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12 recovered Roman reliefs show gladiators in battle

January 25, 2007|From the Associated Press

Rome — ITALIAN police have unearthed the hidden cache of a group of grave robbers, recovering ancient Roman marble reliefs depicting stunningly lifelike gladiators locked in mortal combat, officials said Wednesday.

The 12 panels were buried in the garden of a home near Fiano Romano, 25 miles north of Rome. Officials hailed it as a major archeological find and a blow to the illegal antiquities market.

Archeologists said the work offers a glimpse into early gladiator fights.

The reliefs date back to the late 1st century BC and are believed to have decorated a tomb, yet to be located, in the Roman settlement of Lucus Feroniae, said Anna Maria Moretti, the superintendent for antiquities in the area north of Rome.

The pieces, made of high-quality Carrara marble, are notable for their size and age, and are among the finest examples from their period depicting one of Rome's favorite blood sports, Moretti said.

"The attention to detail is incredible," she said at a presentation of the finds at Rome's Villa Giulia Museum.

The panels show bare-chested fighters, with swords and shields, engaged in duels. They are surrounded by trumpet and horn players who accompanied the combat in the arena.

The reliefs will undergo restoration before being shown at Villa Giulia, officials said.

Prosecutor Paolo Ferri said a three-year investigation led art squad police to the cache about 10 days ago. An unspecified number of people have been accused of archeological theft but remain free pending legal proceedings.

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