Thursday, 30 October 2014

Antiquitist Special Pleading


Sam Hardy (‘Virtually none of them have a provenance that says where they were dug up or when’) referring back to one of my posts from yesterday makes a cogent point worth stressing and discussing:
antiquities collectors and dealers cannot deliberately obscure the origins of almost all of their antiquities, then complain that it is very difficult for them to know if the antiquities on the market are legal, then complain that they are unfairly disadvantaged by regulations that are designed to ensure that the antiquities on the market are legal.
They create their own disadvantage by consistently filling their stockrooms with material for which they have failed to verify a proper provenance and collecting history, in order to establish that the material they trade in is of wholly licit provenance. If responsible dealers only handled material for which they can establish licit origins, and then demonstrate to discerning customers, they would not be faced with the problem of offloading potentially dodgy stuff to buyers when they cannot. Instead they attempt to foster the myth that this is in some mysterious way always impossible (though, as we can all see, some dealers do manage it - and they cannot all be making it up). It is time to clean up the antiquities market and its dodgy arguments.

Vignette: Business is business.

New Cultural Heritage Laws in Switzerland


It does not seem all that long ago that they revised these laws, now they are being rewritten:
Bern, 29.10.2014 - Der Bundesrat hat an seiner heutigen Sitzung beschlossen, das totalrevidierte Kulturgüterschutzgesetz auf den 1. Januar 2015 in Kraft zu setzen. Auf den gleichen Zeitpunkt tritt die Totalrevision der Kulturgüterschutzverordnung in Kraft, die der Bundesrat heute genehmigt hat. Mit der Totalrevision des Kulturgüterschutzgesetzes (KGSG) werden die rechtlichen Grundlagen auf die aktuellen Herausforderungen ausgerichtet. 
(source: Neues Kulturgüterschutzgesetz tritt am 1. Januar 2015 in Kraft). The details were not given, but let's hope they are bad news for cultural property racketeering. More disturbingly however it talks in a rather object-centred fashion of Switzerland becoming some sort of an international 'safe haven' for conflict and displaced antiquities. It is believed that this is what they already have in the depths of the Geneva Free Port.

Vignette: Switzerland up close.

More Careless Syrian Coin Listings in America



At an MOU hearing in Washington not long ago, Wayne Sayles clearly told the CPAC that he was not a dealer - as he had retired at the end of 2011 ( PACHI Wednesday, 21 March 2012, 'Sayles Suspends Sales'). This was after apparently discovering the previous year that he might be on some kind of HSI "watch list" ('Is ACCG Director on a watch list?', PACHI Saturday, 20 March 2010). Then he came back, without Mr Lavenderand started a new website. Until recently it was interesting to note that we did not find him on the V-Coins portal. Until now that is. Sayles is back, not only as a dealer, but as a V-coins seller:
Dear Friend in Numismatics: (yuk!) We are very pleased to rejoin the VCoins family of dealers as we celebrate our 50th year in professional numismatics. It's been a wonderful experience and our association with VCoins goes back many years—virtually to its beginning. We are presently building this new store to include offerings from our independent WGS web site and from our vast stock of ancient coins and related materials presently not offered online. 
The stock shown currently includes Artukid coins (from the present Turkey/Syria border area), a Byzantine coin struck in Homs (now a bombed out town) and other items from Syria, and quite a few from regions in and around modern Turkey (see 'ADCAEA Officer: "Boycott Turkish Antiquities"). Very few of them (and of those on the main WGS site) have much of a collecting history to speak of up front.Why is it that anyone putting up artefacts traceable to the war-torn regions of the Middle East precisely right now would not be going the extra mile to show that anyone who looks that they are of wholly licit provenance? Do coin dealers like Mr Sayles simply not care about the image they are projecting of their trade?

Please note, showing my readers what a dealer is doing is in no way an "endorsement" of the site, the portal, its proprietors or anything else to do with the opacities of the trade in dugup antiquities or the verbal chicanery of those involved in and supporting it (Cf 'Wayne Sayles: "Archaeologist Barford endorses WGS Store". Ummm, is that what I say?' Sunday, 25 November 2012  and also see: 'Intellectual landscapes and Honesty in the Coin Trade' Saturday, 1 December 2012).

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

US Brigadier General Urges Proper Antiquities Market Transparency

  
 "The antiquities market has always been difficult
to regulate, even in peaceful times, but with no effective 
law enforcement presence on the ground to discourage looting, 
this activity is sure to continue to rob the world of some
 of its richest cultural history—while funding one of the
 world’s most abhorrent terrorist organizations".


Now the US military is joining the academics in condemning the use of antiquities sales to finance armed aggression in the Near East: Brig. Gen. Russell D. Howard U.S. Army (retired), Jonathan Prohov and Marc Elliott,* 'How ISIS Funds Terror Through Black Market Antiquities Trade',  US Naval Institute News October 27, 2014

The authors write that ISIS has gone far beyond traditional sources of financing, such as private donors and money laundering, which has made U.S. and coalition efforts to target illicit financing activities less effective. ISIS enjoys a diverse income stream  and that "illicit trafficking of all kinds" in "humans, weapons, and commodities, such as oil" are more reliable and profitable than foreign donor money, and make ISIS financially self-sufficient. ISIS is trafficking in art and antiquities to finance its operations is potentially capable of raising tens of millions of dollars of revenue. While exact data figures concerning this clandestine market are difficult to come by the authors claim there is evidence (what?) that antiquities trafficking is now thought to be the group’s second largest source of revenue, after oil. The profits from antiquities sales may however become increasingly critical for ISIS because of actions by the U.S.-led coalition to target ISIS-controlled oil fields and refineries, and a crackdown on external sales.

The article goes on to detail how the looting is organized (local sources: "looting is now the second-most common occupation in areas under ISIS rule"). The khums tax is mentioned. As is the seizure of memory sticks before the collapse of Mosul and the 'al-Nabuk / $36 million revenue' case gets mentioned again. See my earlier comments expressing caution on such statements and Hardy recently on the 36 million.
These looting and trafficking operations are nothing new. Organized crime in Iraq has been profiting from the exploitation of antiquities since the early 1990s, and following the 2003 US invasion, extremist groups worked with looters to develop what became a massive illegal industry. Many of the earlier looters and trafficking networks are once again flourishing, some of which had direct ties to al Qaeda in Iraq—the group from which ISIS evolved. [...] Anecdotal evidence also indicates that ISIS is leveraging well-established organized crime networks to traffic artifacts to countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, where the items are exchanged for cash and weapons before being sold to international buyers. In Lebanon, ISIS takes requests for specific types of antiquities that are then looted and delivered
The 'cultural cleansing' of newly-occupied areas is another sinister but effective strategy for extremists
These demolitions occur only after a systematic looting of the goods found inside, which allows ISIS and others both to profit from selling the valuable artifacts and to advance their brand through the media coverage of these cultural atrocities.
There is a little bit of the military mentality here, unquestioning acceptance of what they've been told (the "second largest source" trope is especially suspect). I think however the respect that there seems to be in the US for men in uniform is a useful tool in getting the message across to the wider public. It is time do do something about the no-questions-asked antiquities market as this is not the first, nor will it be the last, time profits have been raised through it for  socially-damaging activities through illicit antiquities sales.

Russell D. Howard is the Senior Fellow at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Jonathan Prohov and Marc Elliott are graduate research assistants at the Monterey Terrorism Research and Education Program (MonTREP) at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Their research on the nexus between trafficking and terrorism is sponsored by the Bradley Foundation.

