Stolen ancient frescoes found, go on display

Each slab from the ancient city of Paestum has a ragged crack across the middle, having been cut in half to make smuggling easier. Police were led to the pieces after an international trafficker known as "The Captain" died in a road accident.
Each slab from the ancient city of Paestum has a ragged crack across the middle, having been cut in half to make smuggling easier. Police were led to the pieces after an international trafficker known as "The Captain" died in a road accident.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ROME • Five frescoed stone slabs stolen from a tomb in the ancient city of Paestum and trafficked by a notorious artefact smuggler have gone on display in Italy after a 10-year investigation.

Police were led to the pieces, all dating from around 400BC, after an international trafficker known as "The Captain" died in a road accident, leaving thousands of photographs of archaeological finds in his car. A police squad, dedicated to tracking down art and artefacts dug up illegally from Italy's numerous ancient sites, traced the slabs to the Italian-Swiss border and brought them to Rome.

The frescoes on display on Thursday show a noble lady and her slave girls, a triumphant warrior on horseback and a young armed man walking with a donkey. Each slab has a ragged crack across the middle, having been cut in half to make smuggling easier.

Paestum, a ruined city near Naples originally founded by the ancient Greeks, boasts hundreds of unique ancient tombs.

Site director Gabriel Zuchtriegel said illegal digs such as the one that yielded the five frescoes were "devastating".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2015, with the headline 'Stolen ancient frescoes found, go on display'. Print Edition | Subscribe