A destroyed cultural heritage The cultural heritage located in about

A destroyed cultural heritage
The cultural heritage located in about six thousand archaeological spots in Macedonia became a main
target of illegal diggers and smugglers after the fall of Yugoslavia.
Experts predict that the archaeological heritage became subject to thieves and smugglers who use
sophisticated equipment for their actions and just a few locations have remained untouched yet.
A resident of Dojran, whose house is situated near a site from the Iron Age, where 98 graves have been
dug so far, says in an interview for “Herald Tribune” that the site is extremely dug.
“Groups of illegal diggers have earned a fortune by selling Macedonian bronze materials excavated
from these sites to Greeks and others buyers,” he says.
There is a warning coming from the Macedonian Association of Archaeologists that every year a large
number of local and foreign diggers find precious remainders from the Iron Age, as well as Thracian,
Roman and Byzantium artifacts.
Pasko Kuzman, director of the National Institute for Protection of the Cultural Heritage says that
archaeological sites from the Iron Age in southeastern Macedonia are continuously robbed.
Macedonia has a rich history. The country is part of the region Macedonia in which there are parts
spread out in Greece and Bulgaria and it was a great power at the time of Phillip II the Macedonian and
his son Alexander the Great. The southern part of Macedonia was under the dominance of various
different civilizations – antique Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, and the Ottoman Empire.
“The Macedonian bronze has become trendy. It is world known because of the style and its price will
probably remain pretty high in the market,” say the Macedonian archaeologists.
Isar – Marvinci is the location where the residents quite often organize tours for visitors and where
antiquities are searched for.
“You can easily find money/coins from the Roman times; you can also find ceramic items. Just look
carefully. Every single stone is thousands of years old,” says a resident of the village who does not
want his name to be mentioned.
In the police action “Falanga” carried out in 2010, the most encompassing of its kind, there were 3,000
pieces of coins seized, more than 20 different figures made of stone, bronze, copper, marble as well as e
large number of ceramic, copper and brass dishes, 16 pieces of jewelry, metal axes, icons found in
houses of the group members who were arrested because of their illegal digging activities and sale of
excavated objects. The police submitted applications against 29 persons of 48 detained. They had
illegally traded precious archaeological and ethnological materials which originate from the 8th to the
12th century B.C. According to some estimation, these items are worth millions of Euros.
Among one of the most characteristic cases is the sale offering of an iron male figure – TORSO which
was offered to interested buyers from Germany, Greece and Macedonia at a price of 50 – 60 thousand
Euros by two of the detained persons. The figure was transported from Skopje to Prilep by a police
officer involved in the crime. Another nine silver coins – a king’s seal and another seal – at a price of
3,000 Euros; a silver human figure for 3,500 Euros; a small human bronze head for 2,000 Euros and
another bronze head was sold for 23,000 denars.
“This is about an exclusively large collection of items found in the suspects’ possession belonging to
different historical periods. This is a result of a well-planned police action which we have carried out
by applying special investigative measures. The police action lasted 12 months,” said the Minister of
the Interior, Gordana Jankullovska.
Most of the people involved had been working in an organized way. In their homes were found
topographic maps, professional literature, different types of detectors, etc. the sites where they had been
operating are Isar Marvinci, Mariovo, Vrance, Cepigovo, etc. The findings had been planned for
markets in Greece, Italy, Austria, etc. It is estimated that there are about 5,000 archaeological sites in
During the action “Falanga” there were 48 detained people from eight cities in Macedonia, among
which Prilep, Shtip, Strumica, Negotino. Also, there were police officers, businessmen, company
directors, municipal counselors that were arrested in this case since they had all been involved in these
criminal activities.
The police action “Falanga” during which criminal acts related to illegal trade, possession and abuse of
archaeological artifacts, confiscation of items from the 8th century B.C. (the Iron Age) until the 14th
century A.D. occurred, was widely presented in a number of world informative portals.
Natali N. Sotirovska
Vladimir Lochev
The project was realized with the help and support of the Danish Association for Research Journalism
and the SCOOP Project.