University Associate General Counsel Richard Kast said the artifacts were also given to the University by an anonymous donor.
Kast added that the University entered into an agreement with the donor to neither publicize the acroliths nor reveal the identity of the donor.
"Under the agreement that is in place, the University is not supposed to openly publicize the fact that they have the acroliths," Kast said.
Kast also said, however, that the University is "obviously" in the possession of the marbles.
"There is an agreement, and the agreement has been in place for a while," Kast said.
Several Italian news outlets have reported that the acroliths will be returned to the Aidone region in 2008. The New York Times article quoted Beatrice Basile, the art superintendent for the Italian province of Enna, as saying "We're happy they're coming back."
According to Malcolm Bell, III, University professor of art history and director of ongoing University excavations in Morgantina, the museum will display the artifacts until the end of this calendar year.
Bell added that he is "eager to see them returned" and "optimistic" about the possibility of their return to Italy. Bell also said the Times article was accurate.
Kast declined to comment on the possibility of ongoing inquiries from the Italian government to the University in reference to the acroliths.
That seems odd. They have these objects but are not allowed to publish the fact. It seems there is an agreement, but no announcement has been made. As the editorial asks:
Too many questions remain unanswered. Even more, it seems, haven't been asked. Who owns the masks? To whom do they rightly belong? Does the University Art Museum plan to return the masks? And if not, why? Until the public learns the truth, the circumstances surrounding the masks will continue to arouse suspicion.
I think that is exactly right. It seems like the University of Virginia has a good relationship with Italian authorities certainly, and perhaps is acting as a go-between for the anonymous donor, most likely Tempelman, and Italy.