Cleveland museum returns 10th-century statue to Cambodia


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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Museum of Art has returned a 10th-century statue to Cambodia after it uncovered evidence the sculpture was probably looted during the country's civil war.

The museum announced Monday that the statue of the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman, was returned, The Plain Dealer reported (http://bit.ly/1F1kFbd).

The sculpture was displayed constantly at the museum since being acquired in 1982. It was a favorite among schoolchildren who imitate its kneeling pose during tours.

Museum officials found last year that the statue's head and body were sold separately in 1968 and 1972 during the Vietnam War and Cambodian civil war. An excavation showed the sculpture's base matched a pedestal at an ancient temple.

The Hanuman is the sixth "blood antiquity" returned to Cambodia in recent years. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York returned two, and one antique each has been returned from Sotheby's auction house, Christie's auction house and the Norton Simon Museum.

The talks with Cambodian officials were "enormously cordial, and generous and forthcoming," museum Director William Griswold said in an interview with the paper. "I'm very optimistic that the conversations we have begun will result in cooperation of various kinds, and we are continuing to explore those possibilities."

Griswold arrived in Phnom Penh on Sunday and is scheduled to sign documents Tuesday with other officials, including the country's deputy prime minister, the museum said.

The museum also said it entered into an agreement with the National Museum of Cambodia to facilitate joint projects.

The Cleveland Museum of Art gave 14 pieces of art to Italy in 2009 and has received pressure to return art from other countries, including Greece and Turkey

But the Hanuman's return is not indicative that the museum will return other antiquities with known find sites, Griswold said.

"Each situation is going to be completely different, and the analysis is going to be different for each one," he said.

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Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com

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