Treasure of El Carambolo reignites row in Seville

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Mayor makes “surprise” promise to put hoard normally kept in a bank vault on show after pieces return from the Met

By Laurie Rojas. Web only
Published online: 03 April 2014

The Museo Arqueológico de Sevilla shows replicas of the Carambolo gold due to the lack of funds for adequate security

Three pieces of ancient golden jewellery, part of the Treasure of El Carambolo, are due to travel from Seville to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York this autumn. This week the mayor of Seville took many by surprise when he announced that on their return the entire 21-piece hoard will go on show in the southern Spanish city, reigniting a row about their display. The gold is normally kept in a bank vault.

Seville’s mayor, Juan Ignacio Zoido, apparently failed to check with museum officials first before promising that the artefacts would go on temporary show in the city’s government building in 2015. The secretary general of culture in Andalucía, María de Mar Alfaro, is not impressed. “In the effort to patch up the non-existent cultural agenda, he announces an exhibition without consulting the other institutions responsible for the artefacts,” she told the newspaper Diario de Sevilla.

Meanwhile, the director of Seville’s archaeology museum, Ana Navarro, told The Art Newspaper: “We have not received any request for a loan” from the city or the mayor. She has been in charge of co-ordinating the loans to the Met, which include other objects from the museum’s collection as well as the ancient gold.

The Treasure of El Carambolo dates from around the seventh-century BC. The hoard was found in 1958 in the site known as Carambolo Alto in Camas, which is 3km west of Seville. The objects are stored in a bank vault due to the lack of funds for adequate security in the Museo Arqueológico de Sevilla, a situation that the Andalucían culture secretary also criticised.

In 2012, Seville’s archaeology museum opened a gallery dedicated to Tartessian and Phoenician cultures, which now features replicas of the Carambolo hoard. The real jewels were shown for four months when the gallery opened, protected by an armed guard. The display of the treasure “was always intended to be a temporary, keeping a guard for 24-hours indeterminately is unsustainable financially” says a source close to the regional Ministry of Culture.

The Met’s show “From Assyria to Iberia: Crossing Continents at the Dawn of the Classical Age” is due to open in September. It aims to show how encounters between Persian and Hellenic cultures were fostered by Phoenician merchants through objects including “brilliantly carved ivories, fine metalwork, and luxurious jewellery created by Near Eastern artisans”, according to the museum’s website.

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