Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Torah and ring seized by Turkish security forces in the eastern province Muş

Mus (blue)  is well away from the 
area where the 'brownie Torahs' 
have turned up in the past
This is getting to be beyond a joke, and one wonders what lies behind this (Daily Sabah, 'Turkish police nab 3 suspects trying to sell ancient Torah for $1.25M', Mar 25, 2020)
Turkish security forces in the eastern province
Muş arrested three people trying to sell an ancient Torah for $1.25 million. After receiving a tipoff, gendarmerie personnel went undercover as a buyer and caught the perpetrators. During the raid of the houses and cars of the suspects, 25 antique coins, a ring, a metal detector and a clay vase were seized, a statement from the gendarmerie said. In recent years the seizures of ancient books in Hebrew and Torahs being sold illegally have been commonplace.
Yes they have, but not a single one of the cases where the photos have been released is even a tiny bit authentic. They are atrocious fakes, not even looking at all like a real old manuscript. I would be very disappointed to hear that anyone had gone to a Turkish jail for a cultural property offence on the basis of the seizure of crap like this. Also you might be suspicious when you read the same story, time and time again, they seem to always seize "coins" and de rigeur a "metal detector" ... as if that were a tool for "going equipped"... (no comment needed from me...). What actually is going on? Are these people being framed?

Now look at this Torah and ring. I do not know the script, but the ring looks more like something churned out for eBay by those workshops in Thailand that do a nice line in atrocious 'cylinder seals' and awful 'Sassanian intaglios'. The patina comes from a cess pit, which is why the guy is wearing ill-fitting plastic gloves to handle it.  And the Torah... I consulted this with my cat, who seems to know a bit more about the world than the provincial policemen of deepest darkest Turkey. My cat thinks this folk-art "Torah" looks nothing like any Hebrew manuscript that he has seen in his nine lives. He rather thinks the squiggles embossed in the leather look like mouse entrails, or at least a pretty pathetic attempt to fake Arabic cursive. I think my cat is right, and I cannot see why, even if the policeman can't get it, a journalist would not see it.

I would like to know more about why Turkish fakers (and I am sure these are made in Turkey and not Syria) think that old manuscripts, apart from being crudely-bound codices, are made of leather and that leather is always very dark brown. Leather books? It does however put me in mind of a certain group of very dark brown leather forgeries of the Dead Sea scrolls.

I'd love to see that "vase".

Monday, 30 March 2020

On eBay Today

eBay  /Antiques/Antiquities/ Item location: UK Only/ British Antiquities  - 5,838 results

eBay  /Coins/ Coins/ British/ Item location: UK Only / Hammered (Pre-c.1662) 4,045 results

eBay  /Item location: UK Only / metal detectors/ second hand/ 252 results

Let's see what effect the CV19 lockdown and people not being able to work has on these figures. Will we see more ('subsistence') sales of surplus artefacts and machines and will people buy them?

Sunday, 29 March 2020

The Covid-19 Crisis and Metal Detecting" (Part 1)

What Lies Behind the Facade of "Responsible Detecting"? In a few words, a mass of self-absorbed, stupid, selfish, immature and irresponsible individuals.

Adapted from Wikipedia
You'd think the message of 'Strict rules have been placed on people's personal movement to limit the spread of coronavirus" would be pretty easy for even the thickest thickoes of British society to get into their heads. Well, the British metal detecting community seems to have more than its fair share of the latter. Whenever you see what they are doing and saying, there does seem in Britain to be in general a connection between IQ-deficiency and owning a metal detector.

Slowing the spread of the virus involves staying at home and only leaving it when absolutely, and maintaining social distancing and precautions to prevent carrying it from one place to another at all times (both in and out of the home). Not really all that difficult to grasp.

Astoundingly, the UK has only just now started a lockdown, but its 100th case was on 5th March, and  began its lockdown only on the evening of 23rd March (18 days after the 100th case), by which time the number of cases was already 6650 (with 335 deaths), and going up sharply. I think the graph says it all. Too little too late, that curve is going to shoot up, threatening my family and friends unlucky enough to be affected by Boris Johnson's government's mismanagement of this crisis over there.

It's pretty obvious why Britain has a lockdown. The bit above the second grey line on my figure is what has been happening when the British public were "taking it on the chin" and doing their thing while 'being careful' (following government advice 16th March 2020). That period where people were roaming about set the scene for what is now happening. Disaster.

For the 14 days after the lockdown, that curve is going to continue to exponentially go up, because of all the people infected before it (in the period between 16th and 23rd March). What happens to the number of case, the number of deaths depends mainly on how sensibly, responsibly and effectively the Brits (all of them) can slow the spread of Covid19 now.

As far as I am concerned, metal detectorists are just part of that British society, nobody exceptional that should have any grounds to consider they have special "rights' and an exception should be made for them and their exploitative hobby. Society's safety now depends on them and their actions, sense of responsibility and self-restraint just as much as it does my sisters and cousins who are staying at home with their families and not driving around the countryside to loot the past.

