reports that stolen and smuggled relics, worth about 160-200 million HUF, were found in a Turkish van travelling through Hungary.

The Hungarian authorities in Bács-Kiskun county gave a statement at a press conference saying that, during a roadside check on September 29, 2016, they arrested a 50-year-old Turkish man, for he was driving a van full of stolen and smuggled relics, which had a value altogether of about 160-200 million HUF (almost 600 thousand EUR).

They found out that the driving cab stored 101 relics: 73 bronze items were from the ancient Urartu (today the area of Turkey and, partly, Armenia) among 14 Roman gold coins, Assyrian stoneware, and 9 cylinder seals.

The man cooperated, and told the authorities that an acquaintance of his asked him to transport the items from Istanbul to Poland, for 300 EUR. After arresting him, pre-trial detention was ordered and when the investigation ended, proceedings started for receiving the stolen goods.

It was noted on Wednesday (February 8) that the confiscation of the relics was proposed. Currently they can be found at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. The catch is regarded as unique, for such a compilation of relics from the Near East is rarely found.

Tamás Dezső, archaeologist and Assyriologist, who coordinated the inspection of the items, also highlighted how rarely relics of such a quality and quantity are found: one of the Urartu bronze items, which might be from 714-685 BC, has a theoretical value beyond numbers, as only a few of it exist around the world.

The Roman coins were checked by István Vida, archaeologist of the National Museum, and he found the items belonging to Nero, Vespasianus, and Traianus. Gábor Kalla, archaeologist, Assyriologist and docent at ELTE (Eötvös Loránd University) mentioned that forgeries were also among the relics, noting that the stoneware were, for example, great quality modern forgeries, just like the nine seals inspected by Zoltán Niederreiter, archaeologist, historian, Assyriologist, and adjunct professor at ELTE.

Tamás Dezső also called attention to the forgeries, for their quality suggests that a workshop for counterfeiting relics is most probably around in Turkey or in its neighbourhood. Notably, the fact that the Hungarians found such a collection seems to be quite unprecedented, and the authorities are in contact with the Turkish counterpart. So far, though, the progress of the Turkish investigation is not known.

Photo: BRMFK

Copy editor: bm


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