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The goddess Ceres wants to come home to Cártama

The García Prieto family, who discovered the head of Ceres.
The García Prieto family, who discovered the head of Ceres. / G. P.
  • The town has started a complex legal process to bring the first-century sculpture to the future Cártama archaeological museum, to take centre stage and attract more tourists to the area

When it was first discovered, the head of the goddess Ceres was thought to be no more than a piece of stone. It turned out however to be of great archaeological value, part of a Roman sculpture dating back to the first century. The head is known locally as "la chata", meaning snub-nosed, due to damage caused when she was dug up.

Cártama's Roman goddess is currently on display in Navarra, but the town hall has begun a complex legal process in an attempt to return the sculpture to the town where it was discovered. If the process is successful, Ceres will be the centrepiece of the town's archaeological museum, and a spearhead for local tourism over the coming years.

Historian Paco Melero explained that the marble sculpture was discovered on a farm owned by the García Prieto family. Between 1929 and 1939 the head remained in the farmhouse. Then, local actor José González Marín acquired the sculpture and kept it in his garden for another ten years. In 1949, the civil governor of Malaga, and later, minister under Franco, José Luis Arreses, fell in love with the piece. González Marín gave it to him as a gift, and Ceres took a trip she is yet to return from.

Her head is now on display in the Arreses Museum, in the Navarra town of Corella, together with other pieces from the town and province.

In 1998, during a road trip to the north of Spain, several residents of Cártama saw the head of the goddess, and the idea of bringing her home was born.

In September 2018, the Cartima residents association took a look at the legislation regarding the finding and the ownership of the piece. According to regulations that have been in place since 1911, every object of historical value belongs to the State and it is therefore the State that determines where it should be conserved.

The process is is already in the hands of the regional ministry of Culture after several meetings with the delegate Monsalud Bautista. If procedures go ahead as planned, the Arreses Museum will have to deliver the head of Ceres to the central ministry of Culture in Madrid. From there, the Junta de Andalucía would have to claim it and, if successful, hand it over to the Malaga Museum, which in turn would give it back to Cártama.

The date of the return trip for the goddess of agriculture is yet to be set. In the event that the head returns, it would undoubtedly take pride of place in the future archaeological museum in Cártama.

The town's mayor, Jorge Gallardo, explained at the end of last year that there had been some last minute problems with the museum. "We have already organised the installation of furniture and the creation of the exhibition space but work should have started months ago," he said.