Thursday, 27 April 2017

US Dealer publicly admits Laundering by Misdescription..

Kenneth W. Dorney (dealer from Redding, CA 96049-3362 ) [ ] freely and publicly states (here among the Yahoo antiquities pirates) 'One can readily buy and sell just about anything well within the law', especially if you bend it a little by not being transparent about what is you are actually doing
 Since you mention shipping/receiving: It all depends on how much attention you wish to bring down on yourself. When I ship overseas and have to declare the contents, for coins I always use the designation “numismatic token”. I have never had a problem. But if I declared any various keywords, such as Roman, Syrian, Iranian, Italian, etc., it would likely attract attention. As for other items, well, who can say? If I sell a Marlik spear point I might call it a “metallurgic item for study” or something similar. I’m not lying, its true what I say, I am not doctoring anything. By doing so I avoid unwarranted attention either by government officials or thieves.
Well of course calling a spade a 'sheet metal implement combined with non-metallic hafting' avoids drawing attenton to the fact that there is a spade in the package, but that is not an honest way to conduct any kind of business. Why would Mr Dorney sending licitly sourced antiquities by perfectly legal means (following all the procedures)wish to avoid drawing attention to the propriety of his activities? I would have thought that a responsible dealer would want quite the opposite - confirmation of the propriety of all he does. Or has Mr Dorney in fact something to hide?

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Two Texts on the ACCG Baltimore Illegal Coin Import Stunt

It is instructive to compare two recent blog texts on the finale (?) of the ACCG Baltimore illegal Coin Import Stunt which they hoped would overthrow US heritage protection legislation. The ACCG  not only utterly failed but the verdict seems instrumental in coming one step closer to the situation the dealers and collectors feared. It serves them right for eschewing the opportunity to show that responsible collecting is possible.

The first text is by one of the characters involved in the debacle (and since he was a paid lobbyist of certain 'professional numismatist' associations, financially benefited from participation and causing to to drag on for as long as possible): Peter K. Tompa, 'US District Court Ruling Favors Government in Long Running Forfeiture Case' ACCG blog, April 06, 2017. This is maintained in the whiney playing-the-victim tone we have come to expect of this crowd. They are all in denial about the existence of any problems with no-questions-asked collecting, so when they are required to actually document that they have checked the legality of the exports of the objects they are buying, it is the Federal government who 'does not understand' (federal laws) and only the dealers have the monopoly on the way the law should be interpreted. I have argued on this blog long and hard with the ACCG views, and found their interpretation lacking - as did the judges in this case for the most part. So Tompa mostly moans about that. He still refuses to understand the point about the Designated List - the judge however does. But the ACCG got seven Chinese coins back because it was impossible to judge that they were of a type listed on the Designated List. So look out for them being sold by an ACCG dealer near you.