Giza men arrested after digging up ancient temple under house


This is quite an intriguing story:
Seven residents of a Giza district have been arrested after they illegally excavated the area beneath their home and found the remains of an ancient Egyptian temple. The huge limestone blocks, engraved with hieroglyphic texts, date from the reign of the New Kingdom's King Tuthmose III, and were found in the Hod Zeleikha area of Al-Badrasheen district. [...] The find was made two weeks ago, [...] A unit from the tourism and antiquities police heard of the illegal excavation work and arrested the seven men – two of whom are Palestinian [...] The police also found diving costumes, oxygen cylinders and diving masks with the detainees.
It seems some of the recovered remains came from "nine metres below ground water levels". So this is not exactly the work of desperately poor subsistence diggers, but organized looting profiting from the ability to turned ancient sculpted stone into cash no questions asked on the antiquities market. Presumably some form of shoring must have been used to stop immediate collapse of the house - also of course the removal of tonnes of earth from under a single building would have tended to attract the attention of the neighbours....

Source:
Nevine El-Aref, 'Giza men arrested after digging up ancient temple under house, Al Ahram Wednesday 29 Oct 2014.

Vignette: What the neighbours were afraid might happen.

 

Russian Journalism and Syrian Artefacts Truth


I tweeted Maria Finoshina (https://twitter.com/MFinoshina_RT), fresh from reporting separatists in eastern Ukraine and now in Syria, about those two rough fakes of Syracuse dekas that were shown prominently in her video report of antiquities allegedly been sold in Lebanon after having been dug-up near Damascus. I think I'd be right saying that dekas of Syracuse did not normally circulate in ancient Syria, and copper alloy ones even less so, and those made for the modern coin collecting market quadrupally-so. The question of what they are doing in the video therefore is a perfectly justifiable one. I sent it yesterday, but... not only did it not get answered, it disappeared. I guess I was dreaming about sending it... Well not to be daunted, I've sent it again. Here's a copy:
  6 min. 6 minut temu
The 2 large coins in video are FAKE Sicilian issues; is whole report staged? Why R they here?
Nice touch that linking to the world-famous transatlantic numismatic-coin-scholar-mega-expert Wayne Sayles' blog to uphold the identification. Let's see if this one gets a reply, or gets disappeared too.

UPDATE 2nd November 2014:
Ms Finoshina seems unconcerned to defend her journalistic standards, no reply. The coins are fake, and probably not brought from Syria. Maybe the whole report should be considered in that light.



 

Syria: "Virtually Nothing is Left"


Palmyra has been damaged too
 Michel al-Maqdissi, former director of the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums' Archaeological Excavations department from 2000 to 2012 now works as a researcher at the Department of Oriental Antiquities in the Louvre in Paris. He has been talking to Mona Sarkis about the degree to which  Syria's cultural heritage is under threat, it now seems clear that the destruction of Syria's cultural heritage is far worse than anyone expected. The article is titled tellingly: "Virtually nothing is left" (Qantara.de, 29the October 2014). It is not stated where al-Maqdissi has been obtaining information about what is happening in the country since he left. The interview begins with pointing out that much of the damage has been done by Syrian Army bombing and shelling rebel positions in ancient sites ("The results can be seen in Aleppo, Bosra, the crusader castle Crac des Chevaliers or the columns in Palmyra. In some places, such as the old town in Homs, virtually nothing is left").
As for looting, it seems that so far, nothing can surpass Apamea. The ancient site of the Seleucids on the Orontes today consists of 4,000 craters. Some are three metres deep; some are even deeper. The brutal and systematic methods the looters used is clearly illustrated by satellite images from April 2012. They must have used drills. Dura Europos and Ebla-Tell Mardikh have also been severely affected. Since the former is in the north-west and the latter in the south-east of Syria, one has to assume that the whole country is being looted. It is mainly gangs who are responsible for this: they gathered sufficient experience in Iraq and are now supplying an international antiquities mafia.
The phrase "they must have used drills" is inexplicable. With reference to recent reports the interviewer asks Maqdissi whether he thinks the artefacts are being stolen by rebel groups in order to buy weapons. He is rather dismissive of the whole idea and replies:
I think that the majority of looters are professionals. You must remember that the antiques trade is not a quick business; the rebels hardly have the time to wait for their share of the revenues. What's more, armed groups – some of them are certainly not rebels, but real terrorists, such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) or Jabhet al-Nusra – control the oil fields in northern Syria. For them, this is financially much more effective than the antiques trade. In addition, they regard the artefacts as blasphemous idols. ISIS, for example, recently smashed a one-and-a-half-metre high, approximately 3,000-year-old Assyrian statue from the site Tell Ajaja in north-east Syria on camera.
The rest of the article is critical of UNESCO as a means of dealing with the threat (actually ignoring the fact that this is not at all what the organization was set up ever to do). He considers that UNESCO is
a tired institution that operates in a framework that is far too narrow. This starts with their experts, who have remained unchanged for decades and apply the same procedures from Iraq to Afghanistan. But the cases vary from country to country and require more than just the same old pattern. [...] Unfortunately, it becomes ineffective, is always late, is blocked by its own experts and increasingly burdened by the weight of its own bureaucracy. 

He criticises them for too little, too late and not in the areas where it would help, he says UNESCO should be training activists on the ground (nota bene exactly the direction the Americans have been going in their aid programme). Other topics discussed is the lack of payment for site guards and the exodus of experts from the country after the civil war broke out.

Metal Detectorist Arrested Near Tarquinia for Looting


A man, 47, was arrested in Tarquinia for possession of stolen goods of archaeological interest. The man was stopped at a road check, and in his car were found a metal detector, a tool used for digging and 2 Roman coins. The man would not reveal where the coins had come from and his house was searched, in the course of which a further 7 Roman coins "and numerous fragments of bronze of great archaeological interest" were found and the man was arrested. "The archaeological findings, of an approximate value of €5,000, together with the metal detector and the tools for digging, have been subject to seizure".

Meanwhile in England today, thousands of artefact hunters, after a day's emptying archaeological sites into their pockets, will be packing up soon as dusk falls and heading for home with a good deal more than just two Roman grots in their cars safe in the knowledge that the worst that will happen to any of them is they will not get a big enough pat on the head from some archaeo-bloggers for what they are doing. Poor waifs.

'' Tuscia Times 28 ottobre 2014

 Vignette: digging holes even in grassland

Bonkers Britain: Please sign the "Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site" petition.

 
As has been said: "If we can’t save the monuments and settings of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site for future generations, then we can't hope that we or the future can protect anything!"
Please sign the "Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site" petition.
 

'Conflict Antiquities' in Syria and Iraq: How Much for it to be "OK" for dealers?


"Significant questions remain,
and continue to be raised on
Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage
Issues
, but they query confusing
evidence of  a complicated  problem,
not the
existence of a problem". 


Over the past few years several of us have been discussing the use of the sales of so-called 'conflict antiquities'  to raise money to finance armed conflict in Iraq and now Syria and suggesting something needs to be done to investigate this and put a STOP to it. By and large the people that could do that, antiquities dealers, buyers and collectors, have ignored such questions and dismissed them as irrelevant. In the past few weeks however there has been an interesting shift in attitudes. The topic has suddenly become a 'hot' one with the increase in attention in the public domain on one militant group which seems to be using sale of illicit antiquities as part of its fundraising. Suddenly the dealers find themselves at a disadvantage, public attention is on the no-questions-asked trade and its links with nastier things.

