Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Antiquities Authority raid yields lorry loads of Stolen Artefacts

Inspectors from the Israeal Antiquities Authority's unit for the prevention of theft believe the owner of a business that deals in garden ornaments from a moshav (collective farm) near Hod Hasharon was selling stolen artefacts and has seized an extraordinarily large quantity of ancient artefacts from his premises (photo). Guy Fitoussi, an archeologist and an inspector in the unit inspected the site and then issued a search warrant and sent a team there equipped with a crane to load the items onto trucks. Three truckloads of artefacts were removed altogether, weighing several tons. The seized items included parts of olive presses; capitals and bases of stone pillars; lintels; a magnificent stone gate; and two carved stone sarcophagi.
"I don't recall ever seeing this many pieces," Fitoussi said. "It is certainly one of the largest hauls. We can't recall confiscating such an amount from any one person in the past decade." It is presumed that the suspect bought some of the items in the West Bank, while others were stolen from archeological sites inside Israel. It is not yet clear whether he was responsible for the thefts himself, or if he acquired the artifacts from others.

"The suspect said during the investigation that this was his private collection, and he denied trading in antiquities," Fitoussi said. The suspect also reportedly told his interrogators that he had planned to place the artifacts in public gardens.

Officials from the Antiquities Authority believe the man brought archeological items from the Palestinian territories into Israel in contravention of the law, that he dealt in antiquities without holding a license to do so, and that he damaged archeological sites in Israel by removing objects from them at his own initiative.

"It seems as if this business has been operating for several years," Fitoussi added. "We suspect the artifacts were brought into Israel via Qalqilyah and there is a reasonable basis to believe that some were stolen inside Israel."

"The damage done to archeological sites by removing objects of this kind is tremendous," he continued. "It irreparably harms our ability to learn about various historical eras and to pass on to the next generations the information and historical knowledge embodied in archeological sites."

Noah Kosharek, 'Antiquities Authority raid yields 2,000-year-old stolen artifacts' Haaretz, September 14.

Photo: tidying up the suspected antiquity dealer's yard.

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