Treasure hunters desecrate ancient burial site

Archeaological digs in the Viļaka region where researchers were in the process of uncovering 200 ancient Latgallian graves was looted and desecrated last week, the State Inspection for Heritage Protection, together with the State Police announced Friday.

Authorities found that within one week’s time the graves at the Danilovkas ancient burial grounds 1 and 2 had been disinterred and robbed of artifacts. Likewise, significant damage was caused to the Loginu ancient burial grounds in Medņeva parish. Latgale Regional Police department inspectors said they have never seen destruction on such a large scale.

The Loginu ancient cemetery in Medņeva county in Viļaka district is 10 minutes by automobile through the forest. Only locals know where to find the 13th century Latgallian graves.

The thieves scattered bones and skull fragments in the sand. Local inhabitants tell of empty Coca-cola bottles and cigarette butts left in the pits.

"Of course, it is unpleasant and disappointing to see the destruction of ancestral history by descrating graves, no matter how long they had been buried, 50, 100 or 200 years. Still, it is the final resting place of people." Šķilbēnu district administrator Andris Mežulis told Latgale Regional Television news.

The diggers probably used metal detectors to find bronze jewelry, belt buckles, rings, coins and also weapons interred with the deceased. Officials from State Inspection for Heritage Protection were shocked by the scale of the destruction.

"It is very valuable." said Vilma Platpīre, director of Heritage Protection Inspection’s Latgale office. "We don’t really have so many graves [of this type] in Latgale region – the richest in spiritual and material history. Archaeologists will come to assess the damage and, of course, the pits will have to be backfilled. We will visually regain their shape, but the wealth has been lost."said Platpīre.

State Police have launched criminal proceedings and will be closely following all websites where the so-called ‘black archaeologists’ sell their finds. At the moment there are no suspects. Persons who could be involved are being investigated. "Hopefully, we’ll have something soon." says Dzintars Čebrakovs, station chief of the Balvu precinct of National Police, Latgale region.

In 2014 Latgale regional police inspectors discovered damage to more than 10 cultural monuments into which State Police have launched criminal investigations. However, only a few of those are yielding results.


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