Above: The terra cotta warriors and other artifacts from tomb of Chinese emperor Qin Shihuang, which was on view in 2012 at Mia. Photo by Tom Wallace for the Star Tribune.
There’s nothing worse than losing a thumb, especially if you’re 2,000-years-old.
The same 2,000-year-old terra cotta warrior that lost its thumb this past December during an after-hours ugly sweater party at Philadelphia’s Franklin Museum had previously been a guest in Minneapolis.
Liu Yang, Curator of Chinese Art and Head of the Department of Asian Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, confirmed that this sculpture once graced the museum during the 2012 exhibition “China’s Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor’s Legacy."
Minnesotans have something of a grudge toward Philadelphians after the Super Bowl LII, when a rabid Eagles fan stole a purple plastic seat from Minneapolis' U.S. Bank Stadium.
But while the terra cotta thumb theft may have taken place in Philadelphia, the thief Michael Rohana, actually resides in Delaware. He was charged with the theft and concealment of an object of cultural heritage from a museum, and interstate transportation of stolen property.
The theft also occurred at a time when the exhibition was not open to the public. Rohana and friends snuck into the terra cotta warrior exhibition, which was closed off, and then he took a selfie with the sculpture. According to surveillance footage, he then put his hand on the warrior’s and snapped off its thumb.
“The museum security seems to be problematic, why are people walking into this exhibition space when it was closed?” said Yang. “Normally that would happen – after a show closed, there would be alarm or something like that.”
The first terra cotta warriors were discovered in 1974 in Xi’an, China, by local farmers. These pieces date back to 209 B.C., during the Qin Dynasty. They were created to guard the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. The purple seats at U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016, were made for sitting and watching football games, like Super Bowl LII.