The new lobby group, the ADCAEA has varied in its approach. First they tried to ignore the issue, then dismiss it (suggesting that the militant groups were "destroying" all art and not selling it off ) and are now trying to pretend antiquities sales are in some way an "urban legend" in the making. Sam Hardy has been at the forefront of examination of the claims and counterclaims and has a well-argued piece today for those who are inclined to pay any attention to the latter sort of argument. In particular he takes issue with one of the less-observant posts ("The making of an urban legend") of the ADCAEA and ACCG/PNG/IAPN lobbyist Peter Tompa . Tompa constructs a straw man argument that the claim from an old Guardian news item that "the Islamic State has made $36m from the illicit trade in Syrian antiquities" being  "one of the main justifications for the purported need for “emergency import restrictions” on Syrian artifacts" - then contesting the $36m, apparently assuming that by doing so, he has disproven the whole alleged "myth". Tompa fails to note that several commentators, including Sam Hardy, Donna Yates and myself, have already and repeatedly questioned the veracity (as reported) of that initial statement almost from the day it was published (15th June 2014). He also seems unaware that the day following the original article, a story was published which makes it clearer what was being asserted (Ian Black, Rania Abouzeid, Mark Tran, Shiraz Maher, Roger Tooth and Martin Chulov 'The terrifying rise of Isis: $2bn in loot, online killings and an army on the run', The Guardian, Monday 16 June 2014 - see my discussion here).  In any case, as Dr Hardy points out:
"Whether or not the Islamic State has made thirty-six million dollars, whether or not the Islamic State even exists, makes no difference whatsoever. But obliteration of communities’ pasts and funding of organised crime are also justifications for general trading controls"
Mr Tompa will have to try harder than that and address all manner of other material before so lightly dismissing what we are hearing from people on the ground. The reader can refer to Sam's excellent piece refuting Tompa  for the details is they think it worth the bother of to pay any heed at all to what dealers' lobbyists say.

I'd draw attention here to two other points made by Dr Hardy. He stresses that despite the concentration of the western media on demonization of one particular group to emerge from the post-2003 rubble of Iraq all parties ("apart from, perhaps, the Kurds") are profiting from illicit antiquities.
The Islamic State’s illicit antiquities income is somewhat more troublesome than other armed groups’ cultural racketeering, because the Islamic State is committing genocide. [...] the ‘extremist group known as ISIS is one of a number of actors turning antiquities into guns pointed at Syria’s own people.’ 
The other point is a parallel to our refrain about the Heritage action Artefact erosion Counter, every metal detectorist in the UK will tell you - never adducing a scrap of meaningful evidence to say why - that it is "wrong" (suggesting: "it is a lie"). My response to that is to ask by how much it would have to be 'wrong' from the situation to be acceptable. There has never been an answer to that question. Hardy asks the same about Near Eastern antiquities:
as I’ve asked before, would collectors and dealers be reassured if the Islamic State taxed illicit sales rather than sold illicit antiquities, or if illicit purchases had funded the Assad regime rather than the Islamic State? [....]  I explicitly stated in the Reuters piece that how much material had been looted was not known, and how much profit had been made by paramilitaries was not known. But a lot has been looted and a lot of money has been made. How much would need to be looted, and how much money would have to be made by which paramilitaries, for the Cultural Property Observer to accept the genuine need for antiquities import restrictions? 
I suspect that is another question that will remain unanswered. 

Vignette: ISIL on the march

"They Blow up Shrines, don't They?"


Another article on conflict antiquities from the Near East discussing the complex interrelationships between destruction and supplying objects for greedy collectors and dealers (Mary Chastain, 'ISIS Cashes in on Antiques from Shrines Destroyed in Iraq and Syria', Breitbart, 28 Oct 2014 ). It is not at all as simple as the antiquities dealers lobbyists claim, they deny that ISIL can be profiting in any degree from antiquities (similar to the ones they buy - for example in from Germany middlemen - 'no-questions-asked') because the whole populace is allegedly only interested in intolerant destruction.
The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) destroys Christian and Muslim shrines and tombs because of idolatry. However, the jihadists know the value of items and manage to sell them to Western antique collectors. [...]  Residents and gangs are allowed to loot the shrines, but they must give 20% to 50% of their profits to the Islamic State. “There is no doubt that looting and illicit trade in antiquities is highly lucrative, enough for ISIS to be deeply engaged and implicated in it,” said Shawnee State University Professor Amr Al-Azm. “Stopping this illicit trade in antiquities, therefore, must be an imperative, not only because it is a major source of income for terrorist organizations like ISIS, but also because it is causing irreparable damage to Syria’s cultural heritage.” [...] sell valuable antiques to fund their fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In 2013, conservationists said the rebels control the majority of Syria’s archeological areas. The leaders said they must sell the antiques in order to fight. Some pieces sell for $50,000.
But the Middle East antique ring expands farther than the Islamic State. The Syrian rebels
Blood antiquities from around the world end up in US and European markets ("Munich is one of the major cities within this web, along with Brussels and London"). Chastain quotes Michael Müller-Karpe, who calls for seizure of items that must be illicit, even if the source nation such as Syria, Turkey or Iraq does not submit a claim (which will be because the item was stolen without anyone knowing)

Vignette: picking over the ruins after the explosion, never know what you might find... 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

US Archaeologists Selling Finds: AIA in St. Louis Places MORE Ancient Artefacts on the Auction Block


The AIA regional branch in St. Louis again places ancient artefacts from its collection in trust on the auction block to raise funds ('Archaeological Society in St. Louis Places Ancient Artifacts on the Auction Block', Popular Archaeology Oct 28, 2014).
Snubbing its nose at long-held ethical standards established by the U.S. archaeological community, the St Louis Chapter of the Archaeological Society of America has placed entrusted Mesoamerican and Egyptian artifacts for sale on the antiquities market. Recently consigned for sale at the Bonhams Auction House in London, the artifacts included [...]  a Maya effigy vase from the ancient site of Quirigua, Guatemala, and a Zapotec seated figural urn from the ancient site of Monte Albán, Mexico. [...]  It is reported that the Governing Board of the St. Louis Chapter, a chartered society of the AIA but independently operated as a separately incorporated non-profit organization, made the decision to place the artifacts up for sale without the support or consent of the membership.
Donna Yates has a discussion of the two Pre-columbian pieces on her Anonymous Swiss Collector blog ('Archaeological Institute of America St. Louis Society selling Meosamerican antiquities at auction', 27 October 2014). She lists the two pieces concerned as: "a Maya Effigy Vase from the spectacular site of Quiriguá, Guatemala (Lot 156, est. US$ 6,000–8,000) and a Zapotec Figural Urn from the site of Monte Albán, Mexico (Lot 149 US$ 3,000–5,000)".
 These antiquities are a rare case of absolutely legal Mesoamerican objects in the United States. I cannot remember the last time that I saw ‘clean’ Mesoamerican antiquities for sale. Why? Because nearly all of the Mesoamerican pieces collected before their countries of origin enacted legislation against said practice were done in such a way that they entered public collections. Public collections rarely sell their pieces. We’ve hit on the problem.
More here as well as an update on the excavator of one of the pieces, an 'archaeological god' according to Yates.

