Chinese authorities are demanding that a 24-year-old American face “severe punishment” for allegedly breaking off the left thumb of a 2000 thousand-year-old terracotta warrior statue that was on loan at a Philadelphia museum. The ancient statue is valued at $4.5 million.
“We call on the United States to severely punish those who have done this,” the director of Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relic Exchange Center, Wu Haiyun, said.
The man who was responsible for the thumb heist is Delaware resident, Michael Rohana. According to US officials, Rohana was accused of stealing the thumb in December during an ugly sweater party hosted by the Franklin Institute, where the theft occurred.
While at the party, Rohana and a few of his friends entered the “Terra-cotta Warriors of the First Emperor” exhibit. According to the arrest affidavit, he then started to take selfies with the ancient statue, known as “The Cavalryman”, after which he snapped off the left thumb and walked away.
A museum worker later discovered the missing thumb on January 8 which prompted the FBI Art Crime Unit to begin an investigation. The FBI ultimately found Rohana thanks to surveillance video and arrested him five days later after the museum noticed the missing thumb.
One of the people who accompanied Rohana at the museum told authorities that while heading back to Delaware, Rohana bragged about having a thumb from one of the terracotta warriors.
Rohana was charged with theft of an object of cultural heritage from a museum, concealment of an object of cultural heritage stolen from a museum, and interstate transportation of stolen goods. He was released on bail on February 13.
The Franklin Institute currently holds 10 statues that are part of a collection of about 8 thousand. The terracotta statues date back to 209. B.C., and were built to guard the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who belonged to the Qin Dynasty.
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