Police have returned a huge haul of close to 800 ancient artefacts and pieces of pottery to Italy after seizing them from a Belgian art collector.
The collection of Apulian treasures dates as far back as 600 BC and has a preliminary estimated value of €11 million.
The artefacts had been illegally obtained by the Belgian after they were excavated without permission from a site in Puglia, Italy
Investigations were launched in 2017 by the Italian Carabinieri's specialised unit for the protection of cultural heritage goods, directed by the Foggia public prosecutor's office.
Officers were trying to establish the whereabouts of a particular stolen artefact: a Daunian tombstone that they knew had previously been on display at exhibitions in Geneva and Paris.
The ancient stele had features specific to the archaeological area of Salapia, close to Foggia. It was also missing an inscription.
The missing part was already on display at the Archaeological Museum of Trinitapoli, close to Barletta in Puglia. The Carabinieri visited the man's home in Antwerp and were to match the main part of the stolen stele to the piece the Museum had.
During the investigation, they also uncovered a vast collection of illegally excavated artefacts from between 300 and 600 BC.
Belgian and Italian police cooperated in bringing the entire haul back to Italy, where it has now been put on display despite attempts to repeal the transfer by the collector, who has not been named by police. Further investigations into the collection will be carried out in Italy.