National Geographic Article Stirs up Scandal in Bulgaria

Society | November 22, 2006, Wednesday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
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Bulgaria: National Geographic Article Stirs up Scandal in Bulgaria Top archaeologist Prof Nikolay Ovcharov slammed the article on Bulgaria's Thracian heritage, published in the National Geographic December issue under the titled "Bulgaria's Gold Rush". Photo by Yuliana Nikolova (Sofia Photo Agency)

Bulgaria's top archaeologists reacted strongly to an article on Thracian heritage in the National Geographic latest issue, saying it aims to discredit the country and drive foreigners away.

The article, entitled "Bulgaria's Gold Rush", said that the country's rich history left artefacts that now mean money in the bank for anyone who succeeds in digging them up. "For looters, Bulgaria is El Dorado, a vast trove of buried treasure where some graves have harbored gold since at least 4000 B.C.," the National Geographic wrote.

"I am deeply displeased by the article," said Prof Nikolay Ovcharov, featuring wrongly in the article as "Bulgaria's Indiana Jones". Ovcharov joined Wednesday a press conference of some of the country's most prominent archaeologists, who denounced publicly the article. "Were I a foreigner, I would not have made anything of it. The article is meant to drive away, rather than attract foreigners."

The true Indiana Jones of Bulgaria, archaeologist Georgi Kitov, was reportedly so distressed by the publication that he could not make it to the press conference.

"Kitov is presented as a controversial figure, both a hero and a criminal," Ovcharov commented.

Archaeologists say the article turns a blind eye to the significance and nature of the ancient Thracian culture and barely mentions the ancient sanctuary of Perperikon and the Valley of the Thracian Kings. According to them its tone and subjectivity marks a U-turn from the publications in the foreign press so far. All the more so because Kenneth Garrett, whose photographs illustrated the article, said he was enamoured by Bulgaria during his stay here.

It is still being considered whether to file an official complaint to the National Geographic magazine main office and demand that a new article on the topic is published.

Bulgaria's ancient Thracian heritage was thrust into the spotlight in 2004 with a number of key archaeological discoveries in the so-called "Valley of the Thracian Kings". The golden treasures attracted international attention and there was even a push to make the Thracian heritage Bulgaria's trademark abroad in a bid to boost tourism.

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