Friday, 26 May 2017

Two more NY Dealers can't show the Paperwork

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office seized

the objects — collectively valued at $90,000 — in April
 from an unnamed Manhattan gallery, whose owners faced 
no charges after agreeing to forfeit the pieces.

The antiquities
Quelle surprise, the federal authorities caught another dealer with apparently dodgy goods but are refusing to name him (or her) [Rebecca Rosenberg, 'Looted ancient artifacts found in Midtown gallery, finally returned' New York Post May 25, 2017]. In fact, these artefacts (worth reportedly $100,000) which had apparently been stolen from Italy were discovered in yet another New York gallery last April, when:
investigators seized six items, including a 4-inch-tall, 2,800-year-old Sardinian bronze warrior valued at $30,000, from the unnamed gallery, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. The $90,000 haul also included a drinking cup emblazoned with two goats butting heads from the late 4th century B.C. worth $8,500 and a wine jug decorated with panthers valued at $22,500, officials said. The items were looted from archaeological sites in Italy, including tombs, in the 1990s then smuggled into the US, according to the DA’s office.
Oh and:
The gallery, which had listed the antiquities for sale, was unaware that they were stolen and fully cooperated with investigators, authorities said.
He probably thought they grew on tees, like spaghetti. The items concerned are:
I. Paestan red-figure lekythos, an oil flask depicting a man holding a plate of fruit, dating to 340 B.C. and valued at $9,500.
II. Sardinian bronze warrior wearing a helmet and carrying a bow, dating to the 8th century B.C., and valued at approximately $30,000.
III. Proto-Corinthian oenochoe, a wine jug decorated with rams and panthers, dating to 650 B.C. and valued at $22,500.
IV. Sardinian bronze ox dating back to the 8th century B.C. valued at $6,500.
V. Attic red-figure lekythos, an oil flask depicting a man holding a lyre, dating back to 430 B.C. and valued at $12,500. [seized pursuant to a search warrant from a different gallery in Midtown Manhattan PMB]
VI. Apulian Xenon kantharos, a drinking cup decorated with the image of two goats butting heads, dating to the late 4th century B.C. and valued at $8,500.
VII. Greek bronze Herakles holding the horn of Achelous, dating to the 3rd or 4th century B.C., and valued at $12,500.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, Senior Trial Counsel, and Assistant District Attorney Christopher Hirsch handled the recovery of the artifacts. These recoveries were made possible through a joint investigation with the Italian Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale and with the assistance of the following individuals: Angelo Ragusa, of the Rome Office of the Archaeological Section of the Carabinieri; Ms. Leila A. Amineddoleh, professor at Fordham University School of Law, St. John’s University School of Law, and New York University; and Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis, Affiliate Researcher at the Scottish Centre of Crime and Justice Research, University of Glasgow, and lecturer for the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art ("ARCA") in Italy.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Shooting Fish in a Barrel: Treasure Hunting for Profit on the First Frome Hoard Site

The Second Frome Hoard, voted Britain's Top Treasure in a dumbdown publicity stunt by the Portable Antiquities Scheme was discovered in April 2010 by a man using a device engineered to find buried metal artefacts in a field near Frome known to have produced other Roman material. In other words another Treasure find that was dragged up out of its undisturbed archaeological context by an artefact hunter targeting a known site. Is this really a manner of treating the archaeological record that British archaeology should be promoting by dumbdown publicity stunts? 

Treasure hunter Dave Crisp was searching here because three days previously, he had previously found 62 late Roman silver coins dating to around and after the 380s* there (the First Frome Hoard Treasure case tracking number: 2010T278) as a result, presumably, of searching for more coins deriving from the scattered hoard represented by the group of 111 coins which had been found on the same farm in 1867. In other words, when the Treasure reward of the First From Hoard was paid, Treasure hunter Crisp received money for 'finding' a hoard that was already known about. Should Treasure rewards (ransoms) be paid for people targeting known findspots like this? It's rather like shooting fish in a barrel. 

On getting a signal from the deeply-buried mass of metal which turned out to be the second hoard - dating to  AD 253 to 305 - the Treasure hunter dug down 35 cm below plough level to reveal a pot still in its archaeological context (the Second Frome Hoard).  This necessitated an under-resourced salvage archaeological investigation - a three day keyhole dig ('led by Graham and assisted by Hinds, Booth, Crisp and members of the landowner's family') which failed to reveal anything of the landscape context of that find - and its relationship to the other one nearby. The coins themselves took six weeks of a BM conservator's time to do the preliminary cleaning so that they could be studied (hidden costs) but at this stage no attempt was made to perform a full conservation, which would have cost an additional £35,000. In the event, when the museum  received a National Heritage Memorial Fund grant for the ransoming of the hoard (at £320,250), an additional  £105,000 was paid out for the conservation work - that means a sum equivalent to a third of its full commercial value. The costs of sorting, cataloguing, photography and publication of the items concerned have never been counted, but will come probably to a similar figure. 

The Second Frome Hoard is lauded as an example of 'best practice' because archaeologists came along and excavated this otherwise unthreatened complex of material, let us see the archaeological documentation that Treasure hunter Crisp made of the pattern of finds comprising the First Frome Hoard. 

* It says in the 'database' report that 'A full catalogue is available on request'. Why has this material still not been published properly seven years on?

