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Spaniard jailed for destroying Neolithic cave to make animal shelter


A Spanish businessman has been sentenced to two and half years in prison for the destruction of an archaeological site which experts say held the key to the secrets of human life in Neolithic Spain.

Spaniard jailed for destroying Neolithic cave to make animal shelter
Chaves Cave [Credit: Museo de Huesca]
Victorino Alonso was found guilty of a “crime against heritage” by ordering the use of mechanical diggers to widen a cave in the Pyrenees where humans had dwelt between 8,000BC and the Bronze Age.

The multimillionaire mine operator, known in Spain as “the king of coal”, used the site as a shelter and feeding site for animals on the surrounding hunting estate, run by a company owned by Mr Alonso.

The destruction of the Chaves Cave in the region of Aragon led to the disappearance of carved bones, thousands of ceramic fragments, a 6,000-year-old burial site and examples of geometric art.

The cave had barely been explored by archaeologists, who say that 90 per cent of the sediments relating to its human occupation have been crushed and dispersed.  

“It’s like a page being ripped out of the history of mankind,” said Spain’s best-known paleoanthropologist, Juan Luis Arsuaga, joint director of the country’s important Atapuerca site. Chaves, he said, “was a unique site in Europe with remains dating from the dawn of agriculture and pastoral activities in the Iberian peninsula”.

Mr Alonso told the court in Huesca that he had not been involved in the decision to dig inside the cave, which, he added, had not been properly signalled. The damage was done in 2007, but not reported until two years later.

The businessman has said that he intends to appeal against the conviction, which, as well as the jail sentence, saw him hit with a fine of €25.4 million (£22 million).

Fimbas, Mr Alonso’s company which runs the hunting estate, has been investigated for a series of alleged infractions in relation to its transformation of the Chaves Cave valley, which is part of a natural park. The company has been accused of digging illegal reservoirs and was fined for introducing a goat native to North Africa.

Author: James Badcock | Source: The Telegraph [November 15, 2016]
TANN

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