Unlucky Number for Museum Thief Who Was Caught After Putting 666 Artifacts on ebay
In modern popular culture, the number 666 has become one of the most widely recognized symbols for the devil and is thought to bring bad luck. For one French worker at the Orleans Museum of Natural History, the number certainly did bring him bad luck as he was caught out after stealing 666 priceless artifacts and sentenced to serve three months in jail. The 56-year-old museum employee stole stones and fossils dating back to the Neolithic era and sold them on ebay. The unnamed man had been a civil servant working for the city of Orleans for more than 28 years.
This is not the First Time Priceless Artifacts Have Ended up on ebay
No matter how shocking this news might sound, it is not the first time something like this has happened. In 2014, an extremely rare 2,000-year-old bronze statue of the Greek god Apollo appeared in Gaza, only to be seized immediately by police and vanish once again from view. The statue had briefly appeared on eBay before that with a $500,000 price tag, which was way below its true value. According to reports, a local fisherman had scooped up the 500 kilogram (1100 lbs) statue from the sea floor during the summer of 2013 and carried it home on a donkey cart. The local fisherman felt it was something gifted to him by God and decided to put it on eBay for sale.
Priceless artifact of Greek god Apollo appeared briefly on eBay laid out on a smurf sheet
Further, in 2015 a scholar of early Christianity at the University of Texas announced his discovery of a priceless fragment of the New Testament written in ancient Greek – for sale on eBay with an opening bid of just $99. The New York Times would later report that the ancient papyrus fragment, was spotted by Dr. Geoffrey Smith, who persuaded the seller to pull the item from eBay and allow him to study it. According to Dr Smith, the ancient papyrus fragment was originally in the private collection of a professor of early Christianity at the University of Chicago, Harold R Willoughby, who died in 1962. It was placed on eBay by a relative of Willoughby, who found it in a stash of papers in his attic.
The papyrus fragment believed to contain lines from the Gospel of John, dating from A.D. 250 to A.D. 350. Photo: Geoffrey Smith, The University of Texas at Austin via New York Times.
The Stolen Stones and Fossils Were All part of a Collection
The man was dismissed from employment on November 14, after being detained for the theft of 666 archaeological objects from the museum in the city of Orleans, which is located to the south of Paris. The stolen stones and fossils were all part of a collection donated to the museum in 1983. The big majority of the cultural treasures came from Mauritania, an Islamic country in the Maghreb region of western North Africa. The French authorities discovered 364 items at the employee's home, while another 100 of them were returned by their buyers who had purchased them on eBay for 10 ($10.50) to 20 ($21) euros each. The con-artist’s act was noticed thanks to one of the buyers, who was amazed with the low price of the cultural objects and became curious to find out whether the pieces were authentic.
Desert scenes are characteristic of the Mauritanian landscape, where the stolen stones and fossils originated (CC by SA 2.5)
Some of the museum’s staff that had noticed that there missing pieces of the collection, identified the thief almost immediately after the buyer came in contact with them. The 56-years-old man admitted his culpability, and claimed that his disastrous financial situation due to his 2013 divorce was the reason that led him to the shameful theft, "I couldn't pay off my debts to the bank. I panicked at the thought of finding myself living on the streets, and of never seeing my children again. I lost my head," he said according to The Local’s reports. For his good luck, even though the museum had originally asked 10,000 euros ($10,400) damages, the court ordered the worker to just pay a symbolic sum of just one euro.
Top image: Main: The Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle in Orleans, Paris