Itongadol.- A multitude of illegally traded rare antiquities, including bronze arrowheads and coins bearing the names of Hasmonean rulers, were seized by the Israel Antiquities Authority on Tuesday during a raid of a souvenir shop in Jerusalem’s upscale Mamilla Mall.
The items, which the store’s unidentified owner was not licensed to sell, were recovered following an investigation by the authority’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery after he attempted to sell some of the relics to undercover investigators.
According to the IAA, the raid follows new regulations enacted in March requiring Israeli antiquities dealers to manage their commercial inventory using a computerized system developed by the authority to prevent such illicit trade.
“The move, which tracks the items, was designed to prevent antiquities dealers from ‘laundering’ illegal artifacts that are the product of antiquities robbery, namely the illicit excavation of archaeological sites that eradicate knowledge about the country’s and the world’s cultural heritage solely for the purpose of profit,” the authority said in a statement.
“The souvenir shop was selling antiquities at the prestigious mall even though it had not obtained a license to do so.”
Dr. Eitan Klein, the IAA’s supervisor in charge of the antiquities trade, said the regulations were enacted due to the rampant sales of plundered antiquities on the international black market.
“Prior to enacting the regulations, the situation with the ancient market was nothing short of miraculous, whereby there was always an abundance of finds on the shelves,” he said.
“Yet the dealers were constantly bemoaning the fact that sales were extremely weak. These reports raise questions about the remarkable survival of these stores for decades. In practice, it was abundantly clear that in order to supply the merchandise, antiquities sites in Israel and around the world were being plundered, and history was sold to the highest bidder.”
Klein noted that the raid of the Mamilla store is a small part of the broader effort by the authority to “preserve the cultural heritage of the State of Israel, which belongs to all of its citizens, and prevent the laundering of stolen antiquities by manipulating the commercial inventory of authorized antiquities dealers.”
An indictment against the store’s owner is expected to be filed this week, the authority said.