The United States has handed back over 250 ancient artefacts to Italy, uncovering a tale of theft and illicit trade.
The art division of Italy’s police force revealed that these priceless pieces had been looted and subsequently sold to American museums and private collectors during the 1990s.
This assortment of historical treasures includes valuable pottery, paintings, sculptures, and even intricate mosaics, some tracing their origins back an astounding 3,000 years. Spanning various historical epochs, these arteacts span from the Villanovan age to the Etruscan civilization, the Magna Graecia period, and the Imperial Rome era.
The artefacts, taken during the 1990s, then navigated through a network of dealers. Curiously, certain items are reported to have been proposed to the Menil Collection in Texas. However, the museum disputes this claim, stating that these artefacts were never part of their collection. Allegedly, the artefacts were offered as a gift to the museum, but the donor was advised to liaise with Italy’s culture ministry.
According to Italy’s culture ministry, the possessor of this collection willingly surrendered the items after realising their origins were rooted in unlawful archaeological excavations. It’s worth noting that out of the returned artefacts, 145 were tied to a bankruptcy case against the English antiques dealer Robin Symes, who was linked to an unlawful trading network.
Italy’s persistent efforts to reclaim looted antiquities and artefacts are well-known. Last year, in September 2022, New York also returned stolen art valued at £16 million to Italy, including a marble head of the goddess Athena from 200 BC, alone valued at around £3 million. This recent act of restitution underscores Italy’s steadfast dedication to preserving its cultural legacy.