Website to trace stolen artefacts

June 25, 2004

An online "identity parade" of looted ancient statues has been compiled by UK academics in the hope of tracing treasures missing from archaeological sites and monuments in Albania, writes Paul Hill.

The website, created by the Institute of World Archaeology at the University of East Anglia, features artefacts missing from Phoenice, the classical capital of Chaonia, and its near neighbour Butrint, a Roman colonial port.

During political unrest in Albania in the 1990s, the museum in Butrint was stripped of some of its sculptures in 1991 and looted again in 1997. At Phoenice, criminal gangs used heavy machinery to remove artefacts that had yet to be fully excavated.

A portrait head of the empress Livia was stolen in 1991 but was recovered in 2000 after being offered for sale in a catalogue of antiquities in New York.

Academics from the IWA have been engaged in archaeological work in Albania since 1994.

Richard Hodges, head of the Butrint Foundation, which has been funding the archaeological research in Albania, welcomed the website.

He said: "The theft of antiquities from archaeological sites is doubly problematic: it deprives a nation of its heritage and identity and also prevents us from understanding these objects in their true historical context."

Details: www.icaa.org.al

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