Thursday, 31 March 2016

Senior Bulgarian Civil Servant Caught with Diverse Collection of Archaeological Artifacts

News conference showing archaeological
artefacts and coins seized from two alleged
treasure hunters. Photo:
Lobbyist for the dugup antiquities trade Peter Tompa thinks metal detecting is legal in Bulgaria and it should be 'regulated'. It seems Bulgarian authorities have been doing what the American suggested (Ivan Dikov ' Senior Bulgarian Civil Servant Caught with Diverse Collection of Archaeological Artifacts, Coins in Anti-Treasure Hunting Raid' Archaeology in Bulgaria March 31, 2016)  In Haskovo, Haskovo Province in southern Bulgaria, not far from the borders with Greece and Turkey:
A senior Bulgarian civil servant has been arrested together with an accomplice for alleged treasure hunting and illegal possession of valuable archaeological artifacts and coins, some of which said to be dating back to 2,500 BC. Stanislav Stanilov, 46, who is the Director of Bulgaria’s State Archive Agency in the southern city of Haskovo, has been detained together with another man, Ara Humanyan, 57, during a police raid. The police have discovered a total of 590 archaeological artifacts in their properties, including over 200 coins, hundreds of metal and clay items, pithoi, bowls, and appliques.
The men's home in Haskovo were searched and computer equipment was seized. Artefacts seized include Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine coins as well as coins of medieval Bulgarian emperor, Tsar Ivan Asen II (r. 1218-1241 AD), ruler of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396). It seems they had been collecting archaeological artefacts over a period of time, and it is suspected that they might have sold some of them in Bulgaria or abroad. Will any foreign sales discovered be followed up by the authorities in the buyer's countries?

With reference to Tompa's lobbyist nonsense intended to sway an internal US Committee into refusing to help protect Bulgarian cultural property from illegal export to the US:
In addition to the artifacts and coins, the police have also seized from Stanilov and Humanyan two illegally owned metal detectors (which have not been registered with the Ministry of Culture, as required by law). If sentenced, the alleged treasure hunters might get up to 6 years in prison and fines of up to BGN 15,000 (app. EUR 7,500) for the illegal possession of cultural and historical artifacts as per the Cultural Heritage Act. The illegal possession of metal detectors is also punishable by up to 6 years in prison.
If that is not "regulation", I don't know what is. It looks like at least one of the men will be entering a not-guilty plea, and questioned why he has been the subject of an investigation just now:
Stanilov’s lawyer Dimo Stoyanov has stated that his client has been known for his hobby of collecting archaeological artifacts and coins, and that he has been a member of the numismatic society in Haskovo for more than 20 years. Stanilov himself has told the court that the police have been well aware of his numismatic and archaeological collection because they photographed the artifacts he had at his home during the investigation of a home robbery 6 years ago. He claims that most of the artifacts and coins are replicas that can be bought in the local flea market, while others such as the pottery vessels have been restored by him personally, for which he has sacrificed a lot of time, efforts, and money. He also adds he has been aware of the legal requirement introduced 5 years ago with amendments to the Cultural Heritage Act that all collectors register their collections with the Ministry of Culture but thought his collection was not “of such class" so as to warrant registration. He further claims that he has never used the metal detector which he has owned for 5-6 years.
It has to be said that of the coins shown in a PVC folder as typical of those seized in the raid, the ones in the foreground (especially those on the right) do indeed have in this photo to have the appearance of the widespread fake artefacts produced in white metal by Bulgarian artefact fakers. Interestingly
It certainly is not illegal anywhere to collect such items (a different matter if one tries to sell them as authentic). The Byzantine coins seen through the plastic at the rear of the picture seem real enough and look like dugups to me.
This is the [...] second treasure hunting group busted in the region in a week, after the arrest of a gang of three Greek and two Bulgarian treasure hunters near the town of Huhla, Ivaylovgrad Municipality, Haskovo District. There have been speculations that the two police raids might be connected but that has not been confirmed.

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