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New York Officials Return Rare Artifacts, Including Extraordinary Gold Coin, to Greece

Officials in New York have repatriated millions of dollars’ worth of ancient artifacts, including an incredibly rare gold coin, to Greece via a ceremony at the New York Consulate in New York City. For the longest time, a debate has raged on whether museums holding artifacts that were taken by force or stolen from their homelands should be returned. Many of these artifacts were either taken from locals during colonial rule, looted from their home countries during past wars, or stolen and trafficked to foreign countries.

New York officials recently chose to return items worth more than $20 million and dating back to 5,000 BCE, to Greece. The items included an “extraordinarily rare gold coin” that was minted to commemorate Julius Caesar’s assassination and became the most expensive coin at a record-breaking auction in 2020. They also included 29 antiquities from the Hellenistic Period, according to a report from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. All of these Hellenic antiquities had been seized by authorities during antitrafficking and smuggling efforts.

New York Homeland Security Investigations special agent Ivan J. Arvelo noted that Greek artifacts tend to be “especially susceptible” to trafficking because they played a crucial role in ancient Western civilization. The Eid Mar Coin was also on the list of repatriated artifacts. The coin had been sold for $3.5 million to an anonymous bidder in the United States via London’s Roma Numismatics auction house, but officials say it had previously been smuggled to the United Kingdom. The coin was seized by the Manhattan DA office in February after several outlets reported that an executive for the auction house had been arrested in New York the previous month.

The Eid Mar is one of three extremely rare coins. It contains the portrait of Marcus Junius Brutus, a Roman politician who played a key role in the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar in 44 BCE. It features sketches of the daggers used to stab the ancient Roman emperor and is inscribed with the phrase Eid Mar (Ides of March), which references the date of Caesar’s death.

The Manhattan DA’s office also listed a 350 BCE vessel called the Bronze Calyx Krater and a collection of animal and human figurines from 5,000-3,500 BCE worth $3 million. These were sold to private collectors in New York in the early 1980s and were on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art when they were seized by authorities in March.

It is amazing to see that gold such as that extracted by companies such as Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE: FCX) could someday end up capturing a fraction of important history, such as immortalizing the death of an ancient ruler.

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