Category Archives: BULGARIA

Ancient Roman ‘fridge’ unearthed with wine and animal bones still inside, photos show

Ancient Roman ‘fridge’ unearthed with wine and animal bones still inside, photos show

While excavating an ancient Roman military camp in Bulgaria, archaeologists unearthed a rare — and relatable — find: a stocked refrigerator.

Archaeologists were excavating the ruins of Novae, a Roman-era military fortress, when they uncovered lead and ceramic water pipes, the University of Warsaw said in a Sept. 13 news release.

Next to the lead pipes, they found an ancient “fridge,” a food storage unit made with ceramic plates, lead archaeologist Piotr Dyczek said in the release. The fridge still had a meal inside, including wine drinking vessels, bowls and animal bones.

The exact age of the fridge and its contents have not yet been determined.

A similar fridge was found in Novae last October, McClatchy News reported. This cooling unit still had traces of cooked meat, animal bones and dish fragments inside.

“The discovery of such ‘refrigerators’ are rare, because they rarely survive reconstructions of buildings,” Dyczek said previously.

An aerial view shows some of the ruins at Novae.

Novae was built for Roman troops in the first century A.D. as a permanent base on the lower Danube River. The camp housed Italian military recruits until the middle of the fifth century.

Excavations at Novae also uncovered ruins of a wooden barracks building linked to the camp’s first permanently-stationed Roman troops, the camp’s earliest known well and a furnace from the fourth century, the release said.

Ancient Roman ‘fridge’ unearthed with wine and animal bones still inside, photos show
A collection of wine pottery vessels found at Novae.

Archaeologists also unearthed a rare set of wine drinking vessels with a black coloring and a small, silver pendant in the shape of a detailed mouse. Photos show these artifacts.

A detailed mouse pendant was found at Novae.

Novae is in the northern Bulgarian city of Svishtov, about 155 miles northeast of Sofia and along the Bulgaria-Romania border.

An ancient “fridge” has been uncovered at the Roman legionary fortress of Novae, Bulgaria

An ancient “fridge” has been uncovered at the Roman legionary fortress of Novae, Bulgaria

An ancient “fridge” has been uncovered at the Roman legionary fortress of Novae, Bulgaria

Polish archaeologists, during excavations at the Roman legionnaires’ camp in Novae, discovered a container that could be described as an ancient “fridge” made of ceramic plates for storing food.

The legionary fortress of Novae is an archaeological site on the Danube in northern Bulgaria, near the town of Svishtov. It was founded in the middle of the first century AD.

The 1st Italian legion was based here for most of its existence and its presence is confirmed until the 30s of the 5th century AD. In the area of ​​the camp, which covers 17.99 ha, monumental buildings have been discovered, the most important of which is the headquarters building (principia), although the legionary hospital (valetudinarium) and baths (thermae legionis) are equally impressive.

Ancient fridge.

There was a civil settlement (canabae) on the west side of the camp, and a necropolis on the south and east side. In late antiquity, the fortifications of Novae were reinforced, and an additional area (the so-called annex) was attached to the camp from the east, covering an area of ​​approximately 8 ha.

At that time, both soldiers and civilians lived within the walls. Traces of the latest Roman activity date back to the end of the 6th century.

Researchers from Poland and Bulgaria have been excavating the fortress for several decades, with Professor Piotr Dyczek of the University of Warsaw currently in charge of the project.

During this season’s excavations, the team found a container made of ceramic plates recessed beneath the floor, which was used as a “fridge” by the fort’s inhabitants to store food. The container was discovered in a military barracks room.

Within the container, the team found pieces of ceramic vessels and small baked bone fragments, in addition to charcoal and a bowl which the team suggests, may have been a censor for driving away insects.

Professor Piotr Dyczek said that the discoveries of such “fridges” are rare.

The partially restored ruins of the Roman city and military camp of Novae were unveiled in 2014.

Another find this year is a collection of several dozen coins. Most come from strata covering the period from the incursion of the Goths in the Middle Ages. From the 3rd century to the beginning of the reign of Constantine the Great (early 4th century).

