Looting continues in Italy

While the bilateral agreement has been an effective deterrent since its signing in 2001, looting continues. See:

  • “The great smash and grab” by Rose George, The Independent, May 1 2005. “Italy is a treasure trove of buried antiquities. But now they are being systematically plundered.
  • “The ransack of Italy’s history” by Rory Carroll, Dante News, June 2003. “Italy is home to countless hidden tombs and burial chambers bearing antiquities dating back thousands of years. For academics and archaeologists they are historical treasure troves, but for an illicit band of criminals they are a passport into a billion-pound international smuggling operation.
  • The following firsthand account of the damaging effects of looting came from Professor Brian McConnell, who conducted archaeological field research in Sicily for over two decades. This was presented by SAFE intern Rebecca Davidson at the CPAC hearing on September 8, 2005. All photographs were taken by Prof. McConnell:

Photo 1, taken in spring of 2003 shows how a bobcat-style tractor used by looters damaged the archaeological site Poggio Cocola (municipality of Paternò, province of Catania, Sicily). The area, known to the Soprintendenza per i Beni Culturali ed Ambientali di Catania (excavation and survey conducted in 1995) is mentioned in several publications. The remains—dating from the tenth through the fifth century B.C.—indicate the presence of a settlement of the indigenous Sikel people. The site has an urban grid plan and clear evidence of Greek influence in architecture and material culture; the ancient place —Aetna-Inessa— is possibly associated with this location. Various cultural materials (much pottery and stones possibly used at one time in construction) were found in the spoil piles during a formal inspection of the site by the Soprintendenza. Prof. Brian E. McConnell was present at that inspection.

Photo 2 shows the deep cut from the Bobcat-style digging machine.

Photo 3, dated about 1998, shows a deep bulldozer cut at the looted site of Monte Castellaccio (municipality of Paternò, province of Catania, Sicily). Part of the same settlement system as Poggio Cocola, the site is closer to the Simeto river; remains excavated here date from as early as the Early Bronze Age (possible Paleolithic remains have been cited in the area), but the bulk dates between the tenth and the sixth centuries B.C.

In 1991 four bulldozers were seen digging into the archaeological strata. Representatives of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Culturali ed Ambientali di Catania stopped this activity even though one bulldozer operator pulled out a pistol in order to scare the inspector. Since then a program of excavation, public education, and the inclusion of public participation in official archaeological excavations of the Soprintendenza through the association SiciliAntica have focused on this site. Dr. Brian E. McConnell directed scientific research at this location.

Photo 4 shows two men were encountered by an excavation crew at Monte Catalfaro (municipality of Mineo, province of Catania, Sicily) of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Culturali ed Ambientali di Catania on a morning in June of 1999. They were carrying a metal detector and digging equipment and upon questioning, admitted that they were searching for “Byzantine things”. They were arrested by the Carabinieri of the Mineo station, and a complaint against them was filed. Prof. McConnell, who took this digital photograph was present as scientific director of the excavation.