Wednesday, 23 April 2014

"Pap Dodge" Looks Dodgier

Yet another 'collecting history' claimed by an American owner of a dugup antiquity proves to be - ahem - "problematic" (Owen Jarus, 'Gospel of Jesus's Wife': Doubts Raised About Ancient Text' Live Science April 22, 2014). This one has echoes of the Suzie Jelinek story of the St Louis Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask. Readers will remember that the 'provenance' claimed by the current owner of a controversial papyrus was a document (contract) which stated that "it was purchased, along with five other Coptic papyrus fragments, from a man named Hans-Ulrich Laukamp in November 1999 and that Laukamp had obtained it in 1963 from Potsdam in then-East Germany". Oh, the "turned up in East Germany" card too. Like the "Leutwitz Apollo"? It turns out, here too, not to be too difficult to check, did the Harvard scholar try?
 In an effort to confirm the origins of the papyrus and discover its history, Live Science went searching for more information about Laukamp and his descendents, business partners or friends.  Our findings indicate that Laukamp was a co-owner of the now-defunct ACMB-American Corporation for Milling and Boreworks in Venice, Fla. Documents filed in Sarasota County, Fla., show that Laukamp was based in Germany at the time of his death in 2002 and that a man named René Ernest was named as the representative of his estate in Sarasota County. In an exchange of emails in German, Ernest said that Laukamp did not collect antiquities, did not own this papyrus and, in fact, was living in West Berlin in 1963, so he couldn't have crossed the Berlin Wall into Potsdam. Laukamp, he said, was a toolmaker and had no interest in old things. In fact, Ernest was astonished to hear that Laukamp's name had been linked to this papyrus. [...]  Ernest said, adding that, as far as he knows, Laukamp had no children and has no living relatives [...] Another acquaintance of Laukamp — Axel Herzsprung, who was also a co-owner of ACMB-American Corporation for Milling and Boreworks — told Live Science (in German in an email) that while Laukamp collected souvenirs on trips, he never heard of him having a papyrus. To his knowledge, Laukamp did not collect antiquities, Herzsprung said.
How convenient that Laukamp has no living relatives. Jarus then raises the question of the copy of a "typed and signed letter addressed to H. U. Laukamp" that dates to July 15, 1982, from Peter Munro, a now-deceased professor at the Freie University Berlin" which refers to "one of Mr. Laukamp's papyri" 
King wrote that the letter said that "a colleague, Professor Fecht, [had seen these papyri]  However, if Ernest and Herzsprung are correct, and Laukamp never collected antiquities, the question becomes: Why and how does this document exist? Munro died in 2009, and the "Professor Fecht" may be Gerhard Fecht, an Egyptology professor at the Freie University Berlin who passed away in 2006,
The collecting history relies on: Laukamp (died 2002 no heirs) being a collector, Munro (died 2009) not being around to ask about what he really knows about Fecht, who equally is not around because he died in 2006. Nothing can be verified, and the letter itself is only known as a 'copy' . "Pap Dodge" looks dodgier.

The Credibility Gap: New Accusations in Egypt - What's New?

First they jail journalists, now they are reportedly again after Hawass, and again on the basis of accusations from former colleagues: 'World-famous Egyptologist Zahi Hawass under investigation for graft' Ahram Online, Wednesday 23 Apr 2014. Round and round we go...
World-renowned Egyptologist and former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass is under investigation by Egypt's authorities on charges of illicit gains, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported on Wednesday. The superstar archaeologist and former secretary-general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) has been accused by officials at the council of illegally acquiring a fortune of some $14 million kept in US banks. This is not the first time such accusations have been levelled at Hawass, but past investigations cleared him of such charges.
Now that is quite some amount. He was appointed Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities only in 2002, appointed Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, a newly created cabinet post, by Mubarak on January 31, 2011 and left both positions on July 17, 2011. He was a National Geographic Explorer in Residence from spring 2001 until some uncertain date after January 2011. Reportedly
"beginning in 2001 and continuing for a decade, National Geographic paid the archaeologist between $80,000 and $200,000 a year for his expertise". 
Fourteen million in ten years is 1.4 million dollars a year, quite a lot more than 200,000 dollars - so where do his colleagues assert he was getting the other 1,200,000 dollars a year from? Let us also bear in mind that from all accounts Dr Hawass' lifestyle cannot be said to have been particularly 'modest', so the money that he's alleged to have secreted away is on top of some pretty hefty spending. Even if his colleagues are accusing him of starting the alleged activities when he became chief inspector of the Giza Plateau (in early 1994 after some dispute over a statue) the ability to amass $14million in 18 years (that's still savings of $770,000 a year) is - to say the least, difficult to account for. Anyway, let us see what these new investigations come up with, and I look forward to hearing why the previous investigations missed the evidence of such hefty cash transfers. 

