Monday, 28 July 2014

UK Metal Detecting: Reading Problems Compound Thinking Difficulties

My comments on the Macedonian antiquities convictions aroused interest among the airheads with metal detectors. As usual the "passinitly interestid in th' 'istry" mob seem unconcerned about any of the other issues raised here about the responsibilities of artefact hunting and artefact collecting (indeed, laughing about them). The moment mention is made of an archaeologist being mixed up in some dodgy dealings, then suddenly their ears prick up. One of them (from the camp totally oblivious to the nature of the issues are with thoughtless airheads hoiking artefects to collect), unreflexively writes on his blog: "we are painted with an extremely broad brush as bad guys by those in the ‘holier than thou’ enemy camp, yet when misdeeds like the following happen they are always labelled inaccurate, misconstrued, taken out of context or political in nature".  Another of the same ilk, calling himself supernova1c
guffaws that this made him laugh. He says he "found the article on the greedy archaeologist very interesting, you don’t hear them shouting about that!". The artefact hunters' favourite "two wrongs make a right" argument.

I wonder whether any of them had actually read the article properly, rather than the headline. You know reading, where you put words in a row and then understand them? If you follow through the articles about the case going back over a year (I doubt any of them even thought of doing that, even though the information is in the Internet a mouse-click away) they would have found that the archaeologist they are "laughing" about has been sentenced for giving permission for artefact hunting, for aiding artefact hunters like themselves. Whether out of "greed" or not is not recorded.

The point I was making in my earlier post is that although the permits (which I presume exist) bear his signature, the precise conditions under which they were issued may not be so clear. Note that the antiquities ring is reported as being run by his deputy in the office. I think one can see that there is a variety of possible scenarios from which the court could have chosen, for various reasons. That is the point I was making about the political context here.

In most eastern European countries you need a permit to conduct archaeological excavations. Without them, excavations are illegal. Yet artefact hunters cannot get these permits, because state legislation in these countries usually specifies out who can get them and what for. To issue such a permit to people who do not fit those definitions is illegal. This is the dilemma artefact hunters have in many parts of Europe. I have written about this a number of times on this blog in the past, Raimund Karl wrote about it in support of Austrian artefact hunters. Polish archaeologists complain they cannot legally work with metal detectorists because of this sort of legislation and suggest modifying it. Chortling airhead metal detector users in the English-speaking world however cannot strain their search-engine-using mouse-clicking fingers too much or read more than eight sentences at a time, so they prefer to remain permanently ignorant. Then they can play the victim when somebody points out they are exhibiting minimal intelligence in what they say about their hobby and its contexts. They like that, it's an undemanding role to play ("we are painted with an extremely broad brush as bad guys by those in the ‘holier than thou’ enemy camp"). It helps foster the them-us division which increase the "hobby solidarity" within which so many of them seem to find comfort and a personal identity.

To judge by the reports in the public domain, Macedonia's Kuzman "and other office employees in 2011 gave permission to third parties to dig in locations near the town of Delcevo and along the road from Skopje to Veles". The reports of the case indicate that he has been convicted of issuing artefact hunters  with excavation permits, allowing them to dig openly. The point is that Macedonian law does not have the possibility for him to do that, he has therefore been declared guilty by a court of an illegal activity and has been sentenced to three years in prison. For being "guilty of aiding a criminal ring to excavate and sell off valuable archaeological artifacts". Giving permission for artefact hunting, in the specific Macedonian context, has been adjudged "misuse of office".

I would have thought that metal detectorists capable of thinking would have adopted a somewhat different attitude to the jailing of an (old and sick - to boot) archaeologist whose crime was giving permissions to artefact hunters.  But no, I cannot see any evidence that thinking metal detectorists will be An archaeologist jailed for helping artefact hunters, ha ha, ROFL eh?"
taking that one up. Instead we see mindless airhead guffawing: "

 Vignette: 'Illiterate Britain: One in five adults struggling to read and write' and many take up metal detecting.

