Stolen Artifacts Returned to New Zealand Museum in Peculiar Theft

A ceremonial greenstone Mere, similar to the ones that were stolen. Photo: Te Papa Blog

A collection of Maori artifacts stolen during a domestic burglary in rural New Zealand, near the town of Hastings, were anonymously returned on Friday, a week after the theft, Art Crime reports. The items were stolen from the home of a local resident, who had been looking after the artifacts.

Some of the fourteen items dating from the 19th century were registered as taonga, or treasures, at the Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, and are thus protected from export under New Zealand law.

The artifacts included several ceremonial greenstone meres, a short, broad-bladed weapon used by New Zealand’s indigenous Maori people; a patu (club) made from whalebone; and a ceremonial adze with a blade made from greenstone.

In a public statement, detective sergeant Craig Vining of the Hawkes Bay Police called for the return of the items, explaining that the artifacts had significant cultural and monetary value: “We appeal to the people who took these items to return them immediately so they can be cared for by their proper guardians and remain in their turangawaewae [resting place].”

He added “This will have a major impact on local Maori. We appeal to the thieves to do the right thing and bring the taonga home.”

Surprisingly, the culprits anonymously returned all of the stolen treasures to the Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum in Wellington, approximately 300km south of the scene of the crime. None of the artifacts were damaged.

The Police investigation is ongoing.

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