Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year to All Blog Readers

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At this time of the year I normally sit down and try and look through the past events and try to write a summary, mainly to get my own ideas into shape. I've not been able to find time to do that (nor do a couple of posts I was planning - UK's plague of scrap metal thefts, answering Raimund Karl, the fact that once again I was not invited to the PAS Christmas party and a couple of other things) this year, though they were on my 'to do' list for today.

New Year's Eve festivities beckon, so it remains for me to wish anyone looking in today a very Happy New Year, and I'll see what I can get on bloggy-virtual-paper tomorrow.

Vignette: (Urban) Poland goes firework-crazy on New Year's Eve, the explosions start about eleven in the morning (sporadic) and reach a crescendo at just before midnight and about an hour or so into the morning of Jan 1st. It drives one of my cats crazy.

Friday, 30 December 2011

The History "They" Don't Want You to Know: Inequality Worse in 21st Century America than 2nd Century Rome?

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The collectors of portableized dugup antiquities claim that they are able to use the material 'liberated' from the archaeological record to tell unfettered the history that "they" (the Other) want to "control". What is this "history" one might ask, and where can the manifestations of this subversive historiography be seen? On that, the collectors, dealers and dealers' lobbyists tend to be rather silent.

One such piece of what potentially might be such a semi-anarchic use of historiography is highlighted in a text on Dan Shoup's Archaeopop, "Ruins of the 1%: Inequality Worse in 21st Century America than 2nd Century Rome?" which parallels recent "Occupy Wall Street" sentiments with the results of a piece of recent research by Walter Schiedel and Steven Friesen published in the Journal of Roman Studies which suggests that income inequality in the United States today is slightly worse than in the Roman Empire in the 2nd century AD. The two authors (classics scholars from Stanford and Texas) attempt the difficult task of measuring ancient Rome's GDP, wages, and income distribution.
By their calculations, 10% of the population went hungry, 74% had income 1-1.5 times basic subsistence, and 14% had a 'respectable' income between 1.7 and 10 times basic subsistence. The top 1.5% controlled 15-25% of total income, the next 10% another 15-25%, while the bottom 90% split the remaining half or so of all income. This works out to a Gini coefficient (a measure of income inequality, with 1 being perfect inequality and 0 being perfect equality) of 0.42-0.44. By this measure the Roman Empire was actually less unequal than some other pre-modern societies, like 18th-century Britain or France (0.52-0.59) - but only because these societies were richer overall. (You need larger surpluses to foster larger inequality.) Tim de Chant at Per Square Mile (a fantastic geography blog) places this research in context, noting that the Gini coefficient of the United States is now 0.45 and rising: more unequal than a pre-modern empire famous for its oligarchs and mass enslavement.
The geographer's thoughts on the results of this work are interesting. He notes that Schiedel and Friesen make a provocative point:
[...] that the majority of extant Roman ruins resulted from the economic activities of the top 10 percent. “Yet the disproportionate visibility of this ‘fortunate decile’ must not let us forget the vast but—to us—inconspicuous majority that failed even to begin to share in the moderate amount of economic growth associated with large-scale formation in the ancient Mediterranean and its hinterlands.” In other words, what we see as the glory of Rome is really just the rubble of the rich, built on the backs of poor farmers and laborers, traces of whom have all but vanished. It’s as though Rome’s 99 percent never existed.
To find the evidence of the lives and factors affecting the remaining 90% , the archaeologist would need to include the information from detailed field survey and rural settlement studies - precisely the sites which are being trashed and eroded in places like Britain by the removal of artefacts by collectables hunters armed with metal detectors. It is the history of the 90% which is being removed for their own entertainment and profit by a selfish minority (much less than 0.1% of the modern population).

What is interesting in the context of the current blog is that the original study was carried out largely on the basis it seems of the written sources, with numismatic evidence (such as coin loss on different types of sites, or coin wear indicating intensity of circulation, hoard evidence) was apparently not used at all to write the economic history - surely the one field numismatics might be expected to be making an impact on scholarship of the classical world. I'd be interested in learning to what degree the paper of Scheidel and Friesen has been discussed in professional (or amateur) numismatic circles in the English-speaking world, and what contributions they made to the debate. If any, of course. It is clear that if the majority of the "data sources" available to "numismatics" are no longer in their primary associations but circulating loose on a no-questions-asked market, it limits the amount of analysis one can do of the sort of data needed to answer these questions. In addition, the main notion of history that these people seem to subscribe is one of the "kings and battles" - the history of the "1%" - suggested by the iconography of and texts on the material rather than more basic social questions. It seems to me that instead of "writing history", these people are simply destroying the possibilities of doing so.

Walter Scheidel and Steven J. Friesen 2009, 'The Size of the Economy and the Distribution of Income in the Roman Empire', Journal of Roman Studies 99: pp 61-91

Observer asks Is It About Conservation or Control?

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Observing the ongoing debate on the financing of a Portable Antiquities Scheme for Wales, Cultural Property Lobbyist asks "Is It About Conservation or Control?". Actually, it is neither, the PAS is a wallpapering over the cracks in cultural heritage policy in the British Isles and needs stripping away to reveal the underlying fabric of deceits and fuzzy thinking.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Portable Antiquities in Wales: Details emerge

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The future of the bit of the Portable Antiquities Scheme which deals with finds hoiked out of the ground by artefact hunters in Wales was announced a while back to have been "assured". New details have emerged (see also Looting Matters) which reveal that the actual plans for the period after 2012 are still very much up in the air and the Welsh officials responsible took pains to avoid having to provide much detailed information in a press release. Changes made in the document before it was published might appear sinister to some.

Note the source which was used in the recently revealed Welsh Government memorandum to claim that the PAS was restricting looting - and then compare that with the link the PAS itself uses in its press announcement. Odd, no? So why not cite the actual source which is the Oxford Archaeology Nighthawk survey? Are the Welsh Government unaware of this study and its drawbacks?

What is REALLY interesting here is that the FOI request asked for all relevant emails and memoranda to be included, but it turns out from this that in the whole government system in the whole past year that this has been discussed there have been just TWO documents generated. Two documents which decide how several hundred thousand pounds of public money are being shifted from the original destination, to another one. Isn't that a bit odd? It looks like there is something more to this than meets the eye, assuming that Welsh Government has released everything (both documents!), then it becomes clear that the discussion about this has been outside normal channels.

There do seem to be a number of questions about this whole business, and they are raised by the documents released in the FOI request, rather than the latter providing a clearer picture of what is going on and why.

The retention of PAS coverage for Wales is important for the pro-collecting lobby, as its replacement by other measures would call into question the need for a PAS pandering to artefact hunters and collectors in England as well. I say that in its current form the PAS is doing more harm than good and from that point of view feel it would ultimately be of benefit were the Welsh PAS to founder.

