Italy unveils antiquities returned by U.S. museum

ROME — Italian officials today unveiled 14 artifacts spanning from antiquity to the Middle Ages that were looted or stolen from Italy and recently returned by The Cleveland Museum of Art.

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 U.S. museum 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 today 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 B.C. Sardinia to a 14th century gold-plated processional cross stolen in the 1960s from a church near Siena, in Tuscany.

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

Among these are vessels shaped as a donkey head, a pig and a duck as well as a 3-foot-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, and Italian officials praised the Americans’ cooperation in the negotiations.

The artifacts were shown to have been looted mainly because photos and documents related to them turned up in raids conducted in the 1990s on the Swiss warehouses of antiquities dealers accused of controlling the flow of illegal art exports from Italy. The raids sparked what has turned into Italy’s worldwide hunt for its lost treasures.

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