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Guilty thieves return ancient objects to Pompeii

Preservation of the ancient city of Pompeii has received a welcome boost from guilty thieves who have returned artefacts they stole from the popular tourism attraction.

Guilty thieves return ancient objects to Pompeii
Curators of ancient city of Pompeii say they have received "hundreds of packages" from tourists returning stolen artefacts accompanied by notes "expressing regret" [Credit: AP]
In October, a Canadian woman made headlines around the world when she personally returned to hand back a 2,000-year old fragment she had stolen from Pompeii on her honeymoon 50 years ago.

The woman from Montreal, who is in her 70s, said the theft of the first century AD terracotta roof decoration had weighed on her conscience for decades.

Now Massimo Osanna, superintendent of the World Heritage-listed site, said that was not an isolated case and hundreds of archeological artefacts had been sent back to the museum in recent years, often with letters of apology written in different languages.

"We have been receiving hundreds of packages with hundreds of fragments now for years," Mr Osanna told the Italian daily, Il Messaggero.

"People write expressing regret, having realised they have made a terrible mistake and that they would never do it again and for this reason they are sending the stolen pieces back.

"But the most curious thing, from an anthropological point of view, are the letters that accompany the stolen fragments which reveal a cross-section of people worth studying."

Mr Osanna said that one particular fresco fragment that had been returned was crucial in the restoration of the Casa del Frutteto, or house of the orchard keeper, which collapsed in the 1980s.

He said the property was restored but after work was completed experts realised a piece of wall plaster was missing. He said it was returned to officials in March and would now be added.

Mr Osanna could not be contacted on Tuesday but said he would like to stage an exhibition to showcase the precious objects that had been returned.

Alessandro Pintucci, president of the Italian Confederation of Archeologists, welcomed the return of artefacts but warned more security was needed to protect valuable cultural sites and to prevent thefts where there were often too few controls.

Pompeii was buried by a sudden volcanic eruption of nearby Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. The preserved remains of the town attract around 2.5 million tourists every year.

Theft is a problem at ancient sites like Pompeii and the Colosseum in Rome, with tourists regularly trying to take "souvenirs" of their visits.

Last September a pair of American tourists were caught at Fiumicino airport in Rome with a stone artefact they had taken from Pompeii.

Author: Josephine McKenna | Source: Telegraph [December 24, 2014]

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