Saturday, 28 May 2016

US Civil War battlefield looted,

Metal detectorists "researching the site" (ie identifying potential "productive areas") is producing the loot for them to pocket, but is eroding the historical record (Andreas Preuss, 'Civil War battlefield looted, described as 'crime scene' CNN May 28, 2016):
The National Park Service is calling part of a Civil War battlefield "an active crime scene" following a series of excavations. Authorities are investigating looting at the Petersburg National Battlefield, just south of Richmond, Virginia. The battlefield describes itself as the site of the war's longest siege, lasting nine months between 1864-1865, and claiming 70,000 casualties. "Earlier this week, one of the park employees was out doing landscape work and noticed some things were out of place," NPS spokesman Chris Bryce said. The looting happened in the eastern part of the park, the National Park Service said, citing a large number of excavated pits. Marked graves were not disturbed. Park officials have not described what type of items or relics were stolen in the theft. "They are probably doing their homework of the area, probably did research on Civil War ...They were in the ground, they likely would have used a metal detector and a digging tool," Bryce said. Civil War relics, like uniform buttons, rifle parts and other metallic battlefield items regularly show up on internet auction sites. The Park Service says looting a National Battlefield is a federal crime, carrying up to a $20,000 fine and two years in prison for a conviction. 
Setting up a Portable Antiquities Scheme here would solve nothing. Destruction is destruction.

Gotta Hellenistic Wreath to Sell Anonymously? Take it to Duke's

Duke's Fine Art Auctioner
Euan McLelland, 'Incredibly rare 2,300-year-old Ancient Greek gold crown worth £100,000 was kept for decades in a tatty box of old newspapers under bed by owner who had no idea what it was ', MailOnline   26 May 2016

A Hellenistic gold wreath has "surfaced', reportedly kept in an old cardboard box under a bed by an anonymous elderly man in Taunton.
Valuers from Duke's of Dorchester in Dorset attended the pensioner's home to look at some items he had inherited from his grandfather [...] Bits of dirt embedded on the wreath suggest this one was buried at some point [...] The current owner's grandfather was a great collector who was fascinated by archaeology and the ancient world [...] his family do not know how he acquired it [...] The man said: '[...] I inherited quite a lot of things from him and I just put this to one side for almost a decade and didn't really think anything of it. 'Recently I decided I needed to sort through things and called in Duke's to have look at some of the items he'd passed on to me' [...] The antiquity will be sold on June 9. 
Despite having zero provenance. What kind of a collector was Grandfather Anonymous? Where did he get it and when precisely? The newspapers it was wrapped in are not detailed - it could have been acquired just before Grandson Anonymous inherited the estate "ten years ago". This is "can't touch you for it" licitness and no responsible collector should want to add such an item to their collection. Duke's currently has some other "interesting" objects on sale - including a 'Syro-Palestinian' icon with no real provenance.

The Family Box: What an interesting photo the auctioneer took.
Why? What date are those newspapers? 
The "Dead Grandfather Provenance" is used quite a lot in dealing in antiquities. In some cases it covers an object where the actual message is "I don't want to tell you where this is really from" as in the matter of the sarcophagi reportedly offered by Morris Khouli to  collector Joseph Lewis II as well, perhaps the infamous Leutwitz Apollo. (see here too). In my experience dead grandfathers with a poorly sorted collection are used to launder some pretty obvious fakes in auctions by people who claim to "know nothing about what this is so I am setting the minimum starting price". There is always one greedy fool who thinks he knows more than the self-proclaimed ignorant seller and competes with a shill bidder (most likely) to push the price of worthless lumps of metal up a sizeable sum under the impression that it is a valuable authentic artefact. Grandfathers should document their collections better or they just become a red flag after their death.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Thinking of Buying from Timeline? Read their Terms and Conditions

Timeline Auctions is one of the leading middle-range British dealers in portable antiquities, they offer a whole load of metal detected stuff as well as loads of non-native antiquities, some of which I have had a few words on in this blog. Its CEO Brett Hammond  was on the Treasure Valuation Committee. This makes it all the more awkward that there are comments from readers to an earlier post of mine about authenticity issues which remain unanswered by Mr Hammond's setup.

If you are thinking of buying from this dealer (and I would in general suggest that nobody buys anything from any dealer who does not offer upfront full verifiable documentation of  legal origins and authenticity as part of the sales offer), I'd advise reading the small print of the 'terms and conditions' and thinking about why it is there.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Retentionism in UK National Art 'policy'

Michael Savage has some interesting points about the issues surrounding 'saving Treasures for the nation' which could equally well apply to an incessant series of rewards for the constant flow of metal-detector hoiked Treasures often containing a repetitive series of objects. To what extent is the public expenditure justified and why? (Grumpy Art Historian, 'Let her go' Curmudgeonly criticism, mostly about art. Monday, 23 May 2016).

