One night last December, Michael Rohana allegedly snuck away from an after-hours ugly sweater party at a Philadelphia museum and crept into an off-limits exhibition. Guided by the flashlight on his phone, he ambled through the dark toward a room housing 2,200-year-old warrior statues on loan from China. According to the FBI, Rohana threw his arm around one and took a selfie, then snapped off the statue's thumb and took it home, the New York Times reports.
It took the museum a few weeks to realize the stone digit was missing, and to tell the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relic Exchange Center—which sent the terracotta warriors to Philly—that one of its $4.5 million statues had been desecrated. Now, understandably, Chinese authorities are pretty pissed about the stolen party favor.
"We call on the American side to severely punish the person who committed this destruction and theft of mankind’s cultural heritage," an official with the center told the state-affiliated Beijing Youth Daily.
In an affidavit, the FBI's art crimes unit claims to have security footage of the moment Rohana—outfitted in a Phillies cap and an ostensibly hideous green sweater—stole the thumb. They tracked him down at his home in Delaware and reportedly found the digit in his desk, before booking him on charges of theft, stolen artwork concealment, and transportation of stolen property. According to the Times, the suspected thumb thief has since been released on bail.
It's tough to say what Chinese authorities have in mind when it comes to "severely punishing" the statue's amputator. A thumb for a thumb, perhaps? Or would it be more fair to encase the perpetrator in concrete and force him to spend all eternity guarding Emperor Qinshihuang's tomb? Realistically, Rohana could end up facing a fine or jail time, like others who have been accused of fucking up UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
While we wait to find out, the Relic Exchange Center has offered to send two experts over to Philly to repair the damaged warrior at the Franklin Institute in an effort to fix just one of many priceless pieces of art some idiot ruined last year.
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