The recent return of seven of the 14 pieces of Roman silver to Hungary from the UK is a positive development in the find’s sad history.
It is suggested the treasure have been discovered—the circumstances remain unclear—in the 1970s. That the late Peter Wilson, formerly the chairman of Sotheby’s, should have started acquiring pieces of the treasure in 1980 appears strange today, since it was not until 1981 that a Lebanese export permit (later found to be forged) was obtained for the first four pieces that were bought. A more suspicious buyer would have comprehended that the treasure must have been looted and must have been exported illegally from its country of origin.
The key piece, the Hunting Plate, along with six other major pieces of silverware, has now been returned. The Hunting Plate is significant, for it bears an inscription referring to its owner, Sevso (from whom the treasure takes its name), as well as a reference to Pelso, the Roman name for Lake Balaton in Hungary, near where the treasure was allegedly found. That now appears to have been the case, although the government of Croatia has not yet withdrawn its claim to ownership.