No breakthrough in Thulamela artefact theft

Thulamela gold. Photo: Marius Loots

SKUKUZA – No arrests or any noteworthy breakthroughs have been made in the investigation of the theft of the golden Thulamela artefacts.

The artefacts comprised jewellery and gold coins dating back to the period between 1250 and 1700. Their discovery, in 1996, made world news.

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Gold bracelet.

The excavation was headed by Dr Maryna Steyn, Coen Nienaber and Marius Loots, researcher at the anatomy department at the University of Pretoria.

William Mabasa, spokesman for SANParks, confirmed that the theft occurred on December 14, 2016. Only the artefacts were stolen. The other items were left in the cabinet, untouched.

Mabasa said the cabinet had been locked, no forced entry was visible, and the cabinet lock was also undamaged. There was a strong suspicion that the theft was an inside job.

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Losha beads. Photos: Marius Loots

Spokesman for the Hawks in Mpumalanga, Capt Dineo Sekgotodi, said the investigating officer assigned to the case has confirmed that there has been no new leads in the matter. Previous investigations into the theft revealed that only one staff member had the key to the cabinet, but had not been in the area at the time.

Loots told Lowvelder that the theft was a great loss. “I thought it would most likely happen as the artefacts were sent to a place with no controlled environment,” he added.

He said many dubious collectors anticipated these kind of situations and took advantage of it. “But in this country it could have just been opportunists who were just after the gold.”

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  AUTHOR
Tereasa Dias
Journalist

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