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Italian police sieze 18,000 illegally excavated artefacts

Italian police said Wednesday they had reported five people to prosecutors after finding and impounding some 18,000 ancient artifacts dug up in illegal excavations at archaeological sites near Rome. 

An archaeologist brushes sand off a skeleton dating back to the Roman and Byzantine periods at an excavation site in Lebanon. Italian police said Wednesday they had reported five people to prosecutors after finding and impounding some 18,000 ancient artifacts dug up in illegal excavations at archaeological sites near Rome [Credit: AFP]
Police have also sealed off three illegal dig sites previously unknown to archaeologists, they said in a statement: a necropolis dating from the Roman empire, a Roman villa and a sanctuary used by the Aequi people, who lived in an area northeast of Rome in the fourth and fifth centuries BC. 

The items impounded include ancient artworks, Roman sarcophagi and engraved stones known as stela. 

No arrests have been made, but investigators have reported five people to the public prosecutor's office for illegal excavations, theft of cultural items belonging to the state and receiving stolen goods, the statement said. 

Police opened the investigation after discovering an illegal dig site near the Via Tiburtina, an ancient Roman road, where officers found a marble sarcophagus that had been dug up and left. 

Investigators found ancient artifacts while searching several of the suspects' homes, then used notebooks taken from them to go on an archaeological treasure hunt that led them to the area in the Aniene River valley where the excavations occurred. 

Source: AFP [May 30, 2012]
TANN

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