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CULTURE

Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

Italian police said on Monday they had recovered hundreds of illegally-excavated archaeological finds worth €11 million from a "wealthy Belgian collector".

Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds
Photo: Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale

The nearly 800 pieces “of exceptional rarity and inestimable value” date as far back as the sixth century BC, according to the Carabinieri police force’s tutela patrimonio division in charge of protecting cultural heritage.

The finds including stelae, amphorae and other works, which came from clandestine excavations in Puglia in Italy’s southeast.

The investigation began in 2017 after a state archaeology lab in Puglia noticed in European art catalogues that decorative elements from a Daunian funerary stele belonging to the collector resembled those found within a fragment in a southern Italian museum.

That flat stone slab from Daunia – a historical region of Puglia – in the collection of the Belgian collector was missing a piece in its centre.

An official within the restoration lab noticed that the piece in the museum’s collection completed the design of a shield and a warrior on horseback that was missing on the stele.

“During the course of the search, a veritable ‘archaeological treasure’ was recovered, consisting of hundreds of Apulian figurative ceramic finds and other Daunian stelae, all illegally exported from Italy, which were then seized in Belgium,” read a statement from police in the city of Bari, Puglia.

Italy was able to repatriate the works after legal appeals by the collector were dismissed, police said.

Besides stelae, the collection includes vases painted with red figures, amphorae, black glazed ceramics, and numerous terracotta figurines. The pieces date back to between the sixth and third centuries BC.

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CULTURE

Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.

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