Archaeology Odyssey 9:1, January/February 2006

Editors’ Page: Italy Goes After American Museums

But the Looting Continues

By Jack Meinhardt

Archaeology Odyssey

There’s a mounting furor in Italy over antiquities in a number of American museums. In recent months Italian authorities have charged Marion True, formerly a curator with the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, with trafficking in illegal ancient art (see news story, p. 12). According to Italian police, the Getty collection includes 42 pieces that were smuggled out of Italy. (True has resigned from the Getty, though for reasons not having to do with the trial.)

Italian police have now expanded their investigation to include antiquities in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. They claim that six pieces in the Met collection were smuggled out of Italy. One of these pieces is the famous Euphronios krater, a large sixth-century B.C. Etruscan urn signed by a painter named Euphronios. Italian officials say that three of the seven men who illegally excavated the vase from an Etruscan tomb at Cerveteri, north of Rome, are cooperating with the investigation.

The Italian Minister of Culture, Rocco Buttiglione, has said publicly he wants to make an example of Marion True. An example of what?

The ruckus in Rome raises two questions. First, setting aside the legal issues, is it better to have the Euphronios vase on display in Italy than in New York? Should it be housed at a Cerveteri site museum, because that’s where it was found, or in Florence, the main city of Tuscany, or in Rome, the Italian capital? If Italy were to become a state in a confederated Europe, should it then go somewhere else?

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