FBI returns 2,000 year old ancient roman artwork to Italy
The artwork is an ancient mosaic that depicts the snake-haired Medusa.
The FBI has returned to the Italian government an ancient mosaic that had been "missing" for over a century.
The mosaic, which depicts Medusa with snake hair, is thought to be 2,000 years old and dates back to ancient Rome.
The FBI obtained it after an American owner contacted them. They were unable to sell the mosaic, which had been disassembled into 16 pieces because they lacked documentation to prove its "provenance".
The owner made contact in 2020 after the 16-pieces had been stored in a Los Angeles storage facility for approximately 40 years. It was then up to the FBI Art Crime Team to piece together the puzzle of the artwork's origins.
How did agents crack the case?
Special Agents Elizabeth Rivas and Allen Grove jumped right into the investigation.
Local experts determined that the mosaic was of Italian or North African origin, and it wasn't long before the equivalent body in Italy, the Carabinieri, made contact.
The Carabinieri's art squad confirmed the mosaic's Italian origins and that it had been registered as cultural property in 1909. The only other record since was a 1959 Los Angeles newspaper ad advertising its sale.
The artwork was then carefully packaged and shipped to its homeland in Italy, where it arrived safely in April 2022 and is now in the hands of the Italian government.
“The mosaic was handcrafted from an age where people put an amazing amount of care and effort into it. It really speaks to the ingenuity and creativity of the time,” Grove said.
“It's not meant to be in Los Angeles. The mosaic belongs to the people of Rome. It allows us to understand a bit about the history of humans 2,000 years ago.”