Museum Partygoer Snaps Selfie With Priceless Terracotta Warrior Then Steals Thumb


Madison Dapcevich


Madison Dapcevich

Freelance Writer and Fact-Checker

Madison is a freelance science reporter and full-time fact-checker based in the wild Rocky Mountains of western Montana.

Freelance Writer and Fact-Checker

The alleged thief was wearing an ugly sweater to boot. Lukas Hlavac/Shutterstock

Some days stories come across our desk and all we can do is shake our head in disbelief.

Take this lead from the Washington Post, for example: Federal authorities say a Delaware man snapped a selfie before stealing part of a $4.5 million statue at a Philadelphia museum.


You can’t make this shit up. And the selfie bit isn’t even the most ridiculous part.

Attending an “ugly sweater party” at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute, 24-year-old Michael Rohana was dressed in a fuzzy green sweater and Phillies cap when he allegedly snuck through an unlocked door and accessed the “Terracotta Warriors of the First Empire” special exhibit last December.

He then reportedly draped himself around one of the 2,000-year-old Chinese warrior statues and snapped a selfie before also snapping off its thumb as a souvenir.

We can only assume some amount of booze was involved.


Museum staff reported the missing digit a week later. Using surveillance footage, the FBI identified the culprit as Rohana. Partially because the crime scene was covered in – wait for it – Rohana’s thumbprints

According to an affidavit, federal agents showed up to Rohana’s house on January 23. He showed agents the missing finger, which is valued at more than $5,000, that had been kept in a drawer for almost three weeks.

It’s a pretty disgraceful treatment for the 2,000-year-old terracotta warrior known as “The Cavalryman,” but it’s not the first time the statue (or a part of it) has been hidden from public eye.

It all started in 1974 when a farmer in China digging a well struck upon fragments of terracotta. Later excavations revealed thousands of life-sized statues buried beneath the surface – guarding the tomb of their master for the last two millennia. 

The world-famous Terracotta Army, part of the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Xian China. DnDavis/Shutterstock

The “Terracotta Army” provided after-life security at the burial complex of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi. Dating to 210 BCE, the institute says it is one of the most “significant archaeological discoveries” in history.

It seems they might have been a bit better at the whole security thing than the museum. A spokeswoman for the Franklin Institute said the security contractor did not follow standard procedures.

The museum exhibit focuses on the science and technology used to build, bury, and later excavate the army and is on display until March 4. It showcases 10 statues including a general, a charioteer, and a saddled horse, as well as 170 accompanying artifacts.

Fortunately, museum officials say warrior and thumb will be reunited.


Rohana, on the other hand, might not come off so well. He is charged with theft of major artwork from a museum, concealment, and interstate transportation of stolen property. 


  • tag
  • FBI,

  • selfie,

  • Terracotta Army,

  • franklin institute,

  • stolen art,

  • michael rohana