The delivery has taken place at the headquarters of the Unesco, in Paris, in an act attended by the General Director of Fine Arts of the Ministry of Culture, Román Fernández-Baca; the collector Christian Levett, founder and owner of the museum; and the Spanish ambassador to Unesco, Juan Andrés Perelló.

The bronze pieces, dated between the sixth and third centuries BC. C., will travel to Spain to join the permanent collection of the Zaragoza Museum, where they will be studied before their public exhibition.

The general director of Fine Arts has highlighted in Paris the importance of the joint collaboration of people and institutions that has made this archaeological restoration possible. "In the fight against the illicit traffic in cultural property, only the sum of everyone's efforts is the guarantee of success," he said, expressly mentioning the work of the scientific community, the Coordinating Office of the Environment, Urban Planning and Historical Heritage , of the security forces and bodies of the State, of the Government of Aragon and of Levett himself.

Fernández-Baca has also underlined the complexity of the case that has hindered his resolution until today: "The city and necropolis of Arátikos was subject to a plunder, slow, systematic and constant, which lasted for decades and that despite the voices of alarm unfortunately, it could not be prevented. Only when in 2018 the Provincial Court of Zaragoza issued the sentence that without any doubt accredited the pillage and condemned the guilty parties, the door was opened for the recovery of the pieces, allowing us to be here today " .

With the delivery in Paris, the efforts initiated in September 2018 by the Spanish ambassador to Unesco, Juan Andrés Perelló, who informed the Ministry of Culture of the interest of the collector Christian Levett to return the seven helmets he had acquired – are terminated – without knowing its illicit origin – in two auctions held in 2008 and 2009 and in the antiquarian market in 2012, and which had subsequently deposited in the museum founded by him in the French town of Mougins.

Ambassador Perelló has indicated that "this act connects directly with the spirit of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and is an example of good practices that should be valued for the future by collectors Museums and States".

The agreement reached recognizes the good faith of the collector Levett in the purchase of the pieces, as well as his will to return to his rightful owner, once the pillage has been legally accredited.

Arátikos, the Celtiberian city destroyed by the Roman army

The seven helmets returned today to Spain come from the Celtiberian city of Arátikos, erected in the Iron Age and destroyed by the army of RomeMinistry of Culture and Sports between 74 and 72 BC, on the occasion of the Sertorian wars that also ended Numancia. This settlement was located in the so-called Cerro de Castejón, on the town of Aranda del Moncayo, in Zaragoza.

Since the late 80s and early 90s of the twentieth century, the necropolis was systematically pillaged by two neighbors who came to gather an extraordinary collection of Celtiberian metal pieces corresponding to the Iron age.

Among the findings were remains and fragments of a batch of 18 Celtiberian helmets of Hispanic-calcid bill that were illegally exported abroad by the perpetrators in collaboration with a Spanish antiquarian, resident in Switzerland. Two of those helmets were sold in London, another in Hong Kong, and the remaining 15 were purchased by German Alex Guttmann in Berlin, considered the world's largest private collector of ancient weapons, who incorporated the pieces into his collection until his death.

After his death, in 2001, the heirs sold part of the lot of helmets and seven of them – now returned to Spain – ended up in the Christian Levett collection.

More than eleven years of research

Several investigators alerted the Ministry of Culture about the possible plundering of a celtiberian deposit and, although the suspicions of the plundering could not be accredited initially, all the information was put in the hands of the Historical Patrimony Brigade of the National Police so that the actions were initiated relevant judicial. The Court of Instruction No. 35 of Madrid opened preliminary proceedings, although the case was filed in 2011.

The investigations continued and, finally, the collaboration of the then Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, the Government of Aragon, the Office of the Environment, Urban Planning and Historical Heritage and the Civil Guard, culminated in March 2013 in the Helmet I operation, with the arrest of one of the perpetrators of the plunder and the intervention at his home of 4,000 archaeological pieces. Five months later, the Helmet II operation was closed, which arrested the second author of the plunder, and seized 2,000 more archaeological pieces.

The two detainees were sentenced in July 2018 by the Provincial Court of Zaragoza to prison sentences and fines, as well as to the delivery and adjudication to the Spanish State and the Autonomous Community of Aragon of all intervened archaeological assets. The investigation of the seized pieces allowed to prove the origin of the celtiberian helmets that had appeared for sale in the European auctions to initiate a recovery work that is still open, with the aim of achieving the return to Spain of the eight helmets still without to locate.

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