Monday, 30 January 2012

Looters, Black Archaeology, Collectors and the archaeological record in Bulgaria

According to Katerina Ivanova writing in today's "Standart" ('Crisis Inspires Investing in Stolen Antiques'), a side effect of the current economic crisis, the instability of the financial markets and the fluctuations of gold prices, is that "many affluent people prefer investing in antiques of great collectable value". This is currently leading, she says, to thousands of antique coins, statuettes and vessels being illegally exported from Bulgaria to undiscerning collectors (she uses the word "connoisseurs") in Western Europe.
This tendency has been confirmed by the growing number of cases of customs officers who discover illegal antique coins, medieval rings, statuettes, pottery etc on passengers. Cases have been reported when coins are found in parcels for countries like the USA and Switzerland. The flow of illegal antiques in Europe is mostly directed to Italy, Germany and France. The smuggling of culture items is performed by both Bulgarians and foreigners, according to information of the Customs Agency. Smugglers often contact black archeologists from Bulgaria, buy the illegally unearthed objects and sell them at much higher prices to collectors abroad.
The term "black archaeologists" used as a euphemism for looters seems about as appropriate as the term "professional numismatists" for coin shop owners.

I wonder whether the lobbyist for those so-called professional numismatists will be writing to Ms Ivanova to tell her that the "answer" is to "regulate metal detectors"?

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