Auctioning moonstone in UK comes under limelight

2013-01-21 00:52:34

The Sri Lankan High Commission in London is preparing a full report to the Sri Lanka’s Archeological Department about a moonstone similar to those found in the ancient city of Anuradhapura that is to be auctioned in London on April 23rd.

Director General of the Archaeological Department Dr. Senarath Dissanayake said that he had already informed the Sri Lankan High Commission in London and also the External Affairs Ministry about the matter and requested to provide a comprehensive report to find out whether the said moonstone actually belongs to Sri Lanka.

The UK Daily Mail reported that the 8ft long ‘carved granite Buddhist temple step’ was found in the garden of a property in Sussex which was once owned by a tea planter who had brought it back from Sri Lanka years ago.

“We have seen media reports about this and after that we decided to find out more about it through our High Commission there, and the moonstone that is to be auctioned seemed to be belonging to the Anuradhapura era,” Dr. Dissanayake said.
He said that the Archeological Department has almost all the records about the artifacts including moonstones since 1890 in the Anuradhapura era.
“However, as mentioned in the media, none of the monotones had been misplaced since that period,” he said.

“First we have to find out this particular moonstones is a dummy or real artifact, then only can we decide what action should be taken,” he said.
“The Sri Lankan High Commission in London is working on it to take every details about the said moonstone.”

The Daily Mail said:

Light fittings, loo seats and a 1,300-year-old BUDDHIST TEMPLE! What homeowners found when they moved into bungalow and now it's for sale

Some home sellers leave behind light fittings and loo seats when they move but one family was lucky enough to find an ancient relic worth £50,000 in their new house.

The 8ft long carved granite Buddhist temple step was found in the garden of a property which was once owned by a tea planter who had brought it back from Sri Lanka years ago.

Weighing nearly a ton, it was thought to have been too heavy and cumbersome for the previous homeowner to move so he left it behind.
Experts believe that the six-inch thick step, which is covered in intricate and beautiful animal carvings, could be up to 1,300 years old.

It is just one of seven temple steps from the ancient Sri Lankan city of Anuradhapura left in existance today.

The step is now owned by an unidentified woman who has kept it outside the front door of her bungalow home near Exeter, Devon, for people to walk on.

However, she is now selling it at auction as she is downsizing and, like the previous owner, is unable to  take it with her.

The popularity of ancient Eastern art has greatly increased in recent years and the step is expected to sell for a £30,000 to £50,000 when it goes on sale at an auction.

Sam Tuke, of auctioneers Bonhams, said that the vendor could remember playing on the step as a child after her parents bought the family home from the tea planter in the 1950s.

She had inherited the bungalow after her father died, and with it the step.

'The woman came in to our office to collect an item and mentioned in passing this large slab of carved granite that she had,' said Mr Tuke.
'She arranged to drop a photograph into me the next day.

'When I saw it I knew it could be of great historical interest and importance.

'The step had come from her mother's house in Sussex that the family had bought from a tea planter in the 1950s.

'I think it is a fair assumption that this person brought it back from Sri Lanka and couldn't be bothered to move it and take it with him when he sold the property.

'It probably wasn't of much value then. At the time British antiques and Chippendale furniture were where the money was.
'The vendor played on it as a child and remembered running her fingers around the animals carved into the stone.

'It has been lying outside the front of her bungalow at the end of a concrete path and she has called it "The Pebble".

'She is now downsizing and can't take the step with her which is why she is selling it.

'It is in amazing condition considering its age.'

The magnificent work of art features a procession of animals including lions, horses, elephants, birds and Brahim cows carved into it.

Alice Bailey, head of Islamic and Indian art at Bonhams, said: 'It is a truly wonderful find and one of great importance.

'Identical temple steps can be seen in situ in early 19th century photographs of the monuments of Sri Lanka and the condition and quality of the carving are superb.

'It is a museum piece.'

The city of Anuradhapura is the greatest monastic city of the ancient world that dates from the middle of the 5th century BC. It is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ms Bailey said that she believed that the step could be up to 1,300 years old.

'It is quite difficult to age,' she said.

'It is from the Anuradhapura period which was from 400BC to 1017AD, although it is more than likely to date from the eighth or ninth century.

