In what has been dubbed their biggest bust against traffickers of historical artifacts, police in Turkey’s capital Ankara seized 16,797 artifacts, mostly historic coins, on Monday. Acting on a tip that a suspect was selling a large amount of artifacts in the Mamak district, the police stopped the suspect’s car as he drove into the district. A search of the car revealed coins, as well as 399 jewels.
Police said the artifacts date from the Byzantine, Roman, Seljuk and Ottoman eras and the suspect is in custody. The artifacts will be handed over to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in the capital.
Hundreds of anti-smuggling operations are carried out every year across Turkey to stop the illegal sale of historical artifacts and protect the country’s rich cultural heritage. This issue is crucial for a country which is home to approximately 3,000 ancient cities from 42 civilizations and whose tourist industry relies on its rich historical heritage to attract millions of foreign visitors each year. Turkey is also working to repatriate artifacts taken abroad decades ago by smugglers and last year it brought back 3,480 artifacts from various countries.