A bronze statue that held court over the Greek and Roman galleries at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art for over a decade has been seized after an investigation found it was stolen from a Turkish archaeological site in the 1960s, according to the New York Times.
The statue, which researchers at the museum say is a depiction of the Roman ruler Septimius Severus, is the latest in a string of artifacts that seem to have found a home in the Met’s extensive collection despite coming from illegitimate sources.
The headless bronze statue is one of almost 20 items that have been “characterized as looted” by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in the last three months, the Times reported, and is one of three items recently seized that are on the way back to Turkey.
Also being sent back to Turkey is a bronze head of Severus’s son and heir, Caracalla, who ruled as emperor after his father. Both bronzes are thought to be looted from Bubon, an archaeological site in the southeast “where members of the imperial family were worshiped during the period when Rome ruled the area,” the Times said.
According to the Times, restituting artifacts stolen from sites like Bubon has been a goal of Turkish authorities for years. Investigators said statues often were dug up by local farmers in the 1960s and sold, rather than being reported to the Turkish government.
“The looting back then was done as a commercial enterprise for the villagers,” Matthew Bogdanos, the chief of the district attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, told the Times.
The restitution “sends a clear and strong message to all smugglers, dealers and collectors that illegal purchase, possession and sale of cultural artifacts will have consequences,” Reyhan Ozgur, Turkey’s consul general in New York, said at a ceremony last week after 12 items worth a total of $33 million were given back to Turkish officials, according to the Times.
The Met did not immediately respond to a request for comment.