Sayles: "Archaeologists and Museums may be Involved in Syrian and Iraqi Artefact Smuggling"


Dugup antiquities dealer Wayne Sayles of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild seems to support the idea that looted artefacts from Syria and Iraq are reaching western markets. He has published without comment on his "Ancient Coins" blog the remarks of one English collector who suggests (on what evidence is unclear) that Syrians and Iraqi locals are digging up the antiquities and "getting them out to collectors with the full approval of certain archaeologists and museum experts eager to provide provenances and to smooth their path to safety in the West", thus "rescuing" them. If freshly dugup antiquities on entering the market are being supplied with false provenances as suggested on Sayles' blog, all the more reason for there to be the most rigorous of due diligence accompanying each and every transaction of ancient objects.On the other hand, if Mr Sayles is publishing false information in order to be provocative, it is yet another example of the extent to which he and the pathetic group he heads are alienating themselves from the heritage debate.

Vignette: ISIS region coin, ex  Wayne Sayles

'The Intellectual Consequences of Collecting Archaeological Material'


Fresh from his appearance at the "papyrus" meeting in Manchester at the weekend, the indefatigable David Gill will speak at a seminar in Cambridge this week on 'The Antiquities Market and Archaeology: the Material and Intellectual Consequences of Collecting' (see )
we  need to consider the limitations of discussing such 'unexcavated' objects [...] Among the areas that the seminar will consider are: Athenian red-figured pots attributed to the Berlin painter, Etruscan architectural terracottas, Apulian cavalry armour, Apulian pottery, Classical bronze statues, The Icklingham bronzes, The 'Crosby Garrett' helmet, The Sevso Treasure. Do archaeologists, and especially those dealing with the classical world, need to see how little material comes from secure contexts?
Absolutely. I hope he gets in a mention of Elizabeth Marlowe's excellent and thought-provoking book on this very subject "Shaky Ground: Context, Connoisseurship and the History of Roman Art" which should be on the shelf of every collector of "ancient art" - and not only. This is a serious problem vital to the overall heritage debate and one almost completely ignored in collecting circles.

Anonymous Time-Wasters


Over in the left sidebar, about half-way down is a link to something called 'About posting comments to this blog' and point 6 of the former says I am not interested in publishing anonymous comments. I write my blog under my own name and I see no reason why anyone having something worthwhile to add cannot put their name under his opinions and give some kind of a chance to see who is writing from one sort of background. Otherwise we end up like the situations over on Andy Baines' blog with a whole seies of anonymous posters, including the 'Kinky Pink Volkswagen' character, the one posing as a pro-collecting archaeologist ('Sock Puppet Steve')  and several alter egos of the same moron from the southwest. Total chaos, and totally pointless trying to have a sensible discussion with such chimeras.
 
I make (as is my right) exceptions to my own rules and so it was that a person calling themselves "Mr X" got a comment published here last week. I thought I'd had comments from this account earlier in the year [when the bloke - a coin dealer - had signed his earlier posts and explained the aberrant account name], so I approved and answered this one. There then followed some hair-spliting and time consuming word games about the 1970 UNESCO Convention and US law (and whether either of them require a record of 'provenance ' - which they do not), during which I gained the impression that the commentator was in fact just out to be provocative and annoying. I then realised that this account was not one that had earlier been used on this blog, but was a relatively new one, opened this month, and the writer is using a server near Sydney Australia.

Yesterday the same person spent some time looking through a whole series of posts and then posted a question, similar to the beginning of the last series, on the wording of the Code for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales.  It seems to me from the search pattern of his reading that again this individual was seeking to set up a "gottcha" game with me, and I really am in no mood for any of that. Mr"X", I have stopped making an exception for you, you are abusing my goodwill with your provocation, address your question about UK Codes of Practice etc to the PAS. No more of your comments will be posted here from that account name.  That goes for anyone else who cannot be bothered to open an account which can be shown to be a real person who is responsible for the words they write here. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

How the West buys ‘conflict antiquities’ from Iraq and Syria (and funds terror)


Sam Hardy has a very important piece in Reuters blog ('How the West buys ‘conflict antiquities’ from Iraq and Syria (and funds terror)', October 27, 2014) building on comments in the  Das Erste report a few days ago. Smuggling is booming in Iraq and Syria right now and despite denials from the antiquities trade and the ambiguities of the evidence and some reports as Sam says, the sale of conflict antiquities to fund military and paramilitary activity is real and systematic.  Sam lists a few examples which make the point,
Grainy video from soldiers fighting for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime at Palmyra, an ancient capital in what is now Syria, shows delicate grave reliefs of the dead, ripped out, gathered up and loaded into the back of their truck. The soldiers present the heads of decapitated statues to the camera. Other stolen Palmyrene treasures were exposed by an undercover reporter for The Sunday Times. Sculptures, pillar carvings and glass vessels were found to be on sale for knock-down prices in Beirut, Lebanon. Roman vases had been robbed from graves and were being sold by the box. Across the disintegrating border, every party to the conflict is party to the plunder. Beyond Palmyra, the ancient city of Aleppo and hundreds of other sites in Syria have been looted by one armed group or another.
Smuggler Abu Khaled told Time that the Assad regime was selling antiquities to pay its henchmen. Senior Free Syrian Army fighters told the Washington Post that looting antiquities was “a vital source of funding.” Another smuggler told Le Temps that Islamist fighters take control of trafficking when gaining territory. How much — and even what — has been bought and sold isn’t known for sure, but entire sites are being lost.
What I think is important here is that instead of demonising one particular group, Sam is stressing that there is not a single actor here, but the money is going into the pockets of different groups (including Assad's forces). The lobbyists for the antiquities market are united in stubborn denial of any involvement, he quotes Kate Fitz Gibbon saying there is “no credible evidence that looted art is coming from Syria to [the] U.S.” and that, rather, it is flowing “unchecked to Turkey, the Gulf States and other nearby nations”. I'd like to see her evidence for that and the scale. 
Still, experts have shown a 145 percent increase in American imports of Syrian cultural property and a 61 percent increase in American imports of Iraqi cultural property between 2011 and 2013, which suggests that the illicit trade is reaching American consumers by ‘piggybacking’ on the legal trade. Furthermore, archaeologists Jesse Casana, Mitra Panahipour and Michael Danti have found evidence that looters are specifically targeting Classical antiquities in order to supply what is mostly a Western demand for Greek and Roman art. An investigative report by the German broadcaster NDR documented evidence that antiquities looted by terrorist groups were being sold through German auction houses. The report revealed how Syrian conflict antiquities were smuggled as handicrafts, laundered with obscuring or outright false documentation, and then sold on the open market. It also exposed the transfer of antiquities to Gulf States, where they were laundered for resale in Western markets.
These items will, Dr Hardy concludes, "end up as art divorced from its culture – some in unscrupulous museums that hope they have been laundered just enough to appear clean, many more displayed as talking pieces in the homes of the wealthy or secreted away in private collections". Sam suggests that "we must not be misled by antiquities collecting lobbyists’ insinuation that Syria or Iraq’s antiquities are better smuggled than burned by the various groups of militants – the smuggling pays for the burning".

