The mayor of Elche suggested that the reason he was turned down was not that the statue was too fragile. Pieces more delicate that the Lady of Elche get moved all the time, and she had already been home in the 1960s. He suggested that the real reason that the museum won’t lease the statue back to its hometown was that it feared that the town would not return the piece. Other regions of Spain have recently begun to explore their own cultural identity, and other localities may follow suit and want their pieces back and not return them.
Finally, in 2006, the Minister of Culture of Spain temporarily leased the Lady of Elche to its hometown. From May to November of that year, the statue presided over the inauguration of Elche’s Museum of Archaeology and History at the Palace of Altamira and an exhibition called From Illici to Elx: 2500 Years of History, detailing the history of Elche from its founding to the present day. At that time, the statue insured for over 15 million euros. After the end of the exhibition, the statue was returned to the National Archaeological Museum of Spain in Madrid, where it remains today. Elche currently owns a replica of their most famous archaeological find.
The Lady of Elche is possibly one of the most important archaeological finds in recent history. The Roman empire spread so far and wide that its influence is still with us today. Finds like the Lady of Elche remind us that there were important, sophisticated cultures besides the Romans and they were capable of great things. The discovery of the Lady of Elche awakened interest in the pre-Roman Iberian period, a little-studied period at the time of her discovery.
Since her discovery, people have been fighting over who “truly” owns her and where she belongs. Does she belong in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, housed with other pre-Roman Iberian sculptures, where thousands can marvel at her beauty? Or does she belong in her hometown, where her life began?