After more than a decade gathering dust, a massive collection of pre-Colombian artefacts have been returned to the South American country.
Police had seized the collection of 691 pieces back in 2003 as part of a drug raid. Now in September 2014, 11 years later, the pieces, which cover a wide range of periods, cultures and artistic styles, have made their way back to museums and universities in Colombia where they can be analysed and put on display.
Like the end of ‘Indiana Jones: The Raiders of the Lost Ark’ – in which the Ark of the Covenant is locked away in a box within a huge storage warehouse, for any non-film geeks not familiar with the scene – the story illustrates just how easily crucial historical evidence can find itself hidden away in gloomy vaults. It would be right to say that one single piece will, in the vast majority of cases, not have a huge bearing on our understanding of the past, but a collection of this size can offer great insights into bygone ages.
With the artefacts dating back to the 10 centuries prior to the Spanish conquest of South America, they provide tangible clues to how society and culture developed in the region. It is another demonstration of how small, seemingly inanimate objects can offer us a richer, broader understanding of history.
As written sources become sparser and documentation is thin on the ground, shards of pottery and pieces of jewellery begin to take on far greater importance. That is why it remains integral that historically significant pieces are not simply locked away but are in the right hands to be properly appreciated and understood, thereby enhancing our historical knowledge.