From an archaeological perspective the last 30 years in Eastern Europe (i.e. since the introduction of “Democracy”) have been marked by a massive growth in the trafficking of antiquities, and the resulting destruction of ancient cultural sites across the region. On the Balkans this phenomenon has reached catastrophic proportions over the last decade, with the looting of archaeological sites on an industrial scale, often with the passive or active collusion of the local authorities.
These artifacts are then illegally transported to the west, primarily to dealers in Germany, where they are laundered – i.e. provided with false documents by ‘experts’ indicating that they come from ‘old private collections’, thus legalizing their sale on the open market.
A recent example of this phenomenon is the material from a Balkan Celtic warrior burial discovered at Bačka Palanka (Vojvodina) on the Danube in northwestern Serbia. The material from the burial represents the complete inventory of a Celtic (Scordisci) warrior, dating to the 3rd / early 2nd century BC, and includes an iron sword in its scabbard, knife and socketed spearhead, all ritually killed / bent according to Celtic ritual. Further material from the burial included a shield umbo, forged kettle chain and sword chain.
Ritually killed iron sword in its scabbard from the Bačka Palanka burial
Shield umbo from the burial
The material from the Bačka Palanka burial represents just one example of the massive amount of Balkan Celtic material, particularly from Serbia and Bulgaria, which has been looted and illegally exported over the past few years, thus irreversibly distorting and destroying our understanding of the historical and cultural heritage of this part of Europe.