The Indian government has issued a formal request for the return of a 15th century bronze idol from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

The Guardian reports that an independent scholar’s research appears to show that the statue of the saint Tirumankau Alvar was stolen from the Sri Soundarrajaperumal temple in Tamil Nadu, where it had been photographed in 1957, and replaced with a replica.

A spokesman for the Indian High Commission, Rahul Nangare, said a police report from Tamil Nadu “unambiguously shows that the original idol has been stolen and replaced with a fake one, and that the stolen idol is the same one that is presently with the Ashmolean”.

Nangare thanked the Ashmolean “for taking proactive steps in this matter” and said he hopes that “other museums would follow the example in dealing with suspected stolen pieces of our cultural heritage”.