SHARE
COPY LINK

ARCHAEOLOGY

Switzerland returns looted Etruscan treasures to Italy

Switzerland has returned to Italy 45 boxes of ancient Etruscan art stolen during illegal excavations and stashed away for more than 15 years, including two rare sarcophaguses, authorities said on Thursday.

Switzerland returns looted Etruscan treasures to Italy
Switzerland has given Italy back treasures removed during illegal excavations from Etruscan sites such as tombs. Photo: Mike Wilson/Wikimedia Commons

“The antiques were given back to Italian authorities today,” a statement from Geneva's public prosecutor's office said.
   
Italy had asked the wealthy Alpine country for assistance in 2014 to track down a stolen Etruscan sarcophagus that was believed to have transited through the toll and customs-free zone that makes up the Geneva Free Ports.
   
“The search led by prosecutor Claudio Mascotto … at the Geneva Free Ports revealed an unexpected treasure,” the statement said.
 
Two rare Etruscan earthenware sarcophaguses, with beautifully sculptured lids representing a reclined man and woman, were found in a warehouse at the Free Ports, along side “many other invaluable archaeological remains”.
   
“The prosecutor ordered the seizure of the sarcophaguses first, then extended the decision to all items, considering their suspected illegal provenance,” it said.
   
Among the items were delicately painted bas-reliefs, vases and fragments of decorated vases, frescoes, heads, busts, and several other votive or religious pieces, it added.
   
The mysterious, seafaring Etruscan civilization ruled swathes of the Mediterranean until it was swallowed up by Rome in the first century BC.
   
The antiques had been brought to Geneva by a former high-profile British art dealer, previously linked to trading looted antiquities, the prosecutor's office said, without divulging the art dealer's name.
   
The artefacts had remained stored in the warehouse for more than 15 years, registered under the name of an offshore company, it said.
   
An Italian expert had concluded that the artefacts came from illegal excavations mainly carried out in the Umbria and Lazio regions, and Italian investigators linked some of the items to so-called tombaroli, or tomb raiders, they already had in their sights.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

ARCHAEOLOGY

Remains of nine Neanderthals found in Italian cave

The fossil remains of nine Neanderthal men have been found in a cave in Italy, the culture ministry announced Saturday, a major discovery in the study of our ancient cousins.

Neanderthal fossils discovered in Italy
Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

All the individuals found in the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo, located on the coast between Rome and Naples, are believed to be adults, although one might have been a youth.

Eight of them date to between 50,000 and 68,000 years ago, while the oldest could be 90,000 or 100,000 years old, the ministry said in a statement.

“Together with two others found in the past on the site, they bring the total number of individuals present in the Guattari Cave to 11, confirming it as one of the most significant sites in the world for the history of Neanderthal man,” the ministry said.

READ ALSO: Ancient Roman home and mosaics unearthed during Italian apartment renovation

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini hailed the find as “an extraordinary discovery which the whole world will be talking about”.

Francesco Di Mario, who led the excavation project, said it represented a Neanderthal population that would have been quite large in the area.

Local director of anthropology Mario Rubini said the discovery will shed “important light on the history of the peopling of Italy”.

“Neanderthal man is a fundamental stage in human evolution, representing the apex of a species and the first human society we can talk about,” he said.

The findings follow new research begun in October 2019 into the Guattari
Cave, which was found by accident by a group of workers in February 1939.

On visiting the site shortly afterwards, paleontologist Albert Carlo Blanc made a stunning find – a well-preserved skull of a Neanderthal man.

The cave had been closed off by an ancient landslide, preserving everything inside as a snapshot in time that is slowly offering up its secrets.

Recent excavations have also found thousands of animal bones, notably those
of hyenas and the prey they are believed to have brought back to the cave to eat or store as food.

There are remains of large mammals including elephant, rhinoceros, giant deer, cave bear, wild horses and aurochs – extinct bovines.

“Many of the bones found show clear signs of gnawing,” the ministry statement said.

SHOW COMMENTS