Police track down 11th century treasure

by Deborah Cater
11th century treasure exhibited at Archaeological Museum of Cordoba
del canto chambers 2

The exhibition of 11th century treasure at the Archaeological Museum of Cordoba is only possible following a National Police investigation into possible illegal treasure trade. 

In 1009, a civil war lasting over 20 years broke out in the Caliphate of Córdoba between two warring factions seeking power. Political instability spread fear among the public, which, according to experts, could be why a rich Jewish citizen hid the incredible treasure trove in Baena, Córdoba.

Roll on a thousand years and a photograph on social media alerts the regional National Police to the treasure’s existence.  The following investigation ended last year with the discovery of the “11th century’s best collection of jewellery,” according to Alberto Canto, professor of archaeology at the Autonomous University of Madrid.

The Amarguilla treasure

The Amarguilla treasure is named after the estate where it was found. It consists of 623 pieces of 11th-century jewellery. “The condition of the collection is good, particularly as it has spent the past year undergoing a process of restoration by experts from the Museum of Córdoba,” according to the Andalucian regional government. €15,000 was spent on restoring the pieces.

Alberto Canto, is a leading specialist in Al-Andalus and he says, “It is simply spectacular. I have not seen anything like it. It is impossible to know who hid it or to whom it belonged, because it lacks coins, but most likely it belonged to a Jewish individual, since there is a Star of David among the pieces. It also looks like a bride’s trousseau, because it includes many pieces that would be attached to tunics.”

Star of David brooch

Gold Star of David ÁLVARO HOLGADO (MUSEO ARQUEOLÓGICO DE CÓRDOBA)

nederlandse orthopeed

However, it is highly possibly the collection is not complete according to Canto, as reported in El Pais. “All Umayyad Caliphate treasures include coins, which suggests that, in this case, they have been sold because these kinds of pieces sell easily, while the jewellery does not. The lack of coins makes it difficult for us to establish exactly when it was buried. But I am leaning towards the beginning of the 11th century.”

Police investigation into 11th century treasure

All of the pieces were stained by soil, indicating the treasure had been dug up only recently. The police investigation took place across several Córdoba municipalities including Baena, where the treasure was finally found.

Archaeologists remain unconvinced by the account of the individual found with the treasure. As a result, they have not carried out any excavations to determine if other elements are buried there.

National Police sources a local archaeologist brought the treasure to their attention. The archaeologist found social media photographs of pieces with archaeological value. The police followed a trail to the treasure. The police say their investigation only intended to prevent the treasure being traded illegally.

Exhibition at Archaeological Museum of Córdoba

Cordoba museum exhibition poster

 

María Dolores Baena, director of the Archaeological Museum of Córdoba, highlights the restoration work carried by the museum. Advanced techniques, such as laser technology,  restored the treasure’s original appearance.

The collection is on display as a temporary exhibition until 6th June, after which it will be in the museum’s permanent exhibition. “It is one of the best collections of jewellery we own,” says Baena. “The six-pointed star is unique. There is nothing like it, making it extraordinary valuable.”

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