Apulian plate

An Apulian plate of Eros dating to 350BC from Apulia in southern Italy.

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The pieces were seized relating to ongoing investigations against major antiquities traffickers and were returned during a repatriation ceremony at the Italian Consulate.

The 19 artefacts date back as far as 6th century BC.

Among the recovered items going back to Italy are a gilded bronze plaque with Maenad & Tambourine, dating to 1st-2nd century; an Apulian plate of Eros dating to 350BC from Apulia in southern Italy and a 6th century Corinthian bronze helmet.

Homeland Security Investigations said the items were looted and traffickers would then arrange for the pieces to be “cleaned, restored, and supplied with false provenance, before offering them for sale at auction houses and galleries around the world, often using antiquities dealer Robin Symes as their intermediary”.

Bronze plaque

A gilded bronze plaque with Maenad & Tambourine, dating to 1st-2nd century. 

These repatriations are the latest in a long line announced by the office of the Manhattan District Attorney. Its Antiquities Trafficking Unit was set up in 2018 and since then it has conducted multiple investigations and has recovered more than 4600 antiquities stolen from 30 countries and valued at over $440m and returned more than 2500 antiquities, with more than 1600 scheduled to be returned in the coming months.

In May a Mesopotamian limestone elephant and a Sumerian alabaster bull were returned to the “people of Iraq”.

Separately, the Greek culture minister Lina Mendoni announced the return of 351 objects from the collection of Robin Symes in May. Symes was accused of dealing in looted antiquities and was sent to prison for contempt of court in 2005. 

One of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit's most high profile investigations was announced in December 2021 when hedge fund pioneer Michael H Steinhardt agreed a deal to surrender 180 ‘looted’ items from his collection after a four-year investigation by the unit (ATG no 2522).