Archaeologists have also unearthed entire strings of walls and the remains of a Roman dwelling containing querns. Wells, weaving and fishing weights, reels, and vessel fragments were discovered.

A Surprise Cave Finding Has Once Again Upended Our Story of Humans Leaving Africa

A Surprise Cave Finding Has Once Again Upended Our Story of Humans Leaving Africa

Last year, a genetic analysis of bone fragments representing our earliest known presence in Europe raised a few questions over the steps modern humans took to conquer every corner of the modern world.

Whoever the remains belonged to, their family background was more entwined with the East Asian populations of their day than with today’s Europeans, hinting at a far more convoluted migration for our species than previously thought.

Now, researchers from the Universities of Padova and Bologna in Italy have proposed what they think might be the simplest explanation for the unexpected kink in the family tree, based on what we can piece together from genetic relationships and subtle shifts in ancient technology around the world.

If we retrace our footsteps from modern times through the Stone Age and beyond, we’ll inevitably find a moment when a bunch of Homo sapiens took a pivotal step out of Africa onto what we now think of as Eurasian soil.

Earlier, more distant cousins had ventured out numerous times already, settling for a time before dying out. This time, it would all be different. This migration of modern humans stuck, eventually seeding a cultural revolution that would forever change our planet in just a few short millennia. While the outcome of this monumental journey is now obvious, the paths are taken and countless lost branches can only be pieced together from scant surviving artefacts and a legacy of genetic mingling.

The scattering of human bones and stone implements sifted from the sediment of Bacho Kiro Cave in central Bulgaria is just the kind of evidence archaeologists dream of. Uncovered in 2015, they have since been dated to around 45,000 years, officially making them the oldest Upper Paleolithic hominin bones ever found in Europe.

By taking archaeological records into account, we can tell they had descended from a larger community on a 15,000-year-long hiatus in their travels east. If we knew little else about them, we might conclude this person represents some kind of stepping stone between a future in Asia and a past set in Europe – a central hub on Africa’s doorstep from which we expanded and settled ever further abroad.

The genetic evidence preserved in three of those bodies, however, doesn’t match up quite so neatly with this simple scenario. Last year, research led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany concluded the individuals were “more closely related to present-day and ancient populations in East Asia and the Americas than to later west Eurasian populations.”

Finding closer familial ties with modern and ancient Asian populations than with modern European people introduces some challenging questions regarding the way this ancient hub of humanity might have branched into the east and west.

What’s more, a generous dose of Neanderthal blood had recently been introduced into their family tree, further muddying the waters on how our ancestors might have moved and interacted.

According to the authors of this newest study, one possibility considers the migration of humanity a stutter rather than a surge.

“Then, around 45 thousand years ago, a new expansion emanated from the hub and colonized a wide area spanning from Europe to East Asia and Oceania and is associated with a mode of producing stone tools known as Initial Upper Paleolithic,” says the University of Padua molecular anthropologist, Leonardo Vallini.

Above: An unknown hub in the west, from which humans expanded in waves of migration.

Those who branched into Asia thrived, traces of their bloodlines persisting to this day. But something happened in the west, something which saw a temporary end to the human experiment in Europe.

A second study conducted last year on female remains found in the Czechia provides a clue. While carbon dating is yet to confirm an age for her death, changes in her genes hinted at a date even further back than 45,000 years.

More importantly, the Paleolithic woman’s ancestry wasn’t closely related to either modern Europeans or Asians. Whatever happened to her and her kin, their story wasn’t an enduring one.

“It is curious to note that, around the same time, also the last Neanderthals went extinct,” says Giulia Marciani, an archaeologist from the University of Bologna.

It would have taken a fresh wave of human emigration from this central hub some 7,000 years later to repopulate the west and seed lineages that would go on to produce the rich array of cultures we see today.

Just where this temporary hub of humanity might be found and what prompted its populations to set off, again and again, is a matter for future archaeologists to figure out.

If we’ve learned nothing else, it’s clear we shouldn’t make too many assumptions when it comes to the story of how modern humanity made its way around the world.

