Police arrested four people who were carrying out an illegal archaeological excavation of an ancient Roman villa in the village of Vetren in the Stara Zagora area, Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry said on August 24.
The operation against the illegal dig, carried out on August 21, resulted in the confiscation of a large number of coins, jewellery and pottery from antiquity, the ministry said.
Also seized were four metal detectors, tools, building fragments and other items of cultural value.
Subsequent searches of the homes of those arrested turned up 165 further items, including ancient coins, jewellery and household items.
Those arrested are in their 30s and include a husband and wife. Three are from Stara Zagora and one from Gurkovo.
The operation against the illegal dig was supervised by the Stara Zagora district prosecution office and participants included officers from the squad against crime involving items of cultural value.
Vetren is the site of the Kaleto fortress, dating at least from Roman times. At the site, the remains of fortress walls, residential and storage buildings, believed to date from the first century CE, are visible.
The area also has the remnants of a Roman road. Archaeologists believe that the fortress housed a garrison whose duty it was to protect travellers on the “highway” – as locals still term it – in the direction of Constantinople.
The four are being held in custody and pre-trial proceedings have been initiated while investigations continue, Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry said.
(Photo: Sascha Hoffmann/sxc.hu)