The ancient Terracotta kylix drinking cup.

27 Ancient Artifacts Were Seized from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Since February, ancient artifacts have been seized from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. According to officials, the antiquities are valued at more than $13 million and are cited to lootings. The Met has worked in cooperation with the Manhattan district attorney’s office as multiple search warrants have been executed.

Many of the seized items have been linked to Italian antique trafficker Gianfranco Becchina, such as the Terracotta kylix that is from 470 B.C. and valued at $1.2 million. Though the kylix—along with seven other artifacts—was purchased directly from Becchina Gallery, the pieces in the Met’s possession were purchased years before Becchina was accused of trafficking. It was not until 2001 that Becchina was investigated and convicted for illegal practices by Italian authorities.

The ancient Terracotta kylix from 470 B.C. seized from the Met.

Photography courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Eight of the 27 items seized from the Met are linked directly to Becchina, the rest of the artifacts are connected to looting gangs spanning across East Asia and the Mediterranean. All of the stolen artifacts will be returned to their countries of origin, with 21 returning to Italy and six returning to Egypt. The repatriation of these artifacts is scheduled to be completed in the upcoming weeks. The hasty repatriations and increased volume of search warrants reflect U.S. authorities’ efforts to crack down on the illegal sales of ancient artifacts.

This may only be the beginning of heightened efforts to combat illegal sales and dealings in the art world. As the legal policies for reviewing antiquities change, museums' policies will also have to. As more artifacts within the Met’s collection can presumably be traced to illegal dealings, a change in collecting policies may be underway shortly—and not just for the Met.