Associated Press has announced today that Macedonian police had seized parts of a Roman-era bronze burial chariot dating from the second century A.D. as part of an operation to recover stolen antiquities and detained 2 people and charged with "concealment." It is believed that other parts of the chariot have already been sold on the foreign antiquities black market. In crackdowns in Macedonia more than 4,000 ancient artefacts, have been recovered in police raids since June. A total of 29 people, including two police officers and a former mayor, have been charged and police believe they are members of a crime ring aiming to sell stolen antiquities abroad. This trade of course cannot exist without people abroad willing to buy these antiquities from those representing the business interests of such a crime ring. Let us hope the ongoing Macedonian investigations reveals who they are. Let us hope their names are revealed and those of their business contacts. Responsible dealers should hold out for this too, so they can be protected from the stigma of association with those who have no scruples about not checking in detail the origins of the items they peddle.
Macedonian police seize parts of Roman-era burial chariot, detain 2 people
(A reader suggested to me that instead of being a fresh story as Google Alerts tells me, this might be a recycled story five years old, on checking however I could find no trace of that being the case, if anyone knows any better please get in touch. Even if it is, the point made at the end still stands of course).
UPDATE: David Gill reminds us of this report ('Macedonia says cultural heritage plundered', 7th October 2005):
Macedonia's cultural heritage has been plundered to such an extent since independence in 1991 that authorities say they believe they have lost more than a million archaeological artefacts to Europe's black markets. "Macedonia is a victim of organised crime," which has stolen archaeological objects dating back to the 7th century BC, according to University of Macedonia history professor Viktor Lilcic.[...] Jovan Ristov, who heads the government department for preserving Macedonia's cultural heritage, added: "About 80 percent of Macedonia's archaeological treasures have been destroyed or taken from shallow archaeological sites."[...] A recent example of the trafficking occurred just days ago when an unidentified group of criminals smuggled out a "funeral ritual chariot" including human remains and animal figures from the 6th and 4th centuries BC, the Vreme newspaper said this week".This seems to be yet another case of the disturbing practice of human remains going to a private collector to put on domestic display as some kind of trophy. This however seems to be a different vehicle from the one mentioned above.