National Geographic explains that the Greek government’s financial crisis is driving law abiding citizens to become antiquities hunters in the hopes of selling priceless artifacts on the black market.
Despite rampant reports of ISIS funding terror through illicit sales, the problem is more a sign of Greeks reaching their breaking point than a true threat to the country’s patrimony:
One sign of the problem: a sharp rise in applications for metal detector permits. Because metal detectors are used to find ancient coins and artifacts, the Greek government tracks purchases of the devices and typically grants use permits only to people without a criminal record. “The numbers have increased, and this is related to the economic crisis,” Lieutenant Monovasios said.
As the Greek economic crisis has intensified over the past five years, police detectives with the Greek Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage have noticed not only that illegal excavations and thefts of archaeological artifacts increased, but also that the typical profile of looters has changed.
Before the crisis, many looters were members of criminal networks that also trafficked in guns and narcotics. Now it appears that regular people with access to tools for digging are unearthing pieces of Greece’s past and selling them for quick cash.
Strapped for Cash, Some Greeks Turn to Ancient Source of Wealth (National Geographic)