A vast trove of Cambodia’s Angkorian crown jewellery, some dating back to the 7th Century, resurfaced in London last summer, it has been revealed, the BBC reports.
The stolen items belonged to known antiquities smuggler Douglas Latchford.
Experts say they have never seen most of the jewellery before and are stunned by its existence.
The collection has been secretly returned to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, and is due to go on display there in the country’s national museum.
Latchford died in 2020 while awaiting trial in the US. His family promised to return his stolen collection to Cambodia after he died, but the authorities did not know what exactly would be handed over or how it would happen.
Brad Gordon, the head of Cambodia’s investigative team, became the first representative of the nation to see the jewellery when he visited London last summer. He told the BBC: “I was driven by a representative of the Latchford family to an undisclosed location. In the parking lot was a vehicle with four boxes inside.
“I felt like crying. I just thought – wow – the crown jewels of ancient Cambodian civilization packed into four boxes in the back of a car.”
When it was all unwrapped, the resurfaced collection was found to contain 77 pieces of gold and jewel-encrusted jewellery, including crowns, belts and earrings. A large bowl is thought to date to the 11th Century and although it has yet to be tested, appears to be made of solid gold. Experts believe it could have been used as a rice bowl for Angkorian royalty.