This is the first piece in a three-part series from The Denver Post about the role of a Colorado scholar and the Denver Art Museum in the illicit antiquities trade. In part one, Sam Tabachnik introduces us to Emma C. Bunker, who was known as a prominent Asian art scholar and a consultant, board member, and volunteer at the museum for six decades. (Bunker died last year at age 90.) Tabachnik weaves a fascinating narrative that paints Bunker not as a well-respected scholar but a fraud and sidekick to Douglas Latchford, the disgraced British businessman at the center of a decades-long global operation that trafficked ancient Khmer sculptures and archaeological treasures out of Cambodia and into museums and private art collections around the world. Bunker was integral to Latchford’s smuggling operation, enabling the falsification of documents and legitimizing his stolen collection through her academic work and publications. Court documents and recreated emails are sprinkled throughout for readers who want to dig deeper. And you will.

They were at once viewed as national heroes — foreigners who brought great interest and much-needed capital to their war-torn country — who also are accused of pillaging and shepherding so many of Cambodia’s national treasures to overseas collections.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.