"Academic Publishers: Suicide Bombers Against the Academy"

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There is a really thought-provoking article here "Academic Publishers: Suicide Bombers Against the Academy" by Daniel Shoup on his Archaeopop blog.
This system can’t last forever (though its pernicious effects might). The big four will eventually see revenues drop as they squeeze the last drops of blood out of the world’s universities. But even as they undermine their own business model, they will destroy the power of universities to generate knowledge for the betterment of society. (Yes, I’m old-fashioned that way.) Meanwhile, universities, governments, corporations, and ordinary citizens will turn to other sources of information – which they can get for free, or at least affordably – undermining the relevance of public scholarship.

For-profit academic publishing is a suicide bombing mission against the academy. In pursuing their doomed business model, the big publishers risk turning the work we do as scholars into a giant echo chamber. Students take on a lifetime of debt, partly to pay for journal subscriptions that enrich a few corporations. Scholars are turned into serfs who must feed the beast new product for it to sell, or risk losing their already tenuous livelihoods. Institutions bankrupt themselves paying for ever more expensive journals without which they cannot compete. Fewer and fewer people can read the rapidly increasing number of scholarly articles.
One other thing is not mentioned, those "enterprising" publishers from developed countries scamming authors from the less fortunate countries into paying to publish their articles in "Western" e-journals which (in the business model) other people are then expected to pay to access. I have seen several such "offers" floating around recently.

The situation described here deserves attention from academics as well as those amateurs who claim to be producing history by their collecting activity. Surely this is an opportunity for them since they are not hindered in their publication activity by the need to get their work into a fixed range of journals. The situation described by Dr Shoup however certainly restricts THEIR access to cutting-edge literature.

Vignette: who controls academic publication?

Thieves "portableize" mosaic

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There seems no limit to what can be turned into a "portable antiquity" to be carted off to the no-questions-asked antiquities trade. The 66 square meter fourth century Roman mosaic depicting the god Bacchus of Santa Cruz de Baños de Valdearados was found in 1972 when a bulldozer disturbed the earth and came across the remains of a Roman villa. Excavations were conducted in 1973, 1974 and 1978, and protection work and preparatory work to enable the site to be visited were carried out in the early eighties. Several scenes of the mosaic (the central panel and several border scenes) have been stolen, seriously damaging it. The site is far from the centre of the town, and - being a ruin - had no permanent surveillance. Recent visitors discovered the damage and found that tools had been left at the suite - obviously the thieves were intending to return. It turns out that the local authorities of Castilla and Leon had denied the request of the City Council for the installation of a fence or a modern electronic monitoring system or video surveillance perimeter. And of course, it is there that collectors will lay the blame, anything that is not nailed down and under 24-7 guard is up for 'finders-keepers' grabs... the no-questions-asked antiquities ("ancient art") market is "surely" not to blame for any of this.

20minutos.es, 'Roban parte de un mosaico romano del siglo IV dedicado al dios Baco en Burgos', 28.12.2011

UPDATE pictures of damage here

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Coiney Mag: Libyan Looted Coins "Hard to Trace"

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ACCG supporting coiney journalist Richard Giedroyc has an article in the Dec 27th 2011 issue of World Coin News: 'Looted Libyan Hoard Proves Hard to Trace'. Well, first of all, the so-called Treasure of Benghazi is not a hoard, but a group of disparate items (perhaps more than 10,000 ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic coins as well as small statues and jewelry from the same periods) held in secure storage that was looted:
During World War II, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini seized the artifacts when he conquered Libya [...]. The coins and artifacts were placed on view in an Italian colonial exhibition in 1940. Following Libya’s independence during the 1960s the coins and artifacts were returned. According to an Oct. 31 British Broadcasting Corporation report, “The collection has been kept in the vault of the Commercial Bank of Benghazi ever since, waiting for the opening of a museum that was never built. The coins were never photographed or documented and seemed to have been forgotten.” [...] The treasure was pilfered during the chaos in Benghazi between February and May when the city was in the midst of Libya’s recent civil war. Several reports indicate the treasure was in a basement vault. Thieves appear to have broken into the vault by using a jackhammer to break through the reinforced concrete ceiling.
There are reports of some of these coins appearing in the back room of a jewellery shop in Benghazi’s souk seen in November by a Reuter's reporter, several hundred coins may have been recovered in Egypt, according to an unconfirmed reports in the Nov. 1 issue of Al Arabiya News.
There are also reports of part of the treasure already having illegally entered antiquity markets in Europe. Without the existence of photographs or some form of inventory, it will be difficult to prove any of these items originate from the Benghazi Treasure.
Note the careful avoidance of the suggestion that any of them are on the US market...

So, let us get this right, there are "perhaps more than 10,000 ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic coins" now on the market that were not there at the beginning of the year. So a bloke in Wisconsin in the market for buying coins is not going to be asking a supplier who says he can get large numbers of "ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic coins" where they come from? Where and when they surfaced? Note that what concerns Giedroyć (himself involved in the coin trade) is whether anyone having bought these coins runs the risk of having it proven that they have ended up with one or more items originating from the Benghazi Treasure. Surely the emphasis should have been on avoiding buying potentially dodgy goods in the first place? How many dealers will be helping 'trace' the Libyan loot by getting on the phone to local law enforcement authorities reporting that they have been offered a batch of coins or other antiquities of undeclared origins which could be from the Libyan loot (or other looted artefacts)?

Or will those who have these artefacts have absolutely no problems passing them on to the no-questions-asked market now dealers and collectors are assured that in this case (too) there are not likely to be the coiney equivalent of the Medici Polaroids to trap them if they buy such items? Is no-questions-asked purchase of items of undeclared origins in such case really an "innocent until proven guilty" situation, and not a "so-what, they can't touch you for it" one?

Vignette: F & W Publications, Iola, Wisconsin, WCN - note the definition of "World" ("item can be shipped only within the U.S.")

Voice of San Diego on Arts Stories to Watch

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Kelly Bennett , the arts editor for Voice of San Diego ('Three Arts Storylines to Watch in 2012', Voice of San Diego December 27, 2011) cover some big local arts storylines from the San Diego region in the past year and what to watch for going forward. The first two cover issues involving funding and local government support. The third is relevant to the theme of this blog:
What's in a local museum's storage vault that could possibly intersect the intriguing world of international artifact looting? [...] The dramatic nature of a 2008 investigation into an alleged smuggling ring thrust the usually under-the-radar Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park into the limelight. Though the inquiry has seemed to be just collecting dust for three years, officials told us in July the investigation's ongoing. From my July story:

The whole story bursts with intriguing tentacles, detailed in court documents and published articles in the months following the raid. It centers around artifacts found in Thailand, dating back 2,000-some years, that somehow made their way to a folk arts and crafts museum dedicated to "arts of the people" in San Diego.