Here's a little conspiracy theory. Regular readers of this blog will know that I consider that - despite all - there is a chance that Dr Hawass will make a comeback. He has not been idle since July 2011. It is my considered opinion that he has several aces up his sleeve. It may well be that the elections coming up will create possibilities for him. My guess is these accusations will be found to be groundless, and were dragged out in order to damage Hawass, in an attempt to prevent him building a position of strength at what some could see as a crucial juncture. Cui bono?

Vignette: Egypt today a muddle of accusations and counter accusations.

The US Trade in Ancient Egyptian Artefacts: "Saving History"?

Robert A. Kraft discusses a series of eBay sales back in 2005-7 ("Pursuing Papyri and Papyrology by Way of eBay: A Preliminary Report") deriving from the accumulation of art collector/dealer Bruce P. Ferrini. What caught my eye were the very clear examples of larger pieces being dismembered into smaller pieces for better sales results. Kraft demoinstrates this in the case of a piece of cartonnage which later appeared on the market divided into small coloured fragments. What's the point of collecting these if not sheerly as trophies? There is little here for homegrown wannabe archaeologists to "study" (see the trite justifications currently being offered to CPAC for not allowing the US/Egypt MOU). 

Cartonnage fragment in Ferrini Collection when intact (left)
and (right) as sold [some of the pieces had already
been treated with acid to get the papyrus fragments out]
A similar situation was noted in the case of one of the hieratic textual pieces containing the text of the Book of the Dead which had been collected relatively intact and remained intact until at least 2004, but when some fragments turned up on eBay in 2005 onwards, it was realised that they had come from the mutilation of this item to get better sales results. David Howell found that the right side of the text had been divided into at least 19 pieces,  as shown on his  overlaid image of the right side. 

David Howell's overlaid image of the  Ferrini  Book of the Dead dismembered by dealers to sell it
There was also a demotic panel
that had been cut into at least 22 pieces that I can document (and probably a couple of additional pieces unknown to me) cost the various buyers (including myself, for one inexpensive token piece) a total of $761.72 , for an average price of $34.62 (from a low of $13.08 to a high of $84.00).  What the panel would have fetched when it was still intact is anyone's guess, but I suspect it would be much less than the $760 plus that was realized through the dismemberment.
Demotic panel cut into pieces for sale
"the handful of Arabic pieces also exhibited the  familiar slicing of a larger panel into multiple items".

These cases not only show that many collectors buying artefacts (irrespective of where they came from and how they came onto the market about which there are also serious questions) are really interested more in "having" than any more altruistic motives such as preserving or saving history, let alone researching or studying them. The case studied by Kraft also illustrates what can happen when a personal collection is split up. Far from the objects being "saved or preserved', they can then undergo further destruction in order to make a quick sale. There is no way this kind of treatment of ancient artefacts at private hands can be condoned, nor of course in an atmosphere of "collectors' rights" is there any way it can be stopped.

For the record, I do not approve the actions of Dr Kraft buying these items and  interacting with other collectors (all in the US?) who did so too. I am sure these people would say they were "saving information", but would argue that Kraft really has not produced all that much real, reliable information about the ancient world (as opposed to information about how awful the so-called legitimate antiquities trade is) from these activities. 

Where do they Stand on Antiquity Smuggling?

Hat tip to (see? I can agree with an FLO on some things).

PAS Needs Fixing?

