Rome, June 14 (IANS/AKI) A stolen 2,000-year-old marble sculpture of the head of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, was welcomed back to Italy on Tuesday, over 40 years after it was illegally smuggled out of the country to Belgium.
The ancient treasure was handed to the mayor of Nepi, Pietro Soldatelli, at a ceremony in Rome attended by Italian officials including Deputy Foreign Minister Mario Giro and representatives of the Belgian embassy and the Academy of Belgium.
“After more than 40 years of exile in Europe, he’s finally home. Welcome back Augustus,” Soldatelli said.
The hairstyle of the 45-centimetre veiled head suggests the ancient treasure dates to the period before Octavian became emperor in 27 BC and took the name Augustus. Archaeologists believe the head formed part of a toga-clad statue.
The sculpture had been on display at the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels since 1975 when the museum bought it from a private collector, unaware that it had been stolen. It is the latest artefact to be returned to Italy after being trafficked abroad.
Museum officials agreed to return the artefact after a police investigation began in 2013 when Italian archaeologist Germana Vatta spotted its resemblance to another marble head in Nepi’s museum.
Art history experts established the marble head had been stolen in the 1970s from Nepi, which is near Rome.