Wednesday, 26 October 2016

IAPN and PNG Require leave to Launder loot

IAPN dealer Lustig Wunsch
just itching to get his
hands on those coins
In the US, in their comments to the CPAC, the 'International Association of Professional (sic) Coin Dealers' and the 'Professional (sic) Coin Dealers Guild' alleging a conspiracy to create a 'rigged' system, both urge that in the application of the CCPIA by the US:
"Such restrictions should be limited to coins actually found in Cyprus". 
So all the IAPN and PNG dealers have to do is throw away or otherwise lose any documentation of their coins which links them with anything further back than the last owner/seller making that impossible to prove for any of them. In other words what most of them probably already do. Throwing away or otherwise losing the documentation is not the answer to Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property or the implementation of any Act (worthy of the name) to implement it. It seems to me that it is these two dealers associations that want desperately to rig the system. Shameful show.

It seems to me that in the light of their position on this, all respectable dealers of antiquities and ancient coins should immediately boycott these two associations and their disgraceful tactics, let the IAPN and PNG continue to represent the interests of those dealers unworried by the prospect of buying from the looters, smugglers and other criminals. Let the decent dealers form another one to reflect the interests of the truly legitimate trade and differentiate themselves from the Wild West cowboys of the antiquities trade and their weasel words. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Loot Laundry

Royal numismatists,
handling the stolen stuff
Over on the lootbusters page Dorothy King has a post 'Ionia: coins from the Hecatomnus Hoard'
This hoard of mainly Carian territory coins of Hecatomnus were found at Soke in Turkey in 1977, and smuggled out by February 1978 (the smuggler subsequently confessed). Turkey would like them back.[...] many of the issues concerned were extremely rare before the discovery of the hoard and when such coins appear, without provenance, in sale catalogues from 1978 and immediate following years, it seems likely that they came from the hoard 
So we see the value of dealers throwing away any documentation which would show when anything they have came on the market. Dr King showcases a number of these coins and it is interesting to see who is handling two of them.
Roma Numismatics Ltd (reconstructed collecting history - notes origin in smuggled hoard)
Nomos, skimpy collecting history, noted as from smuggled hoard.
Coin dealers are very slow on the uptake it seems (there's something in the corrosion which rots the brain maybe?), what do they think is the purpose of presenting a collecting history if not to differentiate material which came on the market licitly from that which did not? Duh. What then should happen to the material turning up which can be shown to have come from illicit activity? Put on sale with that fact proudly displayed as here? So what that they've passed through other collections? Illicit is illicit, no matter how the market tries to launder them.

For more by Dorothy on this hoard, see here:  Coins and The Looting of Hecatomnus' Tomb
The Hecatomnus hoard was apparently found in 1977 at Söke (between Miletus and Ephesus), and published as having been burried 390-385 BC - though frankly I don't know how curators could publish a looted hoard, let alone be so certain about it (Ashton, Richard H.J., Philip Kinns, Koray Konuk, and Andrew R. Meadows. 2002a. The Hecatomnus Hoard Coin Hoards* 5.17, 8.96, 9.387).) . The volume of coin hoards photos are lavishly illustrated, but only the text with good descriptions is available online, including auctions and dealers who were advertising the coins to this date (subsequent sales are very easy to find illustrated online):
* "Special Publications of the Royal Numismatic Society:

When will this Simian Coiney Nonsense STOP?

Pay peanuts you get monkeys. If the IAPN pays nothing at all for lobbying, they get Peter Tompa of Bailey and Ehrenberg PLC, who writes the same utter crap time after time. He used to get paid for it, now apparently he's doing it in his own free time. Here he is in full tinfoil helmet mode (System Now Rigged; Underlying Facts Have Not Changed):
'This is what I said, more or less, at today's CPAC meeting about the renewal of the current MOU with Cyprus. [...] "I am speaking on behalf of the International Association of Professional Numismatists and the Professional Numismatics Guild, which represent the small businesses of the numismatic trade...". '
Is he? Can the IAPN confirm that they fully endorse this junk? I bet they don't.
'We've heard a lot from first [...] the Trump campaign[...] that the system is rigged. Here, unfortunately, there is strong evidence that may be the case.'
No there is not, Trump's own statements reveal him to the rest of us as a small-minded, petty, bigoted, xenophobic, groping, fact-dodging pig. He's not going to get enough votes to lead his country to shame and disaster because many Americans do not share his 'values'. Neither do all Americans support artefact smuggling and theft. No 'rigging', just common decency. Something Trump and many coin dealers seem to lack any understanding of.
Coins are items of commerce. So, it is difficult for modern nation states to justifiably claim them as their “cultural property.”
So, nothing that is an item of commerce is cultural property? That's a new definition on me. The artisans, craftsmen and artists who made the items in our museums made them to sell, to buy food for their families. Are the items circulating in the well-documented kula ring exchange system cultural property for the Washington 'observer' or not? And if they are not, is that because they were made for circulation, or is it because as the products of  'tribal', brown-skinned folks, this is not the White lawyer's idea of 'real cultural property'? But it is culture, isn't it? What about stone axes or bronze age objects, exchanged over large distances in elaborate social networks before being hoarded? Also nothing to do with 'cultural property'? Or are coins part of some kind of  'superior' Aryan exchange system and therefore different from the goods of 'primitive' excchange. This is a serious question for the IAPN and PNG. As for the coins themselves, and building on that last argument, this is a really simian comment:
They are probably the most common of historical artifacts and are not of “cultural significance.”
Both parts of that sentence are complete tosh, as any fool will know. The coineys' representative, speaking on behalf of TWO "professional" associations reveals himself utterly pig ignorant. The 'cultural property lawyer' would presumably think that in Colonial Williamsburg 'coins are the most common artefact' found. I wonder if he has been there and asked the staff or is he just making this up as he goes along?  In Pompeii? In Pharaoh Ahmose's tomb? On the streets of Dura Europos? In a Pictish crannog? A Tuscan Roman villa? The Athenian Agora? The excavation of WW1 trenches at Ypres? What is this guy talking about? On which site or sites or in which county's archaeological record are discarded coins in fact the most common artefacts found? Facts or lobbyist's nonsense statement?

