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Is the archaeology of the Balkans under threat?

The archaeology of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is under serious threat. In 2006 it was claimed that some 1 million artefacts had been smuggled out of the country in the fifteen years since its independence in 1991. Pasko Kuzman, head of the National Directorate for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, has called for the return of the Koreschnica krater that is said to have been removed from a sixth century BCE burial mound in the south of the country. It is reported to be in the possession of an unidentified New York collector.

The piece, used for mixing water and wine, is apparently similar to a krater found at Trebinshte in the closing stages of the First World War near the (present) boundary between FYROM and Albania.

The mound at Koreschnica covered an underground burial chamber buried under 3.8 m of rocks and rubble. The burial was looted during the 1990s. Finds are said to have included some 18 Illyrian bronze helmets, and three bronze warriors. The krater had been used to contain the cremated remains of the person buried here.

Elsewhere in the Balkans a hoard of Byzantine silver is said to have been found at Pazardzhik in Bulgaria during the 1990s. Pieces from it were acquired by several museums in Greece.

The scale of the problem in Bulgaria is massive. A report in 2007 suggested that some 16,000 archaeological pieces had been seized from looters in the preceding 10 month period.

Museums, private collectors, auction houses, dealers and archaeologists need to work together to put a stop to this large-scale destruction of the archaeological heritage of this part of Europe.


David Gill said…
For a discussion of looting at the Roman site of Ratiaria in Bulgaria see here.

For the return of coins from Italy to Bulgaria see here.

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