Sunday, 15 January 2017

Quote of the Week

Per Article 7 (b) (ii) of the Convention, States Parties undertake,
at the request of the State Party "of origin", to take appropriate steps
to recover and return any such cultural property imported after the entry
into force of this Convention in both States concerned [...] Article 13 of the
Convention also provides provisions on restitution and cooperation.

We are asked to believe that there is a link between cultural heritage preservation and human rights abuse:
Peter Tompa ‏@Aurelius161180 2 temuPeter Tompa podał/a dalej Turkish Minute
There is a correlation between nationalistic govt's that demand repatriation of cultural artifacts abroad with human rights abuses at home.
Are the dealers getting good value for their money employing such an 'observer' to do their dirty work? There are 131 Member States of UNESCO that are states party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. I refuse to believe that all of them have a human rights record that is inferior to that of the lobbyist's own country. There is instead at least a partial link between human rights abuse and the trade in illicit and undocumented antiquities.

Collector Surprised: One Born every Minute


A collector was tempted by the offer recently made by ZZCoins to sell some bulk lots of 'unsorted coins from Israel'. Yeah, right, one born every minute. This, from a coiney forum, is what he found: (Re: ZZ Antiquities, ZZ Imports, ZZ Metals, ZZ Expensive... Sat Jan 14, 2017 3:50 pm (PST) . Posted by: swfeingoldsays):
I recently bought 1 kilo of uncleared coins from the dealer. There were very disappointing. About [one third] were small 8 mm coins with nothing to identify them whatsoever. Even though they were from Israel and advertised as including Judaeans, city coins and Seleucid most were late Roman or Byzantine and of the I only found 10 Nabatean 20 Judaeans no city coins and only 3 of any real interest
So, five hundred dollars down the drain. And how much archaeological destruction does the accumulation of that kilogramme of artefact dug-up-and-sold-like-potatoes represent? Because we do not believe the spiel that what is being sold in bulk lots is 'unsorted'. These are the bits of a much larger assemblage which are 'more difficult to sort' and are left behind when somebody else further up the supply chain cherry-picked what was saleable individually before amalgamating individual lots in a bulk mass to be sold by weight. The text 'the saga of the uncleaned coin' was disappeared by the dealers from the Internet about five years ago, but you can still read it on this blog, it is quite revealing. I used to do a lot about uncleraned coins, but thought I'd covered it, but it seems that some people are slow learners. Coineys, eh?

Saturday, 14 January 2017

What is there for US Collectors not to Understand?


As a reaction to the Associated Press story: 'Europe Wants More Protection Against Antiquities Trafficking' (Jan 13th 2017) a blinkered lobbyist for the antiquities trade smugly snipes:
Peter Tompa ‏@Aurelius161180 10 godzin temu@DrDonnaYates @nytimes
"Human rights" organization wants to "repatriate" to repressive Assad regime that has killed, looted and destroyed? 
First of all, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg is concerned with what is happening to the portable heritage of foreign citizens from a wider area than just Syria....

