Bulgaria fights to save its past from gangsters

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Luck is only sometimes on the side of Bulgaria's archaeologists, as they race gangsters to unearth the treasure of the ancient Thracians. It was with Daniela Agre last month when she came across a Black Sea hotel owner flattening a 2,000-year-old burial mound and found a horde of gold and silver jewellery that she thinks belonged to a Thracian priestess. Another archaeologist was served in a remote rural shop by a woman wearing a string of 5,000-year-old gold beads, found by her husband in sunflower fields where a large Thracian treasure trove was later discovered.
   Famed for their ferocity and horsemanship, the Thracians - who lived between modern-day Ukraine and Turkey - were long considered a barbarian race whose greatest contribution to history was Spartacus, the slave who rebelled against Rome. But just as a series of spectacular finds is deepening their understanding, academics fear the violent mafia  are beating them to vital pieces of the historical jigsaw.

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