Story By: Joseph Golder, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News
These startling images from the French police show the 3,000-strong trove of priceless prehistoric and Bronze Age artefacts a dad and son allegedly pillaged from a UNESCO-protected lake for “years”.
They would dive into the lake with a metal detector and bring the relics – many of which date back as far as the Bronze Age with some perhaps even dating back to prehistoric times – to the surface.
Cops found the 3,000 items from the UNESCO World Heritage site from the dad’s house, including arrow tips, axes, knives, small statues, as well as coins, all said to extremely valuable.
The items date back to the Neolithic, the Bronze Age, and the Antiquity periods.
The incident took place in the Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region of eastern France where cops found that the duo had allegedly pillaged the Aiguebelette lake for “years.”
The duo, who have not been named due to local privacy laws are aged 43 and 19 respectively and they reportedly confessed after being arrested on 10th February by police from the town of Pont-de-Beauvoisin.
They were released after being questioned. The investigation is still ongoing and it is currently unclear if they have been charged.
The gendarmes were quoted in local media as saying: “It is the Chambery prosecutor’s office that will decide on prosecutions pending an expert report from the Regional Directorate for Cultural Affairs (DRAC) and depending on the investigations.”
The father and son are currently the subject of a preliminary investigation for “destruction or modification without authorisation of a classified territory”, “degradation of archaeological heritage”, “theft of classified objects and the “use without authorisation of metal detectors”.
Suspicions had begun back in May 2019 when the lake’s guards noticed that the two men were behaving suspiciously. The Aiguebelette lake has guards because it is a UNESCO-protected site.
The lake contains prehistoric pile dwellings, which is why it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The guards noticed the two men wondering around the lake with metal detectors and sometimes going for dives with air tanks.
The investigation has not yet determined if there was an illicit trade of the items going as the suspects “are aware of the value of the items found in their possession”.
At the time of writing, the two men are depicted in local media as being collectors who started “their own private museum.”
Two experts from the DRAC in Lyon and one from the Department of Sub-Aquatic and Underwater Archaeological Research in Marseille assisted the gendarmes during the search and confirmed the value of the archaeological treasure to be at least in the “several tens of thousands of euros”, according to local media.
According to UNESCO, prehistoric pile dwellings in the Alps are stilt house settlements built from around 5,000 to 500 B.C.
They were often built on the edges of lakes, rivers or wetlands, with 111 sites in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, France, Austria and Slovenia, added to UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2011.
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