This research was published in Genome Biology and Evolution.

Giant Human Skeleton unearthed in Varna, Bulgaria

Giant Human Skeleton unearthed in Varna, Bulgaria

Bulgarian archaeologists discovered giant skeleton remains located at the Black Sea Bay city known as Varna. In the first reports, they suggested that a man lived in the 4th to the 5th centuries and were quite impressed by the size of the bone found in the area.

Due to the size, they only concluded their report that they belonged to a very tall man. Chief Archeologists Valeri Yotov who is part of their team that carries out excavations has been reporting the local media.

On the discovery from the begging but lately has stopped to give any more details which might tell us they are on to something bigger as they skeleton was discovered in the area of the ancient city called Odesos.

Yotov in the past has suggested that the man has died during work and that they were he was buried with his hand laid on his waist and his body pointing to the east was a clear indication he had a ceremonial burial rite and was buried this way.

Reconstructions of the area are being carried out in Varna, which is Bulgarians 3rd largest city and usually called “The Black Sea capital”

The ancient tomb in which the skeletons was found was also discovered during the repair works in the centre of Varna while the repair team dug up the tomb unexpectedly.

Its approximate location has actually been known since the beginning of the 20 th century as told by the Bulgarian National Television report.

However back then it was just briefly explored but sealed away due to constructions, so exploration of this area now is a very interesting job for the local archaeological society.

Archaeologists in this excavation reported that the object, lying on Nezavisimost Square between the city theatre and the State Archive, was located beyond the walls of Odesos, the ancient city that was once situated where Varna is now.

The Varna Man, who lived around the 5th Millennium BC, is the wealthiest burial at that time

The Varna Man, who lived around the 5th Millennium BC, is the wealthiest burial at that time

The site, located on the outskirts of the Black Sea resort of Varna, was discovered accidentally when tractor operator Raicho Marinov was cutting a trench to lay an electric cable for a local factory.

He suddenly noticed small squares of shiny yellow metal, bracelets of the same material, green-coloured artefacts, and flakes of flint.

Rushed to the local museum, the objects were soon identified as prehistoric stone tools, corroded copper axes, and, clearly associated with them, golden ornaments. The association was what mattered: the implication was that the gold artefacts were older than any others ever discovered anywhere.

The Varna man burial has some of the world’s oldest gold jewelry.

Museum curator Michail Lazarov and Sofia University professor Georgi Georgiev immediately set about organising a rescue excavation, and the museum’s young archaeologist, Ivan Ivanov, was appointed to lead it.

Ivanov’s team eventually uncovered 281 graves, more than half with grave goods, 18 of them exceptionally rich, and one of them among the richest graves ever excavated.

The date of the cemetery has recently been pushed back to the 5th millennium BC. A radiocarbon determination now gives it as c.4500 BC.

The discoveries

About 200 crouched or, far more commonly, extended inhumations have been uncovered in the two-thirds of the cemetery so far excavated. Both males and females are represented.

The bodies were placed in flat graves formed of shallow pits without mounds. The remaining graves are ‘cenotaph graves’ – where nobody is present but where grave goods have been laid out – or ‘mask graves’, where a life-size ceramic mask has been substituted for an actual body.

Three cenotaph graves, three mask graves, and a number of the inhumations are extremely rich. The total assemblage includes 3,000 gold artefacts weighing over 6kg.

The richest burial is of a man in his mid-40s buried with no less than 990 separate gold objects, including beads, rings, and a variety of decorations for body, clothing, and hair, among them a penis sheath. This man was also buried with copper axes, other copper tools, and a sceptre in the form of a perforated stone axe or mace.

In addition to gold and copper, the exotic materials represented among the grave goods include graphite, spondylus shell, dentalium shell, carnelian, and marble. Ceramic containers were also present in many graves.

The deductions

Varna implies three major developments in the mid-5th millennium BC. First, given the range of exotic material, Varna must have been part of an extensive trading network, allowing some members of this Early Chalcolithic community to become rich and powerful.