'It is a temple step that was used at the bottom of staircases and entrances to temple complexes.

'The carvings are a standard frieze of animals which date from that period.

'They symbolise the four stages life; growth, energy, power and forbearance.

'The step is a bit mossy because it has been outside for quite a long time but we are going to get it cleaned up.'

The step is due to be sold at auction in London on April 23.(Athula Bandara)

  Comments - 21

  • Colombo kollo Monday, 21 January 2013 02:54

    We have lot, even instant stones wherever if politicians need a kovil removed or to announce its a holy area.

    Reply : 18       34

    urimaya Monday, 21 January 2013 03:38

    eke ape puja bumi

    Reply : 5       15

    Columbo Monday, 21 January 2013 03:40

    Just by it off the auction.

    Reply : 7       21

    John Monday, 21 January 2013 04:33

    Are yeou sure these are the originals still at SL HC in London?

    Reply : 1       7

    Columbo Monday, 21 January 2013 06:39

    Just buy it check it out. It is at an auction.

    3       5

    Parthi Monday, 21 January 2013 03:42


    Reply : 12       5

    Parthi Monday, 21 January 2013 03:44


    Reply : 10       13

    lk Monday, 21 January 2013 03:50

    our Archeological dept should work on getting it back, rather than been lethargic.

    Reply : 2       19

    Minister Monday, 21 January 2013 04:17

    What we do here, they do there. Some sell people's assets to make a living, and they too sell others' assets to make a living. NO difference.

    Reply : 3       9

    saman Monday, 21 January 2013 04:26

    Please go to the British Museum and see 1000s of our robbed heritage "proudly" on display.

    Reply : 7       25

    Unsurprised Monday, 21 January 2013 06:23

    It seems at least they got preserved for the future generations to see (?), unlike things that vanish from our local museums that the British created and have to be replaced with replicas. (There is no argument here that the British took our things away.)

    Reply : 2       22

    roshini Monday, 21 January 2013 04:26

    this is how UK got rich by stealing from us and now they call us a third world country.....wonder whether they can give back all what was stolen - no but again keep it... we will not get it...

    Reply : 19       11

    mohamed asfar Monday, 21 January 2013 04:56

    bring it back to sri lanka please.

    Reply : 6       9

    Ravi Monday, 21 January 2013 05:08

    Send 'Kangetta' to UK. He will somehow bring it back

    Reply : 1       17

    MirakRajBanda Monday, 21 January 2013 05:45

    You (probably some politician) sold it 50 years ago and demand its return now.
    Recently Gandhi’s famous spectacles sold in auction in USA and some of his letters were bought from South Africa by the Indian Government.
    Don't aspect our artifacts once sold are to grant a right to be returned if demanded by the government (Archeological Dept) for free.

    If you want them, buy them or prepare to lose the battle as usual and humiliate all Sri Lankans.

    Reply : 2       13

    Roshan Monday, 21 January 2013 06:10

    Very soon the items stolen from the Colombo Museum also will be sold in Auction somewhere.

    Reply : 1       25

    mike Monday, 21 January 2013 11:56

    very true
    What is been stole in Sri Lanka by the Present Great Educated Rulers with thuggery more than what is been auctioned in UK .

    Reply : 0       5

    PRASANNAJIT Monday, 21 January 2013 06:47

    This is what happens with our Srilankans. They make a lot of noice on our 2500 year heritage but cannot even keep secure the artifacts in the Museum. Better be it with the British.

    Reply : 3       26

    pasel Monday, 21 January 2013 09:50

    the moon stone in good hand if ever return to sri lanka it is going to some politicans house without paying a penny

    Reply : 1       13

    IGP Monday, 21 January 2013 09:51

    Is it Kangetta who has stolen it ?

    Reply : 0       10

    bernardwijeyasingha Tuesday, 22 January 2013 02:32

    Like the Jews who appropriate property stolen from them under the Nazi ear and now it is law that ancient items that are icons of a a civilization taken surreptitiously cannot be a legal transfer and that moonstone be returned to Sri Lanka or face a lawsuit.

    Reply : 2       1

Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.
Name is required

Email is required
Comment cannot be empty