Even if nothing comes from this investigation, this topic fascinates me. Museums and arts institutions are often granted deference as sacred sanctuaries honoring archaeology and culture. But museums around the world have been wrestling with questions of the legalities surrounding what had been for centuries a confusing and murky world of colonialism, cultural battles and wars between archaeologists and curators.

What else is hidden at the museums? [...] Holiday reading tip: Check out the book "Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum" about the decades-long saga related to these topics at the Getty in Los Angeles. I rounded up some other good articles to check out in this post.
Ms Bennett might care to take a look too at the interactions not only of dealers and local museums, but the doings of dealers and their private collector clients of the region.

The Unwanted(?) Christmas Present

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The sort of presents we get reveals how others see us. From time to time their unguided choice can surprise. The unwanted Christmas present from a family member is a delicate issue, like the teenage Christmas long ago when my Dad - not really aware of precisely why I was angrily buying 'Treasure Hunting magazine' - bought me a... metal detector (!). This year, one "classical archaeologist" friend of antiquities collectors has on a Twitter feed been regaling viewers with jokes and Christmas witterings including on 25th Dec:
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas ... [cute doggy pic]
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Santa skipped Bactria this year, and did his shopping in Ancient Rome ... [link to picture]
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It's Turkey Time ....
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@D.....c ie I didn't get a Bactrian coin (the default present) but a Roman oil lamp
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...it has a gladiator on it ...
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Santa brought me a rather nice Roman oil lamp decorated with a Gladiator on it ...
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The term "rather nice" is I would say relative. The object shown is an earth-grubbied volute lamp of first century AD type as are dug up on cemeteries and other contexts (eg cess pits and sewers) all over the Roman Empire. They have also been quite extensively faked in Bulgaria. The excited recipient said nothing about the collecting history of the item they received, one can only hope it is a kosher deceptive fake rather than an illicitly-surfaced original.

Vignette: David Knell (edited)

Whatever Happened to.... John Lund?

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Readers might remember the case of John Lund from Utah who was reportedly arrestedin May this year as a result of investigations by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Israeli customs officials as he attempted to leave Israel:
with ancient coins, lamps and scores of checks totaling $20,000. The IAA claims Lund obtained the money by illegally offering ancient artifacts for sale to tourists. After paying a $7,500 bond, Lund was allowed to leave Israel, although he will have to return to face charges later this year for illegally offering ancient artifacts for sale. If convicted, Lund could face up to three years in prison in Israel for illegally offering ancient antiquities for sale.
I covered this case here Utah Man Denies Antiquity Smuggling Accusation and here Israel Accuses U.S. Man of Antiquities Trafficking, also here: Shekels, Shekels, get yer Shekels Here! while I tried - unsuccessfully to get some help working out just what it was he was selling (my thought was that maybe not all of these goods had been acquired in Israel): Coineys- What's This, Please? Sadly the coineys did not want to help a fellow collector in need by venturing the information. Neither did any US "Collectors' Rights" organization offer any help (ACCG Lund Defence Fund) which is really shabby.

The internet is silent on whether a date of a hearing has been set, whether Dr Lund has returned to Israel to face his accusers and clear his name, or whether he has made much progress on that book.

Ancient Artefacts for Sale in Israel: What’s Legal?

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I came across this while trying to find out what had happened in the John Lund case and thought it might be of interest: Biblical Archaeology Society Staff, 'Ancient Artifacts for Sale in Israel: What’s Legal? How to legally buy ancient artifacts in Israel', Biblical Archaeology 09/23/2011
Most people who legally buy ancient artifacts [...] purchase simple coins, oil lamps and clay pots, the everyday items of ancient life that, millennia later, become the treasured possessions of their new owners. But what exactly makes it legal to sell and buy ancient artifacts in Israel? [...] In order to sell antiquities legally in Israel, according to scholar and (authorized) Tel Aviv antiquities dealer Robert Deutsch, the seller must have an official license issued by the IAA (see Deutsch’s license below). In order to obtain and keep their licenses, dealers pay an annual fee of 1,880 shekels (around $550) and provide the IAA with an up-to-date inventory of their collections. The licenses also have to be prominently displayed in the dealer’s shop.


And because Lund was not legally authorized to sell antiquities in Israel, he was also not legally authorized to provide the tourists who purchased his antiquities with another key document: an export permit (see an example below). According to Deutsch, anyone purchasing antiquities from an authorized dealer must obtain an export permit to take their new treasure out of the country.

The free, IAA-issued permits can be obtained either through the e-mailed request of the dealer or by visiting the IAA office at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem. Deutsch says most permits are issued within one to three days, although permits are only issued for those objects purchased from authorized dealers. In addition, certain antiquities, like large architectural pieces, stone or clay ossuaries or anything deemed by the IAA to include an important or unique inscription, cannot be taken out of the country, even if purchased legally.

This is the manner envisaged by the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. It is the export licence requirement which dealers of dugups have the coineys protesting about over in the USA.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Focus on the CCPIA: The Sorry Coiney Spectacle Blunders on...

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The evening of 27th Dec, six days before the closing of comments, there were just "65 Items in the Docket Folder", sixty three naysaying coin collectors from a community of - the ACCG estimates - 50 000 and an overall US population of 313 million. Still, I am sure the coineys will see this as "overwhelming public support" for the idea of relaxing import restrictions on items without documentation of lawful export from the source country. So 49000 ancient coin collectors do not feel strongly enough that they should for some reason be exempt from the purchase only of lawfully exported items that they are writing alongside the militant few.

It strikes me from what they write that supporters of the ACCG might find some resonance in this song by Theo Hakola (posted on You Tube by ninonne) which touches on some themes apparently dear to the heart of this particular milieu.


[yes, I realise its supposed to be ironic]

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Update on Imprisoned Egyptian Bloggers

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Imprisoned Egyptian blogger Maikal Saned is escalating his hunger-strike, he was imprisoned for three years at the end of March for "spreading false information" and behaviour "insulting the People’s Assembly, the Shura Council or any State Authority, or the Army or the Courts". Activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah - arrested on 30 October, for criticism of the army's conduct on the night of 9 October, when at least 27 people were killed during a Coptic Christian protest in Cairo and charged with "inciting violence against the army". It was announced today that he is being released . On a different kind of politics, I have not been able to find out the current status of a proposed case against Aliya Magda al-Mahdy and her boyfriend blogger Kareem Amer, accused of “violating morals, inciting indecency and insulting Islam”. We recall also the release in the summer of Mohammed Adel, previously mentioned on this blog.

