A massive collection of ancient artifacts and art pieces were returned to the Italian government recently after a raid that seized 781 of these precious items. The pieces date from the Ancient Greek Empire and the Roman Empire and had been in the private collection of a person living near Antwerp, Belgium.

Via: EU Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation

After several years of investigation by many different agencies, art and antiquities officers were able to retrieve the pieces. The operation was headed up by the Carabinieri TPC, the “Art Squad” division of Carabinieri branch of the Italian gendarmerie- a group that has both military and law enforcement duties.

Experts began the investigation back in 2017 after a fragment of a pre-Roman stele, or stone tablet, was listed in a catalog of artifacts in Geneva. The collection also included vases, amphora, statures, and busts.

stolen ancient Italian artifacts
Via: Associated Press/YouTube

The fragment could be traced back to other pieces of the same object in Puglia, which had been excavated not far from the museum which housed the other sections. Under Italian law it is illegal to move Italian-excavated artifacts to other countries.

The collection of artifacts include many pottery pieces of various ages, including ancient Apulian (Daunian) pottery and funerary fragments. The oldest among the items dates from around 600 BC and the newer items to around 300 BC.

stolen ancient Italian artifacts
Via: Associated Press/YouTube

The estimated value of the objects is estimated at around €11M (or $13M USD). The collection was returned to Italy despite repeated attempts by the collector to prevent the transfer of the artifacts.

The items are now being studied in order to find out more about each one and how they might have made it out of Italy illegally.

Have a look at a small fraction of the artifacts in the video below.