How to STOP the flow of Illicit Antiquities


Sam Hardy in his piece in Reuters blog ('How the West buys ‘conflict antiquities’ from Iraq and Syria (and funds terror)', October 27, 2014)  discusses how we can try to curb the looting and smuggling of archaeological artefacts from Syria and Iraq so that they do not all "end up as art divorced from its culture – some in unscrupulous museums that hope they have been laundered just enough to appear clean, many more displayed as talking pieces in the homes of the wealthy or secreted away in private collections":
An emergency ban on trading in undocumented Syrian antiquities may help Syria now, but it will be no more effective against the perpetual, global threat than the ban on trading in undocumented Iraqi antiquities that preceded it. Instead, it would make more sense for other nations to copy Germany’s law that will oblige dealers and collectors to present an export licence from where the object is coming from, in order to receive an import licence for any ancient artifact. That will cut the supply of illicit antiquities to the market, and thereby cut the flow of money to looting and smuggling mafias and militants.
While I personally do not think it is as simple as hat (you'd have to institute "import licences" for a start) certainly I think that we should be shifting to a situation where it is incumbent on the dealer in artefacts to demonstrate in every case that they are of kosher collecting history. Rather like butchers have to present health certificates for the meat they sell (and the proverbial "egg" from the Das Erste report). I also think the time is long overdue for UNESCO to convene a session to rediscuss the 1970 Convention, and issue a Protocol (like the Hague one) or a new Convention fitting for the antiquities market of the 2020s and not 1960s.

PAS: "Working Across the County"


I re-sent my query to my local FLO on the Langham Hall rally, and got this:
Thank you for your email. I will be working across the county and therefore out of the office until Wednesday 29th October. I will have limited access to emails during this time, however please rest assured that your email has been received and will be addressed as soon as possible. If you have an urgent finds related issue or Treasure declaration please contact the Portable Antiquities Scheme Treasure Department on +44 [....]
While I am resting assured that if I were a metal detectorist I'd now get a reply, I really wonder whether the FLO has a mobile phone for use when "the other side of" an English county, and why Treasure declarations are not being directed to the Coroner, as the Treasure Act requires.

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: PAS-thetic in Essex


Coming up to two decades ago, the British government surmised that they should try to deal with metal-detecting and Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record by setting up a scheme to instil 'best practice'. Since then the PAS has gobbled up millions of pounds doing (it says) just that. Their own statistics suggest they have contacted since those early years enormous numbers of people and brought them into the PAS-fold as "partners'. Since that number far exceeds the number of metal detectorists (who have a vested interest in the success of this legitimating scheme), one may assume that those who claim the "majority of metal detectorists are responsible" believe they have grounds for asserting the veracity of that statement.

Yet... the forums tell a different story. Although there are those who suggest that it is "totally evil" and a sign of being "one of the people of the lie" to suggest such a thing, I invite all and any of my readers to register on any forum (like those listed here, scroll down) and take a look for themselves where the liars are. Are the liars those who say "everything is hunky-dory, no need to worry at all any more about artefact hunters and collectors in the UK, the PAS has it all in hand" or is the truth on the side of those who say there is a lot of evidence that there jolly well is a good reason for concern and a need for proper debate of the issues that remain?

Let's take Mr Brummel, from near Harlow in Essexshire as a case in point. What Mr Brummel let slip about his own detecting practice was discussed on this blog a few days ago (PACHI Friday, 24 October 2014, 'Focus on UK Metal Detecting; On my untouched pasture') and this post has been attracting a lot of attention over the weekend. He originally said on a forum near you:
On my untouched pasture I need to dig down 15 inches plus to find something 300 years old or more !!
Now have a look at the comments below my post on the blog (ignore the twelve-year-old-boy excuses which are the usual array). First of all he tries to pretend he'd been misunderstood ("I was talking about artefacts being found on or near the surface on ploughed land"). No, you weren't Mr Brummel. So then he tries to pretend he was "bemused" by being picked up on that comment. That speaks volumes. So does the reaction on the forum from which that came. Nobody reacted to what Beaubrummell said. That is telling isn't it? The rest of us know that there is a Code for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales which says that Responsible Detecting is sticking to recently disturbed soil and thus keeping off untouched pasture. Mr Brummel's response is typical, look at this:
I have permission from my local council to detect on the pasture I mention, and should I find anything that needs to be recorded I will contact my Finds Liaison Officer accordingly.
On being asked what is meant by "anything that needs to be recorded" and drawing his attention to the issue of non-recording as postulated in the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter we get another characteristic answer. He defines:
"Anything that needs to be recorded" as per the following guidelines":
Recording and Reporting - Treasure
Under the Treasure Act 1996 finders of potential Treasure have a legal obligation to report such finds to the coroner within 14 days. [...]
Other (non-Treasure) finds
Apart from Treasure, finders have no other legal obligation to report finds (although human remains must be reported to the police). There might also be a requirement to record archaeological finds as part of any land stewardship agreements entered into" [note how he then omits the subsequent paragraphs]

How interesting that a 'finder' should be quoting the 'Guidance for landowners, occupiers and tenant farmers in England and Wales' as justification for only reporting Treasure finds because that's what the law requires. Mr Brummel has another piece of information for us:
In the 18 months I have been detecting, I have only found one item that met the criteria and Katie Marsden (Essex FLO) has had the item in her possession for nearly a year.
In my own experience Ms Marsden is certainly less alacritous to answer a query from a member of the public with deep Essex connections than her predecessors, so the disappearance of Mr Brummel's find  does not surprise me. But it is not Ms Marsden who "has" the Treasure find, the law says Mr Brummel should report it to the Coroner.

So he only reports the finds that are Treasure and in eighteen months, he has found on Treasure item, yet for eighteen month has been "digging down 15 inches plus to find something 300 years old or more", and not reporting them to the FLO, as is his right according to the law. This is exactly the phenomenon of which the HAERC is speaking. Detectorists like Mr Brummel, who get very indignant about being challenged ("you are tarring all detectorist with the same brush Mr Barford", "[it] would have been nice to engage in a sensible debate on the subject but your views are clearly too entrenched for that") and yet have little idea (or concern for) what the rest of us consider to be application of "best practice' to their exploitation of the archaeological record. Also, to have any kind of a 'sensible debate' on an issue, one would have to understand the other point of view and on what it is based. The collector's point of view is all too transparent, but does he even have an inkling of why those attitudes provoke concern? I think not. 

The PAS and its supporters will try to tell you that people like Mr Brummel are in the minority in the hobby in the UK, I suggest you visit a few metal detecting forums and see how (unprompted) the average metal detectorist there reacts to statements about digging down fifteen inches into untouched pasture and only reporting the Treasure items because you have to. Will you see general outrage of the massed Responsible-Detectorists-with-Convictions? Will you see two timid voices expressing disquiet and being silenced by the reaction, or will you see the whole jack-pack lot of them simply failing to notice such statements or see them as any kind of aberration from what the great majority of them do?

A metal detecting forum is only a mouse click away. PAS-supporters Go and see what a righteous lot they really are.   

[Ms Marsden, I am patiently waiting for a reply to the question about the rally. I'll add another one about Mr Brummel's find, why have you not kept him in touch with what is happening to it? No wonder he's disinclined to report anything else if your habit is simply to ignore people like this]

Vignette: Time's running out for England's past

Future of PAS Wales Shaky


"[The HLF-funded
"Unearthing the PASt project" is]
Proof, if proof were needed, that
collectors and metal detectorists are
getting a big thumbs-up from government". 
[Myopic metal-detectorist view on a blog near you]


Over on metal detecting forums and blogs, on hearing the news of a new Heritage Lottery Fund - financed project in Wales, I note that the prevalent mood is of optimism for the future of PAS Wales.  "The government [is] pouring £-millions in to it", one of them wrote. Is that actually so?