Secondly, it really is frustrating that US dealers, collectors and lobbyists predominantly represent the issue of illicit antiquities trafficking as merely the issue of 'repatriation'. The CoE is urging measure to curb illicit trafficking to and within the EU, not for filling foreign museums with grey and black market decontextualised artefacts. That seems pretty simple to grasp, doesn't it?
Paul Barford ‏@PortantIssues 7 godzin temu @Aurelius161180 @DrDonnaYates @nytimes
Stopping the trade means stopping the trade (not 'allowing the trade and then sending stuff back').
and also:
Paul Barford ‏@PortantIssues @Aurelius161180 @DrDonnaYates @nytimes
What is there not to understand? Why many Americans see antiquities matters ONLY as "repatriation"?
I believe my cat understands that, but those of more limited intellectual horizons may be struggling with the concepts behind the words. Mr Tompa for example completely misses the point and responds:
Peter Tompa ‏@Aurelius161180 4 godziny temu@PortantIssues @DrDonnaYates @nytimes
Concern items repatriated to Assad just because they look Syrian. US Sen. Understood. You don't.
Well if unconcerned dealers and their 'business partners' are throwing away the documentation indicating origins, other forms of evidence have to be employed if authorities don't want to hang on to illegal items in store for ever. Perhaps Mr Tompa thinks the US government should employ waterboarding and kidnapping of family members to deal with silent dealers? As I say, my cat understands, Peter Tompa suggests that it is I who do not grasp what the CoE has in mind when it talks of curbing the trade in illicit antiquities. Perhaps a clearer analogy will help:
Paul Barford ‏@PortantIssues 1 godzinę temu@Aurelius161180 @DrDonnaYates @nytimes
Really? There is more to 'stopping child rape' than 'making sure victims get home safely afterwards'.
and again:
Paul Barford ‏@PortantIssues 1 godzinę temu@Aurelius161180 @DrDonnaYates @nytimes
Why do so many Americans represent illicit antiquities matters ONLY as "repatriation"?

beats me.  My cat is also puzzled.

Vignette: Fortunately, unlike dullard antiquitists, not everybody has a problem understanding what the words 'putting a brake on trafficking' mean. But action not words is what is needed.

 

UK Treasure Hunters go Against the Trend


According to Hyperallergic , in the museum world in general, the acquisition of artefacts is now mainly through donations. Only a minority of items are purchased.

 
]
In the United Kingdom, the trend is quite the opposite in the case of obtaining the items found by greedy metal detector wielding Treasure hunters. When we take away the number donated by the landowners (the actual owners of items coming from their land), 92% of them have to be bought through the payment of a Treasure Ransom from the public purse. The British public is being forced by heritage hoikers and heritage pocketers to buy back their own heritage. Something is very wrong with this. 

Friday, 13 January 2017

Where the "Roman Large" Came from


Grammar was never the strong point of collectors and dealers, so we are not surprised by the lapse in the order of adjectives in the title of one sale by a prominent antiquities dealer:

Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 01.16.17
This is the sale of an object via Royal-Athena Galleries, a New York City-based gallery (run by Jerome Eisenberg). Look at what is offered as a collecting history. That's no collecting history at all: 'Ex Swiss art market April 1991' then a gap, then somehow Royal Athena got it and sold it to a 'Dr H.' somewhere in Germany in 'April 2000', and then a gap and now it is being sold again (was bought back?) by Royal Athena and in 1992 and 2000 it featured in the antiquities world vanity press (Jerome Eisenberg's 'Art of the Ancient World' magazines). Thanks to Christos Tsirogiannis we now know that 'Swiss art market' could be a euphemism for Gianfranco Becchina's cubby hole in the Free Port of Basel, and documentary evidence (Auction Alert and Antiquities Seizure: Royal-Athena Galleries, New York ARCA blog, Saturday, January 14, 2017 ) seems to indicate that the object was received from a Greek trafficker Giorgos Zene[...] (a 'trafficker, now deceased, well-known to the Greek police art squad') and that Becchina had paid 60.000 Swiss Francs on 25 May 1988 for it. Becchina had bought a number of lots (over thirty) from 'Zene' between November 1986 and October 1988. After purchase, Becchina had the piece cleaned by the Basle restorer  André Lorenceau (see the Cahn Gallery newsletter here and here for a short bio). While the Becchina documentation is undated, Lorencau's conservation report will provide the details of what was done to the object and when. Lorencau seems to have been responsible for the mounting of the piece that seems (from the polaroids) to have come to him dirty and unmounted. This would presumably have been some time between May 1988 and April 1991 (when reportedly it was 'on the Swiss art market') and 1992 when Mr Eisenberg reportedly featured it in one of his 'Art of the Ancient World' magazines (I've not seen this). Seeing as the object had only arrived in Switzerland less than three years before, and would have been obviously on a fresh mount after recent cleaning (the object description makes no mention of traces of any earlier mounting), any lack of documentation would have been immediately suspicious. The same goes for its resale just (and interestingly, exactly) nine years after that. So who was handling such freshly-surfaced material in the early stages of its collecting history? Becchina (Palladion Antique Kunst)? At what stage did 'Royal Athena' become involved?



