Thursday 1 November 2012

Turkish Seller Offers Erdfrisch papyri on EBay

The Scripture blogs are now discussing freshly-surfaced papyri, this time a sale on eBay. The current threads seem to begin with a post on The Quaternion (An Academic Blog about the New Testament and Early Christianity: Manuscripts, Texts, and Contexts, run by Brice Jones):
 Just today (29 October 2012), a seller on eBay posted an auction with the title, “Greek-Coptic Roman Rare Egyptian Uncial PapyrusFragments.” This seller (“mixantik”), who is from Turkey, has been auctioning hundreds of ancient Coptic and Greek papyrus fragments in lots on eBay for at least a year. I have contacted this seller on several different occasions to inquire about some of his papyri. He tells me that all of his papyri come from Egypt, although it is not clear precisely where in Egypt. But it is clear that someone has discovered a very large quantity of papyri. A colleague has suggested to me that perhaps the locals are continuing to find papyri in Oxyrhynchus, which is a possible scenario. The papyri that are sold by this dealer are 100% authentic; this can be verified by an analysis of the handwriting from the images the seller posts on eBay—usually very good images. I check eBay daily, with the search phrase “papyrus fragment,” to see if this seller (or any other) is auctioning off papyri. This seller's previous lots have sold for pennies, anywhere from $20 to $300.
Yes, and I see from his feedback that the owner of a certain "responsible antiquities collectors" discussion list has recently been one of his customers (#320890937385), I wonder whether he applied his own list's "Code of Ethics" to these purchases? Yes I mean Tim Haines. Other dealers are also recognisable in the list of those leaving feedback.

In the comments we read:
Most of his fragments are in fact Greek. It would seem that, given the quantity of Greek fragments that he has sold over the last year or so, someone has made a big find. In the images he posts, there is dirt all over the papyri, which tells me these are coming straight from the ground.
Anyway "Mixantik" is (despite the claim to be based in the USA) based in Istanbul, and formerly traded under the name of "Yasasgroup" (on eBay Jan-Oct 2008), but as "Mixantik" since Oct 2008. Both in his former incarnation, as well as the first months of operation under the new name is eBay sales consisted mainly of Ottoman antiques, but also Coptic antiques (including pages ripped from 11th and 14th century Bibles), so potentially originally coming from Egypt (less likely Sudan) - so how are they coming on the market? From January 2009 alongside these items, the first pieces of Coptic textiles start to appear in the descriptions attached to the feedback, some clearly labelled "Roman Egypt". From February 2009 the first papyrus fragments started coming onto the market. So they've been sold for three years right under everybody's noses, along with all sorts of other stuff, with a marked Egyptian bias. The current spate of the increased participation of 'dugups' in this dealer's offer dates back to June 1010. This dealer has also sold a fossil or two (one to Tim Haines). A few days ago he sold something which he described as "Oxyrhynchus papyri fragments" - dealer's blague or the actual provenance?

There is a firm called "Yasasgroup" in Istanbul, this imports and exports building materials, stone, marble, fibreglass mat etc. One wonders whether any of their products come from Egypt. Notably a "Yasasgroup" has a series of Photobucket pics of papyrus fragments here (cached). What, if any, is the connection between the building supplies firm and the antiques/antiquities dealer?

Very probably 'Mixantik', whoever he is, is doing nothing contrary to current Turkish law. Turkey however loudly demands its antiquities back from other countries, one might legitimately ask what Turkey is doing to prevent Turkish dealers selling off the antiquities from other countries (like dismembered medieval Coptic bibles and dugup antiquities from Egypt), and sending them out of the country further afield, to the USA to Britain (Mr Haines) and others. "Mixantik" has been selling masses of what look very much like freshly surfaced archaeological material for three years at least - and are the Turks doing anything about it? If they are not, then why do they expect others to listen to their demands to send back stuff which is not-exactly-freshly-surfaced?

UPDATE Thursday evening:
several "mixantik" auctions have just disappeared, they were of tightly-rolled muddy papyrus scrolls with some letters (?) visible on the outside he called them "dead books".  The scale used in the photos was a CD, better - I suppose - than the fag packet in other of his photos.

