Two 10th-century statues received a much-anticipated welcome home party yesterday at the Phnom Penh airport. The “Kneeling Attendant” statues were accompanied by two representatives from New York’s Metropolitan Museum, which relinquished the sculptures after Cambodia showed they were wrongfully removed from the Koh Ker temple complex in the 1970s.
The statutes will be on display at the Peace Palace this month for the World Heritage Committee meting. Afterward, they will become a part of the permanent collection at the National Museum of Cambodia.
Cambodia has also requested the return of a kneeling sandstone sculpture of the monkey god Hanuman, which is currently on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art. This sculpture is alleged to have been stolen from Prasat Chen, also within the Koh Ker temple complex. The Cleveland Museum of Art has not yet complied with the request, but general sentiment seems to hold that they will likely do so.
The news often cites to the 1970 UNESCO Convention as the reason that the Met would return the sculptures. However, Cambodia was not a signatory to the convention until 1972, so archaeological artifacts removed prior to that year would not fall under the application of the Convention.