Missing piece of rare funeral artefact helps Italy track down €11m collection in Belgium

About 800 Apulian archaeological artefacts and pieces of pottery have been found

epa09291400 A handout photo made available by Carabinieri del Nucleo per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale (TPC) shows police officers near the artifacts seized from a collector in Belgium and brought back to Bari, Italy, 21 June 2021. The assets, 782 artifacts found in the availability of a Belgian collector, all from Puglia and datable between the sixth and third centuries BC, are Apulian red-figure vases, amphorae , black-varnished ceramics, indigenous and Attic ceramics, with geometric and figurative painted decoration, figured stelae in limestone from ancient Daunia, as well as numerous figured terracotta so-called 'tanagrines', clay heads, winged statuettes. Their commercial value is estimated at around 11 million euros.  EPA/CARABINIERI HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

The missing piece of a rare decorative funeral artefact has helped Italy track down an art collector in Belgium with a collection of illegally excavated pieces worth an estimated €11 million ($13m).

About 800 Apulian artefacts and pieces of pottery have been found.

The archaeological pieces were excavated without authorisation in Puglia, Italy.

epa09291018 A handout photo made available by Carabinieri del Nucleo per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale (TPC) shows police officers near the artifacts seized from a collector in Belgium and brought back to Bari, Italy, 21 June 2021. The assets, 782 artifacts found in the availability of a Belgian collector, all from Puglia and datable between the sixth and third centuries BC, are Apulian red-figure vases, amphorae , black-varnished ceramics, indigenous and Attic ceramics, with geometric and figurative painted decoration, figured stelae in limestone from ancient Daunia, as well as numerous figured terracotta so-called 'tanagrines', clay heads, winged statuettes. Their commercial value is estimated at around 11 million euros.  EPA/CARABINIERI HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

An investigation was launched in 2017 by the Italian Carabinieri's specialised unit for Protection of Cultural Heritage Goods, under the direction of public prosectors in Foggia.

It led to the authorities to identify a Belgian collector who possessed a Daunian tombstone with decorative features specific to the archaeological area of Salapia, close to Foggia.

It was shown at various exhibitions in Geneva and Paris in previous years.

The tombstone was missing some features, such as a decorative inscription that had been kept on display at the Archaeological Museum in Trinitapoli, close to Barletta in Puglia.

Authorities linked the inscription to the artefact displayed at the exhibitions and the Belgian collector.

Investigators found the main part of the tombstone at the collector's property.

With support the EU Agency for Criminal Justice Co-operation, or Eurojust, the items have now been returned to Italy.

"Eurojust ensured the judicial co-operation between the two countries for the collection to return to the Puglia region," it said.

"We established the judicial co-operation between Italy and Belgium and assisted in the execution of European Investigation Orders at the request of the Foggia prosecutors.

"This enabled the entire collection found in Antwerp to be returned to Italy, where it has now been presented, despite several attempts by the Belgian collector to repeal this transfer.

"Further investigations, as well as examinations by archaeological experts, into the collection will be completed in Italy."

During the investigation, a further vast collection of illegally excavated artefacts and pieces of pottery was found, dating to between 600 and 300BC.

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS