The Maltese government quickly expressed their concern. Jose Herrera, the Maltese minister of Culture, wants the tooth back in a museum on his soil. He also promised to “set the ball rolling” with his plan to get the tooth back.
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- Last Updated: September 29, 2020, 3:57 PM IST
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Who owns historical artefacts? The discoverer, the origin country, or someone else entirely? This age-old debate has been recently rekindled, thanks to BBC’s legendary host Sir David Attenborough.
Naturalist and internet’s beloved Sir David had gifted a prehistoric shark tooth to Prince George of the British royal family. However, Malta believes it wasn’t his to give away in the first place, as the fossil was found on the Island of Malta. The country wants it back now to put it on display in its museum.
The Kensington Palace announced on Saturday that the seven-year-old-prince was gifted a giant shark tooth by Sir David. The gifting happened at a private viewing of his environment documentary where the members of the Royal Family were present.
According to CNN, Sir David had discovered the fossil himself in the late 1960s when he went to Malta for a family vacation. The ancient relic was engraved in soft, yellow limestone. It is reported to be more than 23 million-years-old.
When the fact of this gift was made public, the Maltese government quickly expressed their concern. Jose Herrera, the Maltese minister of Culture, wants the tooth back in a museum on his soil. He also promised to “set the ball rolling” with his plan to get the tooth back.
“There are some artefacts that are important to Maltese natural heritage and which ended up abroad and deserve to be retrieved,” Herrera said in an interview to Times of Malta. However, he didn’t elaborate on any plans to actually get the artefact back.
The disputed tooth is believed to be of a megalodon, an extinct giant shark species. These fishes could grow up to 52 feet in length. The Minister added that Malta gives a great amount of attention to historical and artistic artefacts but natural history is not always on priority. He said he was determined to change this attitude (giving equal importance to natural history and bringing the tooth back).
The artefact was found in the late sixties, whereas Malta was a part of the British Colony until 1964. The event will ring familiar to those in India who are still waiting for the British Royal Family to return the Koh-i-Noor diamond.