Antiquities worth more than $11 million were found and returned to Italy.
Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini has welcomed the return of 201 antiquities illegally smuggled to the United States. The return of these items, 40 of which remain in the office of the Italian Consulate General in New York until March 2022, represents an important step toward the country’s crackdown on stolen artifacts.
“Investigators have reconstructed a series of illegal excavations to art dealers to American museums, auction houses, art galleries and private collections,” Roberto Riccardi, commander of the Carabinieri’s cultural protection unit, said during a press conference on Thursday.
Among the antiquities returned to Italy are 96 pottery and other artifacts previously on display at the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Art. The museum is an extension of the Fordham University libraries and “houses [of] More than 260 objects dating from the fourth millennium BC to the third century AD “The Getty Museum also returned six items from their collection, including an Etruscan ceramic vase.
“This is also a wonderful homecoming that will add value to our extraordinary country as a vast museum,” Franceschini said. “They are works of art of absolute importance that will attract people to those places and lands.”
As items begin to be returned, Italian authorities have their sights set once again on the alleged smuggler. Edoardo Almagia has served as art curator throughout New York City and other major cities for many museums, many of which have sent items to Italy. A Princeton alumnus, interviewed for the Alumni website in 2010, he criticized Italy’s claim to all antiquities and artifacts. He said that Italy “immediately [equates you] With a criminal nowadays by being a collector.”
Almagia is unlikely to face criminal charges due to the statute of limitations on many of the stolen items. However, he remains at large despite having all of his traces in New York and Naples seized in 2013.
“The most important thing is that these very important archaeological finds come back and are part of our cultural identity,” Roberto Riccardi, an Italian police official, told the New York Times earlier this month when the return was announced.
One major operation secured nearly 800 artifacts from ancient Daunia, which was located on the Gargano peninsula in northern Apulia, while another operation dismantled a ring smuggling artifacts from southern Italian civilizations operating in Northern Europe. 13 people are under investigation in this case, which resulted in the recovery of 2,000 artifacts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.