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20 May 2014
Thieves destroy ancient rock painting in Spain

A 5,000 year-old rock painting in southern Spain has been destroyed by thieves who tried to steal the Unesco World Heritage-listed artwork by chipping it off the cave wall where it was housed. Local mayor Juan Caminero said the damage to the painting is 'irreparable' and condemned the act of vandalism as 'heartless'.
     News of the attempted theft emerged after visitors to the Los Escolares Cave noticed the damage to the zoomorphic painting of a person resembling a swallow. After noticing what looked like evidence of someone having tried to chip away at the image with a pick, they spotted fine dust and rock fragments on the floor.
     Jaén province is home to 42 sites with UNESCO-listed rock paintings, many of them freely accessible to the public and without not properly protected, according to the Speleology Federation of Andalusia (Fae).  These paintings are part of a significant group of several hundred sites along Spain's Mediterranean seaboard, and are the largest group of rock sites in Europe.
     "A lot of these places are abandoned and need greater supervision," Fae president José Antonio Berrocal said. "Although there is legislation protecting these sites in theory, there is a lack of political will," he added. "Obviously you can't have policemen stationed in every cave, but we need a system of continuous monitoring with officers coming around periodically to monitor the situation," the cave expert explained. "In some cases, closing off those caves may be the only option to protect world heritage paintings," he added.

Edited from The Local (21 April 2014)

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