Feature

Where history is there to be plundered

Bulgaria

Marion KraskeDer Spiegel (Germany)

Bulgaria’s archeological digs are a gold mine—literally, said Marion Kraske in Hamburg’s Der Spiegel. Solid-gold death masks, silver armor, and beautifully worked jewelry can be found in the many tombs and other dig sites in this Balkan country. The territory was ruled at various times by the “Greeks, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Bulgars, and above all the legendary Thracians, one of the most powerful peoples of the ancient world.” Each culture left behind treasures, and unfortunately the loot is valuable not only to scientists but also to tomb raiders. Back when Bulgaria was a poor communist country, largely closed to the West, the sites were effectively protected. But since it joined the E.U. in 2007, “its borders have become more permeable.” That’s good news for Bulgarians, but even better news for looters. Nowadays, “plunderers systematically ransack the soil in search of antique coins, cast metal statues, and pottery vessels.” Driven by the profit motive, the criminals often have better equipment than the archeologists. When they get to a site first, they can clean it out. At this point, “there is not a single dig site or historical monument in the country that has never been looted.”

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