ARCHAR, Bulgaria – On the banks of the Danube, in the northwest corner of Bulgaria, lie the remnants of an ancient Roman settlement called Ratiaria, host to a priceless cultural heritage. Craters pockmark the huge site, evidence of a scourge threatening one of the world’s great troves of antiquities: looters digging for ancient treasure to sell on the black market.
Archaeologist Krasmira Luka, who heads a team excavating part of the 80 hectare (200 acre) site, says the area has been repeatedly raided by thieves who dig pits looking for ancient coins and jewelry. Everything else, including precious ceramic vessels and other historically significant artifacts, is smashed to pieces.
“Destroying the items is not just a crime, it’s an irreparable tragedy,” Luka said, looking out at a moonscape littered with shards of ceramics or glassware destroyed by the diggers.” The day after our team leaves the site, the diggers are in place. It’s an uneven battle.” Read more.
Prompted by Greece’s severe economic crisis, a growing number of treasure hunters are scouring the country in search of antiquities and other treasures.
The trend, which is more evident in the country’s northwestern Macedonia region, is not only driven by economic necessity but also by the cash-strapped state’s failure to protect its ancient heritage.
“Illegal digs have always been carried out around the mountains in this area,” Kavala archaeologist Sofia Doukata told Kathimerini. “But the practice has recently turned into a sport,” she added.
Mount Paggaio near the city of Kavala appears to have attracted an usually large number of would-be looters. The illicit diggers, Kathimerini understands, are conducting excavations around archaeological sites hoping to find something and sell it. Read more.
The New Zealand Historic Places Trust has put a stop to treasure hunters who descended on a site in Greymouth where an old building was recently demolished.
The building, occupied by Selwyn Traders when it was demolished, was built in 1897 on the site of the Melbourne Hotel (the first pub built in Greymouth) which was destroyed by fire 1894.
Several fossickers had sifted through the site, taking bottles and ceramics without permission before police moved them on May 17.
The Historic Places Trust today asked that all items removed be handed in to police.
Archaeologist Dr Matthew Schmidt said the site was protected by the Historic Places Act and all artefacts were the property of the landowner, the Mawhera Incorporation, and should be returned. Read more.
The Sofia Police Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime related to historical valuables and their colleagues from the same unit in the Region of Sofia have busted yet another illegal treasure hunting group.
Three men have been caught red-handed at the archeological and historical site “Kalo” near the village of Popoviyane and the town of Samokov. They were in the middle of conducting illegal digs. All three have criminal records for crimes other than illegal treasure hunting such as robberies, theft, and embezzlement.
The search of their car yielded three metal detectors while one of the men had four antique coins on him.
Police have also raided their homes and found spare parts for metal detectors, maps, a notebook listing their illegal finds, and 14 antique coins.
The three are being held behind bars for 24 hours. The investigation of the case is ongoing. (source)
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Legislation that would have allowed treasure hunters to scour state parks and historical sites with metal detectors hit a roadblock Thursday in the Kentucky legislature.
Tourism Development Committee Chairwoman Leslie Combs refused to call for a vote, essentially quashing the measure with only days remaining in the legislative session.
Preservationists had raised concerns that allowing treasure hunters to comb public land with metal detectors could allow artifacts that belong to the people of Kentucky to fall into private collections or be sold for cash.
Nancy Ross-Stallings, a professional archeologist, was among a growing chorus of critics who called on lawmakers to oppose the proposal to keep people with metal detectors from damaging historical sites. Read more.
Treasure hunters have plundered two historic Byzantine sites in Istanbul, apparently due to the lack of preventative measures to protect them.
Two historic sites, the caves of İnceğiz and the İnceğiz necropolis of Maltepe, which were declared first-degree archeological sites in 1994 by the Istanbul Board of Protection of Cultural and Natural Assets, have since been plundered by treasure hunters. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has so far been ineffective in protecting the sites from grave robbers.
As Today’s Zaman reported citing the Akşam daily, the Çatalca Culture and Tourism Association is in possession of photos showing holes in the ground around the İnceğiz necropolis as a result of illegal excavations, as well as photographs of treasure hunters caught red-handed, excavating grave sites. Read more.
TWO men were arrested last Tuesday for allegedly treasure-hunting in a vacant lot in Sitio Iba, Barangay Basak, Lapu-Lapu City.
The suspects, identified as Lapu-Lapu Hemongala, 61, who lives in Sitio Iba, and Leopoldo Bonghanoy, 40, of Barangay Suba-Basbas, claimed that they initiated the digging upon the order of a British national to find the treasure placed in a heart-shaped concrete chest.
Operatives of the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office (LCPO) Task Force Kalikasan led by SPO1 Jomar Ybañez arrested the two men after the police received a tip about a strange
excavation in the area.
According to the information that reached the police, the digging has been going on for more than eight months.
During the operation, Ybañez’s team found Hemongala and Bonghanoy resting near one of the two holes, which were both about 40 meters deep, filled with water. Read more.
Reading The St. Augustine Record articles on Saturday and Sunday about history, archaeology and treasure hunting, I am both dismayed and depressed. Having worked as an archaeologist committed to St. Augustine for the past 40-plus years (a fact I would normally never reveal), I feel compelled to put my two cents into the dialogue.
In the past two days, two programs that are extremely destructive of St. Augustine’s historical integrity have been featured. One is the supposed reality TV show based on people digging up artifacts in their yards for TV and TV producers’ fun and profit. The other is the celebration of treasure hunters’ destruction of important archaeological sites for their own personal fun and profit. Neither of those programs seems to have any clue about how history is revealed and acknowledged (which is a critical economic and cultural concern for St. Augustine as we approach 2015, the city’s 450th anniversary).
Nobody involved in these programs seems to understand what City Archaeologist Carl Halbirt has repeatedly but gently pointed out (and what most fourth graders in Florida already understand) — neither archaeology nor history is about artifacts. Read more.