The other text is far meatier and satisfying. It is by a cultural property lawyer, Rick St Hillaire, 'Federal Court Leaves CPIA Coin Import Regs Untouched' CHL blog Thursday, April 20, 2017. This presents the legal arguments in more detail than Tompa, and repays a close read. He shows what pathetic claims the ACCG were making. St Hillaire illustrates some of the coins reportedly involved, a sorry lot if that is what ACCG dealers sell their clients. Rubbish most of it and at least one has what looks to my archaeological eye as a fake chemical 'patina'. Perhaps that's one of the ones they got back as not demonstrably ancient (so therefore not on the designated list). Anyway, what is important here are two points that St Hillaire draws attention to:
The Guild’s argument appears to conflate two terms defined in the CPIA: “archaeological . . . material of the State Party” ... and “designated archaeological . . . material” .... “Archaeological material of the State Party” is “any object of archaeological interest . . . which was first discovered within, and is subject to export control by, the State Party.” 19 U.S.C. § 2601(2). “Designated archaeological material” is “any archaeological . . . material of the State Party” which is “covered by an agreement under this chapter” and “listed by regulation under section 2604.” Id. § 2601(7). Only “designated” material is subject to import restrictions under § 2606 [of the CPIA] and potentially “subject to seizure and forfeiture” under § 2609 [of the CPIA]. Id. §§ 2606(a), 2609(a).
So that is basically a confirmation of the veracity of my own discussion of the ACCG's 'first discovered principle'. Good. Perhaps now we can move on.  The second consists of the ACCG scoring a massive home goal...
It was the government's burden to show "that the [detained] property has been 'listed in accordance with section 2604'" of the CPIA. "If so, 'the burden of proof . . . shifts to [the Guild] to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the property is not subject to forfeiture, or to establish an applicable affirmative defense.'" Applying this analysis, Judge Blake assigned title of all the Cypriot coins and some of the Chinese coins to the United States, and gave the Guild seven Chinese coins. Judge Blake explained the law of the case this way. Once the government establishes its burden to prove that detained coins are among the types listed on the CPIA's § 2604 designated list, then the claimant bears the burden to show that the coins are importable. The burden "'shifts to [the claimant] to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the property is not subject to forfeiture, or to establish an applicable affirmative defense.' (Quoting U.S. v. Eighteenth Century Peruvian Oil, 597 F. Supp. 2d 618, 623 (E.D. Va. 2009))," meaning that the ACCG had to produce documentation that the coins were, as the earlier Fourth Circuit opinion declared, "(1) lawfully exported from its respective state while CPIA restrictions were in effect; (2) exported from its respective state more than ten years before it arrived in the United States; or (3) exported from its respective state before CPIA restrictions went into effect." The Guild failed to produce any documentation.
Oh ho ho... making buyers/sellers liable to prove they are innocent rather than the government to prove they are guilty is a significant legal step and precisely what antiquities dealers and their clients wished to prevent. Well done ACCG for clarifying this issue.

The reasons for rejecting the attempt by the ACCG to introduce 'expert testimony' into the proceedings are worth reading too. We remember that it is the dealers and collectors (ACCG) who are adamant on sticking to 'the letter of the law', but when the court does it, they claim they are being unfairly treated.

Knowledge theft: Insidious Creep of Acceptance

OK, Ms He, how did this get on the market, then?
Poor Helena He, she lost some of her antiquity-dealing profits the other day: Alex Ross, 'Roman jewellery stolen from shop' York Press 25th April 2017.
Ancient Roman jewellery worth more than £5,000 was stolen from a York shop by two thieves. The men removed three pairs of earrings, a Roman necklace, gold ring, silver pendant and gold necklace on Saturday from a cabinet in Brigantia, a shop in The Red House Antique Centre in Duncombe Place. Devastated owner Helena He has run the shop for more than 10 years and says one thief managed to unlock a cabinet and remove valuables while another acted as a look out. One pair of earrings alone cost £595. She said: “It’s very shocking.
Yet not once does the news article seem to suggest that selling off loose bits of the archaeological heritage to scattered private buyers is in any way a shocking way to treat the archaeological record.

Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record shocks nobody in Britain because metal detecting has taken over the national imagination as a way to turn dirt (and everybody's history) into private profit. And British archaeologists and museums are aiding and abetting the process. The aforementioned shop (an Aladdin's cave of various suspicious-looking artefacts with no paperwork mentioned upfront - where did that Middle Eastern Glass come from?) is just a stone's throw from the Yorkshire Museum. Meanwhile those artefacts will pass onto the international no-questions-asked antiquities market with the flood of other surfacing (from underground) artefacts, and will never be seen again. So, a bit like the other artefacts Ms He sells in her shop.

Brigantia is cited as part of the collecting history of various noteworthy objects by Timeline Auctions here, here  ("Property of a West Yorkshire lady; from the private collection of John Moor, Brigantia Antiquities, York, UK; acquired in the 1960s. Extremely fine condition. Very rare" Treasure Trove legislation was in force in 1960s), here (dodgy attribution), here (dodgy-looking to my eye), here, here ("Ex Brigantia Antiquities, York, UK; formerly from a North Country private collection in the early 1980s, acquired from Astarte Gallery, London, UK. Very fine condition. Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate. ")... and so on. There seems an interesting connection here - and in no case is the actual point (or even country) of origin noted.