"Iraq is Heading Toward Total Destruction of its Historic and Human Heritage"

The war-mongers may be in denial, but Ali Mamouni is in little doubt who is ultimately responsible for the current destabilisation of the situation in Iraq
Iraq is heading toward total destruction of its historic and human heritage, which will turn it into a barren desert isolated from its time-honored cultural and religious history. This is taking place in light of chaotic circumstances involving terrorism that is on the offensive, Iraqi government ignorance, global silence and an international letdown — specifically from the United States, which [has] completely abandoned its responsibilities toward the situation in Iraq.

Ali Mamouri, 'Islamic State destroys sacred shrine in Mosul', Al-monitor July 25, 2014 (transl. Cynthia Milan).

UK Metal Detecting: "[...]k off and Die Heritage Action, Barford and the rest of you"!

"Remember that when you are out with
your metal detector you are an ambassador for our
hobby. Do nothing that might give it a bad name
Over on Heritage Action's blog we see a typical metal detectorist reaction to a discussion of artefact hunters selling finds.  It's from a John West and was sent 27/07/2014 at 22:47
Dont waste your breathe or typing skills on this bunch of twisted blinkered [...]ers. You could give all your finds to a museum and they still would call foul. [...]k off and die heritage action, barford and the rest of you syncapathic (sic) [...]ers... Here endeth the lesson. [...] at least us (sic) detectorists are actually finding pieces of the past rather than belittling those that do Pathetic [....]ers. Now post this you twisted [...]k. You know who I am and I will return to plague your [...]t sake of a site !!!
Yes, they always do. Very few of them feel the need to engage in anything but whining, feeble pseudo-justifications and outright vulgarity.This is why there really is no point in trying to discuss anything with artefact hunters, but we need to be discussing what the rest of us can do about artefact hunters like this whose only justification for "finding pieces of the past" is to throw it in the face of the rest of us like this. Without the PAS they would be nothing but looters, yet the paradox is that the PAS was set up to negotiate best practice with the milieu represented here so eloquently by John West. How much chance of an effective resolution to the artefact hunting problem do you think the mentalities behind this and a host of other posts made by metal detectorists which anyone who looks can see all over the internet give them? 

Mr West's ISP is available to NCMD officials - just ask.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Arrests for Egyptian Antiquity Possession in Malawi

Press Trust of India, '2 Egyptians arrested for possessing illicit antiquities', Business Standard, July 27, 2014.
A 59-year-old Egyptian worker and his son were arrested today after police recovered 604 antiquities of Pharaonic and Roman era from their possession. Gamal Rashid Mandour and his 30-year-old son Odai were arrested in Malawi village in Menya by the Tourist Police Unit for possessing 526 ancient metal coins dating back to the Pharaonic and Roman era and 42 Pharaonic statues, state-run MENA news agency reported.
Baswed on their reported location, it might be assumed that, although the brief text does not state this, these items would have come from the looting of the Malawi Museum a year ago (Aug. 14-17, 2013).It is heartening to see that the people holding them had not been able to find an Egyptian  buyer for these 'hot' items. In September 2013 there were reported to be 873 antiquities still missing. But in December 2013 it was reported that of the 1050 objects believed to be stolen in August: "Ibrahim said that 800 of the items have since been recovered" and I've seen reports putting the number at 900. So this rather begs the question what Mr Mandour is alleged to have had in his possession.

"Wotch Out Baz, Farmer's Coming!"

Dick Stout's fave UK metal detector supplier carries a nice line of Night Vision Monoculars (that by the way is the Google cache, at the moment you get this if you click on the 'Night Vision Monoculars ' dropdown on their website - hiding something guys, or have you had a lot of sales?). They start off at about 150 quid up to 800. Heritage Action ('A Community Archaeology project to reduce nighthawking!') charitably suggest that the explanation might be offered that  they are "a must have’ for Treasure Hunters who need to scout out [sites] at night" (and these would be albino vampires who cannot go out in sunlight presumably) or “for  guarding my metal detecting sites from night hawkers“ (because the farmer is drunk and incapable of looking after his own property). I think the dealers who say they are used by paranoid metal detectorists "to see who is coming when [...] out at treasure sites", have nailed it. 

