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ARCHAEOLOGY

Italy showcases stolen pre-Roman frescoes

Five frescoes stolen from a fourth century BC tomb in southern Italy have been recovered by police and put on display in Rome, allowing the public to see them for the first time ever.

Italy showcases stolen pre-Roman frescoes
One of the stolen pre-roman frescoes, showing a young man riding a chariot. Photo: Ministero Dei Beni Culturali

The frescoes were stolen from a tomb in Paestum during a clandestine dig in the 1990s and police feared they had been lost forever.

But in May last year they discovered the frescoes in the warehouse of a Swiss businessman in Como, who bought the pieces without inquiring about their provenance.

“Without doubt these artefacts belonged to Paestum,” said Gabriel Zuchtrigel, director of the archaeological site of Paestum. 

“But we don't know which tomb they belonged to because the site was raided by robbers – something which is devastating for real archaeology.”

The five frescoes were originally one whole piece but were separated at some point, possibly during their removal.

The stunning frescoes depict detailed scenes of the daily life of a member of the pre-roman Lucanian people. The Lucanians were an Italic people who conquered the ancient Greek city of Paestum – on the Tyrrhenian coast's modern-day Campania – in the fifth century BC.

Judging from the scenes shown, the young man buried in the tomb was once a member of the Lucanian aristocracy and most probably a military commander.

The scenes depicted include one of the young commander returning home from battle riding a chariot filled with the spoils of war.

Other pictures show what were perhaps other important interests in his life: food, drink and women.

The frescoes can be seen at the Museo Storico Dell'Arma Dei Carabinieri in central Rome.

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ROME

Body of missing American tourist found in Rome’s River Tiber

The body of a missing 21-year-old tourist was found in the River Tiber on Thursday morning, according to media reports.

Body of missing American tourist found in Rome's River Tiber

Elijah Oliphant, from Dallas, Texas, was on holiday with his family in Rome when he went missing several days ago.

Oliphant’s parents reported his disappearance after he left his hotel room shortly after midnight on May 24th and did not return.

Hotel security footage showed him leaving the premises wearing a white undershirt and pyjama bottoms, which he was wearing when he was found.

Oliphant’s corpse was reportedly spotted by passersby near the Ponte Sisto bridge in Rome’s Trastevere district around 10am on Thursday morning. His body was positively identified by his parents.

Members of the fire brigade and river police who recovered the body say there were no obvious signs of violence, but an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. Trastevere police are reportedly investigating the matter.

The Oliphant family had arrived in Rome for a holiday on May 23rd. When Elijah went missing the following day, his parents launched an urgent appeal to help find their son.

His disappearance was featured on the missing persons television show, Chi l’ha visto (‘Who’s seen them?’) on May 25th.

Several foreigners have been found drowned in the Tiber in recent years, though there are no indication that any of the incidents are linked.

In 2016, the body of 19-year-old American student Beau Solomon was recovered from the river.

Rough sleeper Massimo Galioto was charged involuntary manslaughter in the case, but was ultimately acquitted in 2020.

Prosecutors said that Galioto pushed Solomon in the course of a violent argument. Galioto’s defense team acknowledged that the two had argued but said the student had accidentally slipped.

In May 2019, 37-year-old Imen Chatbouri, a former athletics champion from Tunisia, was found dead in the Tiber after a night out. CCTV footage later showed she had been pushed from the Ponte Sisto bridge.

A then-26-year-old man whose advances she had rejected earlier that evening was convicted of her murder in November 2021.

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