Stolen Antiquities

Should museums return relics to their country of origin?


An ancient vase at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is fueling an intensifying ethical and legal debate about some of the world's most celebrated works of art. Two years ago, Italian authorities produced evidence the ancient vessel had been smuggled from Italy and demanded its return. Such prized artifacts have raised thorny questions about the ownership of cultural treasures in private collections and museums around the world. The controversy — and attendant criminal trials of alleged smugglers — is also shedding new light on the secretive world of antiquities collecting — a realm populated by tomb robbers, wealthy connoisseurs and aggressive dealers and curators. Some experts estimate that up to $4 billion worth of precious art is being illegally traded. Whatever their worth, ancient ...

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