SOFIA, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) — An exhibition, featuring artifacts rescued from clutches of illegal treasure hunters and traffickers kicked off in the National Archaeological Institute with Museum (NAIM) here on Tuesday.
More than 300 selected exhibits, seized by the country’s authorities from the early 1990s to the present, will be showed to the audience until Jan. 27, 2019.
Copper axes from the 5th millennium BC, gold jewelry from the 2nd millennium BC, terracotta female figures from the 3rd century BC, and coins from the Antiquity and the Middle Ages are among the artifacts presented in the exhibition titled “Rescued Treasures of Bulgaria”.
This exhibition was the first of its kind in Bulgaria, and aimed to focus public attention on the issue of treasure hunting, NAIM’s director Lyudmil Vagalinski told reporters.
Public intolerance towards this illegal activity should be created because the damage to the country was enormous — not only financial, but “above all, loss of cultural memory,” Vagalinski said.
Angel Papalezov, head of “Cultural and Historical Artifacts” department at Bulgaria’s National Police, said that according to operational data, the number of active treasure hunters of which money earned from this illegal activity is the main income was about 25,000 to 30,000.
“There are also tens of thousands of situational treasure hunters for whom this activity is not a common occupation, but they go on archaeological sites to find some archaeological cultural values and sell them to earn extra money for life,” Papalezov said.
According to the statistics of the Ministry of the Interior, the average number of pre-trial proceedings for illegal archaeological excavations and illegal trade and possession of archaeological objects was from 120 to 170 per year, he said.
“Indeed, it is extremely small compared to the number of treasure hunters and the number of treasure-hunter’s forays,” Papalezov said.