Spanish police recover ancient roman altar in British collection stolen in 1962

Spanish police recover ancient roman altar in British collection stolen in 1962 Credit: Policia Nacional

The Spanish National Police recovered a Roman altar, that was stolen from the Archaeological Museum of Tarragona in 1962, after it was listed for auction in the USA.

The Spanish National Police recovered the Roman altar in a joint operation with the  Italian Carabinieri, the Homeland Security Investigations of the United States and the Ministry of Culture and Sport

The archaeological piece is a small altar or domestic altar from the Roman period made of white marble, which appeared in the database of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, a compendium of Latin inscriptions compiled by Emil Hübner and published in 1869, and which exhaustively compiles Latin inscriptions from the Roman world.

Research at an auction house in the United States, where the altarpiece was sold, revealed that the piece came from the British collection.

The collaboration of the US authorities was then requested through the official channels of international cooperation, who verified that the auction house acquired the Roman altar in 2002 from a well-known auction house in London, and in 2010 it was sold to a US citizen who at the time was living in the British capital.

In the end, the piece was voluntarily handed over by said person, as he was aware of its illegal origin, and deposited at the Spanish Embassy in London, from where it was transferred to Spain.

The altar has since been returned to its museum of origin, reincorporating it into the state public collection to which it belongs, so that it can once again be enjoyed by all after 60 years of absence.

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Written by

Joshua Manning

Originally from the UK, Joshua is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at