Second – presumably because of its role in trade – the Varna community appears to have developed extreme social differentiation at a very early date, judging by the fact that most graves contain no or few grave goods, while a minority are exceptionally rich. The social gap between the many unfurnished inhumations and the Grave 43 man seems huge.

A reconstruction of Grave 43 at Varna.

Third, on the evidence of Grave 43 – by implication that of a warrior, a ruler, and perhaps, given the common character of early chieftainship, some sort of priest-king – the transition from a more matriarchal Neolithic to a more patriarchal Chalcolithic/Bronze Age form of social organisation was well advanced at Varna.

The presence of bull-shaped objects among the goldwork – most of which is otherwise non-representative – coupled with the penis sheath certainly implies a cultural preoccupation with virility and male power.

Village Dated to First Bulgarian Empire Discovered

Village Dated to First Bulgarian Empire Discovered

A previously unknown village dated to the ninth century A.D. was discovered in northeastern Bulgaria by a team of researchers led by Stanislav Ivanov of the Shumen Branch of Bulgaria’s National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia, according to an Archaeology in Bulgaria report.

The 9th century AD was a very turbulent time for the First Bulgarian Empire but also a prelude to its greatest rise, with its so-called Golden Age beginning in the second half of the century and lasting into the middle of the 10th century.

For the First Bulgarian Empire, the 9th century started with the rule of Khan Krum the Fearsome (r. 803 – 814 AD), and ended with the beginning of Tsar Simeon I the Great (r. 893 – 927 AD). It saw the conversion of the entire Bulgarian Empire from paganism to Christianity and the development and adoption of the Bulgaric (Cyrillic) alphabet under Knyaz Boris I (r. 852 – 889; 893 AD) ushering into the rise of the Old Bulgarian literary language.

The previously unknown medieval Bulgarian village has been discovered as a result of rescue excavations for the construction of the Hemus Highway, a road linking the Bulgarian capital Sofia with the city of Varna on the Black Sea via the Danube Valley in Northern Bulgaria.

An archaeological team led by Stanislav Ivanov from the Shumen Branch of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology in Sofia explored the archaeological site of the 9th-century Bulgarian village in September 2020. More than 100 people, including 16 archaeologists, took part in the rescue excavations, BTA reports.

The site in question is located near today’s town of Gradishte, Shumen District, in Northeast Bulgaria. (“Gradishte” is an old Bulgarian word referring to a “fortress” or a “stronghold”.)

Dozens of dugouts typical of the rural population of the First Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century AD have been unearthed in a medieval settlement in the Shumen District.

The archaeological team has unearthed about 17 decares (app. 4 acres) from the territory of the medieval Bulgarian settlement as part of the plot slated for rescue digs for the building of the Hemus Highway. They have dug up some 80 dugout dwellings, with the total territory and the total number of 9th-century homes in the village remaining unknown for the time being.

Dozens of dugouts typical of the rural population of the First Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century AD have been unearthed in a medieval settlement in the Shumen District.
Dozens of dugouts typical of the rural population of the First Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century AD have been unearthed in a medieval settlement in the Shumen District.
Dozens of dugouts typical of the rural population of the First Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century AD have been unearthed in a medieval settlement in the Shumen District.
Dozens of dugouts typical of the rural population of the First Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century AD have been unearthed in a medieval settlement in the Shumen District.
Dozens of dugouts typical of the rural population of the First Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century AD have been unearthed in a medieval settlement in the Shumen District.

“At the present stage, we are unable to say how big the settlement was,” lead archaeologist Stanislav Ivanov is quoted as saying.

“The bulk of the archaeological site is a settlement from the First Bulgarian State. These are dugout dwelling which was typical for the population that was not of aristocratic origin. These are dug into the ground, dugouts of the classical type, which have also been studied in other sites as well,” Ivanov explains.

“We have detected about 80 dwellings so far. On the inside, they had wooden plaster which has not survived. However, in many cases, there was a filling between the plaster and the soil, which has been preserved. It was used as additional reinforcement of the very walls of the dwellings,” the archaeologist elaborates.

