Friday, 4 September 2015

Pseudoarchaeology in Forbes

Kristina Killgrove, ' What Archaeologists Really Think About Ancient Aliens, Lost Colonies, And Fingerprints Of The Gods' Forbes Sep 3, 2015 ("fingerprints of the gods"?)
We as archaeologists need to find a way to showcase the humanity of the past and get across the idea that ancient humans were intelligent, capable, and innovative — that those of us alive today are the product of that long history of innovation, and that we are continuing the tradition of our early ancestors by inventing cars, computers, and, yes, even pseudoarchaeology.

Gigantic Whopper Propagated by Two UK Policemen and a Metal Detectorist

Heritage Action talk this weekend about the state-supported myths surrounding artfact hunting in the UK "More myth peddling! Two policemen and a detectorist" (HJ 05/09/2015)
Pc Andy Long, Heritage Crime Officer for Essex, recently tweeted: “Most detectorists follow the Code of practice for responsible metal detectingnighthawkers don’t!” Er, no Andy, that’s a gigantic whopper. The police and others are constantly confusing the crime divide – between those who break the law and those who don’t – with the cultural damage divide – between those who keep to the official code and those who don’t. Not being a nighthawk just means you’re not a criminal, nothing else. It doesn’t mean you’re responsible – and the reality is that most legal detectorists don’t keep to the official code or report all their finds – and because there are so many of them the knowledge loss they cause dwarfs that done by nighthawks. The figures prove it and PAS agrees. It’s not on to tell the public otherwise.
Although it's a thought-provoking read, experience shows that most who write supportively about artefact hunting and collecting neither think nor read. The issues are in general treated extremely superficially in the English-speaking world, which has its knock-on effects in other areas too.
By the way PC Long, the term is "nighthawks".

The Rubble of Palmyra, America and The Russians

Leon Wieseltier (Sep 4, 2015) claims in The Atlantic that "The rubble of Palmyra is a melancholy emblem of the rubble of American foreign policy". Meanwhile "Russian Moves in Syria Pose Concerns for U.S." (only?) [Michael R. Gordon, Eric Schmitt, New York Times September 4th 2015].
Russia has sent a military advance team to Syria and is taking other steps the United States fears may signal that President Vladimir V. Putin is planning to vastly expand his military support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, administration officials said Friday. The Russian moves [...] are another complicating factor in Secretary of State John Kerry’s repeated efforts[...] a diplomatic solution to the bloody conflict in Syria.
But it's a good scapegoat to cover up his repeated failure. Blame the Russians, like the US so often has done in the past. Let us not forget who was among those funding the "protestors" and then "rebels" at the beginning of the war when it was just about toppling Assad. As with Saddam Hussain, once again, the US only belatedly realises it has got itself (and the rest of us) in a situation it cannot handle and has been spiralling out of control while they wring their hands and ineffectually urge "diplomatic solutions" to the escalation for which their government itself is to a substantial degree co-responsible. And yes, Washington deflects attention from the carnage and disruption by talking about how "our common heritage" is being destroyed by a "barbarian" Other, which they wish they could do more about before they overrun Syria totally (though one might suspect they in fact see the tactical value of allowing them to do that before they really get serious about "taking them out" leaving yet another vacuum they have no idea how - or real will - to fill). Supplying dissident groups in Middle East countries one does not understand with weapons and training however should not be "our common heritage". That is the legacy of US Neo-colonialism of which the international antiquities trade and the attitudes towards the citizens of other countries which it manifests are another symptom.

Artefact Hunter Jailed for False Reports

Agency 'Diver jailed for plundering sunken ship's historical artefacts', Telegraph 04 Sep 2015
A "deceitful" diver who lied to authorities about where he found £46,000 worth of 17th century cannons which are now "lost to the nation" was jailed for two years. Vincent Woolsgrove, 49, "persistently misled" the Crown after claiming he found the extremely rare Dutch bronze armada cannons in international waters. However, it was later revealed he found them on the Royal Navy flagship HMS London, which was in the Thames Estuary - just off Chatham, Kent. Woolsgrove, who acted "dishonestly", sold three of them to an American collector at auction for £46,000 and they are now in a garden in Florida, USA.[...] The court also heard he had an "Aladdin's Cave" of different artefacts from wrecks found in his garden, house and girlfriend's home valued at £116,000.
and metal detectorists who 'launder' finds by misreporting findspots to the PAS?

Palmyra's Tower Tombs Destroyed

No surprise there, ISIL militants have now blown up three of the characteristic tower tombs in Palmyra according to a Syrian antiquities official.
The three tombs are Jamblique, built in 83 A.D. and well preserved; the Elhbel, built in 103 A.D. and consisted of a bottom floor and top four floors, also well preserved; and Kithot built in 44 A.D. The detonation took place 10 days ago, before the IS terrorists blew up the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel, according to Maamoun Abdulkarim, head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus.
 I guess that definitively means that this so-called "state" does not recognize cultural tourism as a potential source of future revenue.

Chuck Jones says that "ASOR CHI published a report yesterday that satellite imagery suggests that not 3 but 7 tower tombs have been destroyed".

Syrian Refugees

Number of Syrian refugees taken in:

Figures for Israel and Iran not known, not thought to be large numbers. Didn't several of our nations  go to war to free Kuwait once? I'd be interested to know how many conflict antiquities are bought ("saved"?) by those countries with big round zeros against their names.

Heritage Financing Conflict

Lords' Questions:
Preventing stolen items of religious and cultural heritage from Iraq and Syria being illegally imported into the UK and then used to finance terrorist activities – Baroness Berridge
Hmm, except by the time they get to the UK they've already done that. 
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