< Andy Baines, 'Is the current PAS scheme starting to show signs of fatigue?' Wednesday, 23 April 2014 asks whether the selective recording being discussed on detecting forums, but consistently ignored or downplayed by supporters of the Scheme means that the PAS is on the verge of collapse. He says that from a detectorist's point of view, the FLOs "are not keeping to their side of the deal".
All the while there is silence from PAS and its corresponding flo about this situation, which to me says one thing only and that is that they know its going on and would rather bury their heads in the sand. Why doesn't a representative enter one of the forums or blogs and communicate about the issues that are being raised?
He challenges the PAS to set out their policy - good luck to him on that, the PAS have been singularly uncommunicative when asked these questions by archaeologists and conservation groups (like Heritage Action). Maybe the metal detectorists will get some answers.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

More from UK's Detectorists on PAS' Selectivity in Recording

I pointed out a comment the other day about the PAS FLO not recording certain items brought to them by metal detectorists, despite their eligibility for inclusion on the PAS database. It seems this notion does not fit with the cosy world view of academics who support the PAS, so somebody [who later turned out to be Philippa Walton] wrote back disgruntled that I was giving such comments an airing on my blog. It seems to me however that the voice of finders seeing what happens to the objects they bring in for recording really should not be ignored, for two reasons. The first the obvious one, they are the only ones who know what they've found and what they took in for reporting, and what then happened. The second reason is that if untrue information is being spread among the metal detecting community as fact, it should be a task of PAS outreach to investigate the claims, verify the facts and then rectify and clarify. None of which will they, of course, actually do.

One of the people who knows this is the member of a metal detecting near all of us (Dr Philippa Walton too)  "Alloverover" (Sat Jan 12, 2013 10:40 pm ), who writes:
PAS used to record anything you took to them over 300 years old, small bits of buckle, a broken brooch etc, the smallest thing as long as it could be ID,ed, [...] They (in my recent experience) have now totally changed their ethos due to lack of money, resources time and interest of FLO's ( the standard of whom seem to have dropped considerably, not surprising considering the remuneration on offer ). In my most recent attempt to record finds via an FLO, i was told that they have to now prioritize what they record, so of 9 or 10 items i wanted to record 5 or 6 were deemed unworthy of the effort, these items of insufficient interest included a couple of celtic units, i dont even think the young lady realized what they were until she was told.
and this is before the introduction of the karaoke FLOs. As All-over says "good grief", appalling. Then a little later we hear the same thing again from "Chris D" (Sun Jan 13, 2013 4:20 am): 
Yes quiet agree about the PAS scheme [...] Recently i get the impresion that they are only really interested in recording treasure cases, hoards or something significant they can put there name to, rather than the buckles, buttons,single hammered coins, iron medieval horse shoes etc which all help to build up the bigger picture
Member "Geoman" has a more detailed explanation of how this is happening and why (Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:12 pm):
The FLO's seem to have been advised by their local ? managers to be selective in what they record which begs the question why are some items of more interest than others ? Remember all FLO's have local managers who are frequently based in the County Archaeological Dept and will have their own agendas as to what the FLO is to do. The London PAS office has a very limited input to FLO management. I would assume that they wish to have details of older archaeological material which once passed onto the County HER can be used to feed into the many Higher Level Stewardship applications. 
Geoman has a well-known fixation with HLS agreements and has a conspiracy theory as to why selective recording is happening. If the PAS is selecting material due to lack of time and funding to get through the masses of material brought in and lying around their offices for months on end unrecorded (another frequent topic on the detecting forums which anyone going there will be aware of), there must be an internal policy document setting out nationally-standardised guidelines for this. What does it say? What are the statistics of this?

Central Searchers' Claim Untrue?

Central Searchers metal detectorists claimed yesterday that "their" FLO "is only interested in the good stuff not broken artefacts and roman grots". Julie Cassidy says this is untrue. She tweets:
statement is demonstrably false, esp the part about not recording broken artefacts. Only need to look at database to see that
It just so happen that the top dozen or so artefacts in the list of those recorded by Ms Cassidy are substantially complete, but we'll take her word for it that the Northampton FLO does not turn away fragments of objects. As for the number of "Roman grots" recorded, the same list shows that in her time with the PAS, she's recorded 595 Late Roman Bronzes and barb-rads (what I assume is meant by the term). Hardly enough to fill a coin zapper's kilogramme bag of "unsorted".

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