“In some sectors of the settlement, we observe the grouping of dwellings. It is unclear why that is. It may have been due to individual families, or due to random factors, or due to the fact that some of the dwellings were slightly earlier than the others,” he adds.

“We will have a clearer idea about that after the processing of all materials. That will tell us which dugouts were built earlier and which came later. There are cases of dwellings which were reused, up to three times, as indicated by the floor levels and other evidence,” Ivanov says.

In some of the dugouts from the 9th-century village from the time of the First Bulgarian Empire, the archaeologists have discovered kilns used for the making of household pottery items.

The excavations have yielded also numerous arrow tips. Ivanov cautions, however, that the village was hardly the site of a battle. Instead, the arrow tip finds demonstrate that the male population of the medieval Bulgarian settlement included numerous warriors.

The dozens of dugouts have yielded other artifacts such as knives, bone awls, and here and there some adornments, bronze rings being the most frequent ones, and some medallions. The researchers hypothesize that one medallion, in particular, may have been used as an amulet against curses.

“So far we have found no evidence of crafts and the production of artifacts,” Ivanov says.

For the time being, the archaeologists have discovered neither the necropolis of the 9th-century medieval Bulgarian village nor any commercial or storage facilities. However, they do not rule the possibility of coming across those, with further excavations expected to be conducted in the 2021 archaeological season.

A map showing the First Bulgarian Empire in the 9th and 10th century AD.
A map showing the culture of the First Bulgarian Empire.

During the rescue digs at the site near Gradishte in Northeast Bulgaria along the route of the Hemus Highway, the archaeologists have also found in deeper layers some prehistoric items from the Chalcolithic (Aeneolithic, Copper Age). Their presence is due to a nearby Chalcolithic settlement mound.

A large number of dugouts, some of them quite untypical in size and containing stone structures, have also been found during rescue excavations in 2020 in what was a previously unknown town from the 8th – 10th century right outside of Pliska, the first capital of the First Bulgarian Empire.

5th Century Roman Marble Table Unearthed in Bulgaria

5th Century Roman Marble Table Unearthed in Bulgaria

According to an Archaeology in Bulgaria report, more than 100 pieces of a household table dated to the fourth century A.D. have been found in one of the towers at the Petrich Kale Fortress, which is located on a plateau in northeastern Bulgaria near the coast of the Black Sea.

Even though the rare artefact, an ancient marble table signifying the presence of a high-ranking Roman official, has been found broken, almost all of its pieces are in place, allowing the restorers from the Varna Museum of Archaeology to put it back together.

Petrich Kale is a fortress which was in used for about 1,000 years by the medieval Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) and the medieval Bulgarian Empire, up until the region’s conquest by the Ottoman Turks. The Petrich Kale Fortress is located in Avren Municipality, right outside of the Black Sea city of Varna (it should not be confused with the modern-day town of Petrich in Southwest Bulgaria).

The Petrich Kale Fortress was established in the Late Roman and Early Byzantine period, in the 5th century AD, and was destroyed by the end of the 6th century by barbarian invasions. It was rebuilt in the 11th century and became a major stronghold in the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396). In 1154 AD, medieval Arab geographer Muhammad Al-Idrisi wrote that Petrich was a “thriving small town” to the west of Varna.

The Petrich Kale Fortress was ultimately destroyed for good by the Ottoman Turks in 1444 AD, three days before the Battle of Varna, in which they defeated the second and last Christian Crusade of the King of Poland and Hungary, Wladislaw III (also known as Varnenchik because he found his death in the Battle of Varna).

An archaeological team from the Varna Museum of Archaeology has found the white marble table from the 5th century AD inside the ruins of the southern tower of the Petrich Kale fortress during excavations in the fall of 2020, BTA reports.

5th Century Roman Marble Table Unearthed in Bulgaria
The marvellous 4th-5th century white marble table has been found inside one of the towers of the Petrich Kale Fortress near Bulgaria’s Varna.

“It is one of the nicest finds from our latest excavations of the Petrich Kale fortress,” says Assist. Prof. Maria Manolova-Voykova from the Varna Museum of Archaeology.