Vignette: In this undated file photo, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, left and his wife Manal Hassan are seen in Cairo, Egypt. (AP /Nasser Nasser )

Christmas Greetings from PACHI

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I would like to take the opportunity to wish PACHI readers a very merry, peaceful and safe Christmas, and the freedom to celebrate it as you would wish. This year's Christmas vignette represents an Old Believer brass icon of St Nicholas, of nineteenth century form. This one is from eBay, and may or may not be a dug-up.* These icons however are a type of portable antiquity quite often found with metal detectors (among other places) on battlefields in Poland and adjacent areas, it seems from this that they were carried as an act of devotion, or perhaps talismans, by men going into action. Some were perhaps dropped while dodging bullets others however are in such a condition that suggests the person carrying them had been blown to pieces by suffering a direct hit. What is interesting is that they are found on the killing fields of nineteenth century battles as well as the First World War and (according to metal detectorists) the Second World War too. They were being carried by men of the Soviet Red Army (perhaps conscripts from the north) which of course was nominally atheist. While I am not advocating that all such icons or modern battlefields should necessarily be subject to archaeological resource protection legislation, there is a lesson here for those who contest the validity of points made about the need to protect finite archaeological resources. The stories these items can tell through knowing the full context of discovery is lost the moment that it is dug up and enters the ephemeral personal collection of someone who is not - like collectors of other types of artefact - interested in provenance information. That is even the case when, as here, the object has writing on it labelling the three main characters represented (St Nicholas the Wonder Worker, the Mother of God and St John the Forerunner) and pictures on it, the Saint in the omophorion holding a Gospel Book, the BVM and John the Baptist as well as two other saints (I'm not sure which) down at the bottom. Here we can get some information from this object just by looking at its external characteristics, it is an 'addressed source', so one made to carry (in fact quite complex) information. But the social context of the functioning of that information and values carried by this particular object can only be fully appreciated by knowing the circumstances where it like this ended up before becoming a collectable geegaw.

* A lot on sale there are fakes/ modern casts

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Zahi Hawass Breaks his Silence

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The last time Zahi Hawass blogged on his blog was 15th August, but he has just broken his silence with a post to which I will link for the moment without comment: I think it is quite significant.

For the Collector's Christmas Stocking?

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A new edition of Neil MacGregor's 'History of the World in 100 Objects' is out in time for Christmas and is apparently selling quite well, the synopsis call "original" the approach to the history of humanity:
using objects which previous civilisations have left behind them, often accidentally, as prisms through which we can explore past worlds and the lives of the men and women who lived in them.
Basically a rather odd use of the word, given that relics of the past have been treated in this way since at least the seventeenth century antiquaries, or as some would have it, going back to the Middle Ages and the cult of relics. The trade review by John Adamson, "Sunday Telegraph" says:
'A History of the World in 100 Objects...has been a triumph: hugely popular, and rightly lauded as one of the most effective and intellectually ambitious initiatives in the making of 'public history' for many decades'
Publisher: Allen Lane, ISBN: 9781846145117

The Portable Antiquities Department of MacGregor's BM will no doubt be bringing out their bumper book of goodies next year: "A Social History of Britain (5000BC to 1712) in 100 Found Objects".

Friday, 23 December 2011

Prospero and Other coins of Lost Realms

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The New York Times has a rather uncritical piece on two early-January coin sales in New York (Eve M. Kahn, 'Preserving Artifacts of Anti-Semitism' (sic), NYT, December 22, 2011), these are being held by Bonhams and the British coin auction house A. H. Baldwin & Sons and they both "feature ancient Greek coin collections, covering five centuries B.C. and territories scattered from modern-day Libya to Pakistan".
For the Baldwin sale, on Jan. 4, estimates for the 642 lots range from $250 for a silver coin embossed with helmeted goddesses to $650,000 for a gold coin marked with a bearded satyr and a horned griffin. Baldwin is not identifying the seller of what the company is calling the Prospero Collection. It did disclose that the coins had spent decades in storage.

On Jan. 6 Bonhams will offer 107 lots from a Texas couple who collected avidly during the last decade. Estimates range from $70 for a half-inch-wide silver speck stamped with a gorgon face to $125,000 for one of a handful of surviving gold coins that depict Alexander the Great’s illegitimate son Heracles wearing a lion-skin cape. (Another version made from similar dies is estimated at $50,000 in the Baldwin sale.)
There is a lot of money to be made from digging up and dealing in this sort of stuff,
The market has been healthy lately, with buyers emerging in Asia, [Paul Inho Song, director of coins and medals at the Bonhams auction house] said. Rarity is a significant factor, and ongoing archaeological digs can sometimes drastically increase the known numbers of a particular coin. “There’s always a chance that they’ll find another hoard, which generally tends to depress the prices,” he said.
but of course it's not about the money, is it? These people all collect for the love of history, and in order to study these coins. Mr "Prospero" no doubt can easily be identified from the series of monographs he wrote about the items in his collection as a result of his numismatic studies. Or was he instead one of those who merely got their kicks from "holding" a "piece of history" all of their very own?

The Prospero Collection was mentioned on his blog a while back by Ed Snible. One wonders about the name, on a blog like this I cannot help but voice the misgivings the obvious association with the character's closing speech arouse:

And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free
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The coins will be being "set free" on the market on Jan 6th, where they came from remains a mystery.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas Gifts to Keep the Farmer Sweet

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The boys on "Detecting Wales" are discussing the Xmas gifts they give to keep their farmers sweet. The posting of "Superhero member" "Chef Geoff" was inadvertently revealing, imagine how grateful the poor sap of a farmer is:
I'm pretty predictable, a Christmas card, a bottle of wine and some chocolates for the family. [ ;wink]

Finds for 2011
Roman coins:- Nummus 96, Dupondius 2, Denarius 3, Sestertius 3, Folis 5.
Roman Brooches:- 23
Hammered Coins:- 35
Celtic Stater:- 1
[...] And every one self recorded with PAS
and all the farmer got for allowing him to add them to his collection was a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates?

Even valuing that lot at just a few quid each (not forgetting the value of the photos - 500 quid a shout according to some metal detectorists) if that is all the farmer is getting from guys like this, they are getting well ripped off, allowing these collectors to create a valuable private accumulation of antiquities at next to no cost. Perhaps farmers might as a New Year's resolution decide to take an interest in the metal detecting magazines, especially the bits about "how much are my finds worth" and how much some of even the more pedestrian "nummi" go for on eBay?

By the way, the rate at which "Cheff Geoff" has been finding the recordable finds he lists above is FIVE times the rate of the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter. Whether they are "recorded" or not, erosion is erosion.

