TARRAGONA – In a private museum in the province of Tarragona, the National Police has recovered a statue of Iberian origin. The 2,500-year-old statue of a bull was discovered by a farmer while planting olive trees in Córdoba in the 1990s.
The statue has been dated between the 4th and 5th centuries BC. The farm worker is said to have found it in two pieces while working in the municipality of Castro del Río and took it with him. He then noticed a lot of interest in his find from all over Spain. Whereupon he eventually sold the statue to a private individual instead of reporting it to the competent authorities.
The investigation began when researchers found the Iberian bull in a private foundation museum in the province of Tarragona in 2020. The statue was intact and restored, but according to the researchers, it consisted of two blocks of stone.
The agents had tracked down the ancient statue after references to the Iberian bull in a scientific article by a prestigious archaeologist in 2004. At the same time, the statue was mentioned in a review on a blog by someone who lived in Córdoba. The article explains the pieces of stone found “it is a very soft and fine-grained whitish limestone, very suitable for cutting”. That made the subsequent ‘restoration’ possible, police sources reported, according to Epe.es.
The researchers then contacted these two individuals. They claimed to have seen the two fragments of the Iberian statue shortly after the find in the field.
The stealer sold the piece to a private individual
After further investigation, it was possible to identify the farm worker who stole the statue. He acknowledged that he had found the Iberian bull in two pieces in the 1990s. He also said that news of the discovery spread quickly because many people were interested in the statue from different parts of Spain. Furthermore, he eventually sold the bull to someone in Barcelona.
Historical Heritage Act
The officers determined that the current Spanish law on historical heritage was already in force when the statue was found. This means that the find should have been reported to the competent authorities even then because it was public property. Since this clearly did not happen, the sale of the statue by its finder is ultimately illegal.
Why was the statue in that spot?
The research work states that “a direct relationship between the site and a large Iberian settlement cannot be established. The area is located halfway between the two closest oppida near Castro del Río”. However, the statue may be related to the monument’s funerary purpose to which it is said to belong, as well as other sculptures found in the countryside of Córdoba, such as the lioness of La Rambla.
The search was carried out with the cooperation of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, through the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Fine Arts. Finally, the piece stolen in Cordoba was transferred to the facilities of the Institute of Spanish Cultural Heritage (IPCE). There, a scientific-technical study was carried out based on various imaging and material characterisation techniques. They wanted to determine the possible damage that the piece might have suffered as a result of the changes made.
For example, it appears that the criteria and recommendations of competent organisations in the field of conservation and restoration of cultural heritage have not been followed. In addition, the cleaning treatments applied and the interventions committed to joining the two pieces have caused irreversible changes.