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CULTURE

Two more statues of Iron Age boxers unearthed in Sardinia

Archaeologists in Sardinia have unearthed the torsos of two more limestone statues of boxers within the Iron Age necropolis of Mont'e Prama, Italy's culture ministry said Saturday.

This view of the Cabras excavation site shows parts of one of the statue's torso, a leg and a head that has been cut off at the neck.
This view of the Cabras excavation site shows parts of one of the statue's torsos, a leg and a head that has been cut off at the neck. Photo: Italy's Ministry of Culture

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini called the find at the archaeological site in Cabras, western central Sardinia, an “exceptional discovery” that should shed more light on the ancient Mediterranean culture whose tombs and
statuary have been slowly uncovered since the 1970s.

The naked torsos and other fragments have been identified as boxers, due to a shield that wraps around their bodies, and are similar to another two sculptures unearthed a few metres away in 2014 and now on display at the local museum, the ministry said.

Archaeologists working on the southern part of the sprawling necropolis — first discovered in 1974 by local farmers — also found the continuation of the site’s funerary road on a north-south axis, along which have been found
tombs dating back to between about 950 BC to 730 BC.

While small and medium-sized fragments are being documented and recovered from the earth, “the two large and heavy blocks of torsos will need time to be freed from the sediment surrounding them and to be prepared for safe recovery,” said the culture ministry’s superintendent for southern Sardinia, Monica Stochino.

The site is believed to be part of the Nuragic civilisation that controlled the island of Sardinia for centuries beginning in the Bronze Age. The people erected mysterious stone towers called “nuraghe” that today dot the Sardinian
countryside and whose original purpose remains unknown.

Thousands of fragments and major pieces from Mont’e Prama discovered over the decades have so far been reassembled into about two dozen statues, each over 2 metres tall, that have been identified as warriors, archers or boxers.

Archaeologists still do not know precisely what the statues represent or what purpose they served.

Nor is it clear where they were originally located before being deliberately shattered in ancient times, according to researchers — who cannot agree whether this was carried out by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, or by warring Nuragic groups themselves — and strewn above and near the tombs.

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CRIME

Accused forger of Old Master paintings wanted in France arrested in Italy

A well-known art collector sought by French authorities for allegedly operating a sophisticated forgery network for decades turned himself in to Italian police on Friday, his lawyers said.

Accused forger of Old Master paintings wanted in France arrested in Italy

Giuliano Ruffini, 77, is accused of cheating museums, auction houses and individuals for decades with dozens of forgeries of old masters.

He turned himself in to police at Castelnovo ne’ Monti, a town in the Reggio Emilia region of central Italy, his lawyer Paul Le Fevre said in a statement.

Italian news reports said Ruffini, who lived nearby, was subsequently arrested by police.

Ruffini’s arrest comes after years of judicial efforts to extradite him back to France, following an investigation begun in 2014 and the issuance of a European arrest warrant five years later.

A Milan appeals court authorised Ruffini’s extradition to France two years ago to face charges of fraud and counterfeiting, but it was put on hold until a parallel procedure for tax evasion in Italy was complete.

Ruffini was acquitted in May of those tax evasion charges.

Well-known in the art world, Ruffini sold dozens of paintings since the 1990s by such masters as Parmigianino and El Greco to some of Europe’s most prestigious museums, including the Louvre, often through intermediaries.

His fakes also attracted wealthy buyers, such as the Prince of Liechtenstein, who bought a forged Lucas Cranach the Elder painting of Venus for seven million euros ($7.24 million).

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