Part of a floor mosaic turned into a coffee table, coming from one of emperor Caligula’s private ceremonial ships, is returned to Italy from the United States among other artefacts.
The artefact was probably on the floor of one of the private ships the notorious Roman emperor had built and used on Lake Nemi. The two massive ships, famous for their opulence and said to be used either for ceremonies or orgies, had sunk and remained at the bottom of the lake until the 1930s, when archaeologists retrieved many parts which were preserved. The items are on display at Italy’s Roman Ship Museum but the artefact in question was probably seized after World War II and ended up in the USA, in the apartment of an antique dealer who had bought it in the 1960’s from a villa on lake Nemi.
The inlaid marble mosaic, turned into a coffee table, was spotted by Italian authorities and seized by the New York district attorney’s office. It dates to the first century AD and is made of green and red porphyry cobbles, serpentine and glass. It is configured in a colourful geometric pattern.
Along with the mosaic the authorities retrieved various other items, such as a 350 BC vase from the Puglia region and two amphorae from the 4th or 5th century.
The Culture Minister of Italy Dario Franceschini spoke at a news conference in New York on Friday about the repatriation of the retrieved artefacts. He said that they will all return to the places they were taken from. Among the artefacts presented at the news conference there were Roman coins, books and manuscripts.