Ancient Italian artifacts located in NYC galleries, to be returned – World

Seven ancient statues and pottery vessels are headed back to their homeland in Italy after authorities said they tracked down the stolen items in New York City.

Dating back as far as the eighth century B.C., the artifacts were looted by Italian tomb raiders in the 1990s, then were smuggled out of the country and eventually turned up at two New York art galleries, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said Thursday while returning the artifacts to Italian officials.

“A big ‘grazie,’ ” said Italian Consul General Francesco Genuardi, thanking the city. “These pieces of art are a powerful display of the importance we attach, together, to the preservation of art heritage.”

The three statues depict a rather friendly-looking ox, a warrior and the mythological hero Herakles, also known as Heracles and Hercules. The four pottery pieces include a wine jug decorated with rams and panthers, a drinking cup featuring two goats butting heads, and two oil flasks. The items, each from the third century B.C. or earlier, are valued at over $90,000 in all.

But “no price tag can be placed on cultural heritage,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney Karen Friedman Agnifilo.

Galleries cooperated with police

No one has been charged in the case, and prosecutors declined to identify the galleries. They voluntarily gave up the artifacts after authorities brought evidence of their origins, Friedman Agnifilo said. U.S. federal officials and Italian authorities also worked on the case.

Before going back to Italy, the objects will be displayed at the consulate on Italy’s Republic Day holiday June 2, Genuardi said.

Italy and other countries have striven in recent years to reclaim looted and lost artifacts they consider part of their cultural patrimony.

Some museums have returned items, and Manhattan D.A. Cyrus R. Vance’s office and other authorities in the U.S. have also played a role in arranging to send antiquities, fossils and other objects back to countries ranging…

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