Egypt: Antiquity Smuggling

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Al Ahram has a summary piece on the development of 'Illegal smuggling of antiquities' in relation to the upcoming launch later on next year of the Red List which has antiquity collectors of a certain group somewhat agitated. The article presents a brief summary of the development of the international trade in illegally obtained artefacts over the past half century:
The appetite for Egyptian antiquities is undiminished, and so long as there is a demand, illegal excavations and the smuggling of antiquities will continue. Unscrupulous connoisseurs are always on the lookout for interesting artefacts to add to their private collections or to donate to the nation, and interested parties are prepared to pay large sums in order to acquire the objects of their desire.
The article cites the massive scale of looting and the smuggling of antiquities abroad in the 1960s and more revelations in 1972 and the problems of the 1970s and 1980s dealing with the continuing pillage and consequent increasing trade in antiquities. Many of these items coming illegally onto the market then are still in circulation among collectors. Even in the 1990s, under the reformed antiquities organisation under its new name, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), the trade persisted. This was despite the "strong ties with Interpol and customs agencies all over the world which, together with the new Department for the Recovery of Stolen Artefacts, watched for signs of lost treasures". Still archaeological objects appeared for sale at auction houses.

In 2000, no fewer than 619 pharaonic artefacts were stolen from the Egyptian Museum and smuggled to London via Switzerland. Following the arrest of the thieves by the British authorities, some were retrieved and returned to Egypt. In 2002 a set of granite reliefs from the Temple of Isis at Beihbet Al-Hegara in the Delta turned up on the auction block at Christie's in New York. The sale was stopped, the objects withdrawn, and they were returned to Egypt. In 2004, another piece from the same temple -- a fragment of granite relief featuring the face of a deity facing left -- turned up. It was confiscated by the United States authorities, who took steps to ensure its safe return it to Egypt. Then 15 objects stolen from the officially closed but ill-protected Maadi Museum came up for auction in United Kingdom -- also successfully returned to Egypt. A seven-member gang trading in illegal antiquities, operating in Establ Antar west of Assiut, was traced by antiquities police traced and arrested.

Lost and Looking for CCPIA: Duh

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Coin dealer Ken Martins ("Museum Surplus", Laguna Niguel, CA 92607) is looking for information that might affect his trade: Dear List, Can anyone recommend a site that has links to text of the MOUs and any legal opinions? Members had a bit of a struggle with that one, but in the end Ed Snible came up with (where else for a coiney to look, eh?): Peter Tompa's blog has links and legal opinions. Greek, Italy, I couldn't find the text of the Cyprus MOU but here is Peter Tompa on the signing statement. The rest of us might turn to the US State Department (Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs) webpage on 'International Cultural Property Protection' where (duh) there is a whole section on the MOUs and their background (they have bits of it in Spanish too). There tucked away where the coineys would never think of looking is a table setting out all the texts of the bilateral agreements and their associated designated lists: There Mr Martins will find the Cyprus documentation which Ed Snible could not find on Tompa's blog. I would not be a bit surprised to find Paul Barford gives the links too, but of course no coiney would ever think to look over here for anything. As I say, the information needed to write an informed comment to the CPAC is just a mouse-click away, I guess some people have difficulty identifying where they need to click the mouse and need someone to guide their hand.

What I find puzzling is that Mr Martins has been trading in antiquities under the name "Museum Surplus.com" since at least Feb 1998 and apparently in all that time he has never needed to access the text of documents associated with the operation of the CCPIA and and only now is asking for help to look for them...

Vignette: Martins are migratory birds with tiny heads, but they can work out for themselves where to go.

"These People Are Americans, So You Cannot Criticise Them For What They Say!"

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With reference to my earlier polemic text "Focus on CCPIA: "Protrection of Cutural Heritage Treasures - Please stop it", which ended up being posted by someone to the Museum Security Network for discussion, I suppose I should respond to coin-dealer's-lobbyist Peter Tompa who sent a complaint to MSN List writing:
It is troubling that the Museum Security Network would republish Mr. Barford's efforts to ridicule American citizens and others who have responded to the US State Department's invitation to provide public comments regarding the proposed renewal of the Cypriot renewal. These individuals deserve far more respect than either Mr. Barford or the Museum Security Network have provided them. Shame on them both. Peter Tompa
This is what in a rather blunt, continental manner, Ton Cremers replied:
Very sensitive Mr Tompa. First you need to understand that the MSN or it's moderators are by no means responsible for the contents of messages to the list. All we do is scan whether the contents of messages is relevant to the subject matters of this list. You have several options in case you do not agree with the contents: 1. write an argued reply based on the contents of the message that you disagree with; 2. ignore it. Blaming MSN or just complaining that 'American citizens' are ridiculed in my view is not an option, but rather displaying lack of adequate arguments. TC
Lack of adequate arguments is the coineys' stock-in-trade. If what was sent as a PUBLIC comment to be published on the Internet is 'ridiculed' here, it is not because it was written by an American citizen, but because in the context of the discussion it is ridiculous. It is ridiculous that in a public discussion of how America can best help the international community protect the cultural heritage almost the only response is from a group of several hundred people (yes, probably mostly American citizens) who stubbornly hold out for the importation of items which they want to buy without documentation of lawful export. These people are however not in the least bit interested in learning what the CCPIA actually says, they obviously for the most part (I'm talking about the naysayers here) have not the foggiest what it actually says, and - as I showed - what it actually regulates. They quite obviously have not the slightest intention of helping preserve the heritage, but have a great (self-) interest in getting their hands on as much of the little bits of it they can for themselves.

The whole bunch of the hardcore naysayers from the ACCG stable deserve far more than pointing out where what they say is ridiculous, it would be useful if the US authorities would keep an eye on these people, what they're buying from where and whom. The results would probably be most illuminating.

As for showing these naysayers "respect" for their views, my general impression is that many of them are not exactly approaching the task of writing to a Presidential Advisory body with any respect either for it, or the facts of the matter in hand. They have not shown the CPAC the respect of checking what the CCPIA actually says, what the Cyprus designated list and MOU actually contain (beyond the fact its got "coins" in it) or what they do. Neither have they shown the respect in identifying the four criteria which are laid down by law (the CCPIA) as being the ONLY ones the CPAC has a mandate to consider and offer an opinion on. Neither have they shown the respect required when offering alternative suggestions (the "British Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme") of having found out what those two separate institutions do and do not do, vis-a-vis the CPIA.

I therefore make no apologies, American citizens or not, for commenting on the rather pathetic and self-serving efforts of US coineys (at the bidding of dealers' lobbyists) to get their hands on a continual flow of coins without documentation of lawful export. That is in a country which became (nominally it seems) a state party of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

UPDATE 22.12.11:

Ha! Peter Tompa reckons there should be a "Christmas truce" of some kind for naysaying coineys ("No Christmas Truce"). He writes:
Evidently, there is an element within the archaeological community that thinks it is entirely appropriate to ridicule American citizens and others who have responded to the US State Department's invitation to comment on the proposed renewal of the Cypriot MOU. See http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2011/12/these-people-are-americans-so-you.html Shame on them and their efforts to suppress any public opinion against the "archaeology over all" perspective. And shame on the other archaeological blogs that link to them and hence promote their views.
Wait, wait, wait, in what way is disagreeing with something, presenting a different point of view in reply, "SUPPRESSING" any public opinion? Is this not a discussion which should be as widely publicised as possible, or would Mr T. prefer it - for obvious reasons - to be "just between the coineys"?

