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US tourist returns marble artefact stolen from Rome with note of apology

The woman known only as Jess had scrawled on the artefact in permanent marker

It is not known exactly where the marble was taken from, but it is speculated to have been removed from the Roman Forum. Getty Images
It is not known exactly where the marble was taken from, but it is speculated to have been removed from the Roman Forum. Getty Images

A contrite American tourist has returned a piece of marble looted from the ancient city of Rome, three years after first pilfering it.

The woman, known only as Jess, mailed the fragment to the National Roman Museum, along with a note apologising for her actions.

The artefact was clearly intended as a piece of memorabilia, thanks to the message scrawled on it in black permanent marker.

"To Sam, love Jess, Rome 2017," the marble now reads.

The tourist apologised for taking something not “rightfully mine”, as she begged for forgiveness for her actions.

She added that she had tried to remove her message from the marble, but to no avail.

“I feel terrible for not only stealing this item from its rightful place, but placing writing on it,” she wrote, according to local media reports. “It was a big mistake on my part and only now, as an adult, do I realise just how thoughtless and despicable it was.”

According to Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, the package was postmarked from Atlanta, Georgia. While it is not known exactly where the tourist stole the artefact from, she said in her note it had been taken from “the Roman ruins", leading to speculation it had been thieved from the Roman Forum, an area containing the ruins of ancient government buildings.

Sharing a photo of the returned artefact on social media, the National Roman Museum said taking archaeological finds is a "costly" mistake.

"Taking away an artefact from a museum or an archaeological area means not only not understanding its value as a historical testimony, as a fragile object, which must be treated with due care, but also depriving it of the information it carries with it and, consequently, of the reality it can document," the museum wrote.

"Museums and archaeological parks belong to everyone: whoever takes away a part, even the smallest part, to have it all to himself, commits a crime."

Museum staff believe the woman may have been inspired to return the fragment after a Canadian tourist last month sent artefacts stolen from the ruins of Pompeii to an Italian travel agency.

Updated: November 26, 2020 01:27 PM

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