Carla Antonaccio, chair of Duke’s Classical Studies Department, is certainly more than just a scholar and an archaeologist. She’s a detective who has helped to prove that 16 ancient silver objects on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art were stolen property.
The Italian government asked Antonaccio, along with a team of other American archaeologists, to spend three summers in the late 1990s digging at the site of a 2300 year-old house in Morgantina, Sicily, for evidence that the cups, bowls and objects at the Metropolitan had been taken from the site. The origins of ancient objects, such as these, are difficult to trace and so it is not uncommon for people to steal them, misrepresent their origins and then sell them to museums and private collectors. Expert archaeologists, like Antonaccio, are vital in tracing clues and searching for evidence to uncover ancient objects’ true origins. In this Metropolitan case, the team was able to match an inscription of a very uncommon name, “Eupolemos,” on one of the plates to a land deed found at the archaeological site. This discovery proved that the objects originally came from this site in Morgantina and prompted the Metropolitan to return the artifacts.
Antonaccio has played a huge role in the Italian government’s repatriation efforts for the last several years by writing letters, giving talks, and spending summertime in Morgantina digging and researching to uncover objects’ real origins and return them to their homes.
To learn more about Antonaccio’s work, read this article from Duke Today.
IMAGE: Professor Carla Antonaccio in Morgantina. Courtesy of Duke Today.