Well, this is the season of goodwill and all that, so anyone whose "Cyprus MOU renewal" public comment was commented upon here who feels they have something to add is free to post their own comment on my blog under the original post (or here) explaining why I am wrong in what I say - but please read the CCPIA and the MOU (and designated list) carefully first. That goes for any future posts on that topic right through until 3rd January.

Vignette: culture? George Washington as a planter (Made in America)

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Action on UK Heritage Crime success stories

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Heritage action detail a number of "success stories" in Britain's recent clampdown on heritage crime, including a number involving illegal removal of "portable antiquities" from protected sites - you know that activity that a recent report was saying was hardly occurring nowadays. It seems you only have to be a little more vigilant to find that it is.

We saw this in the case of the Twinstead Hoard where a lot of people tried to walk off with material that evidently should have been reported and handed over. That this is by no means an isolated instance is indicated by this post by one "Relichunting" [Mon Nov 28, 2011 5:30 pm] on the Rally UK forum:
To[o] much of this going on, a hoard is found then its a free for all, it never gets declared because so many people have had shares from it, never to be seen again. [...] That's rally's for you I am afraid to say,and to leave it like a bomb site is out of order,i think the word were looking for is greeed.
This is from an eye-witness, a participant in rallies. To make the point, the writer then recounts the story of "a Newbury rally" he had attended many years ago, during which a "civil war hoard" was found, he said that a free-for-all ensued "for a good hour before the organisers closed the area off, I personally seen over 50 odd hammered's found by different people, of course when the hoard was declared these people could not be found".He concludes:
If your ever lucky enough to find a hoard at a rally, you will be lucky to get it out of the ground before all the greedy vultures appear to try and plunder what ever they can.
Note the suggestion lower down in the thread that the two detector users who HAD obeyed the law and handed two coins in "should be given a free yearly pass to any rally they wish to attend in the uk, well done you two", obviously obeying the law is regarded here as an exception, worthy of reward, than the norm.

Vignette: Mechanical excavator used on the Twinstead rally site to get every last (?) coin out of the ground.

Looking for the Lava Treasure

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Interpol and French police are working to recover ancient coins being sold illegally on the European market from the so-called ‘Lava Treasure’ of ancient Roman gold coins and plates a number of items have already been recovered from the open market.
The rare collection, which dates back to 300 AD, is believed to have been found by divers in the gulf of Lava off the coast of Corsica in the late 20th century. It is considered unique maritime cultural heritage and part of French state property, and therefore should not be sold. To date, some 450 gold coins from the Lava Treasure have been traced and identified after their sale in Europe and in the US, and enquiries by French authorities are continuing. Details of the coins have been added to INTERPOL's stolen works of art database, which has secure online public access, and specialists from INTERPOL and the French National Police are advising coin dealers and collectors who may be offered part of the Lava Treasure to check this database in order to avoid its illegal purchase and to preserve this historical treasure. (Interpol press release)
I note that the text speaks of "recovering the coins" rather than arresting those who are selling them illegally and investigating those who bought them (and seeing what else they've been buying).

Stephen Fry on the Parthenon Marbles

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"It’s time we lost our marbles" quips Stephen Fry ("Greece is the Word.

"People in Europe"

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It is worth looking at one of the arguments used by US collectors to oppose the application of controls on the import into the US of Cypriot antiquities without documentation of legal export. Collectors over in the States moan that this is unfair because "Europeans" can (allegedly) freely buy antiquities removed from Cyprus without proper export paperwork. While it is possible to buy a Kalasnikov on the black market in Warsaw, that does not mean it is legal, nor that this should be an argument that Kalashnikovs should be freely available to anyone in downtown sports shops in Detroit. Neither are the sort of people selling these goods the sort of people that one would want to do business of any kind with.

I think these transatlantic naysayers are getting confused between different aspects of the European Union, it is not quite as simple as they imagine. The situation is neatly (?) depicted in the clickable diagram they could have found in Wikipedia. They possibly are confusing the antiquity trade with the Schengen agreement, and should note that Cyprus (and MOU applicant Bulgaria) are currently OUTSIDE "Schengen".

Schengen (blue), as-yet non-Schengen EU states (green) and insular EU states (grey on the left)

Monday, 19 December 2011

Framlingham "Hot Tub Rally" Video

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One of the reasons why detectorists need third-party insurance it seems - from this video - is because when they get out in a farmer's field they spend a lot of time throwing things at each other like nine year olds. Nine years old is about the intellectual level of the dialogues we hear on the soundtrack of the latest production of "Sheddy" (Richard Lincoln) - filmed at a November 2011 Framlingham rally. He say there were 30 people present, but a head-count on the group photo shows 27 of them, mostly fat middle-aged blokes. The You Tube video is preceded by a notable text (Uploaded by on Dec 11, 2011):

Paul Barford continually criticises Metal detecting for it's (sic) erosion of archaelogy. Heritage action has it's (sic) erosion counter. Neither takes into account the ampount that is dug up that is rubbish, they claim that all finds are good finds. This video of one of our Metal detecting rallies in Suffolk, England shows things as they are. Most finds are disguarded (sic) rubbish. This four day rally saved some good bits of our history from the plough but please bear in mind that the people on this rally are amoungst (sic) the best detectorists in the country, they know thier (sic) machines and how to use them. A total of 1200 man hours gave us the finds that you see at the end of the video. All finds have been recorded but will not be released to the PAS for 5 years at the landowners request.
Wow. One thousand two hundred hours divided by 30 gives 40 hours each in the field - long rally. Don't these people have jobs and families?

Now, it seems to me that among the UK metal detecting community are a high proportion of people lacking in basic literacy skills (I think we see one of them in the quote above). So it is no surprise to see that the same folk have problems reading too. Thus we see "Sheddy" making a basic comprehension error with regard to what the Heritage Action counter counts. Sheddy says it counts "rubbish" that is dug up instead of just recordable finds. That is completely untrue, as any literate person who can get to the eighth word of a text written in fairly straightforward English (http://www.heritageaction.org.uk/erosioncounter/ ) can see. I suppose illiteracy may be an excuse for ignorance, but if Mr Sheddy can read, then he is deliberately spreading falsehoods - probably in the hope that people who have reading difficulties might not notice.

