Study Suggests British Museum Has Caused More Damage to Parthenon Sculptures than Athens’ Air Pollution

The marble statue of the river god Illissos from the West pediment of the Parthenon. Designed by Phidias, Athens, Greece, 438 BC-432 BC. Photo by The Trustees of the British Museum.

A recent scientific study published in the Academic journal Antiquity claims that the first decades of the Parthenon sculptures’ presence in London caused irreparable damage, much worse than what Athens’ air pollution would have caused to the ancient artifacts in the years since their removal.

Experts from King’s College of London claim that between 1801, the year Lord Elgin brought the sculptures to Britain, and 1872, the priceless Greek artifacts endured more damage than they would have suffered in the next 120 years combined.

This shocking realization led the scientists to claim that the sculptures would now be in better shape if they had stayed in Athens and endured the city’s air traffic pollution rather than being housed in London’s British Museum.

The British scholars conducted 3D scans of the parts of the western frieze, currently exhibited in Athens’ Acropolis Museum, and made the amazing discovery that these artifacts are in better condition than the sculptures currently in London.

The researchers found that during the first seventy years in London, the sculptures went through a ”period of particularly rapid deterioration.”

The most probable cause of this deterioration appears to have been the cleaning methods once employed by the British Museum, which caused significant damage to the sculptures.

Greece has been asking for the return of the sculptures to Athens for decades now, but the British Museum has flatly refused to return the priceless artifacts to their place of origin, claiming that they are their sole legal owners.