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Italians unveil rich haul of stolen artifacts

ITALIAN officials yesterday unveiled 14 artifacts spanning from antiquity to the Middle Ages that were looted or stolen from Italy and recently returned by an American museum.

Culture Ministry officials trumpeted Italy's latest victory in its campaign to recover antiquities they say were stolen or dug up by looters, smuggled out of the country and sold to prestigious museums and collectors across the world.

Under a November deal, the Cleveland Museum of Art agreed to hand over the treasures in exchange for long-term loans of other artifacts and joint work on future exhibitions.

Similar deals have yielded the return of scores of pieces from top museums, including the J. Paul Getty Museum in California and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The objects unveiled yesterday are an exquisite and rare sampling of many of the civilizations that have inhabited Italy over the centuries, experts said.

They range from a bronze statuette of a horned archer from 9th-8th century BC Sardinia to a 14th-century gold-plated processional cross stolen in the 1960s from a church in Tuscany.

The Cleveland museum also returned a pair of Etruscan silver bracelets from the 6th century BC as well richly decorated pottery from 5th-4th century BC southern Italy.

Among these are vessels shaped as a donkey head, a pig and a duck as well as a 1-meter-tall krater, a vase that was used to mix water and wine at banquets.

Officials said the objects will go to various museums in the areas of their presumed origin.

The artifacts were bought or donated to the Cleveland museum in the 1970s and 1980s. The museum has stressed it had not knowingly acquired or received looted items.

The artifacts were suspected to have been looted because photos and documents relating to them were found in raids on the Swiss warehouses of antiquities dealers accused of exporting illegal art works from Italy.


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