The Denver Art Museum (DAM) is repatriating an ancient artifact it deaccessioned last year to Vietnam following a claim from the country’s officials that flagged its origins.

The bronze dagger, dated between 300 BCE and 200 CE, is believed to have been produced in the former Dong Son region in the country’s north. Its return is connected to an ongoing probe by US and foreign officials into works held in the Colorado museum’s collection that have ties to Emma C. Bunker, an art historian who died in 2021 and who had sat on the museum’s board.

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Bunker’s donation of artifacts to the museum and funding of one of its exhibition spaces came under scrutiny after she was found to have sourced acquisitions of artworks from Douglas Latchford, dealer who specialized in and sold Southeast Asian artifacts and was under investigation for forging the provenance of several works at the time of his death in 2020.

Bunker, the daughter of a former US ambassador to Vietnam, was among one of Latchford’s consistent buyers, and she established an acquisitions fund at the DAM that helped to set up its Asian art galleries. The museum cut ties with the donor last August, removing her name from a gallery and ending that acquisition fund.

In a statement issued last week, Lori Iliff, a senior provenance researcher at the DAM, said that the dagger is just one of 11 other Asian artifacts that the institution is repatriating after internal research found them to be connected to Bunker or Latchford.

The museum officially deaccessioned the group of objects in March 2023, undergoing efforts to further research them and facilitate their return to their respective origin countries, Iliff said. Other artifacts from Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam remain under continued examination, she added.

In September 2023, Vietnamese officials contacted the museum to flag four artworks for potential repatriations, including the bronze dagger, which has already been removed from the museum’s holdings officially, but not returned. The three additional artworks flagged by Vietnamese officials were found not to have had any associations with the DMA’s collection, according to Iliff.

The dagger is one of five artifacts that Bunker donated to the museum, as part of a larger gift that set up the fund and included the gallery being renamed after her. The official return of the remaining artifacts, identified for potential repatriations by the US government, are still pending, the museum said.

Iliff added that the museum “continues its ongoing work to support its commitment to ethical collecting practices.”