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By: Smiljana Dodić, museum advisor

Although five years ago in Jagodina, the first conviction was passed for the robbery of cultural heritage by self-proclaimed archaeologists, hordes of “wild diggers”, hunters of lightly equipped metal detectors do not stop ravaging archeological sites in our area. Apart from looting and illegal trade in antiques, which often find their way to prestigious auction houses across Europe, the damage they inflict with their destructive activities on protected and cultural assets under prior protection is immeasurable.

One of the most endangered archeological sites under the protection of the state in our region is the multi-layered fortification “Jerinin grad”, on the border of Staro Selo and Mišević. This rich site from the period of prehistory, antiquity / early Byzantium and the early Middle Ages was archaeologically explored during four campaigns in the period 1985-1988., when the remains of the imposing ramparts of fortifications, craft and residential buildings, as well as single-nave churche from the early Christian period were discovered. The site is by the Decision of the Municipal Assembly of Svetozarevo No. 011-70 / 85-01 from June 27, 1985. declared an immovable cultural property and placed under state protection. And not only that – the plots within the fortification itself were bought from private individuals, and the ownership was transferred to the Regional Museum of Jagodina.

However, with the crisis of the society and the increase in crime in the 1990s, illegal activities intensified, which provide the possibility of relatively easy earnings, so the robbery raids of detectors on the immovable cultural heritage of Serbia began. Only twenty archaeologists, as many as are employed in the Institutes for the Protection of Cultural Monuments in the entire country, are in charge of protecting the entire immovable archaeological heritage of the Republic of Serbia, OUR heritage, the one left to us by our grandfathers and their ancestors. The same heritage that we are OBLIGED to preserve for our grandchildren and their children. So will we leave all that wealth to thieves to take out of Serbia without hindrance, to brag about their “prey” on social media and wait with folded arms for “everyone to do their job”? That is the job of all of us. The cultural heritage of Serbia is our obligation and responsibility.

The Regional Museum in Jagodina, as institution for the protection of movable cultural property, has been constantly working to raise awareness about the preservation of cultural heritage since its founding. At the same time, the first line of protection consists of the inhabitants of those villages in which archeological excavations were carried out in previous years, who are proud of the archeological past of their region and who do everything to preserve it for future generations. Amendments to the Criminal Code from 2011 for illegal archeological excavations and use of metal detectors envisage imprisonment for up to 5 years, so the Jagodina police made several arrests in the last decade, the prosecution prosecuted, and the court passed the first verdict in Serbia. for such a crime.

The greatest responsibility for the preservation and protection of cultural heritage rests, however, on the local self-government, so a study on immovable cultural heritage on the territory of the city of Jagodina is underway, for which Institute for the protection of cultural monuments in Kragujevac is in charge. In addition, the marking of archeological sites has begun by setting up information boards, and the plan is to improve the infrastructure in order to better present and popularize the immovable heritage of our region.

Thus, on Friday, July 2, 2021, on the initiative of the Mayor of Jagodina, Mr. Ratko Stevanović, on the instructions of the police, and with the selfless help of representatives of the hunting association “Crni vrh” and PE “Standard”, two info boards were set up at the foot of the site “Jerinin grad “in Staro selo. The signs, since they contain warning and prohibition signs for illegal excavations, were placed at the approach to the site and in the protection zone below the fortifications. Therefore, the frequent excuse of the robbers that they did not know that it was a site under protection, which they use when they are arrested – no longer stands. This is only a small step towards a more complete protection of the site and a greater presence on the ground of all factors of protection. And we will not stop there…