Updated to add a link to the National Library of Israel blog post about fake antiquities.
There is a 1,200-year-old bible currently in the custody of Turkish police. It was seized from a suspected smuggling gang who were trying to sell the sacred book in the southeastern Diyarbakir province. The book itself contains 34 leather pages with gilded religious symbols of many faiths on it.
The police are particularly concerned with the location from which the book was smuggled. Turkey has become a hotspot for pillaged antiquities coming from middle eastern countries going through various conflicts. Six suspects remain in custody. Three were apprehended earlier this week by local officials as the suspects tried to find a buyer for the relic. A video was taken of the first three getting arrested.
The Turkish government has increased efforts to stamp out the trade of unlawfully procured artifacts. A list of items thought to be stolen from Syria during the conflict there was issued by the authorities. Collectors, sellers, and buyers alike are warned against the possession of these artifacts and told that those who help with smuggling would be dealt with harshly.
This is not the first notable book to be seized by Turkish officials. A $1.5 million Byzantine-era bible was found in 2017. And it certainly won’t be the last. As long as there is a demand for rare objects and those willing to extract them, albeit, by questionable means, stories like this will continue to surface.
However, there were multiple reports of fake antiquities, including books pretending to be of religious significance, being introduced to the market similar way. So that’s one more possible explanation of this smuggling story.
Photo credit: Diyarbakir Governor’s Office