Trump has a go at the US Antiquities Act

Presidential Executive Order on the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act
 (a)  The Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) shall conduct a review of all Presidential designations or expansions of designations under the Antiquities Act made since January 1, 1996, where the designation covers more than 100,000 acres, where the designation after expansion covers more than 100,000 acres, or where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders, to determine whether each designation or expansion conforms to the policy set forth in section 1 of this order. 
 Video of fatuous press conference.... 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Supply of the Trade: Antiquities Seizure on West Bank

Antiquities discovered in Samaria Police spokesman

 Israeli police and members of the archaeological department of the Civil Administration raided a home in the village of Hawara in the West Bank  and arrested the owner, a man in his fifties, and seized a large number of ancient artefacts (Ido Ben Porat, 'Stolen Second Temple period antiquities recovered in Samaria', Israel National News 25/04/17).
The [man] is suspected of purveying ancient artifacts, not announcing their discovery as required by law and illegal possession of weapons. The search in the suspects house and store revealed hundreds of coins, pitchers, figurines, earthenware scales, jewels, basalt stones used to grind wheat, copper utensils, water and oil jars as well as a Sten gun and a rifle. Members of the archaeology department estimated that the artifacts were from the Hasmonean, Bar Kochba, Second Temple, Assyrian and Roman periods [...]. The Arab claimed on investigation that he had bought the artifacts for his own private collection. The investigation is continuing.
Note the use of terms like Samaria and Second Temple (and 'Arab') to claim these objects as the heritage of one group and not another. The supply of fresh artefacts onto no-questions-asked foreign markets is due to such people who buy the artefacts locally and then sell them on.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

'Treasure 20', British Museum Dumbdown and Perverted Misrepresentation of Archaeological Research

Laura Silverman in her 'lifestyle' presentation of Treasure hunting and the Treasure 20 campaign begins with 'a horror story in history (sic) circles about how we almost lost the treasure at Sutton Hoo'. which she then uses as justification for Mike Lewis enthusing how wonderful the Treasure Act is for saving 'many important archaeological objects' which 'were not protected by law', putting 'our heritage at risk'. This is the problem when you look at archaeology as merely about digging up 'treasures'. The Treasure Act only refers to artefacts made of precious metal (gold or silver) or prehistoric metal objects found in hoards. Any artefacts of bronze not in a hoard, or not prehistoric, any wooden objects (like those at Must Farm), wooden tablets with writing on them, pretty cavalry helmets, stone sculptures of gods and devils, fall through the net. This selective law based on the material an item is made3 of rather than its archaeological or cultural significance law is a travesty, a totally inadequate basis for defining cultural property. That's why collectors love it so much. It is worth asking ourselves which of the iconic items in the British Museum, found in Britain, would have been claimed for the nation under such a law. the Rosetta stone no, the Parthenon and Bassae marbles, no. The Folkton drums, Icklingham lead tanks, no. And som on - if the True Cross was dug up in a garden outside Glastonbury ift could quite legally be put on EBay by the finder. No Mr Lewis, the law you are praising is Bonkers-Britain crap and needs changing. Everybody is well aware of it, and nobody lifts a finger to do anything about it. Your dumbdown Treasure 20 campaign ('viewers vote' like some pathetic lowbrow reality show in a karaeoke 'who needs the experts' tekkie lovefest) does absolutely nothing to advance that public debate. It is shameful that someone in your position acts as if he does not see that.

In any case, reducing every piece of archaeological evidence (artefact) to the lowest possible common denominator of 'treasures' (and not treasures - like the Sutton Hoo ship nails) in this case obscures an important difference between Basil Brown and the the team of archaeologists who excavated the site and gormless grabby hoikers with metal detectors. That is Mrs Pretty was looking for knowledge, not 'treasure'. That may be difficult for 'lifstyle' journalist to grasp, but it is the job of archaeological outreach organizations to put them right. It seems from the resulting article written in collaboration with the British Museum that this task is well beyond the capabilities of the current team making up the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

STOP Institutional Promotion of Destructive Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaological Record

In response to the fatuous Treasure 20 initiative of the British Museum, perhaps a body advocating real-archaeology (the one that's not a grabby treasure hunt) could draw attention to five million portable antiquities which have NOT found their way onto the PAS database since it was set up twenty years ago and many of which are probably now in skips and landfill. FIVE million Portable Antiquities Losses due to current policies which allow artefact hunting and make responsible reporting voluntary.

I think equally the same responsible UK real archaeology bodies should be calling on the British Museum to call a halt to the Treasure 20 campaign, which only promotes treasure-hunting and nothing else. 

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