Saturday, December 27, 2008

Treasure hunting adventurer out of luck

The Age (John Elder)

Frank Bottaro has never been frank about his Indiana Jones-like tomb raiding. "In my business, you have to be vague," he said, while relating foggy tales of slipping secretly across borders with treasures tucked under his armpits and dodging murder in exotic locales.

Like the time he found a Roman city. "In the Sahara desert, right? I can't mention the place, right? We were digging when a big group of Bedouin came up, with blunderbusses … There was three of us. We had a pistol. One pistol only …"

He told me this story six years ago, by way of explaining — in a soft voice, with the enigmatic smile of a carpet seller — why he'd given his name as "Bottard" to an Age reporter for a story about funerary dolls being bought at the Camberwell market for a pittance and later put on sale in France for $200,000.

Frank, an Armadale-based antiquities merchant, was the middleman. I call him Frank because it's friendly and Frank needs all the friends he can get.

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