Berlusconi Hiding Antiquities?

Okay … this is a bizarre one (to me anyway) in the myriad ways it’s being covered. The Italian Daily l’Espresso has been publishing some ‘sex tapes’ which apparently were made by one of Silvio Belusconi’s paramours, and in one of them, he reveals that there are Phoenician (Punic, more likely … possibly even Greek) remains under one of his villas in Sardinia. Different press outlets are choosing to concentrate on ‘sex’ side, but many are looking at the ‘antiquities’ side as well … here’s excerpts from the Daily Mail coverage:

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s sex tapes are the talk of Italy today – but not because of their racy content.

Instead Italians are outraged at the Prime Minister’s inadvertent boast of 30 ancient tombs buried on his estate – an apparent find of great archaeological significance that should have been reported.

The recordings were made by high class escort Patrizia D’Addario, 42, and even include a conversation allegedly between her and Berlusconi, 72, in which she praises him for his sexual performance.

[…]

But Italians did not seem overly worried about the tapes allegedly detailing their leader’s sexual exploits – until the revelation of the existence of the tombs.

In one transcript published in Italian media yesterday, Berlusconi is heard apparently boasts to Ms D’Addario about the existence of 30 Phoenician tombs, from the 3rd century BC on his Villa Certosa estate on Sardinia where guests have included Tony Blair.

After some small talk about sex – including Berlusconi apparently giving Ms D’Addario some crude sex tips – he then appears to describe how at Villa Certosa there is a ‘fossilised whale and 30 Phoenician tombs from three centuries before Christ.’

Any discovery of historical significance should be reported to the Ministry of Culture in Rome and to the local paramilitary police office in charge of artistic heritage.
Berlusconi’s villa, near Olbia, Sardinia, is nestled in rolling countryside, and allegedly comes with ancient tombs which could further the story of Italy’s history

Berlusconi’s villa, near Olbia, Sardinia, is nestled in rolling countryside, and allegedly comes with ancient tombs which could further the story of Italy’s history

Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to 3,000 Euro and or a year in jail – and it would appear that Berlusconi has not reported the existence of the tombs.

Today Giuseppina Manca di Mores, of Italy’s National Association of Archaeologists, said: ‘If the presence of these 30 previously unknown tombs on Berlusconi’s estate is confirmed it represents a very significant discovery.

‘As an association we are calling for an immediate examination because the historical significance of these tombs is vital to the study of the Phoenician civilization which we know was significant in the Mediterranean.

The remains of a Phoenician city by archaeologists digging in Beirut in 1997. The find was touted as historic – and now archaeologists are concerned that a find of similar historic significance is buried on Berlusconi’s estate

The remains of a Phoenician city by archaeologists digging in Beirut in 1997. The find was touted as historic – and now archaeologists are concerned that a find of similar historic significance is buried on Berlusconi’s estate

‘For years historians have debated whether the nearby town of Olbia was founded by the Greeks or the Phoenicians and these tombs could be the breakthrough needed to provide the answer.

‘Greek artefacts have been discovered already in the area but Phoenician tombs would be a new piece to the puzzle and open up a whole new field of historical research.’
[…]

Today opposition leaders called for an inquiry into the tombs.

[…]

In case you’re wondering, Berlusconi was describing his villa and said, inter alia:

SB: Questa è una balena fossilizzata
SB: Sotto qua abbiamo scoperto 30 tombe fenice … del 300 avanti cristo
SB: Ecco, vedi, questi qua sono i meteoriti. Questi son quelli che mi ha regalato … visti questi qua io sono andato in India … questo qui è il labirinto …. che ti ho detto.

UPDATE (09/25/09): Berlusconi’s lawyer is doing damage control, according to Earthtimes:

Berlusconi’s lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, has disputed the veracity of the series of tapes that began appearing on left-leaning magazine L’Espresso’s site on Monday.

On Friday he slammed what he said were the latest “unverified reports.”

“Berlusconi would have never spoken of the discovery of 30 Phoenician tombs in his park, because nothing of the sort exists or has been found in the area of Villa Certosa,” Ghedini was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.

According to Ghedini, the grounds surrounding Villa Certosa – where Berlusconi often hosts foreign dignitaries – have been inspected by Italian judicial officials in the past.

UPDATE (later the same day): L’Espresso is  now contending that Ghedini is lying: Le ‘tombe fenicie’ esistono, Ghedini le visitò nel 2005 … but L’Unione Sarda claims no one has seen any such ruins: Nessun avviso archeologico di tombe fenicie a Sassari

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