ATHENS, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- A fragment from the marble frieze of the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple atop the Acropolis hill, which was returned from Italy on an eight-year loan, was put on display on Monday at the Acropolis Museum next to other segments.
Greek officials warmly welcomed the development, stressing that it shows the way for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures kept for two centuries at the British Museum.
"This is a very important step, because this is a first artifact that is actually being returned from a foreign museum to the Acropolis Museum through a mutually acceptable arrangement and I think it also paves the way for the British Museum to enter into serious discussions with the Greek authorities on finding a solution," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told journalists during a ceremony at the Acropolis Museum.
The so-called "Fagan fragment" depicts the lower extremities of Artemis, the goddess of hunting in ancient Greek mythology. It is part of a scene depicting gods observing a procession in honor of the patron of Athens, goddess Athena.
The fragment has been in Palermo, Sicily, since 1818. It was part of the archaeological collection of Robert Fagan, British consul to Sicily and Malta, which was bought by the local authorities and kept for decades in the Antonino Salinas Regional Archeological Museum.
The Italian museum has now returned it on loan to Greece for eight years with a view of permanent repatriation.
"We wish that after Sicily, other regions and countries also decide to take a step forward so that we can build together a new humanism," Alberto Samona, councilor of cultural heritage and Sicilian identity in the Sicily region, said during Monday's event.
"The international community is entitled and demands to see this masterpiece of art in its entirety, reunited here at the Acropolis Museum, and not divided between Athens and London," Lina Mendoni, Greece's minister of culture and sports, said.
In the early 19th century, while Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire, half of the sculptures of the Parthenon were removed by British diplomat Lord Elgin. For decades, Greece has repeatedly asked for their repatriation.