Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Symes Hoard is back in Italy

The contents of 45 crates containing thousands of loose unprovenanced archaeological relics ("worth €9m") which were seized two years ago in the Geneva freeport have been returned to Italy (Elisabetta Povoledo, 'Hundreds of Looted Ancient Artifacts Are Returned to Italy' New York Times March 22, 2016).  They were being stored there by the London dealer Robin Symes before they would have been slipped onto the antiquities markets "in the United States, Japan and Britain".
The artifacts dating from the seventh century B.C. to the second century A.D. [...]  include Roman and Etruscan sarcophagi, bronze objects, stone sculptures of animals and hundreds of painted terracotta fragments from a sixth-century B.C. temple in Cerveteri – were presented at a news conference Tuesday. Apulian vases – broken into dozens of pieces so that they could be spirited out of Italy more easily – were exhibited alongside the Polaroid photographs snapped when the artifacts were illegally excavated in various southern Italian regions. The pieces were looted decades ago, as indicated by the dates on the Italian and British newspapers in which they were wrapped, an investigator said. The Italian culture minister, Dario Franceschini, said the artifacts would be given to museums in the Italian regions where they had been looted. 
Lynda Albertson has some photos of the artefacts on her Twitter timeline, such as this, a corridor full of fragments, and these  freshly (?) smashed vessel sherds, (more here - joins), here's the terracotta, some more. It seems more are on the way.

One cannot help wondering what information about the past the sites this material came from could have yielded if it had been excavated in an undisturbed form. As it is the artefact hunters who created this haul trashed the sites, and threw away much of the artefactual material which they removed from the sites' stratigraphy did not come up to scratch as a potential collectable. 

The search is still on for other Symes artefacts in museum and private collections all over the world.

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