Italian Police Seize 1,000 Artifacts… last year

The AP is reporting that Italian police have announced the raid of a wealthy Roman’s country home and the seizure 1,000 artifacts. It seems the objects had been stolen years ago in 2002 from one of Emperor Trajan’s villas. The suspect is not in custody, “The prosecutors declined to identify the suspect since authorities were still probing the theft, but said he was an affluent engineer who used the stolen artifacts to decorate his country home, inserting pieces of ancient Roman mosaics in his basement floor and decorating his fireplace and bathroom with other pieces.”

This is a depressing announcement for a number of reasons. First, why did it take so long for the announcement. Second, the thefts appear have been taken from a known site, which is only partially excavated. By all accounts this is an extremely important archaeological site. What kind of site security was in place in 2002? If the known sites cannot even be protected, how can unknown tombs and undiscovered sites be adequately policed. This highlights that though the antiquities trade is international, not every buyer of looted Italian antiquities comes from outside Italy, and in fact the looters are most often Italian. Finally, will there be no criminal charges filed? The wheels of the Italian justice system seem particularly slow.

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