Mosaic floor from Caligula’s ship returned to Italy

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  A collection of ancient Roman artifacts that included a mosaic from one of Caligula’s Lake Nemi pleasure ships was repatriated to Italy on Oct. 20, 2017, following a multiagency investigation, which included U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations..

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

In September, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seized a section of ancient mosaic flooring pursuant to a search warrant and an ongoing joint investigation into the trafficking of stolen antiquities. The marble flooring section, which dates back to 35 A.D., was originally part of an ornate ship commissioned by the Roman emperor Caligula at Lake Nemi. Following the emperor’s assassination, the ship sank and remained underwater for nearly 2,000 years, until it was excavated in the 1920s.

… The recovery was ordered by dictator Benito Mussolini, who had the lake drained …

In 1936, the Ships of Nemi Museum was completed to display the ships and the items excavated from them, including the sections of the inlaid mosaic marble floor. The Museum was later used as a bomb shelter during World War II and many of the original tiles were subsequently destroyed or damaged by fire, rendering the mosaic floor piece one of the only known, intact artifacts of its kind from the Ships of Nemi.

Earlier this year and as part of the same investigation, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seized a Paestan red-figure bell-krater, a wide, round wine vessel circa 360-350 B.C., from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as a Campanian red-figure fish-plate, circa 340-320 B.C., from a Christie’s auction.   

All the items were seized pursuant to judicially authorized warrants, but were thereafter forfeited willingly once the owners were presented with the evidence that each had been stolen from Italy.

No word on whether 2,000 years at the bottom of a lake and a World War II bombing cleaned all the Caligula-era party grime from the mosaic floor.

Also, ICE didn’t mention that the mosaic section had been found repurposed into a coffee table.


ICE coins in Cincinnati 

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ancient coins were originally detained in early July during a routine inspection at the Port of Cincinnati cargo facility by CBP officers before the investigation was turned over to HSI. Photo courtesy of ICE

Customs officials seized 190 Roman coins that were trying to sneak into Ohio disguised as Middle Eastern coins. Here’s what ICe had to say about it:

ICE, CBP seize illegally imported ancient Roman coins

CLEVELAND – One hundred and ninety ancient Roman coins that were illegally imported into the United States from the United Arab Emirates were seized by officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The ancient coins were originally detained in early July during a routine inspection at the Port of Cincinnati cargo facility by CBP officers before the investigation was turned over to HSI. The intended recipient told investigators the coins were of Middle Eastern origin based on information received from an overseas seller. CBP officers contacted a coin expert to authenticate the coin’s origins and learned they were actually late 2nd or 3rd century Roman coins.
Authorities subsequently issued a seizure notice to the intended recipient alleging entry of goods by means of false statements. The intended recipient abandoned the claim to the coins, which will now be repatriated to Italian authorities at a later date. The coins have an estimated value of approximately $1,000.

Mystery of the missing missal solved, Grail remains at large

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Page 212 of Missal of Ludovico da Romagnano. Photo courtesy of ICE.

A customs investigation has turned up a missing manuscript page that tells the story of San Lorenzo, a 3rd Century martyr. But the Holy Grail remains missing.

San Lorenzo (Latin: Laurentius. English: St. Lawrence of Rome. American: Larry) was born in Spain around 225 and made his way to Rome.

He was appointed archdeacon of Rome by his buddy, Sixtus II, who was named pope in 257. Back then, the title of pope didn’t carry as much clout as it does today, as shown by the fact that Sixtus was executed by Roman authorities a year later.

That put Lorenzo in a perdicament because the Romans demanded he hand over the Church’s riches. According to the story, he instead gave the treasure to the poor and entrusted the Holy Grail to friend who smuggled it off to Spain. Lorenzo then showed up at the Roman prefect’s office with the empoverished and disabled declaring them to be the church’s true treasures.

And the Romans roasted him alive.

Meanwhile, the Grail made its way to the British Isles, where it was hunted by King Arthur before landing in Petra, Jordan, where it was discovered by Indiana Jones, who used it to save Sir Sean Connery, if I’m reading my history right.

In the 1400s, a Lombardian monk wrote about Larry and drew a picture of him on page 212 of the handwritten Missal of Ludovico da Romagnano, which was later filed in the Turin archives next to some old shroud. A husband and wife team hired to inventory the archives in the 1990s allegedly swiped Lorenzo’s entry and 262 other pages from the missal and sold them to a bookseller.

Skip ahead to 2011 when an officer on Italy’s cultural property team stumbled on a internet newspaper article about a Florida museum exhibit titled “Blood and Ink” (I’m thinking tattoo exhibit) that featured page 212. American customs got involved, and now Larry’s entry is headed back to Italy.

Read more about it here.

St. Lawrence on Wikipedia.