Spain’s National Police Confiscates 37 Rare Archaeological Pieces From A Museum In Tarragona

Image of objects seized from Tarragona museum.

Image of objects seized from Tarragona museum. Credit: Twitter@policia

THE person in charge of a museum belonging to a private foundation in the province of Tarragona has been arrested by the National Police. 

After investigators discovered 37 archaeological pieces of great importance – believed to be the proceeds of looting – along with another 18 fake pieces, the person was detained on suspicion of alleged crimes against historical heritage, receiving, and theft of objects of social or cultural value.

In June 2021, a sculpture of a bull of Iberian origin that came from a theft committed in the province of Córdoba at the end of the 90s was confiscated from a museum in Tarragona, according to a statement from the force this Tuesday, September 5.

During this operation, the investigators noticed that archaeological goods were on exhibit in the museum. Due to their appearance, it was thought that they could also have come from archaeological looting.

These suspicions led to the opening of an investigation to clarify their origin. Police officers seized a total of 55 pieces, including Iberian sculptures, fragments of a Roman mosaic and other objects of Celtiberian origin.

The latter were transferred to Zaragoza for study by technicians from the Government of Aragon, while the rest were analysed by experts appointed by the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Five helmets of great importance were among the items confiscated

Among the seized effects, five helmets stand out for their importance. They included two Romans of Montefortino type and three others of Celtiberian origin. The latter were iconic pieces linked to the plundering of the well-known Celtiberian city of Aratis located in Aranda del Moncayo, Zaragoza, and its immediate surroundings.

Two were Hispano-Chalcidic helmets, dating approximately to the 3rd century BC. They were similar to those deposited in the Provincial Museum of the Aragonese capital after ruling 335/2010 of the criminal chamber of the Supreme Court on June 19, 2020.

The third Celtiberian helmet, a unique variant of the Alpanseque – Almaluez type, whose chronology was between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, is also a piece of extraordinary archaeological value.

Also coming from the Celtiberian city of Aratis and its immediate surroundings, the police seized other pieces of great relevance.

These included armour discs or kardiophylakes, numerous metal pieces of tetralobed shape that served as the personal adornment of the warriors, shield umbos, belt plaques, a baldric or hook belt, and pectoral plates used for ornamental purposes.

Aratis has been systematically looted since its accidental discovery

Among the latter, an exceptional openwork piece stands out for its rarity and integrity. Until now, only minimal fragments of similar pieces had ever been found.

The aforementioned ruling of the Supreme Court considered as a proven fact the illicit origin of all the materials linked to the Aratis site and its surroundings. It had been systematically looted since its accidental discovery in the late 1980s.

A common link between Aratis and the assets seized in the Tarragona museum is evident in the reports written by the experts.

It was no coincidence that one of the plates seized by the National Police was identical to another seized from the accused in the aforementioned case.

Both pieces were believed to have been crafted through the use of a single die, probably by the same artisan, within the same batch or production series.

Pieces originating from Andalucia were among those seized

In addition to the materials from Aragon, the police seized pieces with other geographical origins, mainly from Andalucia. Four fragments of a late Roman mosaic stand out that the researchers undoubtedly identified as coming from looting since they had the image of the entire mosaic before it was found and cut up by the looters for sale on the illicit market.

Two Iberian sculptures were also recovered that, due to their poor state of conservation, were deposited in the museum at judicial disposal. Of the 55 pieces analysed by the specialists, it was concluded that 37 were originals and that the other 18 were fakes, according to

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at