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US returns to Greece 30 ancient artifacts worth $3.7 million, including marble statues

The United States on Friday, 15 December 2023, returned to Greece 30 ancient artifacts, including marble statues, armor helmets and breastplates, found to have been illicitly removed from the country, authorities said.

The pieces handed over to Greek officials in New York date back from as long as 4,700 years ago to the Middle Ages. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said the “exquisite” works were collectively valued at $3.7 million (3.39 million euros).

Nineteen of the artifacts were voluntarily surrendered from New York gallery owner Michael Ward, the DA’s office said in a statement.

Three others were seized from British art dealer Robin Symes, the statement said, while one was seized from a storage unit belonging to an unspecified New York-based private collector.

“This is an exquisite set of 30 antiquities that represents the extraordinary depth and beauty of Greece’s cultural heritage,” Bragg said.

Silver icon with a representation of the Virgin Mary in prayer

The works include a Roman-era headless marble statue of Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love. Bragg’s office said it was recovered from a storage unit that belonged to Symes, where it had been hidden since at least 1999.

There were also seven bronze helmets dating from 6th century B.C. to 3rd century B.C., two bronze and two iron breastplates for soldiers, a medieval silver platter, a marble Cycladic figurine dating to 2,700-2,300 B.C. and Mycenaean and Minoan Cretan pottery.

Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni praised in a statement the “strong cooperation and hard work” by U.S. and Greek experts that led to the antiquities’ return.

The return follows two similar operations earlier this year, involving 29 antiquities, and last year, when 55 works were returned from New York.

Greece has for decades been targeted by criminal networks engaged in the trafficking of illegally excavated antiquities that command high prices worldwide. By law, all ancient artifacts found in the country are state property.

Source: AP