The Metropolitan Museum in New York has agreed to return to Italy some of the greatest classical treasures in its collection. It has been proved that the pieces were sold illegally to the museum in the 1970s and 1980s, although it bought them in good faith. The crater (vase) of Euphronios, dating to the sixth century BC, and fifteen items of Greek silver, consisting of dining vessels and utensils from the third century BC, were sold by tombaroli (illegal excavators) for a fraction of their value to unscrupulous Italian dealers, who sold them on to dealers in America. The Metropolitan Museum paid almost $4million for the pieces, which are expected to be sent back by the end of 2007.

As a gesture of good will, Italy has agreed to increase the long-term loan of archaeological treasures to the Met and the short-term loan of Italian treasures in general, which are economically essential to the museum because special exhibitions attract large numbers of visitors.

At the same time negotiations continue with the Getty Museum in Malibu, California, for the return of numerous items, including the Morgantina Venus and a fourth-century bronze statue of an athlete, perhaps by Lysippus, fished out of the sea at Fano on the Adriatic in the 1960s.