“The history of Italian legislation
on the protection of antiquities
has always been without prejudice
to the prerogatives of private property.”

Archaeology

Not even during the darkest historical periods of our country has anyone denied the legitimate existence of a private archaeological collection.
The history of Italian legislation on the protection of antiquities, both pre- and post-unification, has always been without prejudice to the prerogatives of private property extended to the possession of archaeological or ancient heritage.
 
The successive legislative measures that have taken place over time have regulated in various ways both the export of ancient goods from the places where they originated or were found, and research excavations. However, by that time our country had already been widely plundered, and not only for decades, but for centuries.

I recently visited the cycle of seated Muses from the Villa Adriana in Tivoli, considered highly significant in the world of antiques because they represent the supreme ideal of Art; beautiful sculptures of Parian marble, probably Roman copies of Greek originals from the second century BC. However, I did not go to Tivoli. I had to fly to the Prado Museum in Madrid to see this cycle of statues discovered at the Villa Adriana in the early 1500s.

Today it is a common experience to go abroad for a visit to an important museum and encounter many rooms dedicated to Italian archaeology.

Millions, millions and millions of archaeological finds are scattered all over the world among anonymous collections, private collections, and public collections. They frequently re-emerge during generational changes, during the divisions of inheritance, during the cynical and disinterested plundering of houses, and during the dismemberment of known and unknown collections.

Even in Italy, it is necessary to state this without hypocrisy, for centuries and decades there have been such practices. In houses inhabited by the most diverse people in history in terms of wealth, culture, and location. Antique objects dating back from time immemorial, in the possession of ancestors, were handed down, when not destroyed, to the heirs as it has also occurred with furniture, fabrics, houseware goods, and material goods.
 
The reserve of excavations and research required by law in favour of the State has prevented, or at least significantly reduced, the activity of clandestine excavations. That is good thing. Yet the Administration of Cultural Heritage, some Public Ministries, and Police Forces are struggling to accept the immense presence of archaeological assets legitimately held by private individuals abroad or in our country. Even though such an attitude goes against the historical record, they consider the private possession of ancient goods a crime or an object of confiscation. In this section of the site, it is my interest to tell a different version of this story. Looking at the beginning of judicial operations, the press releases of the Police Forces or the Public Prosecutor's Office, and based on final sentences, judicial measures, the doctrine of legal academics, the comparison with foreign legislation, and the facts. There is a right to private archaeological collecting: this has to be the starting point.
FROM THE BLOG
My staff and I regularly update this section with articles and analytical insights. Archaeology,
palaeontology, numismatics, but also palaeoanthropology, archiving, ancient documents and the history of collecting:

are the subjects that we cover. Always from a legal point of view, of course.
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