Rumors entice treasure hunters

Some 2,000 metal detectors are sold annually in Greece, often to people searching for fortunes hidden during the country’s modern history. Stories about buried chests overflowing with gold coins have piqued interest in treasure hunting, a burgeoning new hobby in Greece. But metal detector dealers sometimes also fan rumors of people digging up gold objects, some buried as long ago as the Ottoman occupation of Greece, perhaps to fuel sales. «In the square of Trikala in 1998, three containers full of gold coins were found. The police were even chasing small children who had filled their pockets with the coins,» said Angelos Gavalas, the owner of a company that imports metal detectors. Hot spots for treasure hunters include Trikala, Grevena, Karditsa and Crete. But police sources have warned people that this prospecting will likely yield nothing. «Most of (the treasure hunters) go through the trouble for nothing. Since the beginning of the 1970s there has been no evidence that shows treasure has been found,» said a police source. Instead, the source added, «we normally find in their possession ancient objects.» Also, the equipment for this new pastime can be costly. A cheap metal detector costs between 300 and 1,000 euros but can only detect objects that are up to 70 centimeters below the surface of the earth. Those more serious about treasure hunting must spend between 2,000 and 10,000 euros for a metal detector that senses objects buried as deep as 4 meters under the ground. Maps ostensibly leading to the riches can cost as much as 10,000 euros each. Police say that the creation of fake treasure maps has developed into a profitable industry with no shortage of potential customers. «They even have machines that make the maps look older in order to trick those hunting for treasures,» the source said.

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