A centuries-old treasure found in Boston came from Italy, but now customs agents are trying to track the route taken to get it here.

“It ultimately ended up being a 17th century Venetian swivel gun,” C. Shane Campbell from Customs and Border Protection said.

The canon-like weapon wasn’t easy to find, it was packed into a piece of heavy equipment.

“They had to get out torches and saws, it looks like the arm of an excavator so they had to get into this and buried inside that was the cannon,” Campbell said.

Agents from Homeland Security got a tip that the antique gun was headed to the United States from Egypt on a container ship, but it was a needle in the haystack among the 55,000 containers that come into Boston’s port every year.

“Customs and Border Protections has a national targeting center which is down in Reston, Virginia which has a great job of vetting information from prior seizures for example, prior shipments. They’re able to put out intelligence reports which allows these inspectors to target specific ships and target specific containers,” Special Agent in Charge at HIS Boston Bruce Foucart said.

Agents are still investigating the circumstances of the theft and where it was going in the states, but say they are gratified that the antique cannon will now be returned to its rightful owner; the Italian government.

“It’s invaluable and we’re going to have a big ceremony over in Rome when the time comes, when it’s completely forfeited,” Campbell said.

Customs agents say the Italian government should get the cannon back sometime in January.

Since 2007 more than 7,000 stolen items from more than 20 countries have been recovered with the help of tips.

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