Video of digging from the Colombo Art Biennale
Since the war ended people are free to go all over the island.. stealing shit. Police spokesman Ajith Rohana has said there are two cases of treasure hunting reported each day. There were 500 raids in 2011. Most notably, and horrifically, thieves broke into the National Museum, stealing swords and historical artifacts.
If I was going to steal anything it’d be this two headed goat from the science museum. Rest of it is like a school project.
While I am showing natural artifacts here, the people thieving for reals seem to be looking for cultural and religious items. Siva lingams, Buddha statues, swords, chairs, the works. In one example (via The Daily Mirror), the STF busted people trying to sell a marble Buddha statue for Rs. 1.5 million. Buddha statues seem to be the preferred treasure, but sadly people seem to bust open the head and chest trying to get gems or gold purportedly within.
There’s also a more occult side to this as well. Most innocuously, treasure hunters will have religious rituals before they dig. But then you get more disturbing stuff like this, connected to the recent grease yaka scare (demons/oil-covered men assaulting women):
MP Vijitha Herath stated in Parliament that some are attempting to get female blood in order to obtain the legendary gold crown and sword from Dutugemunu and that there is a connection between the Government and these incidents
This is just weird, but apparently these type of items still have an Indian Jones type appeal. I actually heard that the people who broke into the National Museum were trying to get a Dutugemunu sword and got the wrong one. So that plus the seeming millions you can get for it seems to be driving the treasure hunting thing forward.
To be honest, the idea of treasure hunting seems pretty cool. When I was a kid we used to dig sometimes but we never found anything. The difference here is that people seem to go in and use explosives and backhoes to really dig – damaging precious history and places in the process. And there is corruption as well. While the STF busted treasure hunters in the case above, they’ve been accused of treasure hunting themselves. So are the police, as our government officials accused of giving permits for routine quarrying, which is anything but.
In the sense that treasure hunting destroys artifacts and history, it’s not cool at all. It’s kinda an amusing story until you factor in the backhoes and explosives and outright theft. Then it’s just bad and not very Indiana Jones at all.