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Antiquities Smuggler Arrested in Greece with Dozens of Ancient Coins

Antiquities Smuggler
Greek experts say that the antiquities constitute objects of significant historical and archaeological value. Credit: ELAS (Greek Police)

A suspected antiquities smuggler was arrested on the island of Evia who had in his possession 38 ancient Greek coins and other antiquities that he intended to sell to treasure collectors.

Police have not revealed the identity of the 44-year-old man who is due to appear at a prosecutor to face charges.

The ancient objects were examined by an archaeologist of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Evia, who opined that they are included in the protection of cultural heritage and constitute objects of significant historical and archaeological value.

As pointed out by the archaeologist, the 38 coins are of the same time period, dating between 320 to 280 BC and constitute a single “treasure”, in the sense that they come from the same archaeological site.

The antiquities will be delivered for safekeeping and final assessment to the New Archaeological Museum of Chalkida.

Rare ancient coins of the suspected antiquities smuggler

ancient Greek coins
38 coins are of the same time period, dating between 320 to 280 BC. Credit: ELAS (Greek Police)

According to the police, the seized coins and antiquities include:

  • Six silver Athenian tetradrachms, depicting the helmeted head of Goddess Athena.
  • Ten silver coins were minted in the ancient city of Histiaia, depicting the nymph Histiaia.
  • A silver tetradrachm in the name of Alexander the Great, depicts on the obverse a head of Alexander carrying the lion of Heracles and on the reverse the God Zeus seated holding a scepter and an eagle.
  • Twenty-one silver drachmas with the same depiction as above.

Other antiquities seized included bronze rings, brass plates and a headless statue.

The theft of antiquities in Greece is a lucrative illicit trade

The theft of antiquities is a lucrative illicit trade. Thankfully, various national law enforcement agencies and international organizations conduct ongoing investigations to halt the smuggling of precious antiquities and recover items of historical, cultural, or artistic importance.

Due to the gravitas and value associated with any historical items from the ancient Greek world, antiquities belonging to the ancient Greek culture are a common target.

Antiquities smuggling is a serious problem in Greece, a country rich in archaeological heritage. There is a high demand for ancient artifacts on the international market, fetching high prices for private collections and museums.

In addition, Greece’s extensive coastline and numerous islands can make it challenging to control smuggling activities.

In March 2023 Greece welcomed the return of 29 illegally removed antiquities, including a rare gold coin, from the United States

A month later Greek police arrested five suspected antiquities smugglers on the island of Crete and recovered several items, including coffins and vessels, valued at over €500,000.

These examples illustrate the ongoing fight against antiquities smuggling in Greece. While the country is actively working to address the issue, it remains a complex challenge with no easy solution.

Related: The Most Notorious Antiquities Smuggler in Greece

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