Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Crime of the Cave Bear

June 11th, 2009 · 1 Comment

cavebearWe’re in the midst of reading our pal Ulrich Boser’s book The Gardner Theft, which has taught us a heckuva lot about the art-crime world. One of the tome’s essential lessons is that 99.99 percent of art thieves are not experts, a la Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment. They instead tend to be lunkhead robbers who target paintings, statues, and fossils because such items are rarely well-guarded. Alas, this means the crooks usually have no idea how to care for the goodies they swipe—and, in many instances, no idea how to convert them into cash money.

These facts disturb in light of the recent theft of an entire cave-bear skeleton from the Orlovaca cave museum near Sarajevo. We reckon the thieves didn’t realize how fragile the bones are, nor how priceless—it is the second-largest cave-bear skeleton in the world, dating back some 16,000 years. Even if the fragile specimen survives the rough handling, it’ll be tough to fence at the local pawn shop. There is, however, something of a market for cave-bear bone fragments, so perhaps the thieves will be forced to go the destructive route in order to turn a profit. And paleontology will be much the poorer for their avarice.

The magic of Google Translate provides a Serbian take on the theft here. And, yes, we realize you probably can’t read the words “cave bear” without thinking of this 1986 Daryl Hannah vehicle.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Jordan

    Oh, Clan of the Cave Bear… the precursor to all other prehistoric soap opera novels…

    On a more series note, this is part of what pissed me off so much at the beginning of the Iraq War when no thought was given to stop all of the looting. While the curators and administrators of Iraq’s many and wondrous museums did an amazing job of protecting what they could under the circumstances, there are many works that will likely never see the light of day again. When Rumsfeld basically said “Oh, looting is just one of those things that happens” I wanted to beat the shit out of him. Looting on that scale is not normal when you have thousands of men with very large guns who need to do little more than stand around the proper entrances to keep people from just waltzing off with whatever they want. The damage to Mesopotamian history, both in terms of artifacts lost and excavations ruined is incalculable.

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