Saturday, 25 October 2014

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

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. .
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