Monday, 9 January 2017

Bulgarian, Turkish Man Sentenced in Shumen for Trafficking Roman Artifacts from Middle East


The Shumen antiquities bust case has had its culmination in a Bulgarian court (Ivan Dikov, 'Bulgarian, Turkish Man Sentenced in Shumen for Trafficking Roman Artifacts from Middle East' Archaeology in Bulgaria Jan 8th 2017):
A Bulgarian and a Turkish citizen have confessed their guilt in the smuggling of dozens of Ancient Roman artifacts [....] after their arrest in a police operation almost two years ago generated international interest. A total of 19 impressive artifacts originating in Asia Minor / the Middle East were confiscated from treasure hunters and antique traffickers in Shumen, Novi Pazar, and Ivanovo, Northeast Bulgaria, back in March 2015. Most of them were found in a garage owned by a local man, Petar Danchev, 60. A Turkish man, Veysel Sanli (52) was also arrested in the treasure hunting and antiques trafficking case. [...]  Even though the initial police reports spoke of more suspects, Denchev and Sanli have been the only two people to be charged over the bust which became known as “the garage Louvre" case in Bulgarian media. [...] Both are getting away with suspended sentences, with their testimonies providing no additional information regarding the origin of the trafficked artifacts or their destination. [...] Turkish citizen Veysel Sanli [...] has been identified as the owner of the smuggled Ancient Roman artifacts [...] , Sanli claimed that all seized artifacts were “heavy stones, modern-day replicas".
Previous PACHI texts on the seizure:

Sunday, 29 March 2015 Bulgarian Artefact Bust - Shumen
Sunday, 16 August 2015 'Bulgarian Antiquities Bust in news Again - Not ISIL Loot'.
Interestingly, a Veysel Sanli has a video channel, in which we see a lot of metal detectors in use.  Is this the same guy? If so, it shows once again the direct link (denied by supporters of collecting in the UK) between "metal detecting" and the broader issue of the commercial exploitation of archaeological artefacts. Here on one of his videos we see the digging up of a Greek silver coin with a metal detector and mattock (where?):

Digging, posted by Veysel Sanli






Consultation on rules on the import of cultural goods


European Commission, Taxation and Customs Union, 'Consultation on rules on the import of cultural goods
The European Commission seeks the views of all interested parties on the adoption of customs rules governing the import of cultural goods in the territory of the EU. This includes contributions from citizens, companies, NGOs, academics, public authorities, international organisations, etc. The measures aim to protect cultural heritage, fight illicit trafficking, prevent terrorist factions from acquiring income through cultural goods sales and promote legal trade in cultural goods in the EU and worldwide. It also aims to empower EU customs to seize illegal shipments and increase knowledge and traceability of cultural goods that come through the EU external border. Lastly, it will endeavour to ensure that seized goods are safely stored until they can be returned and will promote international co-operation in safeguarding world heritage.[...] 
This public consultation aims to gather input from all interested stakeholders to be taken into consideration in the preparation of legislative proposals by the European Commission. [...] The consultation will provide the Commission with the opinions of stakeholders, including the general public, on the effectiveness and possible impact of of the various policy options, in particular with regard to potential administrative burden. In order to ensure a fair and transparent consultation process, only responses received through our online questionnaire will be taken into account.  The online questionnaire can be accessed here*

The consultation is open from 28.10.2016 to 23.01.2017, so get your views in now.


* One thing I really like about the questionnaire is it is a single page document, so you can browse it to see what questions follow the ones at the beginning. So many times you have no option but to do these things in separate stages, and when you get near the end come across something you'd like to think longer about - and there is no way to 'save' the half-finished document, so you have to scrap it and then start again later.
 
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