What are the most famous items kept at the British Museum?

A curator at the British Museum has been identified as the worker who was dismissed after items were found to have disappeared.

London, England, UK. 17th Aug, 2023. Exterior view of the British Museum as a staff member is fired over ''missing, stolen and damaged items' (Credit Image: © Vuk Valcic/ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE!
A curator at the British Museum has been identified as the worker who was dismissed after items went missing. (PA)

British Museum artefacts worth up to £50,000 have been sold on eBay for as little as £40 - with items stolen from the museum appearing on the auction site a number of times over the past seven years.

And after such items began appearing online, the museum suspected that someone working there was stealing treasures from the vault before hawking them online, The Telegraph reported.

Following an investigation, a curator at the museum was identified as the worker who was dismissed after items were found to have disappeared.

Peter Higgs, who worked at the museum for 30 years, was revealed as the staff member who had been fired when items from the museum's collection were found to be missing, stolen or damaged earlier this year.

The museum announced on Wednesday it was taking legal action against an unnamed worker, who had been dismissed, and launched an independent review of security.

The staff member has not been arrested.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne speaks during a press conference at The Treasury in London, Monday, June 27, 2016. Treasury chief Osborne sought to calm nerves in the markets Monday, as investors worried about the consequences of Britain leaving the European Union. In his first public appearance since the vote to leave the bloc Thursday, Osborne tried to reassure markets shaken by the result. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)
British Museum chairman George Osborne said its priority is to recover the stolen items. (AP)

Peter’s son Greg Higgs identified him as the worker who had been sacked in an interview with the Telegraph, adding his dad’s name had “been completely dragged through the mud” and "sometimes where even if you’re innocent you’d just rather not have everyone speak to you all the time about it..."

The missing items include gold jewellery, gems of semi-precious stones, and glass dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD, which were not recently on public display and were mainly used for research and academic work, the museum said.

British Museum chairman George Osborne said its priority was to recover the stolen items, find out if anything could have been done to stop them from going missing, and do whatever possible to prevent it from happening again.

A member of staff looks at The Rosetta Stone displayed for the exhibition
The Rosetta Stone displayed at the British museum. (Getty)

What are the most famous collections on display at the British Museum?

The Rosetta Stone: An ancient Egyptian artefact which helped scholars decipher hieroglyphics and understand the language of the pharaohs.

The Parthenon Marbles, (formerly known as the Elgin Marbles): The marble sculptures, which once adorned the Parthenon temple in Athens, have been the subject of controversy and debate over their return.

The Sutton Hoo Treasure: The Anglo-Saxon artefacts, discovered in a burial mound in Suffolk, provide a glimpse into early English history.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05: Items are displayed in the Parthenon Galleries at the British Museum on January 05, 2023 in London, England. The British Museum and the Acropolis Museum in Athens are reportedly settling in on an agreement that could see the Parthenon Marbles, formerly known as the Elgin Marbles, returned to Greece in the coming years as part of a cultural exchange, putting an end to a 200-year-old dispute over the artifacts.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The Parthenon Marbles, formerly known as the Elgin Marbles, displayed at the British Museum. (Getty)

The Mummy Collection: The British Museum is home to one of the world's largest collections of mummies as well as other Egyptian artefacts.

The Assyrian Lion Hunt Reliefs: These large, intricately carved stone panels depict the ancient Assyrian practice of hunting lions and are considered some of the finest examples of ancient Near Eastern art.

British Museum, London, UK
Assyrian Lion Hunt Reliefs. (PA)

What items have gone missing before at the British Museum?

Items have gone missing from the museum in previous years, including several coins and medals in the 1970s and a 1993 break-in when Roman coins were taken.

In 2002, the museum reviewed security following a 2,500-year-old Greek statue being stolen by a member of the public.

People admire the Parthenon Marbles inside the Parthenon Galleries in the British Museum. The marbles are also known as Elgin Marbles, with sculptures are artifacts of the frieze and the East Pediment from the Parthenon in the Acropolis of Athens. The marbles are displayed to visitors in the British Museum. The Greek government is in dispute with the British government and the museum, demanding the return of the marbles. London, United Kingdom UK on August 2022 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The Parthenon Galleries in the British Museum. (Getty)

The institution said at the time that the Greek Archaic Gallery had been open to the public but there was no permanent guard on duty when the 12cm-high marble head was taken.

Just two years later, Chinese gems also went missing.

In 2017, it was revealed a £750,000 Cartier ring diamond from the heritage asset collection had been reported absent in 2011.