Saturday 8 October 2011

An Important Case of Antiquities Smuggling (Thessalonike, Greece)

by Kostas Onisenko

Ancient objects similar to those that were confiscated by the Department of Illegal Antiquities Trade of the Greek Police last Thursday will be admired by visitors of the large exhibition at the Louvre in Paris "Ancient Macedonia - The Kingdom of Alexander the Great". The antiquities that were located by the police are similar to those that have been discovered in various localities of Central Macedonia, such as Sindos, Archondiko of Pella and elsewhere. "It is certain that these come from an illegal dig, certainly in Central Macedonia" commented a source in the Ministry of Culture. They total 70 objects of great archaeological importance, probably of the 6th century BC. The police handed over to archaeologists four helmets, golden masks, golden mouth-pieces, clay and metal vessels, pieces of an iron sword, various gold pieces and more. The archaeologists have not et determined their exact provenance.

The antiquities were handed over to the Archaeological Museum on the day that they wer e confiscated, in the presence of the Minister of Culture, P. Geroulanos, and the heads of Greek Police.

A source from the Ministry of Citizen Protection speaking to "Kathimerini" spoke of the great interest and the dimensions that this operations took on, and are related not only to the importance of the finding and saving such an important archaeological treasure: 'The geographic provenance of the objects and the fact that they seem to be related to the culture of Alexander the Great's Macedonia is of special importance, as it was imperative that they were not exported. In that case it would have been possible that they be "rediscovered" in an official "excavation" of one of our neighbouring countries. We have indications that such "discoveries of archaeological treasures" had in fact earlier been sold by illegal antiquity merchants from Greece. However this is something extremely difficult to prove", according to the same source.
The Greek Prime Minister Georgos Papandreou and the Minister of Culture Pavlos Geroulanos examine the antiquities.

"People of the Night"

According to information it was about three months ago that the police received the first information pertaining to the case. They contacted the illegal antiquities merchants in the guise of potential buyers and agreed to "buy" the treasure for the sum of 10 mil. euros. During the deal two people were arrested and two more are now wanted. According to police sources the were "people of the night" (mafia).

Source: Kathimerini, 08.10.2011

Supplementary information, taken from the article by
Aggeliki Kopi, Ta Nea.

It appears that the finds come from four or maybe five separate graves. Given that there are four helmets and some objects related to a woman's burial there must be at least five separate graves. It appears that they come from a hitherto unknown burial site.

The objects include: Four helmets, two golden masks with the features of the dead person, gold mouth-pieces, gold plates and jewellery that was attached to the clothes (tainies, circular pieces with the Macedonian star and more), gold rings, pins, and a small silver spoon are amongst the most important of the 70 antiquities recovered. We must also mention a miniature glass amphora with beautiful colours and designs, a phiale bearing the well known ray-decoration (star), an exceptional oinochoe, whose handle ends near the lip in the form of three lion heads, silver vessels, the upper part of a large bronze oinochoe, small clay figurines and a large selection of gold leaf decorated with Macedonian motifs.

According to the report of Aggeliaforos, 25.10.2011 one of those accused in this case disclosed information about the whereabouts of the unknown cemetery: it is said to be located in the larger area of Gerakarou. The archeologists where guided to the spot by the accused, but no announcement has yet officially been made.

Aggeliki Kopi, Ta Nea, 08.10.2011

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