December 31, 2002

Lost artefacts in the British Museum

Posted at 8:11 am in British Museum, Similar cases

In the past, the British Museum has claimed that it can look after artefacts such as the Parthenon Sculptures better than institutions in the home countries of these artefacts can. The evidence available regularly seems to contradict this assertion however.


Missing Roman goblet baffles museum
Sarah Hall
Tuesday December 31, 2002
The Guardian

It sounds like the title of an Agatha Christie whodunnit. But the mystery of the missing Roman goblet is no fictional riddle.

Archivists at the British Museum are scratching their heads after learning that the biggest hoard of Roman treasure ever found in Britain comprised 35 pieces – not 34, as has been believed for the past 60 years – and that the goblet that is missing could be worth more than £1m.

The embarrassing discovery occurred when a 94-year-old who helped clean the Mildenhall treasure after it was found in a remote field in Suffolk in 1943 was shown replicas of the hoard lent to the Mildenhall Museum for an exhibition last year.

When Jack Thompson saw the replicas, he revealed that the piece he had worked on was missing.

Speaking for Mr Thompson, Colin Dring, of the Mildenhall Museum, explained: “We brought it down for him to see piece by piece, including the two goblets, and he said: ‘Where’s the one I worked on?’ And it wasn’t there.”

Mr Thompson told him the missing silver goblet was 5in high with intricate decoration and four legs – a different design to the other two.

“He had always assumed it was in the British Museum,” Dr Dring added. “I believe Mr Thompson’s account, but unfortunately no one knows where the missing piece might be.”

Dr Dring added that the goblet did not appear on any lists made of the finds at the time, and was not part of the treasure trove inquest shortly afterwards.

Because of this, it is believed that the missing goblet must have disappeared before the hoard was assigned to the British Museum.

A spokeswoman for the British Museum said: “The 34 pieces of the hoard are all we have and are all on display. There is nothing in our storage.

“We are aware of rumours about another piece but we have no concrete evidence to support it.”

The story of the treasure will feature in the BBC2 programme Meet The Ancestors – Our Top Ten Treasures tomorrow at 9pm.

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