The funding of PAS Wales has been a contentious issue for some time now. The Scheme has long lagged behind the rest of the country in the degree to which responsible artefact hunting has been taken up. (I have a blog outlining some of the issues here: 'Na i PAS ar gyfer Cymru: No to a Welsh PAS' which raises points nobody is keen to address.) Through financial and organizational constraints, Wales is already down from several (four?) FLOs in 2009-10 to just one now.  In 2010 the breakdown of PAS-Wales funding looked like this:
DCMS currently puts approximately £60,000 into the scheme in Wales, with £10,000 coming from Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales (NMW) and £5,000 from Museums, Archives and Libraries Wales (CyMAL). 
So four years ago it was running on £75,000 a year. A year from now, however the main source of that  funding is scheduled to stop entirely  ("AC-NMW, Cadw and CyMAL will fund the Welsh contribution to the Scheme in equal proportions, taking full responsibility from 2015-16 when the British Museum funding ends").

The Heritage Lottery Fund grant to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales  is just one of a number of heritage fundraising initiatives supported by the HLF. The money for the so-called "Unearthing the past" project to "create a long-term collecting culture to underpin responsible discovery and reporting" is going to just one of these partner organizations (so where will the other two get the money to finance PAS upkeep?). The whole grant is going to be £349,000 for a four-year period . That's £87,2500 a year (so hardly "£-millions"), but note that out of that will come funds not only for various add-ons which do not currently form part of PAS, but also part will be gobbled up by "targeted purchases of newly discovered artefacts to develop national and local collections over a four year period 2015-2019" (already in part financed in both England and Wales by HLF money).

It would seem from this that in 2015 the PAS (PAS Cymry) will still be being funded by central funds from the BM in addition to the HLF funding (it is not stated when the HLF money will actually be in the Museum's coffers), but from April 2016 there is a distinct possibility that the PAS will be limping along on any money it can get from local government and the HLF grant which will end three years after that.

As for this grant representing any "big thumbs-up from government" (sic), the HLF is not a government department, but is administered by a non-departmental public body - the Board of Trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF). This in part is directed by policy directions indicated by the DCMS. In the currently evolving state of the devolved government (Wales now has its own Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport), this arrangement will perhaps be subject to modification.

It seems to me that the grounds for jubilation are sparse here. PAS Wales was late to take off, it developed slowly (despite the dedication of its professional staff) and made little headway in promoting best practice in artefact hunting (visit the pages of the 'Detecting Wales' metal detecting forum for proof of that). It was the first to be cut when central funding cuts started to affect the PAS a few years ago. the latest 'cunning plan' to keep up the façade that Collection-Driven Exploitation and exploiters have been 'tamed' is to go over from central funding from the government (through BM grants) of a service basing outreach on professional archaeologists liaising with the public, to the establishment of regional recording centres, which sound very much like the move to volunteer recording to replace the FLOs in England (Karaoke recording'). This may be "people's archaeology" but it is not the PAS.    

Instead of the new scheme in Wales being a "a big thumbs-up from government for artefact hunting and collecting" as metal detectorists like to consider it, it might be suggested that the government is in effect washing its hands of the whole problem in Wales, casting the recording institutions adrift and forcing them to seek funding elsewhere. While they can, a PAS-like system will limp along, when the funding dries up, it won't. Then metal detectorists will have to look elsewhere for legitimation of their exploitive and destructive hobby.


 

Bigger, Better, Tighter, more Vitamins: ADCAEA Due Diligence Guidelines due out soon!


The ADCAEA are now telling their members
Now, more than ever before, it is essential to ensure objects purchased are well provenanced. Document your collection, keep all paperwork and ask questions! Our updated due diligence document will be out shortly, use this as a guideline to ensure you are not indirectly supporting looting.
We are looking forward to it, the first draft was a bit skimpy. Let's see what they can do when they've had some feedback from responsible collectors and others. Let's see what effect it has.

120 arrested 1,300 items seized in Zhejiang's ‘biggest ever’ tomb-raiding case


Police in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province have arrested 124 people and seized around 1,300 relics in relation to 144 cases of tomb raiding which has been described as the “biggest ever” case of tomb raiding and artefact trafficking in the province’s history (James Griffiths, '120 arrested, 1,300 relics seized in Zhejiang's ‘biggest ever’ tomb-raiding case', South China Morning Post Friday, 24 October, 2014). In Shaoxing there are hundreds of ancient tombs, some of which are thousands of years old.
Archaeologists researching the burial sites first tipped off police to the tomb raiders’ activity, after which a task force was set up to track them down. More than 800 officers from across Zhejiang took part in the investigation, [...] The majority of the tomb raiders were from the nearby area, police told reporters. 
It turns out that like artefact hunters in other countries, these people have a passionate interest in history", though like them, they use it mainly to target productive sites to ddig out something from them for themselves:
Some of the hoiked artefacts recovered
“They tend to have a good understanding of the history of Shaoxing, they know where to find the tombs,” an officer with the Shaoxing municipal public security bureau told the Evening News. 
They even have special artefact hunting equipment, in their case, it's not metal detectors, but another type of artefact looting hardware:
Police said thieves used the so-called ‘Luoyang shovel’ to find the graves. Invented in 1923 by a grave digger from Luoyang, Henan province, the shovel allows for its user to extract a long section of earth without disturbing the soil structure or digging a large hole. This allows the grave robber to analyse the soil for any bits of pottery, metal or masonry that might indicate an underground tomb.
Unfortunately, artefact hunting is a serious and growing problem in China today. Grave robbery is endemic across China:
One researcher estimated in 2012 that as many as 100,000 people across the country were involved in the crime. “We used to say nine out of 10 tombs were empty because of tomb-raiding, but now it has become 9.5 out of 10,” Professor Lei Xingshan, an archaeologist at Peking University, told the Guardian.
If past form is anything to go by, antiquity collectors will postulate that the way to deal with this is for the Chinese to have a permanent armed guard, 24/7, including public holidays on every single ancient site and tomb in China to prevent looters stealing things for smugglers to smuggle. The rest of us think that the consumer end of the market has a bigger role to play in preventing gangs raising money from selling illicitly-obtained artefacts.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: The Legalities of the Division of Spoils

Heritage Action (' Ruffians’ rules!) draw attention tothe wider implications of the taking over of the second largest metal detecting organisation, the Federation of Independent Detectorists (FID) by the proprietors of the well-known commercial detecting rally company Central Searchers. This organization and the behaviour of some of its members have been discussed on this blog and by HA in the past. They have appropriated the old FID Code of Conduct, ("Copyright FID 1996" - so well pre-PAS best practice and pre-Treasure Act). In regard to the heritage group's recent discussions of the implications for detecting and collecting practice of the current legal situation on finds ownership (despite zero attention and support from outreach organizations such as the Portable Antiquities Scheme), they note the ancient FID Code includes the phrase: “Make an agreement on sharing finds with the landowner to avoid any later misunderstandings.
No change on the surface then …. unless you know WHO is now saying it: Central Searchers have a find sharing agreement for their rallies that says all non-treasure items found up to the value of £2,000 will belong entirely to the detectorist and not at all to the landowner (and it’s the detectorist alone who does the valuing and decides whether to even show the items). So that’s what they mean by “an agreement on sharing finds to avoid any later misunderstandings”. It’s a fair bet, isn’t it, that the ruffians in the hobby will like the FID rules. A lot. (And the Establishment will look the other way!)
And they continue to do so.

