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Suspended sentence for man who damaged 4,500-year-old monument

Ancient Art prosecution

Julian Baker, a 52-year-old man from Wales, has been penalized for deliberately damaging a Bronze Age monument believed to be up to 4,500 years old. In a first-of-its-kind prosecution in Wales, Baker was ordered to pay over £4,000 in compensation for his actions. The ancient artwork, located at Mynydd Eglwysilan, consists of two large sandstones with “cup marks” on their upper surfaces, dating back to the Bronze Age. The exact significance of these marks remains a mystery, but experts speculate they might have served as route markers or territorial boundary indicators.

Baker, residing near the monument, filmed himself unearthing the artifact and subsequently detached the rock art panel from its stone. He later uploaded this footage to Facebook. The charges against him stated that he carried out unauthorized work on a scheduled monument and caused damage to an ancient protected monument. These actions took place in January of the same year.  On August 21, Baker appeared in Newport Magistrates’ Court. He was ordered to pay £4,400 in compensation and received a suspended sentence of four months, which will be in effect for two years. Baker chose not to comment post-trial.

Gwent Police’s rural crime team emphasized the importance of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Act, which safeguards the archaeological heritage of Wales, England, and Scotland. This act criminalizes damage to, and metal detecting on, scheduled monuments. A scheduled monument is defined as a crucial archaeological site or historic building that is shielded from unauthorized alterations.  A representative from the Welsh Government heritage body, Cadw, labeled the incident as severe, highlighting the irreplaceable nature of such monuments. The spokesperson appreciated the court’s verdict, stating that the sentence and fine mirror the gravity of the crime. They further stressed the fragility of these archaeological treasures, emphasizing that heritage crimes, especially thoughtless damage, can result in irreversible harm.

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