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US returns more than 250 stolen artifacts to Italy worth millions


The United States has returned more than 250 ancient artifacts worth millions of dollars to Italy after learning that they had been stolen and sold during the late 1990s by an international network of artifact smugglers.

The 266 precious artifacts include pots, paintings and sculptures — some up to 3,000 years old. Several of the mosaics are worth tens of millions of Euros.

The oldest item dates back to the 9th century BC, while other items were from the Etruscan civilization (800-200 BC), Magna Graecia (750-400 BC) and Imperial Rome (27BC-476 AD.)

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Pictures provided by the Italian culture ministry showed some of the artifacts that were displayed at a restitution ceremony in New York. The artifacts featured several painted pots, a statue and some ancient coins. 

In a statement, the Italian culture ministry said that 145 pieces were recovered as part of the bankruptcy against an antiquity dealer in the U.S.

Another 65 artifacts were found at the Menil Collection museum in Houston, Texas.

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However, a spokesperson for the museum told Reuters it had been offered the artifacts as a gift but had referred the donor to the Italian Minister of Culture who alerted the museum that Italy was claiming the objects.

“The Menil Collection declined these works from the collector, and they have never been part of the museum’s collection,” the spokesperson said.

In June, Italy recovered more of their previously looted antiquities from London.

According to a statement, the Culture Ministry valued the items at $12.79 million. The items included 750 objects, which date from the 8th century B.C., and the medieval period.

Italy recovered marble busts of men from the imperial age, wall painting from the area of Mount Vesuvius and an Etruscan three-legged bronze table.

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Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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