$80 Million Worth Of Stolen Italian Artifacts Found In U.S.

$80 million worth of stolen Italian artifacts, recovered from New York and New Jersey by prosecutor Col. Matthew Bogdanos, were displayed in Rome, showcasing the ongoing efforts against art trafficking led by Italy’s Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection unit.

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About 600 pieces of art were on display Tuesday morning in the Central Institute for Restoration’s offices, which are housed in a former women’s prison in central Rome. The sight looked more like a museum exhibition of Italian art than a crime scene.

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Works pillaged from the Italian regions of Lazio, Campania, Puglia, Calabria, and Sicily were sequestered in New York and New Jersey last year.  Emanuele Antonio Minerva/Ministero della Cultura

The items span the 9th century BC to the 2nd century AD and amount to just one year’s worth of stolen and trafficked art that was collected by Manhattan prosecutor Col. Matthew Bogdanos’ squad and returned to Italy. They range from life-sized bronze statues to small Roman coins, from oil paintings to mosaic floors.

Last year, the stolen items, which originated from the Italian regions of Lazio, Campania, Puglia, Calabria, and Sicily, had been concealed in New York and New Jersey.

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Over 600 works of art were put on display in the Central Institute for Restoration’s offices, from life-size bronze statues to tiny Roman coins.  Emanuele Antonio Minerva/Ministero della Cultura

Bogdanos told CNN on the fringes of a presentation to the media on Tuesday that the returned works, along with 60 items repatriated last year, are worth more than $80 million (or roughly €73.6 million). However, they are merely a drop in the ocean compared to the artwork still hidden away in private warehouses and on display in museums in the United States.

According to Bogdanos, the $80 million worth of goods does not include the additional 100 items that his team recently found in the US.

According to Gen. D. Francesco Gargaro, commander of the Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, one of the main reasons why recovering and returning stolen antiquities is so difficult is because the authorities frequently do not know what they are searching for.

He stated, “Artifacts taken from secret graves have never been cataloged.” This implies that not only were the artifacts taken, but also their historical context, depriving archaeologists of important knowledge. (Instead, investigators operate in reverse, reviewing documentation and provenance claims for artifacts that owners have provided, as well as doing technical testing to best ascertain an object’s genuine history.)

According to Gargaro, the majority of the modern artifacts brought back to Italy were either stolen from private homes, churches, or museums or unearthed during covert excavations.

A cuirass and two bronze heads from the 4th and 3rd centuries BC that were seized from a New York gallery owner were among the objects on exhibit on Tuesday.

Additionally, a well-known American museum had an Umbrian bronze statue showing a warrior that had been taken from an Italian museum in 1962.

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Italy’s Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection unit uses artificial intelligence to search for stolen cultural assets. Emanuele Antonio Minerva/Ministero della Cultura

Additionally, a mosaic floor from the mid-3rd to mid-4th century AD that told the story of Orpheus entrancing wild creatures with the music of his lyre was found after being taken in the early 1990s from a covert dig in Sicily. It was taken from a well-known New York collector’s private collection.

Under a new program named “Stolen Works Of Art Detection System” (SWOADS), Italy’s Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection unit employs artificial intelligence to seek stolen cultural assets. The system looks for taken objects by searching the web and social media for photos.

“The return to Italy of cultural assets of such importance, both for their numerical consistency and for their historical-artistic value, is another significant achievement, Italy’s culture ministry undersecretary Gianmarco Mazzi said Tuesday.

“In addition to being works of art of inestimable value, they represent the high expression of our history, our culture and our national identity.”

According to Gargaro, 105,474 works of art valued at over €264 million (or $287 million) were discovered and seized globally in 2023 alone, all because of artificial intelligence technology.

GreatGameIndia reported earlier that a study conducted by the Al-Hudhud Center for Archaeological Studies shows how Yemen’s artifacts are being stolen and sold in auctions in the US and other countries.

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