.The 2000 or so antiquity collecting members of Tim Haines' Yahoo Ancient Artifacts group are currently busily discussing this ongoing online sale... that includes the "moderator" of this supposedly "responsible" collecting group, Tim Haines (Tuppenyblue) himself. This represents presumably one of the "many highly experienced and qualified members" the list has, "including many of the best antiquities dealers on the net". Well, let us have a look at what the antiquitist Yahoos are so interested in, and to what degree what this seller is offering corresponds to the Code of Ethics which that group purports to apply to its use of ancient artefacts. Or is the latter just empty words?
The series of auctions in question is being run on behalf of the California firm "Ancient Resource" (Gabriel Vandervort, Glendale, CA 91208). Note that use of the word "resource", no notion here however of the archaeological resource being at all finite and damaged by mining for such collectables for Californian dealers to make money from. Google-Earthing the firm's address (given on the auction site) and particularly going to StreetView shows the address to be one of a series of shoddy buildings in one of the most depressing industrial estates that you can imagine. Dirty litter-laden cracking-up streets, some kind of effluent running down the gutter, piles of litter behind the portable loos on the street. A slight difference from Christie's eh? [Generally Glendale is a bit of a dump, outside the indstrial shack area are sprawling housing estates with one house on top of another with in most cases no garden whatsoever around them. Not enough space between the houses even to grow an outdoor bonsai. Really depressing.]
Anyway, what is Mr Vandervolt selling from his Glendale market building? Well, lots of unprovenanced ancient stuff. Coins, scarabs, the usual knocked-off bits and bobs. My eye was caught by a mummified human foot for starters. Just the kind of "ancient art" collectors love, really evokes the period and culture and can be used for scaring the neighbour's little girl (what fun ancient artefact collecting must be). Totally unethical and would be against the law in most civilized countries, obviously in California and on LiveAuctions "anything goes".
Ancient Egypt. A mummified human foot of a youth, Ptolemaic, c.4th - 2nd Century BC. Nicely preserved with most of the skin and nails intact. Second toe missing and ankle bone visible. On the bottom of the foot a thick layer of resin soaked leather, perhaps the soles of a sandal. L: 6" (15.1 cm). From an old Midwest collection. Foot had been wrapped in a 1948 Ohio newspaper which had been attached to the layer of resin.So the Ohio newspaper is the "provenance"? Maybe there would be a market among US dealers for Polish newspapers of the 1930s and 1940s, there is a shop just down the road from me has piles of them for sale to collectors. Instant "old central European provenance".
Then we have "wearable numismatics", dugup ancient artefacts made into costume jewellry ("Real Roman coin on a rope" type stuff) such as this one (coin of Otacilla Severa) or what might be a Holy Relic on a string (so-called widow's mite, this one is apparently "THE widow's mite from the Bible" no less, yours for 70 dollars). The wearable Constantine the Great coin is on a manly (?) thong. How twee.
Then there are fake coin hoards:
Lot 152 36 Greek and Roman bronze coins in ancient bowlThe dish is not "terracotta" and the coins have been heavily wire-brushed, so I am not sure what the buyer would have there to "study", probably how not to buy ancient artefacts. Making up fake assemblages to use up items unsalable in themselves is unethical dealing (as would be splitting real assemblages).A group of 36 mixed Greek and Roman bronze coins in a small black slipped bowl dating from the 1st Century BC. The coins date from 1st century BC to the 4th century AD.
Lot 153 Ancient dish with 38 Roman bronze coins A small terracotta dish containing a group of 38 Roman bronze coins dating from the 3rd and 4th Centuries AD. A fun study group!
Lots of complete 'Roman' glass vessels, these of course almost never are found in such a condition in settlement sites, the "best" place to get them in this state is grave-robbing. The same goes for this seller's lamps and pots.
Lots of pre-Columbian imported stuff, notably very little that looks like local Native American cultural material on sale in this eclectic assemblage of artefacts from all over the ancient world. Are the ancient cultures of California not part of the ancient world (not "ancient resources")? Or would their undocumented sale from a Glendale market stall be more problematic in the USA than items removed from far-off source countries outside the purview of US law?
Not a single item at which I looked had any up-front mention of any documentation confirming licit origins, provenance or export licences referring to that specific object.
Do take the time to look at what this guy has on his website and consider how some of those items came onto the market (of course the seller does not say). Balkan metal detected items (others "found near the Danube River in Eastern Europe"), shipwreck items, cuneiform tablets and foundation cones (website section currently empty), "Viking" (sic) artefacts from the Baltic states etc etc. In other words this Glendale dealer offers a fairly full selection of the sorts of artefacts on the no-questions-asked market of current concern. Most of them are sold with no up-front reference whatsoever to provenance. So why is it being promoted by and presumably patronised by the so-called "responsible" Yahoo group?