Saturday, August 18, 2007

Losers Weepers, Finders . . . Ignored

By now, you've probably seen the story (this link's to CBS) about the Austrian dumpster diver that found a Medieval cross in the trash. She took it home and stashed it behind her couch (can't help but wonder what other junk filled the house, that she couldn't even set it on a table).

That was in 2004. A neighbor realized the cross might be valuable and took it to a museum. (with permission? without?) This picture is of the museum curator holding the 12th century cross--worth over a half-million dollars. Experts figured out that the cross--made in Limoges, France--was part of a collection of Polish art hidden from the Nazi's almost 70 years ago. In 1941 it was found in a basement in Warsaw by said greedy Nazis.

The provenance is a bit unclear (as meticulous as Nazis were in their record-keeping, there was a war going on), but the cross ended up in the home of a hotel-owner in Zell am See, Austria, who died. Relatives tossed the cross as they cleared out the house, and our dumpster diver found it. She even asked the relatives if they wanted it back, and they said no!

A judge awarded custody of the cross to the museum. The heirs of the pre-Nazi owner would like it too. The finder has gotten zip for her trouble, and no one will comment as to whether she'll be rewarded.

A word to the wise: don't let neighbors sneak off with anything from behind the couch.

Makes the link between archaeology and trash-digging crystal clear, don't it? It's all a matter of time and perspective.

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