Friday, January 05, 2007

Why covet ancient chariots...

Source: The Times

Richard Owen

ITALY Conservationists are campaigning for the return of a unique Etruscan “golden chariot” which is due to form the centrepiece of a new exhibition this Spring at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The chariot, found in 1902 by a farmer at Monteleone near Spoleto in Umbria, and sold to the Met the next year, dates back to the 6th century BC. It is the star attraction in a collection of antiquities to go on show at the $155 million (£80million) Leon Levy and Shelby White Court at the museum.

Villagers in Monteleone (population 651), say that it was exported illegally. The campaign comes as Italy is stepping up its battle to regain a number of allegedly looted antiquities from institutions including the Met and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

The farmer who found the chariot sold it — for two cows, according to some accounts — to dealers who allegedly smuggled it to New York.

Tito Mazzetta, a lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, whose family came from Monteleone and who has taken up the case, said the Metropolitan Museum had so far refused to return the chariot, although it “has not produced any documentation to prove its legal provenance”.

Marion True, a former curator of antiquities at the Getty Museum, is currently on trial in Rome for allegedly acquiring stolen artefacts.

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