“It is a round table made of white marble, and is known in scientific literature as a table from the “raven beak” type due to its typical profile, with its top slightly curled inwards,” she explains.

Manolova-Voykova notes that similar white marble tables from the Late Roman and Early Byzantine period are known from the Eastern Mediterranean, where samples have been found in Greece and Turkey. The 5th-century table from the Petrich Kale fortress near Varna is the first one of its type to have been discovered in Bulgaria.

“Interestingly, unlike most [late Antiquity and early medieval] marble tables, which are connected with some liturgy functions from the Christian period, this type of tables have more of a secular character and household usage, as a household item showing the well-being of the respective residence,” the archaeologists say.

“Because of that, it was very interesting for us to discover this table in one of the fortress towers, which showed that the tower probably was the residence of some high-ranking administrator, perhaps dealing with the defence of the fortress, or perhaps its very governor,” she elaborates.

“Of course, for the time being, those are just conjectures but it is a fact that we found the marble table in a layer connected with the 4th century AD (i.e. the Late Roman period),” Manolova-Voykova states.

The Late Roman/Early Byzantine white marble table has been discovered shattered in more than 100 pieces but is expected to be fully restored.

Her team has found the white marble table from the Late Roman / Early Byzantine period while clearing up construction debris inside the southern fortress tower of the Petrich Kale fortress. In addition to the shattered table, the archaeologists found inside numerous pottery fragments and Late Roman and Early Byzantine coins.

Artist and restorer Milen Marinov, who is in charge of the restoration of the 5th-century white marble table from the Petrich Kale Fortress, notes that it has been found in more than 100 pieces. Yet, it will probably be restored at almost 100% with patience and diligence as there are very few missing pieces. Marinov praised the archaeologists who recovered the precious Antiquity artefact for saving even pieces as tiny as 1 centimetre.

He adds he is using various types of glue in order to make sure that the restored table will be simultaneously solid and natural-looking once it is exhibited for the visitors of the Varna Museum of Archaeology. The museum itself boasts one of the richest archaeological collections in Bulgaria, not least the world-famous Varna Gold Treasure, the world’s oldest. The medieval Byzantine and Bulgarian fortress Petrich Kale are located 4 km north of the town of Avren, Avren Municipality near the Black Sea city of Varna, in Northeast Bulgaria (not to be confused with the modern-day town of Petrich in Southwest Bulgaria); it is also 1 km away from the Razdelna railway station.

An aerial view of the Petrich Kale fortress south of the Beloslav Lake and the Varna Lake, near Bulgaria’s Varna.
A map of the Petrich Kale fortress near the Black Sea city of Varna in Northeast Bulgaria.
A map of the Petrich Kale fortress near the Black Sea city of Varna in Northeast Bulgaria.

It is located on a high rock plateau towering at up to about 100 meters, on a territory of about 30 decares (app. 7.5 acres). It had an inner and outer fortress wall as well as stone stairs carved into the rock on the north side of the plateau. Archaeological exploration indicates that the Petrich Kale Fortress was first established during the Early Byzantine period, in the 5th-6th century AD, but was destroyed towards the end of the 6th century AD.

(“Кale” is a Turkish word meaning “fortress” leftover from the Ottoman period commonly used for the numerous ruins of ancient and medieval fortresses all over Bulgaria, whose proper names are sometimes unknown.)

It was rebuilt in the 11th-12th century, the period when Byzantium conquered the First Bulgarian Empire (632/680-1018 AD) and was a major fortress of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396 AD) during the 13th-14th century. The Petrich Kale Fortress was completely destroyed in 1444 AD by the Ottoman Turks who had conquered all of Bulgaria in 1396 AD, after the Second Crusade against the Ottoman Empire led by Wladislaw III, King of Poland, Hungary, and Croatia, who perished in the Battle of Varna (which is why he is also known as Varnenchik – Warnenczyk in Polish).

