A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
The decision on the disputed $1.2-million gold phiale is in. On July 12, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a District Court ruling that the fourth-century Sicilian bowl purchased by New York collector Michael Steinhardt should be returned. The District Court decision was based on two points: misrepresentations on customs forms, which identified Switzerland rather than Italy as the phiale's country of origin, and consideration of the phiale as stolen property under the U.S. National Stolen Property Act (NSPA) because Italian law vests ownership of antiqiuties in the state. In upholding the decision, the Court of Appeals relied on the false statements on the customs forms, but did not address whether or not the NSPA was interpreted correctly. The court left hanging the question whether objects claimed by foreign countries under their patrimony constitute stolen property under NSPA. It was this issue that led numerous concerned organizations, including the Archaeological Institute of America, to file briefs in the case.