An undated fragment of a wall painting depicting deities and feminine figures and part of 750 archaeological finds from clandestine excavations on Italian territory is on display during a press conference in Rome, Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)
ROME — Italy on Wednesday displayed hundreds of antiquities that had been looted from Italian territory and were recovered from a London antiquities dealer.
The 750 objects, which date from the 8th century B.C. and the medieval period, include an Etruscan three-legged bronze table, marble busts of men from the imperial age, and wall paintings that are believed to be from the area of Mount Vesuvius.
The Culture Ministry valued the items at 12 million euro ($12.79 million), according to a statement.
They were in the possession of a London company in liquidation, Symes Ltd, owned by dealer Robin Symes.
“The most complex moment was when the liquidators showed their availability (to return the objects), which was a willingness that implied a demonstration of illegality,” said Carabinieri Cmdr. Vincenzo Molinese, who is in charge of the carabinieri unit protecting cultural heritage.
He said Symes didn’t provide documentation for the artifacts, but research showed the items had been illegally excavated from Italy and then exported and sold around the world.
Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano, who was on hand for the display of the objects at Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo, said the returned loot hammered home the need to promote legal circulation of antiquities through loans and museum exhibitions.
“We must stop international illegality in the trafficking of works of art. Illegality must not be allowed and no margin must be given,” he said.
The items were returned to Italy on the same day an agreement was signed between Symes and Greece to return other looted items, the carabinieri said in a statement.
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