Looting Matters: Returning Sicilian Antiquities

March 26, 2010

SWANSEA, Wales, March 26 /PRNewswire/ — David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on the return of antiquities from North America that are linked to the site of Morgantina on Sicily.

Since the fall of 2006, over 120 antiquities have been returned to Italy from North American collections. They have included high profile pieces such as the “Sarpedon krater” from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the more humble, though archaeologically significant, pieces such as an Etruscan terracotta architectural fragment from the Princeton University Art Museum. There have been small bronzes from a New York antiquities dealer, and a fragmentary Roman wall-painting from the collection of a New York philanthropist.

A new exhibition of Hellenistic silver plate has gone on display in the Palazzo Massimo, Museo Nazionale Romano, in Rome. This consists of the Morgantina silver hoard that has been returned from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The hoard was acquired in several batches between 1981 and 1984. It is reported that the pieces were sold by Robert Hecht, who is currently on trial in Rome, along with the former curator of a major North American museum, for his part in the antiquities trade.

It is rare for looted antiquities to be placed in precise locations. However, in this case, Professor Malcolm Bell of the University of Virginia was invited to excavate at the site of Morgantina to see if he could find evidence of looting. He discovered two pits in a house that corresponded to the size of the hoard in New York. More significantly the looters’ diggings provided a key piece of evidence: a modern Italian coin dating to 1978.

When Bell was eventually allowed to examine the silver in the Metropolitan Museum, he was able to see that two of the pieces were inscribed with the Greek personal name Eupolemos. This name corresponded with an individual who appeared in a legal document relating to a house in the area where the silver appears to have been found.

The hoard is part of some $22 million worth of antiquities that appear to have been removed from the site of Morgantina. The other pieces are an acrolithic statue of Aphrodite that is being returned from the J. Paul Getty Museum, and further fragments of acrolithic statues that have been on display in the University of Virginia Art Museum in Charlottesville.


SOURCE Looting Matters

Source: newswire

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