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2 Charged in Greek Treasure Theft

October 1, 1997

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Police have arrested two men trying to sell a priceless collection of 7,000-year-old Neolithic gold jewelry, treasures far older than those of ancient Troy.

One of the few collections of its kind, the 54 pieces of gold jewelry dating as far back as 4500 B.C. were displayed by police Wednesday, a day after being recovered during a sting operation.

Panagiotis Evangelou, 48, a private detective, and Andreas Bittar, a Greek-Canadian, allegedly attempted to sell the gold pendants and beads for $3.5 million to undercover police officers in the southern Athens suburb of Vouliagmeni.

``They are of inestimable archeological, historic and commercial value,″ the police’s archeological crime unit said, adding that the largest of the pieces, weighing nearly 3 ounces, is the only one of its kind found to date.

Describing the artifacts as being ``of great importance,″ Katerina Dimakopoulou, the director of the National Archaeological Museum, said the jewelry dated from the late neolithic period, between 4500 B.C. and 3200 B.C. in the latter part of the Stone Age.

Dimakopoulou said the items in the collection far exceed the total number of gold jewelry found from that period in Greece.

The Trojan Gold, also known as King Priam’s Treasure, was excavated by the German amateur archeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1873 and sent to Berlin. It is now in Russian hands.

Schliemann was convinced at the time that it belonged to Priam, king of the city featured in Homer’s epic, The Iliad. However, the hoard _ discovered in what is now northwestern Turkey _ was later determined to date to the Bronze Age and about 2500 B.C., long before Homer.

Evangelou told police the coins belonged to an aunt from the Aegean island of Andros who died 20 years ago. Police searching his house also confiscated five ancient bronze coins, including two from the Roman and two from the Byzantine periods.

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the collection will be displayed in Athens’ National Archaeological Museum.

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