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Illegal treasure hunting active in Romania

The circumstances under which a nation exerts its right to its cultural patrimony are increasingly being applied worldwide through Memorandum of Understanding and other agreements. Due to rampant smuggling and illegal excavations during 2017, Romania was thrust onto the front lines in this fight, attempting to protect archaeological finds including coins from being illegally exported.


The Romanian National Institute of Historical Monuments division of the Ministry of Culture of Romania has become increasingly busy as various objects from antiquity continue to be illegally excavated. The monuments division of the Ministry of Culture maintains a list of historical monuments officially deemed to be National Cultural Heritage of Romania.

The year 2017 was particularly challenging. On June 12, quoted a Romanian police report, “[four Czech citizens] undertook unauthorized searches and took from the archeological sites of Dacian fortresses several lots of artifacts belonging to the national cultural patrimony, causing the destruction of the archeological stratigraphy of the historical monuments in Piatra Roşie, Costeşti, Blidaru and Băniţa, in Hunedoara county.”

Four bronze and silver coins identified as being Dacian and Roman valued at 2,000 euro (about $2,355 US) were seized. According to Romania-Insider, “As part of the same case, several other monetary treasures and archeological goods illegally taken to the Czech Republic by the four were recovered last year.”

On Nov. 2, the European Association of Archaeologists Committee on the Illicit Trade in Cultural Material announced the Service for Criminal Investigations of the Caras-Severin County Police Inspectorate had seized about 5,000 artifacts including more than 300 ancient and medieval coins. The raids were aimed at treasure hunters in Caras-Severin, Arad, Timis and Bihor counties in western Romania.

The announcement noted that 18 metal detectors had been seized, 12 of which “were not authorized.”

The local policy appears to be that you are guilty until proven innocent. The committee also reported, “specialists of the Banat Montan Museum are currently assessing the items to establish if these are part of the national cultural patrimony.”

On Dec. 12, the National Museum of History confirmed a 108-gram-weight gold bracelet seized by police from a 27-year-old man in Olt County in southern Romania was genuine and “extremely important for the national heritage.” No other such bracelet has ever been found.

The bracelet had allegedly been discovered in the man’s garden two years earlier. The individual took it to a pawn shop recently, claiming to learn its value. Police seized the bracelet the following day. The individual is now being investigated for attempting to sell the bracelet. According to a museum statement, “Unfortunately, the saved piece is incomplete, being partially destroyed.”

Four coins described on the Dec. 14 posting to as a “[Amphipolis Roman] Macedonia Prima silver tetradrachm, an Alexander [III, ‘the Great’] of Macedon silver tetradrachm, an Antoninianus Roman silver [denarius] coin issued by Antoninus Pius, and a Roman silver [denarius] coin issued by Emperor Trajan with the inscription Dacia Capta” were recently seized in Transylvania.

The local Hunedoara County police in Transylvania described the coins as being “excellent pieces that were very well preserved, of very good quality.” The police indicated the coins fall into the category of being national cultural heritage and established a value on the coins at 1,500 euro (about $1,766 US).

This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.

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