In Spain, largest swoop against archaeological looters

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MADRID -- Spanish police have arrested 52 people accused of plundering 300,000 artifacts from excavation sites throughout Andalusia in the largest swoop against illegal archaeological treasure hunting in the world, the interior ministry said.

The coins, urns, sculptures and mosaics from Iberian, Roman and Islamic settlements were stolen at night using metal detectors, historical maps of the digs and excavation manuals, police said. Sometimes watchmen collaborated with the thieves, letting them into sites and keeping a lookout.

Most of the 31 sites plundered were in the province of Seville, rich in ruins from Roman and Moorish times. Others were in the southern cities of Cadiz and Malaga...

Police learned about the antiquities ring during an investigation of illegal underwater looters who scavenged the Bay of Cadiz in search of shipwrecks and treasure from Spanish galleons. The underwater pirates used hi-tech equipment such as a submersible robot worth nearly £400,000 to identify, salvage and treat artifacts from the wrecks.

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