illegal finds returned Carabinieri/AFP

€11million worth of illegal finds returned to Italy

By Region Culture News Southern Italy

A Belgian collector had illegal finds, dating back to the sixth century BC, from illicit excavations in Puglia. Italian police recovered the finds, worth €11million, and returned them to Italy following unsuccessful legal appeals by the collector.

Nearly 800 pieces “of exceptional rarity and inestimable value” came from illegal excavations in Puglia. This is according to the carabinieri in charge of cultural heritage.

Investigation like a jigsaw puzzle

A state archaeology lab noticed decorative elements from a Daunian funerary stele belonging to “wealthy Belgian collector” resembled those in a fragment held in an Italian museum.

Piecing the evidence together from European art catalogues, they noted a flat stone slab from Daunia was missing a piece in its centre.

An official within the restoration lab noticed the missing piece was in the museum’s collection. The puzzle was coming together, and so the investigation began in 2017. 

“During the course of the search, a veritable ’archaeological treasure’ was recovered, consisting of hundreds of Apulian figurative ceramic finds and other Daunian stelae, all illegally exported from Italy, which were then seized in Belgium,” said a statement from police.

Illegal finds repatriated to Italy

Italy repatriated the works after courts dismissed all the legal appeals of the collector, police said.

The collection includes amphorae, black glazed ceramics, stelae, vases painted with red figures and terracotta figures. They date back to between the sixth and third centuries BC.

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