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