American Man Stole Thumb from 2000-Year-Old Terracotta Warrior for Memento

An American man was charged with stealing a thumb from a 2,000-year-old Terracotta Warrior statue, which was on display at Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

Franklin Institute

Michael Rohana, 24, was attending an Ugly Sweater Party at Franklin Institute on 21 December when he sneaked into a closed-off area of the Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor exhibition. Using a mobile phone as a torch, Rohana embraced one of the ancient sculptures and took a selfie with his arm over the shoulder of it.

The terracotta Warrior with a missing thumb

Before leaving the exhibition room, Rohana allegedly took a souvenir by snapping off a thumb from a Terracotta Warrior that worth US$4.5m. A friend of Rohana had even seen a photo of the missing thumb on Snapchat. The affected warrior, called Cavalryman, is one the 10 loaned to Franklin Institute. Museum staff did not notice the missing thumb until 8 January.

On 13 January, FBI tracked down the suspect after checking surveillance footage and credit card transactions. Investigators retrieved the thumb from Rohana, who kept the absent digit in a desk drawer. He is charged with theft and concealment of a major artwork, and now released on bail.

The exhibition area

The incident has fuelled anger in China. Chinese authorities are demanding "severe punishment" for Rohana and demanded compensation for the damage caused. On Monday, an official of the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Centre, the organization which loaned the statues, said the Center has never come across a situation such as this having organized over 260 overseas exhibitions in the past 40 years.

Terracotta Warrior statues were discovered by a group of farmers in Xi'an city, China, in 1974. Thousands of life-sized statues were buried beneath the area, serving as guards to protect Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a unified China. The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in China.