Thursday, 27 November 2014

Steinhardt statue withdrawn

Christie's was due to sell the Steinhardt  Sardinian marble female statue seen by Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis in the Medici archive in their upcoming December 11 New York City sale. According to the ARCA Blog the object has now been withdrawn for further clarification of its 'less than optimal collecting history' as someone put it. Good.  The news aroused a (small) Twitter storm of applause, mostly in Italian. 

Dealers Again: "No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Artefacts Funding ISIS" (1)

The International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art wants to brush away the suggestion that the German part of the no-questions-asked trade in dugup antiquities is in any way involved in funding ISIL. "Extremely unlikely" is how they phrase it. So they've just released a triumphant text 'No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Art Funding ISIS' (Basel, November 25, 2014). They announce it in Coin Weekly: "Exhaustive investigation has revealed that the most important sources of the allegation the trade in ancient objects would finance IADAA are not existing". So collectors can sleep soundly tonight.

The notion that coin collectors are homegrown scholars, doing important "research into the past" is a recurrent leitmotif  in their attempts to justify the continuance of the damaging status quo. So let us have a look at this scholarly "exhaustive investigation". Does it consist of an exhaustive literature search of where claims have been made and the verification of their sources? Does it perhaps consist of a breakdown of the information we have about the mechanisms of ISIL funding in general? Well, heck, no. "during the last week, two articles have been published by independent parties supporting our point of view, one from Suddeutsche Zeitung, the other the blog ‘Chasing Aphrodite’".  So this "exhaustive investigation" consists of just a single newspaper article and a single blog post. The author of this text (Ursula Kampmann) actually cannot even manage to quote either of those accurately in support of her thesis.

And the "First IADAA Smoking Gun" is:
The source of the rumour: The Guardian, June 15, 2014
Martin Chulov [...]
I've discussed this problematic material about Nabuk at least twice here,[1] Sam Hardy[2] has also returned to the topic a couple of times. Ever since it appeared we and others have been saying there obviously is something wrong with the way it is quoted. That does not mean that sales of antiquities are not involved, but the information has become garbled. For the IADAA it is their key argument: 
This unverified allegation was taken up by numerous activists and journalists who concocted a purely fictional story about how these ancient objects were sold in the German art trade.
Well no, actually not. The main discussion was and still is focussed on the global trade, and not Germany. The 'Nabuk antiquities' story was NOT by any means the beginning of the story. In many news items, many web sources as well as in the archaeological literature (some of it discussed down the years in this blog)[3] there has been much information about looting in Iraq and Syria used to finance militant (and terrorist) activity in this region. It began soon after the 2003 invasion in Iraq (actually the looting began before), and then spread with the 2011 civil war starting in Syria. The story, and the smuggling routes that they involve have been active long before ISIL. The IADAA then goes on to say that: 
Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 15/16, 2014 It is somewhat ironic that Volkmar Kabisch, who was responsible for the ARD documentary “Das geplünderte Erbe”, has now had to admit – after careful examination of the 160 usb sticks: “But where does the money come from? There has been much speculation about art trafficking, revenues from kidnapping or the sale of oil but no such information can be gained from the documents.” Nevertheless, his broadcast “Das geplünderte Erbe” is still aired by Phoenix. The IADAA demands that this and similar broadcasts that are based on false and obsolete information are removed from the program at once.
There are three cogent points here.
1) The IADAA "demands" that this whole story is suppressed "at once" because they claim that it contains "false and obsolete" information. Just who do they think they are, to dictate what we can watch and what we cannot? Fine, they think the information can be shown to be "false and obsolete" and they can present their arguments as above. It is then up to the viewer to decide, not for them to dictate to what information they have access. That's totalitarianism in action.
2) If you've not watched it, have another look at “Das geplünderte Erbe”, and work out for yourself just what part the "memory sticks" motif plays in it. Take them away, does a story not still exist? Yes, it does. IADAA is "demanding" suppressing all the rest of the information and opinions expressed (for that is what interviews are constructed of - both of the interviewee as well as interviewer/editor) because they think they can contest one fragment of the programme eleven seconds long.
3)  But then, is Ms Kampmann actually citing her sources in context and accurately? On looking at the article quoted (thanks to Sam Hardy for getting this for me) we see two things which simply dismiss her argument.
[UPDATE: Just as I was about to send this, I got a tweet from Esther Saoub with the link to: '‘Islamic State’: A Bureaucracy of Terror' [translated by Candice Novak] an English summary of the text: Thanks]

