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Stolen frescoes returned to the Pompeii Museum

Six frescoes hacked off from the ruins of ancient Roman villas years ago have been returned to the Pompeii archaeological park, Italian police said Tuesday.

Stolen frescoes returned to the Pompeii Museum
Fragment of a fresco with a pavilion crowned with plant elements and a double-pitched roof
decorated with griffins; in the centre of the pavilion a nude cupid playing
a transverse flute. Probably from room 12 of Villa Arianna
[Credit: Pompeii - Parco Archeologico]

Three of them -- one depicting a cherub, another a female dancer and the third the head of a woman -- came from two ancient Roman houses in Stabia, a site a few kilometres from the main Pompeii excavations.

They are believed to have been stolen as far back as the 1970s, smuggled out of Italy and sold to collectors in the United States, Switzerland and Britain.

Stolen frescoes returned to the Pompeii Museum
Fragment of a fresco in the shape of a rhombus with a denticulated frame and a floral scroll
and a dancing female figure holding a tray in the centre. Probably from room 9
of Villa Arianna, decorated with the same 'tile' motif with female figures,
cupids, birds and rosettes [Credit: Pompeii - Parco Archeologico]

The art squad unit of the Carabinieri police intercepted and confiscated them last year as part of "a wider investigation on the international trafficking of archaeological goods", a statement said.

The other three frescoes were found by police in 2012 in an illegal dig in Civita Giuliana, around 700 metres northwest of Pompeii, before thieves had time to take them away.

Stolen frescoes returned to the Pompeii Museum
Fragment of fresco with part of a female figure on a black background with crown of laurel leaves.
 Likely belonging to the Stabian area due to a close comparison with a female figure with lyre
in the Hermes fresco from Villa San Marco [Credit: Pompeii - Parco Archeologico]

In the same spot, which has since been taken over by official authorities, archaeologists found last year the remains of two victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, presumed to be of a young slave and his older master.

Pompeii, located near Naples in southern Italy, is one of the archeological wonders of the world, as it holds the remarkably preserved remains of an ancient Roman city destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

The ruins have survived to this day after being covered for centuries by a metres-thick layer of volcanic ash and dust, allowing an extraordinary degree of frozen-in-time preservation both of city structures and of residents unable to flee.

Source: AFP [May 18, 2021]

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