Cultural heritage: Whose deep sea treasure is it really?

Posted on September 6, 2007 

Cultural heritage: Whose deep sea treasure is it really?

In what may become the biggest underwater find ever, Odyssey Marine Explorations, a commercial operation from Tampa, Florida, has reportedly hauled 17 tons of gold and silver from a ship widely believed to be the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes that was sunk by a British warship off the coast of Portugal in October 1804.

The company claims ownership of its find. And, of course, Spain is hiring lawyers and preparing its legal claim to the trove, claiming a sovereign nation’s right over its cultural heritage.

It’s clearly going to be a protracted legal battle, but we think it would only be right to let another set of plaintiffs stake their claim to the treasure, too: Spain’s former colonies in Latin America, where the loot was looted in the first place.

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