A fragment of an ancient marble sarcophagus smuggled into the United States about 30 years ago was returned Friday to Greek officials during a repatriation ceremony.
The artifact dating from A.D. 200 depicts a battle between Greek and Trojan warriors.
The three-foot-wide fragment, which weighs 400 pounds, features a nude man on horseback wielding a weapon as he charges toward a warrior holding a shield. A young man wearing only a cloak stands behind the rearing horse.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. presented the $500,000 relic to the consul general of Greece, Dr. Konstantinos Koutras, who said it would be exhibited at the National Archeological Museum in Athens.
“Trafficked antiquities often acquire a veneer of legitimacy after the passage of time or changes in ownership,” Vance cautioned.
The artifact was displayed at Royal-Athena Galleries in Midtown, which forfeited the piece in January once informed of its criminal provenance, officials said.
Koutras expressed gratitude for the piece’s return while bemoaning the international scourge of smugglers.
“Sadly, in the past, our country has suffered from the cruel and continued smuggling of its antique artifact, and even to this day, a very important part of our heritage remains scattered throughout the world,” he said.
The sarcophagus fragment was looted in 1988 from a site in northern Greece, just west of the scenic port city of Thessaloniki, authorities said.
The relic was smuggled out of Greece and bounced around Europe before finally landing in New York.
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