As for whether they are 'real cultural property'... coins of course - as are any other elements of material culture - as the name suggest are not bananas. Material culture is part of culture, and is part of the material evidence of the nature of that culture. Only an orang utan would argue otherwise and head for the bananas.  Then the US rep of the IAPN and PNG brings out the 'playing the victim' and 'discrimination' arguments: 
It simply makes no sense to preclude Americans from importing coins where there is no real “concerted international response.”
Since we are talking about the US CCPIA, let us now add what the commentator carefully omitted: 'in flagrant disregard of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on ...' and see it it makes a great deal of sense if we want to prevent the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Americans have a voracious appetite for such items (they imagine they help them find imagined 'roots' and serve as trophies and providers of cachet as symbols of 'erudition and culture' ). So yes, of course it makes sense to try and get some discipline into that particular market. Now for more Tinfoil Helmet time....
it has recently come to light that the decision maker at the time made the decision after she had already announced she was leaving for a job at Goldman Sachs, where she was recruited and works for the husband of an AIA Trustee who has been very active lobbying on cultural heritage issues.
(for more on the connection with chemical trails, illuminati and the GM bananas - see here: Goldman Sachs Power and Influence Benefit Archaeology Lobby?) This is the coiney idea of a 'smoking gun'. So? And who does Mr Tompa's wife work for? And has she recently changed jobs? Or received any "awards"? We need to know, people. Two can play at the 'ridiculous coiney' mud-slinging game. Then we have a justificatory 'Two Wrongs' argument:
“dig dollars” might be better spent on site security during the long off season and paying her local workers a fair living wage so they will not be tempted to do any looting in the long off season.
The lawyer fails to prove that looting is exclusively, mainly or sometimes done by former site workers. Or restricted to archaeological sites (and what about church thefts?). I have discussed this nonsense before (nobody much else will give this 'justification' of smuggling the time of day). The IAPN meanwhile has failed to make a single payment from its fund established to carry out the pilot programme  of their OWN SUGGESTION. Not a single one. That speaks volumes for its commitment to its own ideas. Like everyone in the antiquities dealing world, they are quick to sling the mud and demand that others deal with the mess the no-questions-asked market creates. They run a mile from any suggestion that they participate in any way.  For the logistics see here (the IAPN obviously have not looked into it, so they do not know): 'Guarding The Sites...' PACHI Sunday, 14 July 2013.

I argue that, apart from its impracticality, expense and unproven effectiveness, the position of the IAPN and PNG are egregious examples of orientalist Trump-like racism: 'Collectors' Colonialist and Supremacist Ideology'. Nothing these people write about the citizens of the source countries dispels that impression.

Having tried it once, the IAPN and PNG representative trots out on their behalf yet another 'Two Wrongs'. This one takes the biscuit.

Finally, the State Department and Cyprus have never seriously considered alternatives to import restrictions like the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure Act.
Why should they, pray? And what has the state department of the US got to do with what the Cypriots do in their own country across the seas? In any case, only in the circles of the ignorant coineys of Washington, surely are there poorly literate people who cannot work out that neither the PAS not the TA in any way regulate the export of artefacts, so are of absolutely zero relevance to the current form of the atavistic 1980s "CCPIA". It beats me how may times you have to explain this without the loudest of them (at least) catching on. Is it really so difficult for the IAPN and PNG ("professionals") to understand this? Is there really something in the corrosion products of the coins they handle that rots the brain? After all, the PAS and TA have been in existence twenty years, and there is a lot written about it (for C2s and Ds indeed) in plain English.  The kids-left-behind in the US who cannot keep up with concepts as complex as tying their own shoelaces really should stay silent - at the back. That way people just assume they are stupid. When they shout out what they 'understand', we all are able to ascertain the truth about that.

