Saturday, 22 April 2017

What the No-Questions-Asked Commerce in Portable Antiquities Does to the Archaeological Record





All over the classical world, sites like Caere (Modern day Cerveteri) are looted repeatedly to supply dealers with portable antiquities to profit from by selling them to collectors. In the no-questions-asked trade in artefacts there is no distinction between dodgy dealers and the others. They are all mixed up in the 'dirty art' trade. Those that oppose heritage protection measures should be ashamed of themselves. (photo  Redazione, 'Tombaroli ancora in azione a Cerveteri' OrticaWeb, 6 April 2017).

Hat tip Lynda Albertson

Call Yourselves Archaeologists




A FLO is 'all set for local heritage roadshow' (in West Berkshire Museum) and invites people to 'pop by and say hello! – ' and admire the display. It seems 'members of the public' today are mainly capable of noticing metal objects, while in the past, as our HERs, journals, museums and local society records show that in the past they were capable of finding much more finds of pottery, stone, bones, oystershells and other stuff. Look at the 'what we are interested in' field of another FLOs poster, but note the general preponderance of metal objects shown on the whole:

 

Are the public being adequately informed about what 'archaeological evidence' is, or are they being shown mere Treasure Hunting? Archaeology, what is it, FLOs? Do any of your public displays include a proper definition of the term

Carl Sagan on Knowledge


Today on March for Science Day the words of Carl Sagan on public attitudes to knowledge seem  apposite to the progress of dumbdown, karaoke science and expert-dismissal we see al aound us, but also reflected in archaeology through the appearance of the PAS and its own particular promulgation of what constitutes 'citizen archaeology'. This should be challenged and resisted, but Britain's jobsworth archies have yet to find a stomach for it. 

Tale of Two Hoards


Heritage Action once again put facts into context - an activity the many (hundreds of?) supporters of private collecting of archaeological artefactsin Britain are all to obviously incapable of: 'PAS performs another round of the Darwinian quango survival dance!' 22/04/2017 ). They juxtapose the way the public are ionformed about two similar hoards of gold sovereigns: the 'piano hoard' and the 'Twinstead hoard' ( “Metal detector enthusiasts on a charity day ended up in a brawl after 300 sovereigns worth £75,000 were found in a field. They then ran off with the loot”).
Strange, isn’t it? In Bonkers Britain PAS garners oodles of news coverage from one hoard yet they (and the police) downplay mass theft of an extremely similar one. Such is the consequence of setting up a quango whose sole survival chances depend on pretending that buying a £10 ticket to a detecting rally transforms totally random people into “citizen archaeologists” with immaculate morals.
It is not so much strange - the PAS has always done precisely this sort of thing where their 'partners' are concerned - it is however a very serious scandal that the public are not being properly informed about portable antiquity issues by the 'scheme' set up to do precisely that and for twenty years have consistently been utterly failing to do so. The schemers are busily colluding to avoid informing their public properly and objectively about the downside of private collecting of historical artefacts.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Why Were Roman Coins Seized in Cincinnati ?



Dealers playing the victim are still moaning about a 2014 ICE seizure of 190 coins:. These brain-rot sufferers really do not understand anything, poor souls. Here's the original announcement which got them going:
One hundred and ninety ancient Roman coins that were illegally imported into the United States from the United Arab Emirates were seized by officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The ancient coins were originally detained in March 2014 during a routine inspection at the Port of Cincinnati cargo facility by CBP officers before the investigation was turned over to HSI. The intended recipient told investigators the coins were of Middle Eastern origin based on information received from an overseas seller. CBP officers contacted a coin expert to authenticate the coin’s origins and learned they were late 2nd or 3rd century Roman coins. Authorities subsequently issued a seizure notice to the intended recipient alleging entry of goods by means of false statements. The intended recipient abandoned the claim to the coins, which will now be repatriated to the appropriate country of origin at a later date. The coins have an estimated value of approximately $1,000.
Well, of course determining a 'country of origin' for goods where the paper trails have been deliberately obscured by the sellers is pretty well impossible (barring US waterboarding of a dealer or two, which I would not support). The legible mintmarks on the coins point to some being minted in Antioch (in Roman Syria), but as dealers insistently point out, 'coins circulated widely' and these artefacts could have been dug up on almost any site in the eastern parts of the ancient ('classical') world and items from different sites (note the variation in corrosion products) from different sites amalgamated in a job lot of artefacts orphaned from their paperwork and any context. It is the evil no-questions-asked antiquities trade and dodgy dealers involved in it that have destroyed the context and destroyed the evidence of origins. It seems disingenuous of spokesmen for the same industry now to be creating a fuss about the measures adopted to respond.

Could the coins have been exported to the US by an unnamed seller based, perhaps, in Dubai? How many dealers in dugup antiquities gathered from several regions of the ancient world are there in the UAE, and Dubai in particular? It seems that 'Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading in Dubai' has gone out of business (or underground) since the fuss around Salem Alshdaifat. Who else is active in Dubai and are they ACCG members?

The point is of course that dealer "Dubai Dakhil" (let's call him) exporting antiquities as coming from the UAE as the country of origin when they did not in fact come from there is trying to 'launder' the artefacts that in all likelihood came from one or more other country (for example Syria) - for the export of which he is unable to supply the proper documentation. If he cannot show that the coins arrived  in UAE legally, then he cannot show that he has title to them and therefore cannot show that he is exporting them himself legally. In that case then having been stopped for examination at the US border, they cannot then be allowed to pass onto the US market.

What then to do with them? They cannot be sent back to the dealer who claims 'ownership' but cannot show legal title, they cannot be sent back to the country of origin as that dealer destroyed all evidence of where they came from and how they arrived in the UAE. They cannot stay in the US. Perhaps they should just be destroyed as decontextualised bits of old metal which have no known owner? Perhaps they should be sent to another country to sort out what to do with them after the antiquities trade rendered them orphans? This, in fact is what the US authorities in this case decided to do.

Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930-2017)


Sad news. Internationally-acclaimed Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz has died at the age of 86

Sacred Sculptures treated as Props in NY Gallery




There are some deeply disturbing photographs on the Facebook page of Kapoor Galleries, New York City. They show people holding a drink or two in front of some bronze idols of Hindu gods and goddesses which should be in the sanctum sanctorum of temples in south India. Then there is this Buddha statue made to wear a Santa Claus cap. Not funny. In fact, it is quite painful for any devout or just anyone who loves and respects antiques. For the uninitiated, Kapoor Galleries belong to Ramesh Kapoor, the brother of Subhash Kapoor, who is cooling his heels in Puzhal Central Prison.
([ Anon TNN], 'For God’s sake, save our idols from New York parties' Times of India: Apr 20, 2017).

The author not only argues that American dealers and collectors are treating sacred images with no respect at all, but for shifting the onus of proving the veracity to the seller and not the source country.

Vignette: Buddha Christmasised

 
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