Perhaps it escaped the notice of Ms Kampmann, but the journalists  state quite clearly that they did not see all the documentation (Cf "a German journalist has checked all 160 data carriers, the Guardian article wrote about"). They also specifically note that were shown (by Iraqi intelligence officers) documents relating to Iraq. That is the Iraq which is a neighbouring country to Syria, where one will find al-Nabuk (where the antiquities were reported to have been from). It is perhaps not surprising then that the Germans did not see the data about Nabuk in the documents they had available about ISIL's Iraqi provinces. Duh. In fact what they also say is the documents they had access to concerned mostly social services in 'The Islamic State'. Martin Chulov, was reporting about what he'd learnt from another part of the same batch (maybe the intelligence services of the two countries have apportioned the material since Chulov saw it).

In passing, I must say that I found some of what I read in that article extremely disturbing, and I am not sure that "hey there's nothing about antiquities here" is the first thing that would come to even my mind on reading it.

And the "Second IADAA Smoking Gun" is: 

Moving on from misquoted sources. The Second "key piece of evidence" for the IADAA is the "second not fifth or whatever" argument. Personally, I think using the tactic of deflecting discussion onto a side-issue treated pars pro toto as the only argument is a typical example of the smoke and mirrors tactics always adopted by the antiquities trade and artefact collectors. The only reason I return to this already-tired point it is because the IADAA see fit to treat it as the "smoking gun".

Now, this idea that "the trade in ancient art provided the second largest source of revenue for ISIS" was treated with scepticism before Jason Felch wrote about it, that IADAA has not really been following this discussion is nobody's fault but their own.[4]  For them it is "news" that it turns out to be journalistic hyperbole. In fact, if they'd done any reading on the topic beforehand, they'd have found other articles published at the same time which gives a much more detailed breakdown about what we know about ISIL's funding, it's not exactly an unpopular or un-newsworthy topic at the moment, but no, it suits them to continue hounding the one point.

IADAA allege that this is all a conspiracy of the United States (against the German antiquities trade?). Kampmann alleges:
In his function as co-director of a State Department funded campaign to track cultural heritage destruction in Syria, Danti had published an article in the magazine “Foreign Policy” on October 17, 2014, in which he called the illicit trade with ancient objects the second largest source of revenue of ISIS.
True to coiney form, no link to that alleged article by Danti is given. Too many facts spoil the story I guess. The article  ('Black Market Battleground') was by Justine Drennan and she was quoting Danti. I wish Ms Kampmann the luck that the next time she is interviewed by a journalist, what she says is presented absolutely verbatim and having the meaning she gave it. Most of us in archaeology have completely the opposite experience. I think it is an unfortunate consequence of speaking to the press and consider it par for the course - as I think we all do. In my own case the only time my words have never been twisted was when I wrote a short piece myself for the local newspaper back in England. None of us knows what Michael Danti actually said, I think most of us who read the article smiled wryly when we read the article. Only the coineys seem insistent on treating it as a case of an archaeologist deliberately twisted a fact. But then, we all know how they love an "everyone is against us" conspiracy theory; it fosters a feeling or brotherhood.

It is quite important to see the context (we know how some coineys despise that word) of this soundbite. Drennan was writing after the US airstrikes on Syrian towns had begun and in the context of Kerry's Sept. 22 gung-ho speech at the Met (see here too). She herself says "my aim was to show how ISIS’s looting necessitates non-violent efforts to stop trafficking, not military intervention". That is the context in which she used whatever Danti had said. It was a useful quote because Kerry was using ISIL's mistreatment of the "cultural heritage of all mankind" to justify the US no-boots-on-the-ground remote bombing them into the Stone Age (and anyone else who happened to get in the way of US bombers - see yesterday's report on the deaths in Ar-Raqqa). Drennan wanted to make the point that there is another - bloodless - way of doing that, and Danti's quote served her to uphold that argument. But then others copied it out of that original context. I really do not think Prof Danti can be held responsible for that. But then, I'm not a vindictive archi-(b)hating coiney.

The upshot of all this is that as proof  that there is "No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Artefacts Funding ISIS" - the two items adduced by Ms Kampmann as such turn out on closer scrutiny to be nothing of the kind.

