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Toxic antiquities: Pots seized in NYC

Two pots have been seized by US customs agents in New York City ("Millennia-old stolen artifacts recovered in NYC", AP October 28, 2009). The pieces, one dating to c. 460 BCE and the other to c. 350 BCE, had apparently already entered the United States and had been "offered for sale in New York". The pots were worth some $120,000.

It sounds as if the raid was in the full knowledge of the Italian authorities. Had they been offered for sale on the internet or in a published catalogue? Presumably this had alerted the Italian authorities who are clearly monitoring this type of material.

It sounds as if these two pieces feature in the polaroids seized in the Geneva Freeport.

There are some unawanswered questions. Who was selling the pieces? Had the import paperwork been completed correctly? Had the pots been acquired from another source? What is their recent collecting history?

This case illustrates the toxic effect of undocumented antiquities entering the market. Buyers should be very suspicious if there is no recorded history before 1970.

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