The Petrich Kale Fortress was destroyed by the Ottoman Turks on November 7, 1444, three days before the Battle of Varna on November 10, 1444, in which the Christian Crusaders were defeated. Thus, the Petrich Kale Fortress is connected with the history of the Central European states Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

The Petrich Kale Fortress was first mentioned in written sources in 1154 AD by medieval Arab geographer Muhammad Al-Idrisi who described it as a “small thriving town” west of Varna. Later it was mentioned by Byzantine poet Manuel Philes (ca. 1275-1345 AD) in connection with the military campaign of Byzantine general Michael Tarchaeneiotes in Northeast Bulgaria in 1278 AD.

It was also mentioned in documents of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople in 1369 AD and in numerous accounts of the Second Crusade of King Wladislaw III against the Ottoman Turks. The Petrich Kale Fortress near Varna was excavated by Bulgarian archaeologists in the 1970s; in recent years, the archaeological excavations were resumed in 2010 by the Varna Museum of Archaeology (Varna Regional Museum of History).

Bulgarian Gangsters Busted for Looting 4,600 Ancient Artifacts from Historical sites

Bulgarian Gangsters Busted for Looting 4,600 Ancient Artifacts from Historical sites

After two years of investigation by Bulgarian, British, and German authorities, an international crime ring planning to smuggle thousands of ancient artifacts into England has been caught. According to The Times, the 4,600 items ranged from spears and coins to funeral urns, ceramics, and arrowheads.

The artifacts span from the Bronze and Iron Age to the Middle Ages. Some of the relics were illegally excavated from Roman-era military camps in Bulgaria. They were then smuggled into Germany, with the ultimate goal being legitimate sales in the London art market.

According to Heritage Daily, the gang chose Germany as its transit country and hired private U.K. transportation companies to bring the goods into England. Little did they know that Bulgarian police received a tip-off in March 2018 — after which surveillance on the group began in earnest.

Were it not for the successful sting operation on behalf of authorities from three different countries, the eight individuals now under arrest would’ve made several millions of euros. The remarkable goods, meanwhile, would have been likely been dispersed across private homes around the world.

A task force came together to stop the smugglers, coordinated by Europol and conducted by the General Directorate for the Fight against Organized Crime of the Bulgarian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

EuropolThe trove of looted artifacts contained arrowheads, ceramics, spears, funeral urns, ancient coins, and more.

They worked for hand in hand with the British Metropolitan Police, as well as the German State Criminal Police of Bavaria, under an umbrella operation called MEDICUS.

As the existence of the looted goods wasn’t officially known, proving their illicit origin is difficult to do. With forged provenance and documentation on top, the legal ownership of these artifacts would appear entirely legitimate to auction houses or interested parties.

Only diligent surveillance and monitoring of the group allowed authorities to confirm their suspicions. Five of the eight gang members were arrested before leaving Bulgaria. Three of them were permitted to enter the U.K., thus committing the crime of smuggling goods across, before being arrested.

The group of three was detained after entering the U.K. in Dover. Two men aged 19 and 55 and one 67-year-old women were arrested. According to The Southend Standard, the charge was suspicion of handling stolen goods, and the artifacts concealed in the suspects’ vehicle quickly confirmed as much.

EuropolThree of the smugglers were caught entering the U.K. in Dover, with the other five apprehended in Bulgaria.

“The arrests were made as part of an ongoing investigation into the theft of cultural artifacts in Europe which is being led by detectives from the Met’s art and the antique unit,” the Metropolitan Police said.

This sting operation dates to October 2019, but Europol has only now felt assured enough that publishing any details won’t jeopardize other operations nor the trials of these eight individuals. Europol explained in a statement that auction houses are commonly part of such illegal sales.

“This case confirms that the most common way to dispose of archaeological goods illegally excavated is by entering the legitimate art market,” the agency said.

Last month, the arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby was caught having illegally purchased an ancient tablet inscribed with part of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

On top of that, the $1.6 million artifacts were only one of the thousands of relics looted and smuggled from Iraq that the company had illegally bought.

Hopefully, more time and effort is spent on preventing this seemingly ubiquitous practice. Cultural artifacts belong to the people of their countries — and should be displayed for them to cherish and learn from. At least in this latest case, it appears that this kind of justice is being fought for.