Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Spain is Bankrupt; So Why Prop Up a Bankrupt System?

The New York Times reports on the bust of a 60 year old amateur archaeologist from a small village in Spain who found the ruins of a Celtic-Iberian city, but instead of reporting it, exploited the site, selling some of the objects and keeping the others.  People knew there were ruins in the area, but archaeologists never bothered to excavate the site, and no one apparently cared what the man was doing until a German archaeological activist noticed some valuable Celtic helmets for sale in Germany, and pressured authorities to undertake an investigation.  Spanish police eventually got  involved, arresting the man and seizing 4,000 or so artifacts.   The local mayor hopes that the artifacts could be featured in a local museum that will bring tourists to his small village.  But Spain is bankrupt.  The prospects for any such museum sound far-fetched, and even if it were built, would such a museum really bring tourists? And are most of the artifacts really museum quality anyway?  Frankly, it would be better for Spain to have a system like the Portable Antiquities Scheme that encourages people to report what they find.  Most artifacts should be returned to the finder after they are recorded so they can be sold to help bring some much needed currency to Spain's bankrupt economy.  As it is, given Spain's economic meltdown, nothing good will likely ever come of this episode for the small village where these artifacts were found.

2 comments:

kyri said...

if someone found a helmet made of bronze in the uk they wouldnt have to report it,our PAS is not as good as you think it is,too many loopholes.i used to think it was better than nothing but untill these loopholes are closed im not so sure.also its open to seeding stolen or looted pieces as a means to llegitimise them,as has happend in the past.apparently the helmets that were on sale in germany were very rare and only a few fragmentary pieces exist in spanish museums so they were museum quality and important.
kyri.

stoutstandards said...

John Howland who handles the Malamute Saloon link on my blog asked me to share this...

Perhaps Kyri could supply evidence of this illicit seeding of artefacts to legitimise them as a way of circumventing the PAS?
Without any hard evidence this is just so much hearsay, anecdotal gossip, al la Paul Barford.