The Covid-19 Crisis and Metal Detecting" (Part 2)

"I was out on Sunday and in the entire time
I was out, the greatest social interaction I had 
was with the petrol pump....." probono Superhero Member

... and what do we find when we scratch below the surface of "responsible detecting"?

Take a look (before it is deleted as I bet it will be when you start taking a look) at this thread on "Detecting Wales" that a reader has pointed me to. It is an absolutely stunning display of everything that is wrong with a lot of metal detectorists in the UK. Read all of the posts (where detectorists declare their right to pursue their hobby at will, despite the lockdown and despite an NCMD ban) and consider whether there is an inkling there of a notion of social responsibility. None at all.

What these self-absorbed people think is the point of the lockdown is to prevent THEM catching the virus. Note how they mention having gloves and masks to protect THEMselves. They will keep away from other people to protect THEMselves.

Yet the 120nanometre virus can be spread on those gloves and masks. It can get inside those gloves if they take them off for a moment to wipe their nose.  It can be, or be left, on the petrol pump, and door and floor of the petrol station. It can be spread on their clothes, on their cars, on their shoes. It can be in their hair, or on their pricks if they had a pee out in the field (with or without the gloves). It can be on the drinks can and mars bar wrapper bought at the supermarket the day before to take out detecting. A five micrometre droplet of infected saliva can be airborne about half an hour. It can be in the high street, in a shop, in their road as they get in their car (or even out in the open in that time can be blown quite a distance). CV19 can be on everything, and can be taken everywhere. That is the point of keeping everybody from moving about.

Since this virus has already shown that in the conditions of our modern life (and even when people are being aware of it and taking care), it can spread, contaminate, infect and reproduce with surprising ease, it should be obvious to the thickest of thickoes that something has to change. And that something is not going to be 'Covid-19'.

But then, that's just what the experts say. As we all know, there are a lot of people in Britain who have an inbred distrust of educated people and experts. What do they know, when the bloke down the pub says... ? So what if the government says "stay at home"?
I totally agree n8, go on your own, stay away from people, call the farmer before you go so you haven't got to talk face to face and wear gloves while there especially for opening of gates etc... Job done. Actually just reading the latest update from ncmd if you follow the above procedures then your [sic] being as safe as you can and obviously they don't condone it but it's open to interpretation...
What lies behind the facade of "Responsible Detecting"? In a few words, a mass of self-absorbed, stupid, selfish, immature and irresponsible individuals.

One wonders how many of these metal detectorists disregarding common decency actually do live at home alone without a family to think about.

UK Treasure Hunter Flaunts NCMD Ban

With regard to my comments on it being irresponsible to go out metal detecting when there is no ability to record what is found, or react if a Treasure is revealed that needs archaeological attention, it is gratifying to see that the National Council for Metal Detecting has dug itself out of its hole and (Tuesday 24 March 18:13) issued a firm:


In the light of the Government's latest instruction that people are only allowed to leave home for a few "very limited purposes" (shopping, exercise, helping others, work) the NCMD is now instructing all members to stop metal detecting WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT until further notice. This instruction applies whether you are proposing to detect individually or in a group. FAILURE TO ADHERE TO THIS INSTRUCTION WILL BE INTERPRETED AS BRINGING THE HOBBY INTO DISREPUTE AND MAY RESULT IN YOUR MEMBERSHIP BEING WITHDRAWN I hope that I can rely on your understanding and support during this difficult period.
Clive Coleman NCMD Chairman
Up North, in Lytham St Annes, they probably do not give tinker's about "bringing (sic!) the hobby into disrepute" or understand what the government is instructing. Thus one of them (though we do not know if Andrew Ellis is a paid-up NCMD member - but I guess we are going to find out) is gleefully boasting on Andy Fudge's metal detecting Facebook page that, despite it all, he's outside scouring the soil for collectables. And look what has found: "Two hallmarks in two hours plus a nice little buckle and farm tokens". Two hallmarks means precious metals, doesn't it? Hmm. Ban, what ban?

Just Say No, it's About Responsibility, Not "Reputation"

For some reason I find hard to understand, RESCUE ('the Trust for British Archaeology') sees fit to put on their Facebook page an announcement from the National Council for Metal Detecting banning its members from travelling about to go metal detecting during the Coronavirus crisis  (artefact hunting is not archaeology, archaeology is not just artefact hunting - duh). Anyway, what caught my eye in this was that underneath it, an archaeologist comments:
Benjamin Westwood
I can't tell you what a relief this was [sic] amongst FLOs!
Good on the NCMD for taking the responsible course of action.
Why can PAS staff just not say "no, I'm not meeting you"? Meeting metal detectorists is not, by any means, absolutely necessary. They should be staying at home and so should the FLOs. If "responsible detectorists" were, actually, responsible, they should not need any National Council to instruct them in how to do that (but if you look at the announcement, you can see that what the NCMD is engaged in is an image-saving exercise - "interpreted as bringing the hobby into disrepute"). 

