Sunday 16 August 2015

Bulgarian Antiquities Bust in news Again - Not ISIL Loot

Ivan Dikov, 'Bulgarian Archaeologist Concludes Roman Artifacts Seized from Smugglers Authentic, Originated in Turkey and the Middle East', Archaeology in Bulgaria August 12th, 2015.
  [Most of] the 19 statues and slabs which were seized from several treasure hunters and antique traffickers, including a citizen of Turkey, by the Bulgarian police in the northeastern city of Shumen back in March 2015 are fine examples of Ancient Roman art from the region of Asia Minor and the Middle East, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zdravko Dimitrov from the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology has concluded. Dimitrov has carried out an examination of the impressive artifacts confiscated from treasure hunters and antique traffickers in Shumen, Novi Pazar, and Ivanovo whose results have been presented at a news conference in the Regional Museum of History in the northeastern Bulgarian city of Shumen.
The archaeologist pointed out the high quality of the smuggled pieces.

The sarcophagus fragment with Medusa head was typical of the western part of Asia Minor from the Hadrianic period, most pieces date to the 2nd century AD even though some of them might be even older.
According to Dimitrov, the archaeological artifacts were collected from different locations so that they can be smuggled and sold, probably in Western Europe or the USA. [....] The initial hypotheses that the items in question might come from the museums and archaeological monuments destroyed by the Islamic State (ISIL) has now been supplanted by the supposition that the artifacts were harvested specially by treasure hunters who smuggled them west to Bulgaria in search of buyers. The one item among the 19 confiscated ancient slabs and statues (seized together with a huge number of coins and smaller artifacts) which might be seen as the most interesting – the allegedly 5,000-year-old stone relief from Ancient Sumer in Mesopotamia whose authenticity has been questioned – has not been mentioned in the report. [...] "Speaking at the news conference, the Director of the Shumen Regional Museum of History Georgi Maystorski has stated that his institution will claim the seized Roman artifacts from Asia Minor as part of its collection when the formal police investigation into the case is completed".
Note the information that minor items were moving with the more 'exclusive' pieces. It makes no sense to dismiss calls that artefacts of (financially) low value should be exempt from scrutiny when we clean up the market. Some of the items figured in the earlier reports were of local (Bulgarian/Balkan) origin. These people were probably diversifying an existing trade in the locally-looted minor items by adding more exclusive items from a Turkish business contact - who had probably decided to up his own profits by fraudulently including the fake Mesopotamian' relief in the shipment. The 'Bulgarian' objects too contained fakes. You'd be a fool to buy anything on the market today without demanding paperwork and evidence of licit grounding. But there are a lot of fools out there ignoring the facts.

UPDATE 13th June 2016
These objects figured in a National Geographic video about ISIL looting.

Update 15th Jan 2017

The Shumen antiquities bust case has had its culmination in a Bulgarian court (Ivan Dikov, 'Bulgarian, Turkish Man Sentenced in Shumen for Trafficking Roman Artifacts from Middle East' Archaeology in Bulgaria Jan 8th 2017):
A Bulgarian and a Turkish citizen have confessed their guilt in the smuggling of dozens of Ancient Roman artifacts [....] after their arrest in a police operation almost two years ago generated international interest. A total of 19 impressive artifacts originating in Asia Minor / the Middle East were confiscated from treasure hunters and antique traffickers in Shumen, Novi Pazar, and Ivanovo, Northeast Bulgaria, back in March 2015. Most of them were found in a garage owned by a local man, Petar Danchev, 60. A Turkish man, Veysel Sanli (52) was also arrested in the treasure hunting and antiques trafficking case. [...]  Even though the initial police reports spoke of more suspects, Denchev and Sanli have been the only two people to be charged over the bust which became known as “the garage Louvre" case in Bulgarian media. [...] Both are getting away with suspended sentences, with their testimonies providing no additional information regarding the origin of the trafficked artifacts or their destination. [...] Turkish citizen Veysel Sanli [...] has been identified as the owner of the smuggled Ancient Roman artifacts [...] , Sanli claimed that all seized artifacts were “heavy stones, modern-day replicas".

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