign by an outraged Thai public.

The other two artefacts, which until recently were on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, belong to the Kleang-Baphuon archaeological era.

It has yet to be decided whether the two lintels will be put back where they were taken from once they are returned to Thailand, Mr Prateep said.

He was speaking to reporters at an event this week to mark the 110th anniversary of the founding of the Fine Arts Department.

He said Khao Lon and Nong Hong are archaeological sites and are less secure than a museum, which means they could easily be stolen again.

Tanongsak Harnwong, a civic group leader spearheading a campaign to have stolen artefacts returned to Buri Ram, said the department should put the two lintels on display in a museum for the benefit of the public.

The department could easily substitute them with replicas at the historical sites, he said.

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