Italy returns 2,000-year-old grave marker, exported illegally, to Turkey

Streaming HUBApril 28, 2023

Italy returned a funerary stele to Turkish authorities on Friday, dating from the second century and carrying a loving inscription to the dead woman’s wife, after investigation determined it was from southeastern Turkey. Excavation was done illegally.

Italy’s special Carabinieri paramilitary police art squad said it determined after an extensive investigation that the object had been illegally exported, eventually ending up in a private home in Florence, Italy, after being bought in France.

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The Art Squad has for decades been at the forefront of efforts to ensure that artistic and archaeological works are returned to their countries of origin when exported without permission. Its efforts have resulted in hundreds of works of art and artifacts being returned to Italy from prestigious museums and private collectors around the world.

Italy/Türkiye Stell

An ancient funerary stele, which was illegally excavated from the remains of a city once occupied by the Roman Empire, has been returned to Turkey. (Carabinieri via AP)

The stone work depicts a noble lady wearing a veil and tunic. His right hand is placed on his left breast. Beneath the statue of the deceased is an inscription in ancient Greek text, “Saturnilla, the wife who loves her husband, farewell!”

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Police said the stele was illegally excavated near the ancient city of Zeugma, near present-day Gaziantep in southeastern Turkey. It dates from the mid- to late 2nd century, Carabinieri said.

Zeugma, on the Euphrates River, was first an ancient Greek settlement and later became part of the Roman Empire. It was founded around 300 BC by a general of Alexander the Great.

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The stele was handed over to the Turkish ambassador in Italy for its return to Turkey.

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