Footnotes for those with a longer attention span

[1]  Monday, 16 June 2014, 'ISIL and its "36 million" ; Monday, 16 June 2014 'Iraq/Syria: ISIL/ISIS fundraising by antiquities trafficking: Implications for the Market'; Monday, 14 July 2014, 'Syrian Heritage Task Force on the Antiquities Trade' ; Sunday, 31 August 2014 'More on Isil Looting, but What's Really Going on?'; Tuesday, 2 September 2014, 'Art Net News, Looting Bankrolling ISIL?' ; Wednesday, 3 September 2014, 'ISIL Looting: In war, the first casualty...?' and not so long ago that IADAA can't find it themselves Wednesday, 29 October 2014, 'US Brigadier General Urges Proper Antiquities Market Transparency' and Wednesday, 29 October 2014 'Conflict Antiquities' in Syria and Iraq: How Much for it to be "OK" for dealers?' (and for interest: Tuesday, 17 June 2014 'Collectors Criticised by Esquire blogger') 

[2]  Reuters blog  ('How the West buys ‘conflict antiquities’ from Iraq and Syria (and funds terror)', October 27, 2014 and conflict archaeology, passim  many of these texts referenced in the above-mentioned blog posts.

[3]  You kidding? Use the search facility up there above (little box).

[4] Wednesday, 12 November 2014 ' Mulder on Blood Antiquities', Thursday, 6 November 2014, 'Newsweek and ISIL Funding'; Wednesday, 29 October 2014 'US Brigadier General Urges Proper Antiquities Market Transparency' Saturday, 18 October 2014 The connection between ISIL, Looting and the Antiquities Trade (1) ; Saturday, 18 October 2014, 'The connection between ISIL and the antiquities trade (2)'.

UPDATE 26/11/14

Michael Müller-Karpe replies to IADAA "proof"
I have checked with Volkmar Kabisch, the „German journalist”, mentioned by Ursula Kampmann, who allegedly “has checked all 160 data carriers, the Guardian article wrote about.“ Mr. Kabisch has explicitly stated in the documentation, that he had access to parts of the information only. And he made statements about the contents of these parts only. The allegation by Dr. Kampmann is simply false.

Dealers Again: "No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Artefacts Funding ISIS" (3)

Syria and Europe (Wikipedia)
The International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art in their attempt to wash away any suspicion that the no-questions-asked trade in dugup antiquities is in any way causing harm in Syria have produced their "proof" that it is all made-up lies and conspiracy against collectors ('No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Art Funding ISIS' Basel, November 25, 2014). This text ends with what the dealers say should be done.
The International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art says that when it comes to looting of archaeological sites in Syria:
"The only way to effectively implement the Protection of Cultural Property is [not regulation of the antiquities market but] the protection of archeological sites in situ, as outlined in the UNESCO Convention 1970, (article 4) to ensure that the human heritage is preserved for future generations.
Well, I am sure we'll have loads of collectors "passionately interested in the past" who'll be volunteering to go over there with truncheons, hard hats and handcuffs and help those who are currently finding that job a little difficult and scary in some parts of Syria. And, by the way, the IADAA who a few days ago were castigating German journalists for getting the details of law wrong, might like to look again at Article "4" of the Convention. I think they've got the wrong Convention (and the wrong organization).*

* European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Revised) Valetta, 16.I.1992

Dealers Again: "No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Artefacts Funding ISIS" (4)

a duck..?
And two of the comments under a presentation of the reportage "Das geplünderte Erbe - Terrorfinanzierung durch deutsche Auktionshäuser" are rather annoying. The first by Dr. Ursula Kampmann, Kulturgüterschutzbeauftragte (sic) der IADAA calls the film "Eine Schande für den Qualitätsjournalismus" - a disgrace. The IADAA proceeds to tell the film makers how they should make films and advises them on the "journalistic deadly sins" they'd committed. Then she launches a personal attack on Dr. Michael Müller-Karpe (this is not the first time dealers have used the same attack on him. Terrible.

