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Artefacts Stolen from Fishbourne Roman Palace

January 20, 2008

Mosaic at FishbourneVISITORS to a Roman palace could be stopped from handling artefacts after 27 items were stolen by thieves.
The artefacts taken from Fishbourne Roman Palace’s new discovery centre include medieval jugs and a neolithic flint axe.

None of the items is of great financial value, being worth about £3,800 in total, but they are irreplaceable to the museum.

One of the stolen jugs was unearthed during an archaeological dig at the site of the proposed district museum in Tower Street, Chichester.

The £3.5m discovery centre conducts daily tours during which visitors are allowed to handle artefacts. But David Rudkin, director of Fishbourne Roman Palace in Fishbourne, West Sussex, said this might have to be reviewed.

‘The centre was specifically designed to give the greatest public access possible, and that is how it has operated since its opening,’ he said.

‘Countless people have been heard to say “wow” when looking into the store and seeing the size of the collections.

‘Almost 3,500 people have experienced the excitement of handling genuine artefacts, some of which are thousands of years old but, because of the selfish greed of thieves, we may have to review this access in the future.’

Councillor Nick Thomas, who is responsible for culture and sport at Chichester District Council, said: ‘We want to encourage people to come and see these displays, but at the same time we have to safeguard them for future generations. Unfortunately, someone has abused this access.’

The items were all catalogued, and auction house staff and antique dealers have been asked to look out for them.

Staff at the centre, which is operated by Chichester District Council and Fishbourne Roman Palace, discovered the thefts during routine management of the collections. It is believed they could have been stolen any time since February last year.

Security arrangements have been stepped up. Lockers have been made available to researchers and bags and coats are not being allowed in the store.

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