In 2017, an investigation was launched when a state archaeology lab in Apulia, Italy made a discovery in a European arts catalogue… they noticed ‘decorative elements’ from a Daunian funerary stele that was in the hands of a “wealthy Belgian collector,” was similar to those found in fragments at a museum in southern Italy. In fact, it turns out that one of the museum fragments perfectly completed a missing piece from the item in the catalogue.
The European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation coordinated a joint operation between Belgian and Italian authorities. When they raided the owner’s house, they came upon an amazing collection of 782 illegally excavated Italian artifacts worth an estimated €11M ($13M), which had been illegally exported from Italy.
Interestingly, a CNN article notes that during the past year there has been a sizable increase in the trading of looted artifacts through Facebook groups. According to the Antiques Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research Project, in April and May, one of the largest groups that the organization monitors has swelled to more than 300,000 members.
While we can score one for the good guys, there is still a lot of work left to do.