What part of limit the spread of coronavirus do these people not understand? Pathetic. 

Vignette: Pete the Heritage Pigeon from Bloomsbury confused about the 'reputation' of artefact hunting.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Excavated Naqada Artefact on eBay?

I have just spent the last few weeks looking into online sales of Saharan Neolithic ("Green Sahara") lithics and writing them up. It's part of my efforts to stop people referring to Collection-Driven exploitation of the Archaeological Record as "metal detecting". The Saharan material is particularly interesting for a number of reasons - not least  because post-African Humid Period desertification has meant that many of the sites exist as surface scatters on deflation surfaces. There also was an opportunity to make a number of points about "old collections" and the antiquities trade. One of the latter was the difference between the way different parts of the past of the Nile Valley (which runs through the desert) were treated in collecting. The pre-dynastic cultures of the Nile overlap with the "Green Sahara" period, yet are poorly represented on the market (apart from those luscious black-topped wares that appear in the London auction houses with an annoying regularity). There are just five items of the Naqada culture on eBay at the moment. Four of them are being sold by three dealers that... well, dealers.

The fifth is interesting. It is being sold by someone called Mocha Mika (Mocha's Estate Finds  (1119) - 100% Positive Feedback) from San Antonio, Texas, United States. The seller says: "We are a family who enjoys finding, bartering and learning about interesting vintage stuff. It's a great way for family bonding". Hooray. The things on offer range from tat to several quite nice and interesting vintage or antique items that have been curated in Texan homes. But what caught my eye was the only antiquity they are selling at the moment: Antique Naqada I Predynastic Egyptian Basalt Bracelet c3900-3500BC Rare!.
This item is in very good antique condition. This item was excavated, and said to be from the Naqada I period, beginning of the 4th millenium BC (3900-3500BC). It is made from heavy and dense basalt stone. It is still showing some evidence of original polish. It is about 4.4in in diameter and 3in opening diameter, and less than 1in thick. PLEASE SEE ATTACHED PHOTOS FOR BETTER VISUAL DESCRIPTION.

Provenance: Ownership History Available
This item came from the estate of a prominent collector from San Antonio, TX. As providence (sic!), we have a copy of an email when this collector purchased the item in 2004.

Price:US $999.90 (or $49 for 24 months) 
Looking at the attached photos (and I wish they'd not be so lazy and actually describe what they have in front of them but the potential buyer has not - and some of us use METRIC measurements, eh?) we can see that this is not 'basalt stone' because that does not have white veining. So, we really do not know what this is made of because the seller clearly does not either. I' be interested in Mika saying more about the inside of the object, those toolmarks. (Later) ancient Egyptian technology tended to use a tubular drill to make things like this, and it seems from the photos, that this has been carved out and the rough toolmarks left inside. Interesting.

What, actually does it mean "excavated"? By whom, when and how did it end up in Texas? To be legally excavated and exported, it would have to have been digging going on before the Egyptians stopped partition of finds, so that is some time before the early 1920s. Was it? Where, precisely, was it before the "prominent collector from San Antonio TX" bought it as late as 2004? Mika cannot say she (?) 'has the ownership history' without that information.

But if this was a 'grounded' pre-dynastic object, with a proper excavated provenance and proper collection history, this would be a great thing to add to a collection... IF. Has it, in fact? The price, I do not know, but suspect that if one were to look through some old Christie's and Sotheby's catalogues, they'd be selling something like this (with the proper documentation of course) for quite a bit more. So it'd pay to buy from Mocha Mika on eBay. Wouldn't it?

Here though we have the problem. Mocha Mika did not post a photo of that documentation as part of the sales offer (though precisely THAT documentation is part of that sales offer and part of what one is buying). So we do not know what that email said, who it was from, and in what capacity they were operating (dealer, consultant, manager of the excavating institution's archive?).

Because here, how and when it was excavated becomes a crucial issue.

The problem is that this arm-ring (for is is not so much a bracelet) is probably not pre-dynastic Egyptian (and this is where the credentials of the alleged 'excavator' are important).  Very similar items, of the same white-veined grey stone - Hombori marble, were produced in the ethnographic past (and possibly still today) in Burkina Faso and were worn by members of the Mossi, Fra Fra groups as well as Tuaregs. Here are three that were sold as a group by Dorotheum for half the price of the Texas example. There is also an interesting Internet Archaeology article about their manufacture and use that the family-bonding estate pickings Texan family missed in trying to find out about what they've got: Anne Garin Carmagnani and Yvan Pailler (2009), 'Stone Bracelet Production in Mali', Internet Archaeology 26. And on eBay you can get some decent examples for around 30-40 dollars, so a fraction of what Mocha Mika is offering the "Naqada" one for.

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