Italy recovers Greek goddess bust in antiquity raids

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ROME (Reuters Life!) - A rare 9th century three-faced marble head of the Greek goddess Hecate was seized from a store in Rome’s historic center after it was stolen by thieves last year, Italian police said on Wednesday.

The unusual bust was one of hundreds of stolen ancient artifacts ranging from large earthen jugs to small saucers that Italian police displayed after recovering them during various operations.

A probe at a small lake south of Rome led to the discovery of more than 500 miniature antiquities, while a Roman mosaic dating to the 4th-3rd century B.C. was seized after police stumbled across an Internet posting, hawking it for 55,000 euros ($77,060).

The bust of Hecate, the Greek goddess linked to witchcraft and the afterlife who is usually depicted with three heads, was found in a store near Rome’s Campo dei Fiori square.

It had been missing since June 2007, when thieves made off with it from a Roman house after drugging the owner’s family with sedatives.

Italy has carried out a sustained drive to trace stolen artifacts, especially those illicitly dug up and spirited away from archaeological sites.

In February, authorities showed off more than 400 looted archaeological treasures including an ancient fresco from Pompeii discovered during a three-year hunt across Europe.

Writing by Deepa Babington, editing by Paul Casciato