Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Bulgarian Transit for Looted Turkish Artefacts

As reported here and elsewhere, ancient sites of Bulgaria have been plundered into oblivion to fuel the extensive western market that grew up as the result of a massive haemorrhage of ancient artefacts from metal detecting and clandestine digging from the country. At least some of this market (if not the greater part of it) was under the control of organized criminal groups. As the supply of 'home-grown' artefacts began to dry up, the suppliers looked further afield - so we saw the same dealers offering so-called "Viking" items from the recent looting of burial sites in northern Russia and the Baltic states. A recent seizure on the Bulgarian-Turkish border seems another manifestation of the attempts of Bulgarian suppliers to obtain fresh material to keep their market alive.

The  National Customs Agency (NCA) of Bulgaria has announced the seizure at the  Lesovo customs checkpoint on Sunday of a smuggled shipment of 488 artefacts - ancient coins, ornaments and ancient arrowheads. They were seized from a jeep with Bulgarian registration entering the territory of the country from Turkey:
The vehicle was driven by a 43-year-old Bulgarian national from the district of Yambol. Customs officers selected the car for a thorough check despite the very self-confident behaviour of the driver and his companion, who said they did not transport anything that needed to be declared before the customs. An x-ray examination, however, detected two plastic bags inside the right front seat of the car. The bags were full of ancient coins with patina. The personal check on the driver discovered two other plastic bags with ancient findings. Authorities confiscated a total of 460 ancient coins, 16 edges of ancient weapons and 12 ornaments at the total weight of 1,745 grams. 
The coins are Roman and Byzantine. The objects seem to have been found by treasure hunters with metal detectors in Turkey and it is surmised that they were destined for western Europe. Yambol is just 43 km from the border, in SE Bulgaria.

FOCUS News Agency, 'Bulgaria busts smuggled treasure-hunter’s artefacts at Lesovo checkpoint', 20 August 2012 t 20, 2012]

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