So Mr "Sheddy" shows us what he says "30" people found in 1200 man-hours detecting and larking about. First of all we should note that what the text actually says is "some" of the finds are being shown, not all of them. These are just the highlights, so notice the emphasis on the hammered coins, thin, lightweight, very difficult to find with a metal detector - so their finders here are boasting of their metal detecting prowess showing us so many (even if they are cruddy Tudor ones). Where there are hammered coins there will be other Medieval metalwork (and pottery and other stuff of course) but we are shown very little of this in the video. I have watched this several times and it is clear that some of the finds are shown several times over. But I counted among the "some of the finds" shown at least 166 recordable items (more are shown, but not all PAS-recordable). Now that is 5.5 finds each from these few days detecting. Yet, when we look at what seem to be finds of individual finders presented in the video, we see 13 recordable objects from one, 10 finds from another, 19 finds from another, 8 another, 12 finds from what appears to be another and so on. Also it is worth noting that some of the finds being shown dug up in the body of the video do not appear in the presentation of the finds at the end. It seems that there is only a selection shown here of what 30 people found doing 40 hours each - presumably with the intention of showing that "detectorists do not find much". Really? So why not show each person showing the camera what they are taking home, and then show us what is in the scrap bucket? Actually the finds rate shown here is, taking into account what "Sheddy" seems concerned not to show, not incompatible to the Heritage Action figures.
All finds have been recorded but will not be released to the PAS for 5 years at the landowners request.
Who will do the releasing? Each of the 30 individuals in the photo? Including UKDFD's Gary Brun (the one in the hat and the earring). Some of those finders might be dead in five years time - possibly some from head injuries from flying stones. Plus, there may not BE a PAS in five years. The Code of Responsible Detecting says that detecting without reporting to the PAS cannot be considered responsible detecting.

Funnily enough the landowner's stipulation for some reason does not seem to have been taken to apply to recording finds on the UKDFD website, where we see the spouted strainer bowl nozzle and a few other things from this rally presented. So, what has the landowner got against PAS that it has not got against UKDFD? Or is this just a little tekkie fib to explain why none of them can actually be bovvered to report any of this stuff to the PAS?

Portable Knees-up

As Twittered by "portableant" (Daniel Pett) 16th December 2011 on the occasion of the PAS Annual general meeting and Christmas Party:
staff AGM today, lots of great people coming together for a moan :) [...] Discussion at PAS agm is on public engagement via broadcast and digital. Exciting best practice archaeological dissemination next year.
Oooo, public engagement instead of pandering to their "partner metal detectorists you mean? Now there's a novel idea! And Best Practice too, what an original idea. FYI those are precisely the two foundations on which the PAS was set up, and which have been conspicuously absent from its recent dealings with metal detectorists.

Focus on CCPIA: "Protrection of Cutural Heritage Treasures - Please stop it"

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Coin collector Bill Howden would like to see the United states "stop" its International Cultural Property Protection program, he is concerned about restrictions on the "free flow of collector coins [without documentation of lawful export] from one country to another". He urges the CPAC "Please stop it with the [...] restriction on the free import and export of coins [...]". He says this
"is very detrimental to the exchange of cultural information and experiences and will undermined world efforts for better understanding and appreciaiton of other nations, especially among the young. The free export of coins, a movable object that was often meant to flow internationally, does no harm to traditional protrection of cutural heritage treasures. It is a very different matter".
Although the joining-up of the thinking seems to be lacking, the meaning is clear, Howden does not mind people buying dugup coins without documentation of lawful export... Similar sentiments are revealed by another "member of the public" (obviously another coin-fondler):
Renewing this would do nothing but continue to infringe upon my rights as a US citizen. Why are you allowing these people to create MOU's [about the trafficking of artefacts without documentation of lawful export] that don't serve to protect the interests of the US people NOR the people who we are agreeing to have an MOU with? I can bet you that the people of Cyprus DO NOT CARE about ancient coins and other common archeological items. Honestly, this probably doesn't make sense to those making this decision, and I'm tired of typing the same message, so I'll just say that the only decision you should be making is to say NO to this MOU. That is a NO! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!
So the Cypriots "do not care" their cultural heritage is being smuggled, and the only one who has "rights" to this material is the US citizen ? That's Edward Beck's point of view. Ekram Barlas is clearly completely uninformed. He is against an MOU extension because he reckons:
Madam/Sir, Restrictions which curtail collecting do not contribute to preserving the related objects. They rather encourage a black market for them.
So, a "black market"' would involve the trading of ... well, things like artefacts removed from the country clandestinely without documentation of lawful export. In other words precisely what is regulated by the CCPIA (which the collector surely should be aware contains absolutely no measures to "curtail collecting")

Twelve days into the comment-gathering process, Frank Robinson reveals he too has no idea what the discussion is about ("there are more than enough coins to go around") and thinks refusing entry to the USA of coins without documentation of lawful export is hurting what he calls "honest dealers". That is a new definition of honesty then. [UPDATE: According to coin dealer Dave Welsh it turns out that Frank Robinson is a retired US administrative law judge - so we might have expected him to find out what the CCPIA regulates - which is legal export and not "how many coins" there are available for archaeologists - I wonder if he is pals with Judge Waddoups]. Coin collector Mark McGlone posits that "Such prohibitions [on the movement of material without documentation of lawful export] [...] reduce respect for the law" (among collectors, or dealers, or smugglers, he does not say). Collector "Michael" also thinks there are enough coins to go around.

Sam Spiegel suggests, but fails to justify that "the restriction of the importation of coins from Cyprus [without documentation of lawful export] is not consistent with the general interest of the international community". There are so many coins he says that preventing the smuggling of "the vast majority cannot be considered integral to preserving cultural heritage" because it allows "a wider audience [...] to appreciate them". And a fair number of dealers to make a tidy profit from making them available to collectors who do not really care if they are smuggled or not.

Thomas Brown who collects "private coins" does not want to see coins without documentation of lawful export denied entrance to the US market as this would "limit our trade with Cypriot as well as other foreign dealers". Surely that is exactly the point, to limit the contacts with those in Cyprus and elsewhere selling such material to only those able to supply responsible collectors with coins accompanied by documentation of lawful export. No? Who'd want to enter into business agreements with the other type (in other words, smugglers)? Mr Brown?

I think there would be a very good case for putting people who go online like this to blithely write about defending their "rights" to buy smuggled goods on a watch list, and see what else they are buying abroad and bringing into the country.

Vignette: What kind of trade contacts and practices are the opposers of the CCPIA being asked to defend?

Egypt: Antiquities Council in December 2011

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There have been a number of changes in the structure of Egypt's antiquity services. The SCA has now been incorporated into a Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA), Mohammed Ibrahim Aly was appointed Minister of Antiquities (7th December 2011)by Egypt's prime minister, Kamel El-Ganzouri. The Minister is Professor of Archaeology at the Faculty of Arts, Ain Shams University.
Photo: Prime minister El-Ganzouri (left) and Mohammed Ibrahim Aly (right), photo Al-Ahram.