The second comment is also by the same person. This one (am 19.11.2014 um 11:08 Uhr) is "Widerruf von Volkmar Kubisch". It begins: "In der Wochenendausgabe der Süddeutschen Zeitung vom 15./16. November 2014 ..." - you can see where that is going. Well, readers can see above in part 1 what I made of her use of that source and look it up for themselves and work out what relevance it has to anything at all. The reason why "there is no information in the documents" about looting in western Syria is the documents examined were all about Iraq (still a different country if somebody had not realised). Then a remonstration: "Wir fragen uns, warum die Quellen nicht vorher konsultiert wurden..." Ummm, because they contain sensitive information about western fighters in ISIL and are in the hands of the intelligence services. Is that so difficult to understand? Once again we see these attitudes of coiney entitlement and exceptionalism: no matter what else those documents contain, the fact that they impinge on the collectors rights of coineys induces the latter to think they have a right to make demands on foreign intelligence services. For goodness' sake. The next demand:
Und wird man nun auch in der Tagesschau darauf hinweisen, dass die Nachricht, der deutsche Kunsthandel würde den IS finanzieren, eine Ente war?
Well, let's see if Ms Kampmann's arguments, demands and personal attacks on one of the interviewees featured in the video cut any ice with the TV production company. Coineys may feel she's done them a favour and shown the world what a duck is, the rest of us feel that perhaps given the circumstances better public relations for the antiquities trade might have accrued from another less uncompromising approach to the issue...

Selungorami and the Hidden Hobby

Heritage Action, referring to my post about the tenth century 'York Area' hoard the finder "just had to" flog off, remarks "surely there’s a better way for a First World country to deal with heritage blackmail?" A new term is proposed for a certain category of artefact hunter well illustrated by many of those commenting in the thread:  
(Short for Selfish Undeserving Ignorami)
And, oh dear, follow the link ('Regnalds Hoard Update') in yesterday's article and you find ..."The requested topic does not exist"  and I guess Britain's Treasure Hunters want my readers all to come to the conclusion that the topic "never existed" and I made it all up.*

Wouldn't it be nice if that was true and that the archaeological heritage is not being treated like potatoes by greedy selungorami with metal detectors? Wouldn't it be nice if the only way we could find anything to criticise in Britain's multi-million pound stopgap way to deal with artefact hunting and collecting was to make up scandalous stories? I invite my readers to register with a few 'closed door' forums and have a look at what they say and do there, and decide for yourself whether the bulk of the forum is inhabited by "citizen archaeologists" (as the PAS would have it) or Selungorami. Go on, take a look. By censoring, hiding or moving threads that show the real face of detecting when attention is drawn to them, artefact hunters are trying to block you from seeing the full picture. They only want you to see the part they (and the PAS) want you to see. Now have a look at what they are hiding, and work out for yourselves why.

* Well, access to people who are good with computers I may have, but faking Google cache is not (as far as I know) one of their accomplishments. So here it is, proof I did not make it up.  

Alert - Fake ICOM certificates

Alert - Fake ICOM certificates
There are fraudulent websites which imitate ICOM institutional website. These websites  are not operated by or authorised by ICOM.  In return for a fee, some websites claim to provide certificates of authenticity permitting the unrestricted import and export of African cultural heritage. The certificate supposedly releases the bearer from requiring any other documents such as the title deed, export certificate and license, certificate of expertise, certificate of authenticity, etc. ICOM does not provide certificates of expertise, origin or authenticity. These certificates must be obtained from the relevant national Government authorities. Many people have already fallen victim to the scam, particularly concerning Cameroon and Central Africa. Please exercise vigilance when taking part in transactions involving cultural heritage property over the Internet.  Contact

The Scale of Cultural Property Exports from the UK

Gareth Harris writes of "Eight culturally significant objects prevented from export" (Museums Journal 26th Nov 2014), but also "more than 32,600 items [...] were issued with export licences after expert advisers decided they were not of sufficient national importance". Note the discrepancy with the "further 23,307 items" which were "issued with export licences because they had been imported into the UK within the past 50 years". So that's 23000 pieces of cultural property brought in, but 56000 taken out, and only eight retained in the UK. This year, last year, year after year. And that's not counting the many many oiks who just pack a few metal detected finds in an envelope and send them to a foreign eBayer or dealer, rubbing their hands with glee. What is the scale of that? Of course, there is this magick cave under the Wrekin from which a constant flow of antiques and antiquities comes flowing forth every full moon - so there is no reason to worry that at such a rate, we'll be running out of artefacts.
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