A mania of the locals

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SCX-3200_20150317_17483801The analysis of the archives kept at the State Archive of Bari (ASBa) has come up with more than one surprise for the staff of Rubi Antiqua! Among the most interesting stories discovered to date we can quote from the report of the Inspector of the Province of Bari, sent during summer 1825 to the Minister of the Interior, who was in charge of archaeological excavations in the Kingdom of Naples (ASBa, MSA, B5, f.26).

The Inspector describes the “mania” that has grown up among some of the locals to get their hands on the precious antiquities available in huge quantities, by any means and by day or by night. The figured vases found in the necropolis that today we can date to the IV century B.C. were precious “goods” nurturing a profitable and often wholly illegal trade. The protagonists of this trade, responsible for the increase in the demand for, and hence supply of, ancient vases, were foreign travellers with a passion for antiquities, but devoid of scruples when it came to the laws safeguarding the cultural heritage.

A specific law imposed the control of the State and the assessment of the finds on the part of a Commission of Fine Arts, that could grant or deny the right to export. Faced with this archaeological “haemorrhage”, the central authorities ordered the Mayor of Ruvo to draw up an inventory of the most important finds, kept in the houses of the leading citizens. The resulting list was almost ridiculous, both for the small number of pieces and the common qualification that they were “without importance”. Stung by this response the Inspector of Bari, in agreement with the Minister, sent the gendarmerie to Ruvo to carry out a thorough search, but on their arrival the most beautiful vases had vanished! Almost two hundred years later, the staff of Rubi Antiqua are gathering clues as to their fate, reconstructing the itinerary that saw them end up in the major European collections.

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