Archaeologists versus Treasure Hunters game or how to preserve our own history


We have serious problem with treasure hunters in Bulgaria, because every day they damage heavily the archaeological sites. We can restore our state, demography and economy, but if we destroy our history we will not be able to buy it later. That is why we decided to create a board game named Archaeologists versus Treasure Hunters, in order to draw people’s attention on this problem in an unusual and entertaining way, Associate Professor Lyudmil Vagalinski, longtime Director of the National Archaeological Institute with Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Chairman of the non-governmental organization Archaeologia Bulgarica, which developed the board game and whose purpose is to promote the cultural and historical heritage of Bulgaria, said.

Archaeologists versus Treasure Hunters game was created for children aged 7plus and for adults. It is played by two teams – archaeologists against treasure hunters, who compete by moving their pawns and try to collect as many archaeological items as possible which are later assembled into a puzzle. Each of these items is found in a real archaeological site.

The two teams (archaeologists and treasure hunters) play with cards in this game. A leaflet presents interesting facts about the archaeological sites the players go through: The Kozarnika Cave in Northwest Bulgaria, Mesambria Pontica (now the coastal town of Nesebar), Deultum, Philippopolis (now the city of Plovdiv), Heraclea Sintica (the ancient Thracian, Greek and Roman city near Petrich), the Hisarlaka Fortress in the Western city of Kyustendil, etc.

Heraclea Sintica

Players may have to bring the finds to the museum, to return them to the laboratory or go to the Police Station and sometimes bad luck even leads to prison. The game attracts huge interest in Bulgaria and abroad, although it will be translated in English in June this year. Even the Bavarian Police showed interest in this board game, because a Police officer, who fought actively against the smuggling of cultural valuables, received this game as a gift from his colleagues during his retirement. The battle between archaeologists and treasure hunters in this board game can have different outcome, but unfortunately in the Bulgarian reality treasure hunters still prevail over archaeologists, Associate Professor Vagalinski explains and adds.

Treasure hunters in Bulgaria are very well-organized and their number is big. They do not search for information like us, but are only searching for items made of noble metal. They destroy other artifacts when they look for these items. We want to curb and gain control over this hysteria, in order to leave some history to our children.

The problems with treasure hunters are extremely difficult along the Danube Limes (frontier of the Roman Empire) where illegal treasure hunters dig with bulldozers. The law-enforcement authorities are trying to deal with this problem, but they lack the necessary resource and motivation, Associate Professor Vagalinski contends and adds told Radio Bulgaria what the local people living nearby the ancient Roman town of Raciaria say:

In the 1990’s people dug with 20-25 tractors in this large Roman town to look for treasures. Most of this archaeological site was completely destroyed and looks like a lunar landscape. 

According to the former Director of the National Archaeology Institute with Museum, Bulgaria is among the world “leaders” in this field. We top this European ranking for sure. The Europeans know this and wonder why the law is not applied systematically in Bulgaria. In some regions elderly people are trying to stop the treasure hunters on their own. It is painful for them to watch the ruins, Associate Professor Vagalinski says and reminds that once archaeologists made a concrete proposal that would help the authorities deal with this problem: 

We were planning with the Ministry of Interior to launch a mobile application. It had to be developed together with experts from the National Archaeological Museum. The application had to send signals to the Police by random witnesses of such violations. However, the process was brought to a standstill and the application has not been developed yet.

The creators of the board game Archaeologists vs. Treasure Hunters now want to make the Bulgarian society develop sensitivity to the problem and recognize the fight against treasure hunting as their own cause, if it wants to preserve the history which makes us all proud.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

Photos:, and


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