Turkey's Security Authorities Attempting to Thwart Antiquities Smuggling from Iraqi and Syria.


Turkey's security authorities are coordinating efforts to report antiquities smuggling from Iraqi and Syria.
Turkish police and custom departments are playing important roles to preserving antiquities that are smuggled from Syria, and are working with the authorities concerned to prevent this from happening, Minister of Culture and Tourism Omer Celik said in a statement. The ministry, he added, was exchanging relevant information with security authorities and other ministries, and would organize seminars next month about means of dealing with smuggled antiquities.

See: PACHI Tuesday, 21 October 2014: 'Disneyland 'Solution' to Syria's Looting problem'. and 'ADCAEA Officer: "Boycott Turkish Antiquities"...'.

Swedish Institutes in Peril


The excellent Swedish Institutes in Athens, Rome, Istanbul need to be saved from closing. Show your appreciation of their work and significance and sign the petition objecting to their closure. Scroll down to "Skriv på listan" at the bottom of the page and the rest should be self explanatory.

Vignette: Sweden, so much more than Abba

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Parthenon Marbles - Athens' Kebab Stallholders can Rest Securely


Jeremy Paxman (great fan of Greek kebabs): no need to dig up Athens kebab stalls because the loot's already in the UK's British Museum, the national monument to Entitlement.

UPDATE 27 Oct 2014
Here is a response from Marbles Reunited.


Today in Rylands


Starting about now: To publish or not to publish? A multidisciplinary approach to the politics, ethics and economics of ancient artefacs

UPDATE 25.10.14 evening
The participants promised a couple of weeks ago to tweet what was going on, what emerged in the Twittersphere was disappointingly sparse and suggest much of the discussion followed mainly a predictable course. I hope there will some follow-up posts on participants' blogs/websites and that there will be a publication at least of the main results which emerged from the panel discussion.  

SLAM and Museum Ethics



An archaeological mystery. In 'The Curator, the Fax and the Mummy Mask' (Looting matters Friday, October 24, 2014) David Gill reveals that he has ascertained a number of disturbing facts concerning the Ka Nefer Nefer mask from Sakkara once it had been purchased. It seems just a few months after the mask with  the name erased from the hand arrived in the museum, "a distinguished Egyptologist from a major international museum faxed a member of the curatorial team at SLAM drawing attention to the link with Saqqara". It was known by this time that items had been stolen from a store in Sakkara (in fact the very same one that Ka Nefer Nefer was supposed to be housed). Another scholar in the know encouraged SLAM's Directors to contact the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).  How long did it take them to get around to contacting the SCA? That was in 1999 (the Director of the SCA then was Gaballa Ali Gaballa, Hawass's predecessor). What happened when the Directors of the Museum carried out this necessary act of due diligence?
 The leadership team at SLAM will need to explain how they responded to this information. Or did they wait until Zahi Hawass contacted SLAM's director of February 14, 2006?
I have a feeling David Gill knows the answer to those questions. Maybe SLAM would find it more convenient to answer them before he does.

Oh, SLAM and the people of St Louis - Looting matters.

Wales and Syria


Nigel Swift of Heritage Action (Wales: like Syria without the guns. 25/10/2014) correctly points out: 
As the CBA says, the best way to extract evidence is via “controlled, high-standard archaeological excavation“. So it follows that the proper role for archaeologists to adopt towards metal detecting is to encourage people to mitigate their damage, nothing else. Yet the Welsh Museums (aided by PAS and the Lottery Fund) have just launched a project that effectively promotes artefact hunting providing it’s done well (or in their words, creates “a long-term collecting culture to underpin responsible discovery and reporting”.) The law of unintended consequences needs noting. Promoting detecting done well also promotes detecting as a whole, so what they regard as applying a conservation brake is actually pressing an exploitation accelerator
He then draws an analogy with what is happening outside Britain, most people will conclude that this is to be deplored:
“Images show hundreds of people, including gunmen, taking part in the excavations from dawn until night in many cases. Dealers are present, and when they discover an artefact, the sale takes place immediately”. That’s a press report about Syria.
 and yet: 
apart from the guns it describes exactly what has been happening in Wales (and England) routinely on unprotected archaeological sites for donkey’s years. PAS outreaching hasn’t stopped it (at rallies PAS often has a stall next to the artefact dealers, for goodness sake!) and nor will the latest stance by the Welsh museums. 
Is anyone naive enough to believe that any Welsh archaeologists and heritage professionals will be drawn to comment - still less attempt to take some action to protect sites from being subjected to collection-driven exploitation? Unlikely isn't it? What's Welsh for "apathetic jobsworths the lot of you"?

New legislation on the cards in Germany


German Culture Minister
Monika Grütters hopes to
amend existing legislation
New legislation on the cards in Germany:
The federal government aims to make it such that the import and trade of cultural goods to Germany will only be open to objects with an official export license from their country of origin. But that is not enough, warns Michael Müller-Karpe: The very attempt to import looted artifacts should be liable to prosecution. Currently, he said, it is not up to the dealers to prove that their goods are legal, so the authorities have to settle questions about the artifacts' legality. Existing law on the repatriation of cultural artifacts has greatly damaged Germany's reputation, Grütters says. The new law is scheduled to come into effect in 2016. In the meantime, the minister expects the influential antique dealers' lobby will try to put pressure on Berlin. Mainz forensic archeologist Michael Müller-Karpe hopes that unlike in 2007, the government will not waver, but withstand the pressure.
And it is up to all who care about the preservation of the world's archaeological sites (and that includes UK metal detectorists who say they are "passionately interested in preserving the past") to do everything they can to help uphold German lawmakers' resolve to deal with the plague of artefact looting and smuggling.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Focus on UK Metal Detecting; On my untouched pasture


Wikipedia
Quote by "beaubrummell" from Essex (Fri Oct 24, 2014 11:58 am):
On my untouched pasture I need to dig down 15 inches plus to find something 300 years old or more !!

Germany attracts trade in looted artifacts


Philipp Jedicke, 'Crime: Germany attracts trade in looted artifacts' 24.10.2014.
Day in and day out, go-betweens smuggle looted art from the war zones in the Middle East first to Turkey or Lebanon, and then on to, for instance, the Dubai foreign trade zone. Here, the artifacts can either be purchased on the spot, or they are shipped to antiques dealers and auction houses in Europe and the US, complete with export documents supplied by the intermediary.[...] Germany's culture and media minister, Monika Grütters, this week announced new legislation aimed at turning a 2007 law on the repatriation of cultural assets into an effective tool against the import of stolen goods. "Germany must make sure it doesn't turn into a hub for this," she said. However, according to Sylvelie Karfeld of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), Germany has already become a major trading zone. In fact, the BKA official responsible for the fight against the illicit antiquities trade describes the country as an "El Dorado of the illegal cultural artifacts trade." In an interview with Germany's NDR broadcaster, Karfeld said that under current German law, "a simple chicken's egg is more thoroughly protected and tagged than the most valuable antique." How could that happen?