Then, de rigeur,  the US representative of the IAPN and PNG trot out the usual 'playing the victim' and 'discrimination' arguments again bit again (he likes that one, plays well to the gallery):
 Indeed, it's a real shame that they particularly hurt the ability of Cypriot and Greek Americans from getting in touch with their heritage. 
What is a shame is that the IAPN and PNG are selfishly insisting on the 'right' (sic) to buy stuff smuggled from under the noses of Cypriots and Greeks whose families did not become economic migrants and still live in Cyprus and Greece. Nothing stops Cypriot and Greek Americans from getting in touch with their heritage by going to live in Cyprus and Greece to contribute there to the licit economy there, instead of financing the illicit one. Have the IAPN and PNG asked a representative sample of Cypriot and Greek Americans if they really want Greece and Cyprus looted of their culture to line the pockets of members of the International Association of Professional Dealers and the Professional Dealers Guild? My guess is that most of the decent ones would say a decisive no. Except some of the ones that will vote for Donald Trump anyway.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

One ISIL Culture Criminal in Custody

Iraqi Shia militia Harakat al-Nujaba claim to have captured the man responsible for destroying Shrine of Jonah. Let us hope they get the rest of those abusing their position in the 'calphate' and punish them for their crimes.

Vignette: handcuffs

Friday, 21 October 2016

Vomit Inducing Smarm from US dealer

As my readers will know, I consider many of the antiquities dealers I come across in my perusal of the international market, slimy toads at the best of times. So this from one of them, does not really surprise:

As to where this US dealer's thoughts really are is revealed at the bottom:

Sometimes the veiled nastiness of the antiquities trade just makes you want to vomit.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Gullible Collectors Naively Stake Faith on Forgeries

Where did they really come from?
Many recent biblical archaeological ‘finds’ have been proven to be false: often after enthusiastic collectors have handed over large wads of cash for an artefact that appears to be a direct link to their faith  (Jamie Seidel, 'Doubts raised over ‘New’ Dead Sea Scroll fragment finds' News Corp Australia Network, 20th October 2016).

Suspicions have been raised about the authenticity of 70 supposedly new fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls [...]  But they have since been sold to private collectors — among them the head of the controversial US Hobby Lobby craft chain — and their true sources are hard to prove. The US Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary owns one piece which contains two of the Bible’s most strident anti-homosexual passages — from the widely separated sections of Leviticus 18 and 20. It’s the very convenience — and marketability — of this text that has some experts raising questions. “It is extremely unlikely that a small Dead Sea Scroll fragment would preserve text from both chapters,” Dead Sea Scroll researcher Arstein Justnes, at University of Agder in Norway, told Newsweek. He said the ‘new’ fragments appeared to be ‘amateurish’ forgeries, copied from textbooks about the real Dead Sea Scrolls. “I think this fragment was produced for American evangelicals,” he reportedly said. “There is a real danger that an increasing number of forgeries is accepted into the datasets on which we base our knowledge of the ancient world.”

European Association of Archaeologists issues statement of concern on illicit objects in the licit market

Dr Lynda Albertson of ARCA ('European Association of Archaeologists issues statement of concern on illicit objects in the licit market') reproduces a recent statement of concern of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) regarding an October 25, 2016 auction at Christie's New York previously reported on ARCA's blog on October 11, 2016 which includes an object traceable to the confiscated Robin Symes archive. Taking this as a starting point and with reference to the dealings of Medici, Becchina and Symes-Michaelides the Statement of the Committee on Illicit Trade in Cultural Materials to an Ongoing Auction at Christie’s makes a number of points in a way which suggests that patience is running out and the EAA has little hope that the antiquities market will regulate itself (see the discussion of the issue of making the polaroid archives available to dealers):
The Roman marble figurine of a draped goddess, lot 92 in the forthcoming Christie's auction, is a typical example of an antiquity on offer: true commercial sources are hidden or not identified; we have an incomplete collecting history employing a chronological generalization ('prior to 1991') and the true country of origin - that is, the place from which the antiquity originally came/was discovered - is not identified. This analysis of the way in which this figurine is presented by the antiquities market encapsulates the state of the market and is a revelation of its deficient practices; this is the true value of this identification.
The Committee on the Illicit Trade on Cultural Material highly deplores such sales and urges every auction house to accurately verify the origin of the objects on sale, and refuse objects with doubtful provenance. In accordance with our statutes, we report any illegal activity, or trade of potentially illegally-acquired material culture. Furthermore, we aim to contribute in any form to discourage commercialisation of archaeological material.
As far as I know, the UK's CIfA has not yet got a 'Committee on the Illicit Trade on Cultural Material' and it is about time that it had.
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