China furious after American 'steals terracotta warrior's thumb' at museum

China furious after American 'steals terracotta warrior's thumb' at museum

An affidavit filed in federal court earlier this month accused Michael Rohanna, a 24-year-old DE man, of breaking off and stealing the thumb from a loaned terracotta statue called "The Cavalryman", a treasured piece valued at $4.5 million.

Authorities say Rohana took photos while posing next to a statue known as "The Cavalryman". An official from the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center, which organizes the display of the statues overseas, asked that the thief be given a "severe" penalty.

The centre also said it was seeking initiation of a compensation procedure.

The statue is part of the 8,000 life-sized statues of the Terracotta Army in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province in central China, built to protect the tomb of Qin Shihuang, the First Emperor (259-210 BCE). The statues date from around 209 B.C. The exhibit contains 10 statues, including a general, a charioteer and a saddled horse.

The terra-cotta warrior statues at the Franklin Institute were on loan from China for a special exhibit that began in September 2017. A door to the exhibit was closed, but apparently unlocked.

When FBI agent Jacob Archer went to interview Rohana and asked if he had anything "that he wanted to turn over to the FBI", Rohana handed over the thumb, which was in the desk in his bedroom.

The friends left the room, but Rohana allegedly lingered for a few minutes, using his cellphone as a flashlight to look at the figures, according to the affidavit.

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Michael Rohana was recorded on security cameras taking a selfie with the statue before breaking off its left thumb during an after-hours "ugly Christmas sweater" party at the museum on 21 December. "How come the sculptures in Philadelphia are not displayed inside glass cases?" one user on Weibo said.

The museum did not realize the finger was missing until weeks later, on January 8.

Rohana allegedly attended the party with five friends, one of whom told investigators she heard the suspect mention the thumb on the ride home, according to USA Today.

News of the theft provoked anger in China, where the terracotta warriors are national treasures and a major tourist attraction.

Two experts would be sent to the USA to help with repairs, the director said, adding that they had begun the process of claiming compensation for damages. When asked if he had anything he wanted to hand over, Rohana said he had a finger, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation agent retrieved from a desk in the man's bedroom.

An external security contractor did not follow "standard closing procedures" on the night of the party, Santo said last week.

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