Friday, 19 April 2019

HAL's (Indian?) Sister works for EBay, Says they Have "Dedicated Team" Scanning Antiquities Sales

A reader has sent me a copy of an exchange he had a few days back with eBay. Hougenai was annoyed by finding a lot of supposedly ancient lithics being sold on EBay by people posing as knowledgeable sellers, who in fact are either woefully ignorant, or simply charlatans. He decided to try and do something about it. He wrote to EBay Live Help:
2019 - 04 - 15 I am concerned over the number of Lithics (stone tools and implements) offered for sale via ebay that are not as they are being claimed by the vendors.
he did not have long to wait for a reply (one suspects outsourced to a SE Asian helpline):
11:04:57 UTC Pradnya   Welcome to eBay Live Help, my name is Pradnya. I would be happy to help you today.
11:05:11 UTC Pradnya   Hello Hougenai
11:05:30 UTC hougenai2011   hi Pradnya
11:06:44 UTC hougenai2011     I should be more specific. this relates to uk sales and adverts
11:07:07 UTC Pradnya  In this case I would need to connect you to our dedicated team who looks into such cases. May I go ahead and connect you to them right away?
11:07:26 UTC hougenai2011   by all means, thanks
11:07:32 UTC Pradnya    Please be connected, while I am transferring this chat to our relevant team.
11:07:42 UTC hougenai2011    ok
That took just two minutes:

11:09:43 UTC Vini
Welcome to Community Watch Live chat. My name is Vini. Please allow me 2-3 minutes to go through your previous chat.
11:10:17 UTC hougenai2011
Hi Vini,
11:10:25 UTC Vini
Hello Hougenai
11:12:12 UTC Vini
I can see that you are concerned about sellers on eBay who are listing misleading items on their account. Am I correct?
11:13:11 UTC hougenai2011
Yes. Items are being described as things they are not.
11:13:56 UTC Vini
Thanks for confirming and sharing your concern with us.
11:15:09 UTC Vini
Rest assured, we have a dedicated team who is already in the process of reviewing all such listings and take appropriate action on them in accordance with the policy.
11:15:59 UTC hougenai2011
This has been an ongoing problem over at least 12 months, the time i have taken an interest
11:17:14 UTC hougenai2011
I recognise Lithics is a specialist field but there are experts who can be consulted.
11:17:55 UTC hougenai2011
There are certain vendors who seem to be turning the representation of wholly natural objects as man made.
11:17:55 UTC Vini
I completely agree to your point and as I said, our team is reviewing all such items listed on the site.
11:18:44 UTC hougenai2011
Is there any way i can be notified of their findings?
11:19:52 UTC hougenai2011
Or could i and my various archaeological contacts notify you of particular problems with artefacts or vendors?
11:20:13 UTC Vini
Due to privacy policy we cannot disclose what action we will be taking on someone else's account.
11:20:54 UTC hougenai2011
ok i understand and respect that
11:21:06 UTC Vini
Thank you for your understanding.
11:22:23 UTC Vini
Also, you can surely report such items to us using the "Report Item" link, so the report will be reviewed by the policy team and appropriate action can be taken on them.
11:22:31 UTC Vini
Please let me know is there anything else I can assist you with?
11:24:11 UTC hougenai2011
I don't think so. Thanks for your help.
11:24:24 UTC Vini
You're Welcome.
11:24:27 UTC Vini
Thank you for contacting eBay Live Chat. Have a Good day!
11:24:33 UTC Vini
Bye. Take care!
11:24:56 UTC
Chat ended by Vini
Now, who thinks 'Vini' is a pre-programmed AI robot?

Now, what's all this nonsense about "Rest assured, we have a dedicated team who is already in the process of reviewing all such listings"? That is obviously a corporate lie, because these 'lithics' that have raised these red flags have consistently featured on the EBay portal for at least the last two years - time enough for the most laid-back Californian "dedicated team" that is "already in the process of reviewing all such listings" to react. Where is this specialist team based, how were the lithics specialists in it educated and selected? What are the ethical problems of archaeologists working in such a position?

