Looting Matters: Looting in Spain

Dec 17, 2010, 12:01 ET from Looting Matters

SWANSEA, Wales, Dec. 17, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on the recent seizure of antiquities in Spain.

In early December it was reported that 85 arrests across seven provinces of Spain had been made as part of Operation Carolina Mosaico.  A numismatist and a German national were among those detained. A total of 115 searches were made and some 6,000 Roman and medieval coins, arrowheads, Roman brooches, Visigothic personal adornments, as well as inscribed Arabic stelai.

It appears that the network of "explorers" focused on specific sites that were then combed with the use of metal-detectors. The resulting finds were passed into the international market including Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Some of the material appears to have been sold through internet auction sites.

The group's activities were not confined to antiquities. Some 120 kg of gold, worth some $5 million (4 million Euros), and 900,000 Euros ($1.2 million) formed part of the haul. There also appears to have been a workshop producing sophisticated forgeries.

The impact of the arrests already seem to be making an impact on those dealers who have been dealing in recently-surfaced coins derived from the Spanish market.

These latest arrests follow other arrests made in November. In that case a number of individuals were alleged to have been looting a Roman cemetery. One of the individuals had apparently consigned a marble column-base to a major auction-house in London.

Spain has been attracting considerable attention in recent years. A Barcelona dealer consigned an Egyptian coffin that was seized in Florida and subsequently returned to Egypt. The same dealer is also linked to the sale of material from the Tomb of Imep-Hor that now features in a list of "wanted" material issued by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Barcelona has witnessed part of an investigation, Operaton Ghelas, conducted by Italian police. This traced material from Sicily that was being passed to clients in Switzerland, Spain, the United Kingdom and Germany. At the same time some 22 objects in Madrid's National Archaeological Museum have been identified from images seized at several locations in Switzerland and in Greece. This research appears to suggest links with the same networks of dealers associated with the return of material from North American museums.


SOURCE Looting Matters