Vignette: Treasure hunting, shooting fish in a barrel

Skipping the Issues: a Coin Dealer in Trouble with Some of his Business Partners

I sell to people who have a passion to collect,”
he says. “I sell stress relief. I sell escapism. I’m just as
happy selling someone a $2,000 coin as I am a $200,000 coin.

A recent text discusses the activities of Rob Freeman, a noted coin scholar, or numismatist, and the owner of Freeman and Sear, formerly one of the top five ancient-coin dealers in the country ('The downfall of Rob Freeman, an ancient coin dealer who allegedly defrauded customers of millions and lost a bronze head, LA Weekly  MAY 16, 2017 ) . The article opens with a cameo presentation of the denizens of a local copin fondling club as a bunch of anorakish weirdos before passing on to the subject of the text:
Freeman’s peers and customers [...] were so surprised when rumors about him began to circulate, citing missing coins, bounced checks, cheated customers, some sort of Ponzi scheme. Then there’s the mystery of what happened to the head of the Roman Lucius Aelius Verus, a larger-than-life bronze head depicting the adopted son of Emperor Hadrian and the father of Co-Emperor Lucius Verus. [...] “There are so many rumors going around, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction,” says Victor England Jr., co-owner of Classical Numismatic Group, one of the nation’s top coin dealerships. [Reportedly,] At least 20 lawsuits have been filed against Freeman in the last four years, alleging such acts as breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentation, negligence and fraud. One such complaint, filed in January 2016 by Marie Rosales and Jack Luu, alleges the two plaintiffs were victims of a “Ponzi scheme,” and were “swindled out of more than $1 million by con men passing themselves off as legitimate dealers of ancient coins and antiques.” “I’ve known Rob for probably 25 years,” says Ira Goldberg, who with his cousin Larry owns an auction house. “I would say he just went bad. He was a fine numismatist, always honorable and hardworking. That all changed about three years ago.”
Freeman studied history at UCLA, and went ion to work in Numismatic Fine Arts, a prominent coin dealership owned by Bruce McNall.

In 1993, Freeman left to form Freeman and Sear, along with David R. Sear, perhaps the most noted coin scholar in the world, author of the book Roman Coins and Their Values, and someone who had also been at Numismatic Fine Arts. His time working for McNall had given Freeman contacts with ancient-coin dealers all over the world. In the eyes of any knowledgeable collector, Sear’s name gave the new business instant credibility. [...] Today, if you go to Sear’s personal website, a message in bold lettering at the top of the page reads: “I wish it to be known that David R. Sear has no connection with the company currently doing business as ‘Freeman and Sear,’ this association having been terminated in 2001.” The site makes no other mention of what happened to the partnership.
It seems that in recent years he began touting ancient coins as a form of investment (rather like the NFA business model) - many of the people suing him reportedly allege that they bought shares in pools of coins but never saw returns.
Marie Rosales and Jack Luu bought a percentage of a pool of coins for $1.25 million. They allege that Freeman promised a 30 percent profit in one year, which would have been a remarkable return. It was too good to be true. [...] The trouble began, according to Freeman, in 2007, when he started a new company, Helios, based in Munich, closer to where the majority of the world’s most valuable coins first hits the market. But Freeman lived in Los Angeles. Helios was run by a few employees in whom Freeman had placed great trust.
Then there were four silver Athenian decadrachms....

Basically the author of the text seems to believe that there are good coin dealers, but then he skips over totally the issue of where one actually gets four Athenian dekas and a head of Lucius Aelius Verus  from... that side of the dugup coin industry is skipped over.

ISIL's Raqqa to Fall Soon?

After a 4-year existential war across northern Syria, the YPG can now measure its distance to Raqqa in individual fields (map by @Nrg8000 )


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Egypt says it retrieved 4 stolen artefacts from Britain [UPDATED}

The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced yesterday that it has received four artefacts that had been stolen and smuggled out of Egypt. [...]  Shaaban Abdel Gawad, a ministry official, said two of the artefacts were displayed in an auction house in the UK while the other two pieces were in the possession of an antiquities dealer in London. Two of the artefacts were stolen during the security mayhem that prevailed in the wake of the 2011 uprising, which resulted in the ousting of long-time president Hosni Mubarak, while the other two were stolen in 2013, according to the ministry.
 'Egypt says it retrieved 4 stolen artefacts from Britain' Middle East Monitor May 24, 2017

Al-Ahram has more - but conflicting - information (thanks to Dorothy King for drawing my attention to it):
The artefacts include a glass sculpture of a human head that was stolen from Qantara-East store galleries, a stone relief stolen during the 1970s from Hatshepsut temple on Luxor’s west bank, a Middle Kingdom wooden ushabti figurine engraved with golden hieroglyphic text stolen from an Aswan store gallery, and a Roman piece stolen from Minya.  Abdel-Gawad pointed out that all these pieces, except the one stolen from Hatshepsut temple, were stolen during the lack of security in the aftermath of January revolution in 2011.

Metal Detectorists Happy About Brexit, Real Archaeologists Likely to be Less so.

New report shows that UK archaeology and classics are likely to be the worst hit academic disciplines due to loss of EU funding after Brexit. After all, who now needs archaeologists to make crowd-pleasing discoveries like the Frome hoard?

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Antiquities collectors compared to kerb crawlers

Katherine V Huntley‏ @KVHuntley 10 godzin temu
W odpowiedzi do
This is good, but I think antiquities trafficking is like prostitution: we need to be targeting the demand side of things. #archaeology

Vignette: Lady talking to motorist in street at night

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