SEPRONA, the specialised division of the Guardia Civil identified that a number of advertisements were appearing on the internet offering a range of different archaeological items and their office in Malaga was assigned the investigation.
There were suspicions that a number of these pieces were looted from archaeological sites, both offshore and inshore, and action was taken to both identify those involved in the trade and to find any pieces that were being offered for sale in an endeavour to establish their provenance.
In the course of their investigation, the officers arrested 10 people suspected of misappropriation of archaeological material and also of offering faked antiques for sale.
Once seized, the officers were able to pass 128 items to the National Museum of Anthropology for testing and it transpired that a number of pieces were fake, including a so-called ‘shrunken head’ being offered for sale at €4,980 that had been constructed using animal skin.
In addition, a number of pieces were considered to have been illegally obtained as they had not been notified to the proper authorities when found. In the case of any item taken from a shipwreck, there was an additional problem as this was desecration of a historical site.
The antiquities are currently lodged in the Malaga Museum and are expected to eventually be delivered to the Office of Planning, Heritage and the Environment of Malaga once the case is completed.