Mohammed Ibrahim Aly talked recently of his plans. He says that under his tenure Egypt’s antiquities will be managed differently:“
I will focus my work more on archaeologists than on archaeology,” he asserted, explaining that “this doesn’t mean that I will neglect archaeology; on the contrary, protecting Egypt’s heritage is an obligation.”
He added that when the skills and knowledge of archaeologists are better developed, Egypt’s heritage will be better preserved. Part of the new policy means that restoration work will be carried out by the SCA’s own restorers and not outside consultants. His immediate aims were:
"to preserve more of Egypt’s heritage, develop further existing archaeological work, upgrade the skills of archaeologists, renew efforts on projects on hold. “The youth and junior archaeologists are my top priorities," Aly told Ahram Online. He promised to appoint all SCA temporary staff in four phases, the last phase concluding in 2012. Meanwhile, 2,000 of 6,000 fresh graduates are to be appointed at the SCA and the Ministry of Antiquities according to a scheduled timetable. Aly suggested remodeling the thinking and goals of the SCA Administrative Council in order to better handle the current workload, adding new blood to its membership, including "prominent figures of civil society" and from the media. Aly also promised to speed up construction, development and restoration work put on hold in the last year, including construction work of the Grand Egyptian Museum overlooking the Giza Plateau, the National Museum for Egyptian Civilisation at Fustat, and restoration work of the Graeco-Roman Museum in Alexandria". (Al-Ahram)
He also announced that in he will soon inaugurate such projects as the Serapium Necropolis in Saqqara and the Crocodile Museum in Kom Ombo, "helping to boost tourism to Egypt".

Ibrahim has "called on antiquities leaders to periodically inspect archaeological sites and museums falling under their responsibility, and not to stay in their offices in isolation from field work. He also asked site leaders to develop plans detailing their own vision regarding sites under their responsibility, including current information on budgets, goals, obstacles, and the timeline of each project".

Dr. Mostafa Amin is currently still the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities:
The re-establishment of the Ministry of State for Antiquities doesn’t controvert the existence of the Supreme Council of Antiquties and its secretary general; each has its own work and job to protect and preserve Egypt’s heritage,” Amin asserted. He also called on all Egyptologists and archaeologists in Egypt to protect Egypt’s heritage and stand against any rumour that could create a negative attitude between antiquities’ top officials and the new minister.



The SCA currently has six departments, Ancient Egyptian Antiquities department (the head of which is now Abdel Hamid Marouf - replacing Atef Abul Dahab), there is the department of Islamic, Coptic and Jewish monuments; one department dedicated to projects; one to documentation; one to restoration efforts; and one to antiquities recovery.

There is another people-orientated move (Antiquities hotline to launch in Egypt on Monday)
The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) is to operate a hotline service to receive complaints, ideas and suggestions to help the council develop its archaeological work. Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim announced the hotline would open on Monday. It will be operated five days per week from Sunday to Thursday from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm until its full operation in January when it will be operated 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Meanwhile, one cannot help but remember about Dr Mohammed Ibrahim Aly's involvement in the development of the controversy about the so-called "Bosnian pyramids" (aka "hills") at Visoko. It never really was clarified what he thought about them.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

More on the Cairo Library Fire

The Ancient World Bloggers have a text by Charles Jones on The Fire at the Institut d'Egypte Cairo. This is:
An attempt to pull together (outside the Facebook, Twitter, etc. firewalls) the various pieces of infomation available online on the fire at the Institut d'Egypte, Cairo, 17 December 2011.

Some items of interest:

Repubblica: In fiamme i tesori inestimabili dell'Istituto d'Egitto al Cairo

The Cybrarians: A black day for heritage: burning the Egyptian Scientific Institute Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011

Video of some of the damage and the salvage beginning

Another video: Cairo Young people save heritage books of scientific complex
, delivered them to army

Nevine El-Aref, 'Archaeological committee to inspect burnt Geographic Society building', Ahram Online December 18.
"Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim assigned today an archaeological committee led by Mohsen Sayed, head of the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Department, to inspect the Geographic Society in downtown Cairo after the building housing it was burned amid escalating clashes between protesters and the Egyptian military. So far, the committee has been unable to inspect the building due to the unstable security conditions on Al-Sheikh Rihan Street, where the Geographic Society building is located. [...] Ibrahim said the ministry would help in the restoration of the Geographic Society as well the collection of rescued books, some of which are now transferred to the National Archives and American University in Cairo libraries. Ibrahim also said he would contact the French ambassador to Egypt to ask France for help in restoring the landmark building".

US Writer Patronises Metal Detectorists

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Sean McLachlan (Columbia, MO) used to be an archaeologist, but got kicked out for bad spelling and took up writing instead. He has now blogged about the Silverdale find: "Viking horde (sic) highlights the value of responsible metal detectoring (sic)" (AOL on Dec 17th 2011).
When I used to work as an archaeologist, I heard a lot of bad-mouthing about metal detectorists. These guys scan the ground for coins and other metal objects. Most of the time they only find a few old pennies. It's when they discover something of historic value that some archaeologists get grumpy. Many archaeologists don't trust metal detectorists, saying they disturb ancient sites and pocket their findings. This week's discovery of a Viking horde of silver in England shows how responsible metal detectorists, far from being nosy snoopers into the sacred soil of archaeology, can actually help us learn more about the past.
That "something" is that in the tenth century "the Vikings" (sic) buried stuff and there was this bloke who called himself King "Conut.Airde" or whatever. He then goes on about the Chalgrove coin of Domitianus II who was - he reckons for some reason - an "officer [who] had been garrisoned in Britain"* and in whose brief reign coins were struck, one of which was found in another "horde" by another lucky British metal detectorist.
In both cases, the lucky guys did the right (and legal) thing--they reported their finds to the proper authorities. Laws governing such finds differ from country to country, but it's always important to report anything you find that may be of historical significance. You never know, you might have discovered a new king.
Even in Missouri?

Apparently Mr McLachlan believes that only when they show their finds to "experts" (i.e. the authorities/ professional archaeologists) will these artefact hunters learn what they've found. This is a result of the lack of recognition that artefact hunting with metal detectors is done to obtain collectables. These people are collectors and as such have acquired a great deal of knowledge about the typology of the things they collect. This is the underlying fault of the PAS system which was set up based on the elitist premise that the artefact hunter would be glad to come, cap in hand, to the professional with the friendly smile and outstretched hand, to "learn" from them what they have found. A coin collector does not need an archaeologist to tell him which ruler struck the coin they have, they can work these things out for themselves (coins generally have the bloke's name written on them - duh). Probably many "finders" know a good deal more about some aspects of the artefacts in their collections than the young girl fresh out of University who got a job as an FLO. That is no justification of course for them trashing sites, but neither are they all wholly ignorant morons. This is the reasoning behind the current trend for the PAS to claim they are "partners" of artefact hunters.

hat tip to Heritage Action

* More likely in Gaul near the seat of imperial power and more importantly in this context the main mint responsible for the coins of the Gallic Empire at Trier.
 
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