Italy has recovered hundreds of archaeological finds illegally collected from a Belgian collector dating from the 6th century BC. AD and worth 11 million euros (£ 9.4 million), police said.
The nearly 800 pieces “of exceptional rarity and of inestimable value”, including stelae, amphorae and other objects, came from clandestine excavations in Puglia, at the south-eastern tip of Italy, according to the carabinieri in charge of cultural heritage.
The investigation began in 2017 after a state archaeological laboratory in Puglia noticed in European art catalogs that decorative elements of a Daunian burial stele belonging to a “wealthy Belgian collector” resembled those found in a fragment of a museum in southern Italy.
This flat stone slab from Daunia – a historic region of Puglia – in the Belgian collector’s collection was missing a piece in its center.
An official at the restoration lab noticed that the piece in the museum’s collection complemented the design of a shield and a mounted warrior that were missing from the stele.
“During the search, a real ‘archaeological treasure’ was recovered, consisting of hundreds of figurative ceramics from Puglia and other Daunian stelae, all illegally exported from Italy, which were then seized in Belgium”, indicates a police release.
Italy was able to repatriate the works after all legal appeals from the collector were rejected, police said.
In addition to stelae, the collection includes vases painted with red figures, amphorae, black enameled ceramics and numerous terracotta figurines. The pieces date between the 6th and 3rd centuries BC.