Or does such a team exist at all? Do EBay actually give a tinkers whether the 'antiquities' sold through its portal (sales from which EBay gets a cut of the profits each time) are authentic or not? If 'no [US] law is broken', is it actually a problem for eBay? Or is it just a problem for the clients who get stung through their own ignorance? If it was fake Gucci bags that Baz Thugwit was selling, a quick note from Gucci's lawyers mentioning lost profits and a court case threatened would probably get a reaction, but knobbly stones sold by one guy to another who obviously wants to buy a knobbly stone that has a good story to it will carry on being sold there. As well as the fake ancient Greek coins, the souk shabtis, and the other bizarre 'bazaar archaeology' items that abound on EBay, for does it not say in the template of every single page on that canny site "Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing"? That's because the Corporation just offer a venue, but it is the individual seller that is responsible for accurately describing what they sell. There is no corporate responsibility that places the onus on EBay checking how honest, or informed, those random sellers are. It is the same on Facebook, or whatever social media platform somebody chooses to sell 'antiquities' on.  The message is simple, if somebody buys antiquities online they'll most likely not be buying what they think. 

Thus fake antiquities will continue to be sold, the ignorami and deluded sellers will thrive, and buyers will continue to be ripped off. And Vini will continue to inform us all  "Rest assured, we have a dedicated team who is already in the process of reviewing all such listings".

How UK "Citizen Archaeologist" Imagines Prehistory

The amateur 'citizen archaeologists' of the UK are encouraged by the Portable Antiquities Scheme to get their own personal past through the hands-on approach, taking collectable artefacts from the archaeological record, some of them to keep at home, others to flog off. Here's an example of the latter and we can see just how much 'istry' these folk can get with their metal detectors. Metal detectorist treasureboxpeace (713 ) is selling a „Stone Age Axe Tool Hand Made Ancient Neolithic Anthropomorphic Wood Handle Nice" on This is a cracker, a knobbly stone held on a spindly wooden stick with what looks like surgical bandage. About the only thing this could be use as a 'tool' for would be knocking the fluff off dandelion heads. Looking at this, one can only wonder, has treasureboxpeace ever actually had a real axe in his or her hands? 'What a tool', one might say. The utter lack of punctuation and the utter lack of any further description leave it unclear what this wants us to believe he is offering:
Stone Age, Axe Tool, Hand Made, Ancient Neolithic, Anthropomorphic Wood Handle, Nice?
Stone Age Axe Tool, Hand Made Ancient, Neolithic Anthropomorphic, Wood Handle, Nice?
Stone Age Axe, Tool Hand Made, Ancient Neolithic Anthropomorphic, Wood Handle, Nice?
Stone Age Axe Tool, Hand Made, Ancient Neolithic, Anthropomorphic Wood Handle, Nice?
So, anyway what here is "ancient"? Well, a stone. A simple knobbly stone. So what is "Neolithic"? Well, nothing. What is 'hand made'? Some fool has wound a bit of bandage round a knobbly stone and stick and is trying, it seems, to sell this as a 'Stone Age Axe Tool'. I would even question whether the adjective 'nice' is correctly applied to this flimsy farcical travesty. The asking price for this junk archaeology is not a nice prospect, the metal detectorist (as many of them do) has an inflated idea of how much it is worth,  treasureboxpeace wants £199.99 Buy it now - for this piece of nonsense. Where's the FLO when you need one? This is not even 'Ladybird Book Archaeology' this is sheer nonsense - two hundred quid's worth of nonsense.

