Turkey’s historical artifacts illegally put up for sale online
Ömer Erbil – ISTANBUL
A group of treasure hunters have been putting up historic artifacts on sale, communicating and posting photos of the artifacts they excavated illegally on an online encrypted platform, according to a report released by the archeological website “Arkeofili” run by archeologists.
“In the platform in question, historical artifacts obtained by illicit excavations are being put up for sale, their prices are being discussed, [treasure hunters] consult each other on how to excavate, sensors are being sold, police officers who are members of the platform are being exposed, videos of found mosaics are being shared,” Arkeofili’s report said.
Some archeologists from the Arkeofili website have created fake accounts to get the full story, engaging in conversations with the treasure hunters.
“A treasure hunter we talked over our fake account with bluntly said that he got his hands on an artifact from Yenikapı excavations, that the piece is real and wants to put it up for sale,” the report said, referring to the extensive excavations in Istanbul’s Yenikapı neighborhood, where tens of thousands of archeological artifacts dating back to prehistoric ages were discovered.
Apart from their online platform, treasure hunters are illegally selling the illegally excavated historic pieces over social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, according to the report.
The treasure hunters have established a real foundation, the report stressed, with the archaeologists saying they were puzzled by how an official foundation could be established for these illegal activities.
“If there is no denunciation, it’s probably very unlikely for a treasure hunter to get caught. [Turkey’s] Culture and Tourism Ministry is standing idle,” the report added.
The Turkish Code on Conservation of Cultural and Natural Heritage stipulates that even if one owns a property, necessary permissions should be granted by the ministry to excavate an area. But using sensors to detect artefacts is not prohibited, encouraging treasure hunters to go on a quest for historic pieces.
Against this backdrop of widespread illegal treasure hunting, Turkey has been struggling for years to return smuggled artefacts from abroad back to their country of origin. Diplomatic dialogues are established to ensure the return of the artefacts and lawsuits. Millions of Turkish Liras are being spent, along with insurance and transfer costs, in attempts to return the historic pieces.