Jan 21

Discovery of Artefacts by Chance

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To read this article in Spanish, click here.

In a previous post, we discussed the chance discovery of Antiquities within our legal system. We stated that both the discoverer and the owner had the right to a compensation equivalent to half the value that the legal evaluation should give to the item, which would then be distributed among them equally.

hallazgo casual de antigüedadesThis said, we also discussed the issue of what would be the basis of the value of the object of calculation; the antiquities actually found by the discoverer or the entire deposit, when precisely the news of the finding leads to the Administration discovering other antiquities and elements in the same archaeological site.

Obviously, the Administration has always tried to connect the compensation with the few antiquities found rather than the entire site, against the interests of the discoverer, whose economic expectations suffer as a result.

The Supreme Court in its recent ruling of April 24, 2012 (section 4, nº 1509 resource / 2010) confirmed it´s previous criterion of January 17, 1992, by understanding that the compensation is calculated with reference to the whole of the archaeological site and not just the value of the objects actually found.

The decision of April 2012 dismissed the appeal lodged by the Junta de Andalucía and rules in favour of the discoverers, who found bones and pottery shards in a place (grounds of the dam of the Barbate River, in the municipality of Alcalá de Los Gazules) of which technical personnel, who visited it the day after, said, “the existence of structures carved into the natural terrain, as well as ostostratos which could be configured dolmens of small and medium-sized and therefore artificial funerary structures”.

The discovery triggered the corresponding archaeological intervention, giving rise, as it reads in the sentence, to “the location of other graves” and, in sum, to the discovery of the Necropolis del Paraje de Monte Bajo.

In my opinion, we should not be discouraging the collaboration of private individuals in the conservation of the Spanish Historic Heritage in order to prevent plundering. If the Administration adopts petty assessment criteria nothing but undesirable consequences will ensue.

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Antonio Pedro Rodríguez Bernal
Lawyer and renowned specialist in the law applicable to the art market, historical heritage and antiques. He has participated in numerous international transactions of valuable works of art, either as a lawyer of the parties or of the participating dealers. He is frequently invited to radio programmes or interviewed in the press to discuss current issues relating to the Law of art, historical heritage and antiques.
Email: info@rodriguezbernal.com

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