UPDATE 4th Nov 2012
Now "Mixantik" has disappeared

Vignette: EBay Pappy fragment, going for a song. 


Dorothy King said...

I reported it to eBay - they're not interested.

I reported it to a couple of people at the Turkish Culture Ministry - they are very interested.

I should probably contact the Egyptians too, but had not thought of it.

Interestingly I left a comment on the blog pointing out that it was illegal to export from Turkey and asking people to report the listings, but it was not approved.

And I agree, the number of delers buying is ... well it puts their claims to be responsible in a very dubious light.

kyri said...

i must admit i was tempted to buy some greek papyri fragments from this guy months ago but when i saw he was based in turkey and the provenance was non existant, the temptation quickly faded.i believe that many of the fragments may even originate in turkey,you cannot scratch the ground without finding greek archaeology there.i just dont know how he has been selling so openly for so long,from turkey!!
in christies/bonhams the fragments would go for much more so why is this guy selling them on ebay for next to nothing,its either because they are fake or illicit,now i know which of the two it is.

Unknown said...

Mrs King, which blog, and who disapproved your comment ? Brice C. Jone ?

Paul Barford said...

Not this one.

Paul Barford said...

Dorothy is a Ms. Not to be confused with smuggled mss.

Dorothy King said...

Yes, Jones' blog - it my comment failed to pass his moderation.

It was pretty innocuous, (off the top of my head)simply pointing out that it was against Turkish law to export antiquities, and saying I'd reported the seller to eBay - a shorter version of the short email I'd dropped the author of this blog.

Kyri - yes, many Greek antiquities do come out of Turkey, but papyri tend to be preserved in the dry heat of Egypt, along with the fact that the seller gives this as a provenance, suggests this is the source.

Bith people with the Turkish Ministry of Culture got back to be within the hour saying they were going to take action.

Paul Barford said...

"people with the Turkish Ministry of Culture got back to be within the hour saying they were going to take action"

When they find out people are talking about it, for the several years before that they did not even notice it was going on under their noses. They are far more interested what foreign museums are doing.

Should it be up to outsiders to inform people like the Turks what is going on in their own backyard when the material is so in-your-face as on eBay?

Dorothy King said...

Honestly, my experince with them is that once you make them aware of looted material they jump right onto it. (And I don't think this is due to my having super-powers, just them being on the ball)

They have an amazing web site with all reported stolen material, which no other countries have.

Admitedly, I think they tend to concentrate on the big sellers, auctions and dealers - I was shocked to see this on eBay, and perhaps if all the others who knew about it had reported it rather than discussed it, something might have been done sooner?

Unknown said...

Thanks, Mrs King. I’m very disappointed.

It’s very hard for “Mixantik” to sell “his” goods :

Paul Barford said...

It's hard for him to get 14000 green ones for a contextless scrap, he's declining lower offers.

But he'll find a buyer.

kyri said...

dorothy,of course,your right,%99 of papyri found in the condition this seller is selling them are from egypt,i read an article a few years ago about a papyri found in greece[the derveni papyri] but this was carbonized,as were the ones found in heculaneum.
paul,i thought the guy suggesting starting a collection to buy the looted pieces would have his comment moderated,not dorothy for pointing out the ethical and legal issues involved.

Unknown said...

I think he declines “uncertain” offers of unknown bidders.

Unknown said...

« This listing was ended by the seller because the item is no longer available. » and new name : “ebuyerrrrr” ; thanks, Mrs King !

Dorothy King said...

Damn - his feedback is now private, and I didn't think to take a photo of buyers ...

Hopefully he won't be back, and I just did a quick look around eBay - a few genuine papyri, but overwhelming majority modern reproductions

Paul Barford said...

I gave the name of one of them, maybe you'd like to contact Mr Haines (Yahoo "responsible ancient artifacts [sic] discussion list" owner) and ask him for a comment on the mummy foot (sic) he bought from Mixantik?

Unknown said...

I’m glad to see that Mrs King is no longer persona non grata at Brice C. Jones’ Inn, and that her “disapproved comment” ( was published.

Now, we have another fragment put and pulled !

Paul Barford said...

Interesting why it took so long....

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