It is interesting to note that although UK tekkies will no doubt continue to claim that those buying this equipment are doing so for entirely non-nefarious reasons, the number of detectorists listing them in the long lists of equipment-wot-I-got with which it is now fashionable to adorn the signature line on metal-detecting forums (to illustrate the "investment" these folk put into their benign-heritage-helping hobby) very rarely include them. A 'must have' for legitimate artefact hunting, or something those who have them prefer not to advertise to avoid questions being asked?

It is also interesting to note that when the "we is all responsible blokes" bluff is called, and groups like Heritage Action (for PAS never does this guess why) call on all those allegedly "responsible blokes" to take responsibility for the hobby and do something about those who spoil it for everyone else, not more than two will ever step forward and actually do anything. hardly evidence for widespread responsibility, or maybe its 'Alternative Responsibility' that is claimed.

To be clear, anyone hoiking artefacts from little holes with a night-vision apparatus is not going to be able to record properly the associations and avoid damaging information, and should be expelled from a club of responsible detectorists immediately. Anyone found carrying one around in the back of their car with their metal detector (with back-lit screens) and spades (for example turning up at a weekend rally with one) should surely be reported to club authorities by his responsible fellows.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Hopi Masks in France: Dialogue with the Deaf

Cheerleading for US
Cultural Protection policies
It's bad enough having to discuss the notions of the airheads with metal detectors or ancient coin collections. I am naive enough to expect a little more from academic staff of US universities though. I posted on the Museum Security Discussion List a brief reaction to the objectionably-phrased self-promotional complaint that the French were not falling prostrate before the demands of a US-based group questioning the sales of some Native American objects. There was only one objection to my remarks, a rather defensive post from Dr Lucille A. Roussin (Adjunct Professor of Law, the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, a member of the Cultural Properties Legislation Committee of the Archaeological Institute of America and something big in the LCCHP) who begins patronisingly: "I suggest Mr. Barford read..." and citing a whole load of US legislation and cases, claiming that these showed that the U.S. has "sorted out the legal status of objects like these" but which instead appears to show that she'd not the foggiest what I'd written about. She is involved in Holocaust art activities and it is not clear what here relationship with Ori Z. Soltes, Ciric Law Firm, PLLC, or the Holocaust Art Restitution Project. Here is my reply, trying to set the record straight:
Dr Roussin,
Thank you for your comments. I do not think, however, you take my point. We are talking here about illicit export, aren't we? And you seem to want it to become a case of illicit import in France. But on what, precise, grounds?

But first, let's take a look at how US dealers, their lobbyists and US museums react to just such claims from foreign claimants (we might take as a good [bad] example the SLAM Ka Nefer Nefer mask - according to a US court in two places at once so "not stolen" and staying in the US). Time and time again we all observe how, when it comes to antiquities in particular, many US dealers are quite happy to flog as much stuff as they can get their hands on, their lawyers arguing quite openly that "no US law" is broken. I am sure you are well aware of the debate that's going on about the gap between practice and the law in the US at the moment - the latest from the "Committee on Cultural Policy", it is a serious problem.

My point is that Mr Ciric was bemoaning the fact that the "foreign authorities" would not recognize that these objects were "stolen and smuggled". Yet we have an international Convention of which both the US and France are states parties, and because of the failure of the US to do any of the things it stipulates which allows definition of US cultural objects as such (Art 5, 6, 7, 10a) then the French authorities had no legislative grounds to come to any other decision in the light of their own legal system. So yes, regretable, to be sure, but the US has not safeguarded items like this from this point of view (no export licencing system in place for such items for a start) - so to then attack the French over this seems a little unfair.

