About 1,000 ancient artifacts found in a wealthy Italian's country house outside Rome were stolen from one of Emperor Trajan's 1st-century villas, archaeologists have determined.
They say the artifacts, which were being used to decorate the man's weekend residence, were ripped off the walls of what is believed to be Trajan's hunting retreat in Arcinazzo Romano, a town in the countryside outside Rome.
Some were stolen from boxes of fragments that archaeologists had excavated from the villa but had left at the site of the ongoing dig, a news conference was told.
Suspect not identified
The man has not been identified because the theft is still being investigated but police said he is an affluent engineer. He is not in police custody.
Pieces of ancient mosaics were inserted into the home's basement floor, and the fireplace and bathroom were decorated with other pieces, authorities said.
Many were damaged by glue used to stick them to display supports, says Marina Sapelli Ragni, the superintendent of archaeology in Lazio, in the upper Aniene River valley. Restorers will try to repair the damage, she adds.
Police did not give the date of the raid, but indicated it happened more than a year ago. The artifacts were under study for a year before experts decided they came from Emperor Trajan's villa.
Among the loot are pieces of marble that once covered the sprawling villa, which has only been partially excavated.
The theft from the excavation site dates to 2002. Archaeologists say they realized the artifacts must have come from an Imperial villa because of the fine quality of the decoration.
Gilding was usually reserved for the most palatial of ancient Roman villas.
"The richness and beauty of this villa was no less than that of the villa of Hadrian, Trajan's successor," near Tivoli, says Sapelli Ragni.