Sevilla’s historical artifacts sold online

Police seize 191 archaeological artefacts. Credit: PoliciaNacional.es

A recent investigation in Sevilla uncovered nearly 200 archaeological artefacts being illegally traded online.

A report published on Wednesday, April 3, by Spain’s National Police, detailed the recovery of 191 stolen archaeological pieces that were offered for sale through social networks.

The operation, spearheaded in Sevilla, has brought to light a substantial haul of items, including a rare medieval Islamic bronze lamp from the Caliphal period, believed to date back to between the mid-9th and mid-13th centuries.

The investigation led to the authorities identifying and apprehending the individual responsible, who was found promoting these historical treasures for sale on a popular social media platform.

Online monitoring leads to major discovery

The investigation was sparked by routine monitoring of social media for the illegal sale of archaeological goods. It wasn’t long before a particular profile caught the attention of the officers.

The profile displayed several artefacts of significant historical value indicating a broader network of looting and the illicit trafficking of cultural property.

The person behind this profile was found to have been engaging in these illegal activities over an extended period, not merely on an occasional basis.

A treasure trove of history

The operation led to a search warrant being issued at the suspect’s residence, where a treasure trove of artefacts was seized.

These items are now under the custody of the Andalucian Institute of Historical Heritage (IAPH) in Sevilla for further study. The items range from prehistoric flint tools to Roman, medieval, and modern objects such as coins, fibulas, and brooches.

Notably, the use of metal detectors was evident in the recovery of these artefacts, many of which bore traces of soil, suggesting they were unlawfully removed from their original archaeological origins.

The loss to heritage

The haul included a variety of artefacts, each telling a unique story of the past. Among them, a standout is the Caliphal-era lamp, a remarkable piece likely once part of the domestic setting of a wealthy Hispanic-Muslim household.

The indiscriminate extraction of these items, devoid of any archaeological methodology, has led to an irreversible loss of knowledge and context.

It is believed that the items would have been extracted without archaeological methodology, which represents a significant loss of information related to both the pieces and the sites of origin, and ultimately an irreparable loss to Spain’s cultural heritage.

The collection includes a variety of historical items from different periods. It has 20 bifaces (tools with sharp edges), various pieces of jewellery like rings, pins, and buckles, as well as needles and coins. There are also arrowheads, axes, decorative pieces from Roman situlas (buckets), and Roman bronze coins.

In addition, there are Iberian spinning tools from the Bronze Age, 7 coins from various eras including Muslim and modern times, a fragment of a medieval amphora (a type of jar), two ceramic plates, and Byzantine buckles.

The recovery operation not only underscores the importance of monitoring social media for illicit trade but also reminds us of the irreversible damage that looting inflicts on our understanding of history and heritage.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.

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