Bulgaria Demands Return of Medieval Silver Plates from Greece

Politics | July 12, 2007, Thursday // 00:00
Bulgaria: Bulgaria Demands Return of Medieval Silver Plates from Greece A scandal broke in November last year after Christie's auctioning house offered for sale a unique silver platter discovered in Bulgaria. The 12th-century dish is engraved with a hunting scene and is estimated a up to GBP 500,000. Photo by Christie's

Bulgarian prosecutors have demanded that three Greek museums return nine silver plates, dating back to the 12th century, illegally dug up and smuggled out of the country.

The items are part of a 13-piece set dug up in 2000 by local tomb raiders and sold abroad over the next year, the prosecutors claim.

Their assertion is backed up by Nayden Blanghev, the tomb raider who claims to have found the set near Pazardzhik in central Bulgaria, selling it on to antiquities dealers.

The unique set belonged to an Alani chieftain who settled in Bulgaria in the 13th century, possibly fleeing the Mongol invasion.

The Alans were an Iranian nomad group hailing from the North Caucasus, but reached as far as modern-day France and Spain in the early Middle Ages.

Bulgarian prosecutors began an investigation after London auction house Christie's offered one of the plates for sale as part of the Stanford Place Collection in November 2006, for a starting price of GBP 300 000.

Christie's argued that the silver plate was indeed dug up on Bulgarian territory, but back in 2003, and as such was not subject to a 1972 international convention against the trafficking of historical artefacts.

Of the 13-piece set, nine pieces are in Greece, two more in private collections in the UK and one more in France. The location of the last piece is unknown.

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