An article accusing Bulgarians of looting their own historical heritage published in National Geographic magazine in December 2006 caused dispute between Bulgarian archaeologists.
The article called Bulgaria's Gold Rush said that poverty turned Bulgarians into treasure hunters looting Thracian tombs throughout the country. Collapse of the Soviet Union affected Bulgarian economy, hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs and some of them are still unemployed, the article said. Those who have jobs, earn nearly $200 a month. Many Bulgarians had taken up looting to earn a living.
Georgi Kitov, one of Bulgaria's most prominent archaeologists agreed with the article. Bulgarian authorities had to read the article and introduce measures against the treasure hunters, Kitov told Focus news agency. Treasure hunting had to be banned and associated with a prison sentence.
The article accuses Kitov of threatening cultural heritage by using excavators and bulldozers. Kitov agreed but said that his working methods were safe for the remains. Another prominent archaeologist, Nikolai Ovcharov, said that the article showed lack of respect for Bulgarian archaeology. Such article should show the achievements together with the problems, he told Focus.
The author failed to understand how much efforts Bulgarians were putting into preserving their heritage, according to Ovcharov. Bulgaria had to legalise private collections, museums and auctions in order to control the antiques exchange, he said. National Museum of History's chief Bozhidar Dimitrov told Focus that Bulgaria needed strong police and judicial system to cope with treasure hunting.