Spanish Police Recover Nearly 200 Looted Archaeological Pieces

Published: 05 April 2024

Spain Police ArtifactsAmong the seized pieces was a medieval Islamic candle dated between the mid-ninth and mid-thirteenth century in good condition. (Photo: Policía Nacional/X, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

Spanish authorities recovered 191 trafficked archaeological pieces that were offered for sale on social media networks in Seville. Among the recovered objects were prehistoric, medieval and modern pieces, as well as pre-Roman and Roman artifacts.

Authorities launched an investigation after they managed to identify a social media profile that showed several archaeological pieces, allegedly looted or trafficked, for sale. Investigators found that the person had been dealing with looted artifacts for years.

During a raid of the suspect’s home, officers seized antique objects like rings, pins, needles, buckles, coins, arrowheads, axes, appliques coins from different periods as well as ceramic plates.

The authorities highlighted a medieval Islamic bronze lamp from the Caliphate period, dated between the mid-ninth and mid-thirteenth centuries. The well-preserved piece would have been part of the domestic furniture of a wealthy Hispano-Muslim house, officials said.

According to the report, the implicated individual used metal detectors to loot the artifacts and did not follow a rigorous archaeological methodology, thus preventing the process of scientific documentation of the pieces.

The recovered pieces are all authentic and were placed in the Andalusian Institute of Historical Heritage in Seville for study, the Spanish Police informed.

The trafficking of antiquities, fossils and patrimonial artifacts is gaining momentum in Spain. Last September more than 6,400 items, including the world's oldest daisy flower fossil and a complete duck-billed dinosaur skeleton, were sent back to Argentina after being smuggled into Spain in 2020.

Antiquities trafficking has also been found to be related to other criminal markets such as drug and arms trafficking. In 2022, Spanish authorities raided the home of a suspected drug trafficker and found a cache of archaeological artifacts dating back to the 12th century.