In the past this guy has sold off 'Solid Silver Job Lot 155g Metal Detector Detecting Finds Coins Rings + Scrap ' £229.99 (Oh?) [that 'scrap' by the way contains at least three Roman coins, they may not be 'collectable' but they are still archaeological artefacts] also '18k + 9k Gold And Silver Lot Metal Detector Detecting Finds Coins Bars Ear Rings (#162611570468)' £69.99, a 'Silver Ring Medieval Style Nice Metal Detector Detecting Finds (#162531038405)' ££59.99 plus lots of other people's rings and lost jewellery, and many groups of metal detecting finds (such as: 'Metal Detector Detecting Finds Big Lot, Artefacts, Romans, Some Silver Coins (#162421305006) £22.00', so what kind of 'only intrestid in th' 'istry, ain't innit fer the munny' kind of citizenly archaeology is this then?).

PAS, any comments here?
Hat tip: Hougenai

Thursday, 18 April 2019

UK Artefact Seller: Turd-shaped and Pointy Stones Sold as Artefacts

Perhaps in order to protect their customers, eBay ought to insist on ancient artefacts (I use the term loosely) from the UK are - since there are such bodies - reported to the PAS or Treasure Unit of Scotland and are accompanied by a PAS database number and/or printed reports signed by an FLO, because this (sent me by a reader) is ridiculous.
The British artefact hunters selling 'artefacts' they have found have either a real nerve or are just completely ignorant of what they are writing about. 'Citizen archaeologists' indeed!

Obviously self-written 'identifications' by the artefact hunters of the UK are worth about as much as a wet paper bag. A seller known as 'alchemistwhitbyjet' (1320 location: Guisborough, United Kingdom)offers - alongside what he identifies as pieces of Whitby jet - a 'Collection Of Stone Age Tools/artefacts From North East UK, arrow and spear points scrapers mini axe and what looks to be maybe a Drawblade' (the latter is the turd-shaped one at the top) . At the moment the price is etc £9.99 and there is already one bid (!) These are just stones. All of them, the guy has no idea at all what he's looking at - so what value his identification of 'Whitby jet'?

The same seller also proffers: a Collection Of Stone Age Tools From Cleveland Hills Nr Guisborough... well, guess what? These ones have been shaped by water erosion (!) 'The hidden knowledge of the ancients' no doubt.

And when is the PAS going to step in and offer a bit of that public education they promised? 

Half of England is owned by less than 1% of the population

Upper class land owners
While in the UK land has long been concentrated in the hands of a small number of owners, precise information about property ownership has been notoriously hard to access. Recent research in England reveals that corporations and aristocrats are the biggest landowners (Rob Evans 'Half of England is owned by less than 1% of the population', Guardian Wed 17 Apr 2019)
The findings [...] suggest that about 25,000 landowners – typically members of the aristocracy and corporations – have control of half of the country. [...]  Guy Shrubsole, author of the book in which the figures are revealed, Who Owns England?, argues that the findings show a picture that has not changed for centuries. “Most people remain unaware of quite how much land is owned by so few,” he writes, adding: “A few thousand dukes, baronets and country squires own far more land than all of middle England put together.” “Land ownership in England is astonishingly unequal, heavily concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite.” [...] Shrubsole estimates that “the aristocracy and gentry still own around 30% of England”. [...]  18% of England is owned by corporations, some of them based overseas or in offshore jurisdictions. [...]  Conservation charities, such as the National Trust and the Woodland Trust, collectively own 2% of England, while the church accounts for 0.5%. 
So, in fact reaching 25k responsible landowners to persuade them in the interests of conservation and the public good to disallow Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record on their land is probably easier and more cost-effective than trying to reach all of the estimated 27k exploiters. By going for the landowners, half of the land in Britain could immediately be saved from pilfering of the past, whereas the rate among 'metal detectorists' is less than one in five.

The Problem with 'Self-Recording': Citizen Archaeologist Does Their Own Identifications

The British Museum calls finders of archaeological objects "citizen archaeologists" (because ''they dig up old fings'). So here's another one that has done his own identifications and put their finds online for all to see (and someone to buy). Pagesgreen (235 Feedback score: 235islooking for a trusting buyer for their 'Neolithic Stone Age Tools Original Artifacts(11)':
 Item specifics Material: Stone Neolithic Stone Age Tools Original Artifacts(11). The stone tools measurements are between 1 to 4 inches. Provenance: Ownership History Not Available
bidding starting at US $99.99 or Buy it Now price US $199.99

Here they are displayed on a curtain lining, on a grubby table place mat.