I suggest that if you want to enable the French Board to help the US next time this happens (and I think it will) then surely we/you need to start pressurising the US government to take another look at how the US is "implementing" the 1970 UNESCO Convention, with regard to US cultural property. [You might like to consider that since the US itself opts to implement the Convention selectively - calling on Art 9 - the US not having actually signed a bilateral cultural property MOU with France as part of its "implementation" of the Convention might not be irrelevant here either].

As we've all seen, the US is all too keen (in its Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act and its process of CPAC adjudication) to stand judge over the other State Parties, so it seems fair that we should be able to take a critical look at the US system too.

And I note you do not answer the point I made about the US not even having a rudimentary market regulatory system in place to equal the French organization Mr Ciric is criticising.
Paul Barford 
Her off-list reply indicates that the lady from the LCCHP has still not understood  why I assume that what Mr Cirik was discussing was a repatriation (and therefore illicit export/import) case. She's not understood my reference to Mr Pearlstein's points in the Committee on Cultural Policy "White Paper" (presented recently in a publication in her own institution) and for some reason seems to assume I've never looked at the LCCHP's website (duh...*). She tries to tell me that I don't know anything about the Ka Nefer Nefer case, which I venture to suggest I've done more reading and writing on than she seems to have done (and her own summary of it differs markedly from the actual facts of what happened!).

She then crowns it all by blurting out her opinion that the CPAC and the CCPIA "seem to be working very well". Well, I could not agree less about that last point, and I suggest I am not alone in that. What a loopy thing to say in 2014. The "CCPIA and CPAC" are doing bugger all about Syrian antiquities being sold this very day through US dealers.  And by the time the CPAC gets round to meeting about it, there is no telling what ISIS will have done.

To be honest Dr Roussin, that was not a very well informed or useful reply at all. That's probably why she says "I have no intention of getting into a dialogue with you on social media". No, probably not. She's happy telling me in patronising terms that I know nothing (metal detectorist talk that), which is merely a strategy (as it is with metal detectorists)  to dodge actually addressing any of the points made. We have social media Dr Roussin in order precisely to talk about issues. Surely, if the heritage belongs to all of us, we should all (not just US lawyers) have a voice in what happens to it. Simply refusing to discuss it honestly (in anything but the glibbest of facile terms) is a cop-out by whole segments of the heritage sector on both sides of the Atlantic. I personally think that the US approach to implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention is may ways (argued on this blog) a failure to address the issue, and a damaging one at that. It's my opinion reached after looking at it closely and carefully for a number of years (and if you look through this blog, you'll see it was not always like that). I am entitled to my opinion and Dr Roussin is of course entitled to hers. The difference between us is that I think this is worth discussing and am having a go at defending my views, Dr Roussin apparently is not. Not only that, her correspondence suggests that she's not really paying much attention to what the other side is saying, apparently simply dismissing it because it conflicts with her own preconceptions, which are that the CCPIA is "working very well". If that is typical of the approach of the US heritage community as a whole, then we'll not be seeing any much-needed change soon.

*Not noticing that this blog has been a firm supporter of the LCCHP, including its recent campaign to heighten awareness about the significance of the Charles B. Rangel/Steve Israel moves to weaken measures for curbing antiquity smugglers.

"Indian" Crafts in the USA

In relation to the discussion of the Hopi masks fiasco, I was reprimanded by a US lawyerly-lady from the LCCHP for opining on the Museums Security List that the US "implements" (I use the term loosely) the 1970 UNESCO Convention rather badly in terms of cultural property originating in the US. Despite her remonstrations, I maintain that view, but was pointed by her to some disturbing legislation which she claims indicates that I am wrong.
I suggest Mr. Barford [...] look at the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, 25 U.S.C. 305 et seq. (1990). This Act is further explained as to enforcement in Protection for Products of Indian Art and Craftsmanship, 25 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 309 (1996). [my hyperlinks]
Yes, just look at them and what they cover - and what they do not cover. The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 "is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States". This has nothing at all to do with the 1970 Convention the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and it will need explaining to me in words of one syllable, obviously, what relevance this has to the French case in question.

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