Italian investigators have located and retrieved ancient stolen artifacts within the confines of a prestigious Australian university’s museum, as disclosed by the academic establishment on Friday.
The Australian National University made it known that it had partnered with the specialized art unit of the Italian military police, the Carabinieri, in the effort to repatriate the pilfered items.
Among the looted relics identified in the university’s museum was a 2,500-year-old amphora adorned with an illustration of the Greek hero Heracles locked in combat with the Nemean Lion.
The Italian law enforcement had chanced upon an aged Polaroid photograph showcasing the Heracles vessel during their inquiry into an art thief, leading to suspicions that it had been plundered prior to its arrival in Australia.
The University of Canberra asserted that it had acquired the item “in good faith” at a Sotheby’s auction in 1984 and expressed its “pride” in collaborating with Italian investigators to restore the artifact to its rightful proprietors.
Museum curator Georgia Pike-Rowney hailed the 2,500-year-old amphora, dating back to 530 BC, as an “impressive representation” of ancient Mediterranean craftsmanship.
The Carabinieri also identified a stolen crimson plate adorned with fish motifs, originating from Italy’s Apulia region, and traced its provenance back to David Holland Swingler, an American art trafficker and food importer known for often concealing his art pieces within shipments of culinary products.
“Swingler would, during his visits to Italy, procure items directly from the “tombaroli,” colloquially referred to as “tomb raiders,” who engage in unauthorized excavations,” Pike-Rowney detailed. “He would then clandestinely transport these articles to the United States, discreetly stashed among bundles of pasta and other Italian comestibles.”
The Italian government has consented to temporarily loan the amphora and plate to the university until a “future date” when they will be repatriated.