Thursday 20 August 2015

Greece Seeing Increase in Illegal Antiquities Sales and Looting of Ancient Sites

National Geographic Report: Greece Seeing Increase in Illegal Antiquities Sales and Looting of Ancient Sites:
Recently police in Greece have noted a spike in a surprising kind of crime: People with no prior criminal record are looting Greek antiquities. One sign of the problem: a sharp rise in applications for metal detector permits. Because metal detectors are used to find ancient coins and artifacts, the Greek government tracks purchases of the devices and typically grants use permits only to people without a criminal record. “The numbers have increased, and this is related to the economic crisis,” Lieutenant Monovasios said. As the Greek economic crisis has intensified over the past five years, police detectives with the Greek Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage have noticed not only that illegal excavations and thefts of archaeological artifacts increased, but also that the typical profile of looters has changed. Before the crisis, many looters were members of criminal networks that also trafficked in guns and narcotics. Now it appears that regular people with access to tools for digging are unearthing pieces of Greece’s past and selling them for quick cash. This surge comes at a time when agencies charged with protecting the country’s antiquities are underfunded and understaffed because of government budget cuts.
Obviously therefore one way to deal with this is to make it more difficult to turn illegal artefacts into cash. The dealers and collectors will say "police the thousands of individual sites", I say it obviously would be far more efficient  to police the market.

Nick Romeo, 'Strapped for Cash, Some Greeks Turn to Ancient Source of Wealth', National Geographic August 17, 2015

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