Mali jihadi Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi to plead guilty

A Malian jihadi Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi will plead guilty to being among those attacking the world heritage site of Timbuktu before the international criminal court (ICC) based in The Hague at a joint hearing and sentencing due to be held in the coming months.
He stands accused of jointly ordering or carrying out the destruction of nine mausoleums and a section of Timbuktu’s famous Sidi Yahia mosque, a Unesco world heritage site dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. [...] Mahdi will admit a single charge of “the war crime of attacking buildings dedicated to religion and historic monuments” in 2012, when many of the ancient shrines were destroyed. [...] ICC prosecutors say Mahdi was a leader of Ansar Dine, a mainly Tuareg group that controlled areas of Mali’s northern desert together with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) and a third local group in early 2012.
Reports make no mention of anybody else being charged for similar deeds in the same conflict. Will al-Faqi al-Mahdia be left to carry the can for all the others still in hiding?

Operation Chronos Investigates Another UK Metal Detectorist

but then that begs the question, What is "ethical" artefact hunting, is artefact collecting "ethical"?

IAPN and PNG Protection Assistance Scheme (PAS)

Bemused IAPN President
Here is this morning's joint announcement by the International Association of Professional Numismatists and the Professional Numismatic Guild about the introduction of their Protection Assistance Scheme (PAS) for archaeological sites in source countries to which their lobbyist made reference at yesterday's CPAC meeting (IAPN and PNG Statement on Greek MOU).
IAPN and PNG join 88% of the public comments posted on the website that express concerns about the MOU’s restrictions on ancient coins exported.  Rather than overbroad restrictions on imports into the USA that adversely impact Americans interested in ancient culture, after much thought the IAPN and PNG propose modest steps that, as people interested in ancient culture, we all can take to preserve sites. What we propose is:
1) that vulnerable sites are monitored when they are not being excavated in the long off-season and 
2) ensuring local people around them are paid a fair living wage so they don’t have an incentive to loot to help make ends meet.
We hold that simple steps like these could do far more to help protect the World’s cultural patrimony than prohibitions on imports that only hurt legitimate collecting and people to people contacts and appreciation of ancient culture it engenders.
To that end we intend to start two pilot schemes as a catalyst to encourage others to follow our model. We propose in 2016-7 to issue 800 Site Protection Assistance Scheme (SPAS) grants to security firms and local families to show the effectiveness of our proposal. We hope that this will encourage other organizations to enter the scheme. Applications are invited from interested commercial security firms and local families local to prolific archaeological sites for IAPN and PNG's SPAS grants. Families must demonstrate that they fall below the Federal Poverty Threshold and state what they consider to be a fair living wage. The pilot scheme will be restricted to countries of the Old World which produced ancient coins and which have an GNP per capita below 40000 USD.
A letter of application should be submitted by Jun 30 2016 to the offices of the President of the IAPN: Arne Kirsch SINCONA AG, Limmatquai 112, CH-8001 Zürich or the offices of the Executive Director of the PNG: Robert Brueggeman Executive Director 28441 Rancho California Rd., Suite 106 Temecula, CA 92590

وبابوا نيو غينيا الانضمام التعليقات العامة على الموقع الشبكي اللوائح التي تعبر عن القلق بشأن القيود المفروضة على مذكرة التفاهم على العملات القديمة تصديرها ونبسب؛ بدلا من القيود الفضفاضة على الواردات في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية التي تؤثر سلبا على الأميركيين المهتمين في الثقافة القديمة، وبعد الكثير من التفكير ووبابوا نيو غينيا اقتراح الخطوات المتواضعة التي، كما المهتمين في الثقافة القديمة، ونحن جميعا يمكن أن تتخذ للحفاظ على المواقع. ما نقترحه هو:1) أن يتم رصد المواقع المعرضة للخطر عندما لا يتم حفرها هم في موسمها طويلة و2) ضمان تدفع السكان المحليين حولهم للأجور المعيشة عادلة بحيث لا يكون حافزا لنهب للمساعدة في تغطية نفقاتهم.
ونحن نرى أن خطوات بسيطة مثل هذه يمكن أن تفعل أكثر بكثير للمساعدة في حماية التراث العالمي الثقافي من الحظر على الواردات التي تؤذي فقط جمع الشرعي والناس للناس الاتصالات والتقدير من الثقافة القديمة التي تولدها.تحقيقا لهذه الغاية نحن عازمون على بدء المخططات الرائدة اثنين حافزا لتشجيع الآخرين على أن يحذوا نموذجنا. نقترح إصدار منح برنامج دعم حماية الموقع إلى شركات الأمن والأسر المحلية لإظهار فعالية اقتراحنا. نأمل أن يؤدي ذلك إلى تشجيع المنظمات الأخرى للدخول في المخطط. والدعوة موجهة إلى الطلبات المقدمة من شركات الامن التجارية المهتمة والأسر المحلية المحلية للمواقع الأثرية وافرة للحصول على منح بابوا غينيا الجديدة. يجب العائلات تثبت أنها تقع تحت عتبة الفقر الاتحادية. ويقتصر مخطط تجريبي لدول العالم القديم الذي أنتج العملات القديمة والتي لها نصيب الفرد أقل من دولار أمريكي. يجب تقديم خطاب الطلب إلى مكاتب رئيس:

Arne Kirsch SINCONA AG, Limmatquai 112, CH-8001 Zürich; Robert Brueggeman Executive Director 28441 Rancho California Rd., Suite 106 Temecula, CA 92590
Please reblog, let us get those applications coming in and give the IAPN and PNG a chance to show that the policies they recommend are at all feasible.

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