Previously they've sold some Native American (Neolithic) points , some (repro?) obsidian points  among a most egregious collection of tack.

This illustrates the problem we have with finders doing self recording, not all of these homegrown 'experts' have the metal application or resources, or the opportunity to actually accumulate real expertise in the correct identification of artefacts. Many of them apply the process of a 'looks like' comparison ('its long and pointy, it is a spearhead innit?'). Click on the photo above, how many are natural bashed stones, how many are naturally bashed stones that could have been modified to look more like artefacts? How many look like artefacts, but could be fakes, and how many could even be real artefacts but the photo is so crappy you cant be sure? A 100 dollar guessing game and trap for the unwary and uninformed. By the way, Trump's America never had a "Neolithic" period.
hat tip: Hougenai

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Mummies and ancient artifacts are sold daily on Facebook

Britain's Prehistory: Anything Goes, it seems, on the Portable Antiquities Market

Ebay seller "design369 (3874 Feedback score: 3874)" location: Suffolk, United Kingdom has seen, it seems, the market for selling common or garden rocks by calling them artefacts. Look at this 'PREHISTORIC paleolithic neolithic spearhead axe arrowhead rock art picture gift'. A gift at  £34.99 Buy it now

Well, it is true that the stones are almost certainly of prehistoric (geological time) origin, but the rest? Paleolithic (when it is not a lithic of any kind)? Neolithic (when it is not a lithic of any kind)? Spearhead (when it is not a lithic of any kind, which one is the 'spearhead')? Axe (when it is not a lithic of any kind, which one is the 'axe')? Arrowhead (when it is not a lithic of any kind, which one is the 'arrowhead')? Rock art (it's five rocks stuck in a picture frame is that 'art')? Picture (it's five rocks stuck in a picture frame is that a 'picture')? Gift (yeah, I would say that these are pretty poisonous lies, playing on the customer's ignorance). For the record, the pictured box does not to this archaeologist's eye contain 'three arrowheads', one 'spearhead' or one 'polished axe fragment'. It contains five stones (IS the red one 'flint'?)

The condition statement is “Good condition all displayed in a small Black framed wooden box” and the seller proffers " Colour: white grey red orange, Provenance: Ownership History Available, Material: flint, Type: Spears.

Description A stunning set of 5 flint artifacts- 3 arrowheads, spearhead, 1 polished axe fragment. These are all neolithic/paleolithic stone tools. I have chosen them for their decorative value and have arranged them all in a 3d wooden box. These were all found whilst field walking around Suffolk. Please see additional pictures to gain a closer look at the detail. Very interesting and amazing artifacts given their age. They can all be removed and stuck in again. They make great unusual rare and original gifts! If for some reason you are not happy with your purchase then I accept a no quibble refund policy for the item on receipt of undamaged item. [...] PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not leave negative/neutral feedback before contacting me FIRST. I will ALWAYS give a refund whatever the reason for return. [...] In the unlikely event that the description was inaccurate or the item was found to be faulty. Then I will pay for the return postage,and give a full refund when the item is returned.
So that way he can impudently sell utter crap and if the buyer finds out within the 14 days he offers he will get no negative feedback to warn other potential buyers. This is how eBay works so all sorts of crooked dealings go on and the sellers involved keep a clean record and carry on selling, and eBay carries on getting money from their sales.

Meanwhile, EBay tempts citizen wannabe 'prehistorians' "have one to sell? Sell it yourself". As long as the punters are kept ignorant about what prehistoric artefacts look like, the money will keep rolling in... and more and more people will be buying their own distorted view of prehistory. Unless British archaeologists get off their complacent backsides and start doing some proper outreach. Can they do that? FLOs, what are you doing about this?
Hat tip Hougenai

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