Sunday, 20 August 2017

Macedonia Faces Plundering of Archaeological Heritage   
27 October 2009 | Macedonia’s archaeological heritage is being plundered, with authorities often a step behind the smugglers exporting it.

“The criminals are always one step ahead. They follow our actions and know exactly when they should leave,” an anonymous police representative responsible for such kind of crimes said, quoted by the AFP.

Because of its location, the territory of Macedonia is ripe with archaeological treasures, the publication reported. Over 10,000 sites have been registered so far and a few thousand more remain to be excavated, according to various assessments.

The publication cites a few examples of the plundering of Macedonia’s archaeological heritage.

For example, this year archaeologists were horrified to discover that over 1,000 graves have been dug out at the Isar Marvinci site – an important funeral site from Antiquity located in the southern part of the country.

“Their entire contents had disappeared, sold mainly to our neighbour to the south” – Greece, Pasko Kuzman, head of the Macedonian Department for Cultural Heritage told the publication. They were supposed to contain “gold jewellery, bronze and silver objects, objects that were light and easy to carry,” he added.

Ivo Kotevski, spokesperson of the Interior Ministry, confirmed that thieves are mainly interested in objects such as coins, ceramic and statues.

Kuzman also cited the discovery of 230 archaeological artefacts, hidden in bags with carrots, on the border between Slovenia and Croatia in 2006. “The Slovenian experts established that the artefacts came from Macedonian territory and gave them back to us,” he explained.

Macedonia is taking some measures against the gold-diggers. The Roman city of Stobi, near the town of Veles in central Macedonia, which is known for its mosaics and is a popular spots for visitors, tourists, scientists but also thieves, has been put under constant surveillance.

Our presence is the best guarantee that there won’t be illegal excavations, Silvana Blazhevska, who is responsible for the site, told the publication.

According to the Macedonian police represenative, who does not say whether the traffic of archaeological artefacts is at its peak, such activities generate several thousands’ worth of US dollars each year.

Criminal networks, he says, are organized on a regional basis and potential candidates could be found easily in Greece, Austria and Germany.

Some objects could be sold for as much as 200,000 euro. Others, such as the arrow of an ancient Roman bow, are sold only for 100 euro.

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