Artefact Hunters Plunder Ancient Danish Burial Sites


Examining the destruction

Danish archaeologists are devastated, artefact hunters have dug up and plundered four ancient burial sites in 'Mangehøje' north of Grindsted near Billund in Jutland ('CW', 'Grave robbers plunder ancient Danish burial sites', the Copenhagen Post October 24, 2014). It is believed the sites date back to the Stone Age some 4,000 years ago. According to Lars Bjarke Christensen, an archaeologist from the Culture Ministry the last time graves were plundered in Denmark was back at the end of the 1890s. Hmm, Anglo-Saxon burial sites and Roman cemeteries are dug over for collectables on a regular basis in the UK, and you will not find any British archaeologists shedding a tear over the destruction. British archaeologists, you see, are in "partnership" with the diggers.
Christensen is gutted over the theft and the loss of Danish history. ”It's a disaster. The grave robbers have ruined part of Denmark's history,” Christensen told DR Nyheder. ”The things we could have learned from the burial mounds have now been erased from history. We can no longer investigate how ancient life was in this area of Jutland.”
Of course the soil in Denmark is different from that in Britain. Over there, you dig up an archaeological site and its gone. In Britain, the magic stratigraphy fairies come at night and do their healing dance to rejuvenate the Earth, heal the ripped layers of history, and restore everything as it was, so there's no need to get worried. At least that's what a New Agey metal detectorist told me. .

Faux Numis


 Kilroy coin (photo from Hooker's blog)
John Hooker claims to be an expert: "A numismatist with over fifty years experience [...] Very few people without at least twenty years of experience in numismatics can make much of an impact on the subject ".

In his desire to 'make an impact', he opines on a coin which a collector ["Owner's name withheld by request"] suggested to him was 'Celtic'  (Thursday, 23 October 2014, "Faux amis"). Although he saw it was not 'Celtic', he was at a loss to recognize it, but on showing a photo of it to local dealer Robert Kokotailo ("who really knows his Medieval coins") he learnt it was one of the cross-denier series common in eleventh century central Europe, and it was reportedly identified as a rare issue of "a Bishop of Prague". I should add that they seem unaware that there is no indication that, unlike the Ottonian ones, eleventh century Bohemian bishops had any minting rights at all.

The main interest in this coin for Hooker, apart from using it to show 'how clever' he'd been to identify it, was however to use as the springboard for expressing his hatred for those who see current modes in collecting and commerce in archaeological finds in a different light from him:
Certain archaeo-bloggers who constantly criticize collectors and dealers are always very nasty. [...] The person who owns this coin holds an important position and did not want his name associated with it for fear of being bullied. That could have brought trouble to even his organization. He did not want to have to deal with such evil people. So this coin has no recorded provenance because of the existence of such people [...]. There is a little irony here, and more than one sort of "faux amis". So be aware, and do not get taken in by such people's lies.(sic)
Note the total lack of paranoia there.... So, we are told that the coin's owner is going to keep quiet about where it comes from as he does not want his feelings hurt and the reputation of his organization damaged. As for who is lying, and whether strong criticism of no-questions-asking, and no-answers-giving dealers and collectors is justified, and whether it is "evil people" that raise these concerns, I leave it up to the reader to decide.

It would seem that both Hooker and Dealer Bob are blinded to the aberrant form of this object by the potential of using it to criticise archaeologists. I would suggest that if they'd handled any number of these relatively common coins from proper archaeological contexts rather than the random items that drift their way having "surfaced" ("from underground?"), they might look at this item in a different light. Yet Hooker reports that Dealer Bob has no problems with this item as eleventh century Bohemian. Caveat emptor.

UPDATE 23.10.14
I owe to Dorothy King the suggestion that the image of the coin pictured has even been digitally doctored (or even created digitally).  If so, Dealer Kokotailo's reported diagnosis is even more difficult to understand.

UPDATE UPDATE 24.10.2014
And so the coiney circus continues.... John Hooker, in reaction to my debate about a coin he discusses,  for some reason now threatens me with a libel suit. This is typical of the fragile egos of collectors who rather than admit ignorance about something outside their field, go on the offence. John Hooker may see himself as an all-knowing polymath able to speak with authority on a variety of topics, including eleventh century coin circulation in central Europe. The simple fact is however that he is not a Medievalist, does not have much experience with handling the sort of numismatic material that is abundant in Early Medieval silver hoards of central Europe. It just so happens that both are areas where I can claim more expertise than him. The coin he pictures has a number of features which suggest to those familiar with large numbers of real 'grounded' examples (and not the decontextualised ones in the trade), that this item  is not what he published it as. He is unwilling to discuss that, stubbornly standing by his original diagnosis. He could start by citing his sources and reveal the alleged published parallel from Mr Kokotailo's book (cited by the wannabe scholar vaguely as "a German book on Medieval Polish coins" [sic]). Instead of doing that, he sees a dent in his personal authority and goes on the attack calling me "evil" and one of the "people of the lie" for doubting his unsupported diagnosis of unfamiliar material. 

When, on questioning whether the coin pictured actually existed (has Hooker held it in his hand?), I referred to his study of Coriosolite coins being based on reconstructed composite images rather than individual specimens, Hooker informs his readers that this is 'bullshit':
as everyone (sic) knows, blatantly false. I create the image he speaks of for Archaeopress as cover art.
What I was talking about was not the cover of the book, but the subject of the analysis inside: "the drawings of the die designs of these coins, often having to be reconstructed from several incomplete impressions".


UPDATE 12.11.2014
Mr Hooker is still going on, and on, about how clever he is and allegedly how the Early Medieval archaeologist from central Europe (who happens to have worked on the editorial board of a numismatic journal to boot) knows "nothing" about Early Medieval coins from central Europe. Now he's actually come up with the missing reference. 
[Paul Barford] was wrong, too, about the Medieval coin, but I just got bored with his obfuscations. He thought it was a common type but was getting the type mixed up with the manufacturing method. While there are many types with that sort of edge, that particular type is very rare (a are several others made that way. Only two examples have appeared on auctions in recent years and they are all from different dies. The reference used on both of these sales is: Marion Gumowski, Handbuch der polnischen Numismatik, p.88, Tafel II. (see: http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marian_Gumowski and http://books.google.ca/books/about/Handbuch_der_Polnischen_Numismatik.html?id=njYZAAAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y)
Rather it is Hooker who is trying to obfuscate - note this long digression was in answer to my points about a Celtic coin hoard he misinterpreted photos of. First of all the word I used was "series" not type, that is exactly what these coins form, a whole series of coins related by weight, manufacturing technique, fabric and iconography. It is the specific manufacturing technique (which does not appear so markedly at the beginning of the series) which defines it. Mr Hooker is trying to fuzzy the issues here to waste everybody's time with his protestations, accusations and wikipedia links.

What Mr Hooker had said was he used a "a German book on Medieval Polish coins". 
1) The surname Gumowski is not German, he was a very well known Polish medievalist.
2) The man's name was Marian, not Marion.
3) the proper reference is that this book was first published in 1960 but went through several later editions.
4) The study of these coins has come a HUGE long way since Gumowski's summary of previous work (oh and by the way, much of the research was done by academically employed professional numismatists not commercial amateurs).
5) While Gumowski's is a classic, it is rather treated today as "Podręczna literatura numizmatyczna średniowiecza"not an academic source (that coin auction sellers use it as such changes nothing).
6) Although he does not cite which edition he's using, or where on the plate of his copy he sees it, I do not see this coin on Plate II of my copy of Gumowski. I stress again that -whatever Gumowski thought more than half a century ago - there is no indication that, unlike the Ottonian ones, eleventh century Bohemian bishops had any minting rights at all.

In any case, the coin he's spilling so much ink over is probably not real, it seems to be a photoshop creation.





 
Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.