A thousand years later, a photograph that appeared on social media alerted the National Police in the region to the treasure’s existence and the fact that it could be illegally traded. The ensuing investigation resulted in the seizure last year of the "11th century’s best collection of jewelry", according to Alberto Canto, professor of archaeology at the Autonomous University of Madrid. The incredible find is now on display at the Archaeological Museum of Córdoba.
"It is simply spectacular", says Canto, one of the world’s leading specialists in Al-Andalus and a researcher of the Medina Azahara archeological site. "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".
But Canto believes the collection is not complete, as the coin element has not been found. "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 jewelry does not. No antique dealer or collector would buy them [the jewelry pieces]. 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".
However, the individual’s explanations regarding the original site of the buried treasure reportedly failed to convince archaeologists and consequently, no excavation has been undertaken to determine whether other elements are still to be discovered there.
National Police sources explain that their attention was first drawn to the treasure up for sale online by a local archaeologist who discovered photographs of several pieces with possible archaeological value on social media. The police were then able to follow a trail that eventually led them to the treasure. Once discovered, the individual who had the treasure in their possession intended to deliver it to the Baena City Council, though in the end it was handed to the Andalusian regional government and from there to the museum. The police stress that their investigation was only intended to avoid the possibility of the treasure being traded illegally.
Meanwhile, the director of the Archaeological Museum of Córdoba, María Dolores Baena, is keen to flag up the restoration work that has been carried out on the collection, which includes the most advanced techniques, such as laser technology, to restore the treasure’s original appearance. Until June 6, the collection will be displayed as a temporary exhibition at the museum, which boasts more than 35,000 pieces. The jewels will then go on to form part of the museum’s permanent exhibition. "It is one of the best collections of jewelry we own", says Baena. "The six-pointed star is unique. There is nothing like it, making it extraordinary valuable".
All photos courtesy of the Archaelogical Mueseum of Córdoba
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