NEWS

Santorini Aphrodite retrieved in smuggling bust

TAGS: Crime, Archaeology

A 2,000-year-old statue of the ancient Greek goddess of love Aphrodite, one of a batch of antiquities stolen from a museum storeroom on the resort island of Santorini, has been recovered from traffickers in a car trunk, Greek police said Wednesday.

The 80-centimeter (31-inch) marble work was found Tuesday, together with two more ancient stone artefacts believed to have been illegally excavated, in a car stopped in a parking lot in the southern seaside town of Loutraki.

Police arrested a 46-year-old Greek man in the car, who was allegedly seeking to sell the three pieces for a total €350,000 ($400,000). Another two Greek men have been identified as suspected accomplices, a police statement said, adding that the crackdown followed a tipoff.

According to Wednesday's statement, the director of the Santorini museum confirmed that the Aphrodite statue, which dates to the 2nd or 1st centuries BC, was stolen from the storeroom.

Earlier this year, a watchman at the Santorini museum and another suspect were arrested for allegedly stealing antiquities from the storage area, and about 20 pottery and stone artifacts — many dating to the 17th century BC — were recovered.

No inventory of other missing artifacts was published, and it was unclear how many were stolen.

Police said the other two artefacts found in the car trunk were a cylindrical marble box and a 3rd century AD stone relief plaque depicting one of the labors of Hercules — the mythical heros fight with the Hydra monster.

Greece's rich ancient heritage frequently falls prey to antiquities smugglers, with scores of arrests recorded every year. But thefts from museums are rare. [AP]

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