The Great British Loot: Things Stolen From Other Countries

Koh-i-Noor (Kohinoor)

Sitting at the top of the velvet-and-platinum crown of the Queen of England is the Koh-i-Noor, one of the largest cut diamonds in the world. The 105.6 metric carat diamond, weighing 21.6 grammes was mined at Kollur Mine, in the present state of Andhra Pradesh. It was originally 793 carats when uncut. Diamond experts around the world named it the Mountain of Light. 

The Ring of Tipu Sultan

When Tipu Sultan, a ruler of Mysore also known as Tiger of Mysore lost a battle to the British in 1799, the colonists stole his sword and ring from his body. The sword was returned to India, but in 2014 the ring was auctioned by the British for £145,000. The 41.2g ring was sold to an undisclosed bidder for almost 10 times its estimated price at the auction in central London, according to Christie's website.

Wine Cup of Shah Jahan

A white jade wine cup belongs to Shah Jahan, the emperor of the Mughal Empire, who made Taj Mahal in honor of his beloved queen. The flower below the jar is a lotus and leaves are acanthus and an animal with a goat and a horn and beard on the handle. In the 19th century a beautiful wine jar was stolen by Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie and sent to Britain. Since 1962 it's placed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. 

Great Star of Africa

The Great Star of Africa or Cullinan I, is the biggest stone cut from the Cullinan diamond, which was discovered in South Africa in 1905 in a mine owned by its namesake, Thomas Cullinan, and is the largest gem-quality uncut diamond ever found. Today, the Great Star of Africa is mounted in the Sovereign’s Sceptre with the Cross. Queen Elizabeth II has been seen in many portraits wearing these diamonds.

Maori Head

The Maori used chisels to carve into men's skin, then filled the grooves with ink. The famous Ta moko facial tattoos represented high social status in Maori culture, and decapitated and dried heads played an important part in Maori sacred ceremonies. But when the Europeans landed in New Zealand in 1770, these Maori heads became nothing more than curios and items for trade.

Saartjie "Sarah" Baartman

Saartjie "Sarah" Baartman was a Khoikhoi woman who was taken from South Africa to London, where she was exhibited as a freak show attraction in the 19th century. When Baartman was sixteen, her husband was murdered by Dutch colonists, and she was sold into slavery to a trader. In 1810, Baartman was said to have signed a contract with a British physician and was taken to Europe to be paraded around for her large bottom. 

Maqdala Manuscript

The Maqdala Manuscripts are religious texts that were taken from Ethiopians by the British after the Battle of Maqdala. In 1868, a British expeditionary force laid siege to the mountain-top fortress of Maqdala, resulting in the capture of more than a thousand predominantly religious manuscripts that were carried on the backs of 15 elephants and hundreds of mules back to Britain, according to Atlas Obscura. 350 of those manuscripts ended up in the British Library. 

Looty, A Pekingese Puppy

Looty was an aptly named Pekingese puppy that was abducted from China's Imperial Summer Palace by British forces. During the Second Opium War in October 1860, British and French troops looted the palace and came across the dog. British captain John Hart Dunne presented the puppy to Queen Victoria, and the queen named her "Looty" after how she was acquired.  

Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone, which resides in the British Museum, is regarded as a monumental object that enabled researchers to decipher and understand the cultures and history of Ancient Egypt. The stone was originally taken from Egypt by Napoleon Bonaparte. The British then took the Rosetta Stone after they defeated the French in 1815. 

Elgin Marble

The Elgin Marbles, also known as the Parthenon Marbles. The marbles, which depict festivalgoers celebrating the birthday of the goddess Athena and centaurs and Lapiths engaged in battle, were taken from the Parthenon in Greece between 1801 and 1805.

Amaravati Marble

Amaravati marbles also known as Elliott Marbles, a collection of 70 pieces are presently on display at the British Museum in London. Excavated by the British almost 140 years ago, the sculptures were shipped to the UK from Madras in 1859 and were in the basement of the museum for over 30 years.

Benin Bronze

More than 900 historic objects from the Kingdom of Benin (now modern-day Nigeria) — including more than 200 bronze plaques — ended up in the British Museum, now part of its collection of "contested objects." 

Seeds of Hevea Brasiliensi

Henry Wickham, a British explorer and plant-thief, stole 70,000 seeds from the rubber-bearing tree which can be height of up to 140 feet (43 m), Hevea brasiliensis, in the Santarém area of Brazil, to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London in 1875. This marked the end of the Amazon rubber boom and a great economic time for Brazil. The man earned the nickname "Bio-Pirate" in the South American country.