A man has stumbled upon an earthen jar with about 90 silver coins from the 16th-18th century while plowing a field with a tractor in the town of Zahari Stoyanovo, Popovo Municipality, in Northeastern Bulgaria.
Tahir Mehmedov was plowing another man’s field when his tractor hit the earthen jar. Initially, the man did not realize that the clay vessel contained a treasure but he says he liked it and took it with him, the Bulgarian channel Nova TV reports.
Only when he was cleaning the earthen jar later did Mehmedov discover that it contained coins, and rushed to turn the archaeological find to the police.
It is important to note that this kind of behavior is not very common in Bulgaria, where thousands of treasure hunters have been destroying invaluable archaeological sites by the hour in the past decades as part of “independent” or organized crime “efforts” to strike it rich or just to get by.
After Mehmedov’s act, which certainly deserves praise, the local police turned over the earthen jar and the coins to the Popovo Museum of History where the find is kept now.
The Popovo Museum of History has announced that earthen jar contained Western European and Ottoman silver coins are dated back to the 16th-18th century, when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The coins have holes in them meaning that they were most likely placed on a string and worn as a necklace – a popular women’s decoration in the past.
Neither a more precise dating, nor the value of the Western European and Ottoman coins have been established with certainty, and the silver treasure from Bulgaira’s Zahari Stoyanovo is yet to be studied by archaeologists and numismatists.
For his part, Tahir Mehmedov is convinced that he has done the right thing by turning over the silver treasure he found to the authorities, rather than keeping it for himself or trying to sell it.
He probably would not have had a hard time finding a buyer considering recent stories about archaeological treasures saved from treasure hunters in the same region. The Bulgarian police in the city of Shumen, not far from Popovo, recently presented to the public thousands of ancient coins and artifacts confiscated from treasure hunters, and in February 2015 the Shumen Regional Museum of History organized an entire exhibition with items snatched from the hands of treasure hunters and antique traffickers.
Treasure hunting and illegal trafficking of antiques have been rampant in Bulgaria after the collapse of the communism regime in 1989 (and allegedly before that). Estimates vary but some consider this the second most profitable activity for the Bulgarian mafia after drug trafficking. One recent estimate suggests its annual turnover amounts to BGN 500 million (app. EUR 260 million), and estimates of the number of those involved range from 5 000 to 200 000 – 300 000, the vast majority of whom are low-level impoverished diggers.