Friday, 31 May 2013

In US, Houghtonism Gathers Strength


Arthur Houghton suggested in a comment on a recent blog post on CPO that various countries outside the USA should forfeit their rights to demand repatriation of illicit antiquities illegally removed from their territory "when they fail to take care of their own cultural patrimony". The kind of actions he has in mind are the "willful allowance and even encouragment of public and private construction that destroys their own historic past". Houghton says that "a new UNESCO resolution is needed here, one that would allow the divestment of cultural material from countries that act to destroy it". He proposes an amendment to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property that "would allow signatory states to impose draconian measures against State Parties that violate the intent of the Convention in this manner". Houghton suggested that "the idea can get real traction in certain political quarters [...] among friends in Washington".  Houghton now reports that he has "found significant support among very well connected political circles" for an "amendment the 1970 UNESCO Convention to this end".

Well-connected they may be, but whether from what Houghton implies, they actually have any idea of what is the "the intent of the Convention" is debatable. As I have pointed out, there is an unfortunate confusion in the American mind concerning what the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property is actually for. Obviously they are misled by the appearance of the words "pillage" and "protection of the archaeological record from construction activity" in the document's title.  It is rather unfair of UNESCO to give the document such a long title to confuse the dullards. Maybe somebody should get these "political circles"  interested in first making sure Art. 5f and Art 10b of the Convention they want to rewrite are being implemented in the USA. That might help remove the confusion being sown by the coiney and antiquitist lobbies.

The antiquitists are really so ridiculous. They cannot keep up any kind of logical discussion, because they keep switching tack as the wind blows. Look at the proposal, that any country that somebody (leaving aside just now who and how) determines is not protecting sites adequately from construction and the effects of economic development, should either forfeit some rights to the cultural property from their territory, or should actually have it taken away (dealer "AW" actually comes out and suggests by force).  Yet not a few days ago these very same people were arguing (and have an expensive court case staked on it) that since the no-questions-asked market wipes out collecting histories, it is (allegedly) impossible to say which country individual things came from (this was the argument they tried in the "Tarby" case too). They trot out their silly mantra that artefacts (in general actually is what they say) were "made to circulate" and frequently travelled far from where they were made to be used. That's what they say in one context, now how do they square that with saying they are going to take the cultural property of Wongawongaland because the Wongans are building too many houses over ancient field systems? How without proper collecting history records do they propose identifying Wongan artefacts from Wongawongaland for confiscation as opposed to Wongan (or Wongan-like) artefacts which were dug up in neighbouring Amnesia or Letheland but their collecting histories lost due to faulty documentation by the trade?  

If the doctrine of Houghtonism really is gaining strength in America, it says a lot about the type of people who hang out in "certain political circles". 


Scholar-Dealer Adrift


Over on a dugup dealers' lobbyist's blog near you a "scholar-dealer AW" seems to have problems posting his own comments. So Lobboblogger does it for him. This person prefers to hide behind initials, but it would be a fair guess who he in fact is. This guy enlarges on Arthur Houghton's Amerocentric doctrinal remarks on "what might be termed the casual destruction of ancient monuments" and its relation to the global no-questions-asked antiquities trade. He opines:
A real problem concerns the clear conflict that exists between the concepts of the "cultural heritage of mankind" (=CHM) and the "cultural heritage of country A, B, C, etc. (CHC)". If everything is thought of as being CHM the result would be clear: other countries or peoples (like the US State Department for example) could sound an alarm and act decisively to halt such destruction wherever it might occur. This could include the officially sanctioned use of force on recalcitrant people or governments.
Could it, indeed? "AW" claims that this "is the way some people, primarily archaeologists and their allies, seem to think". I really fail to see how he comes to that conclusion. I really cannot recall ever hearing a fellow archaeologist advocating calling in the US Marines with napalm-spurting helicopters or US political assassination drones as a means to defend the archaeological heritage. Not even a so-called "radical" one.

What is this guy talking about? He says that the 1970 UNESCO Convention does not sanction the notion of "cultural heritage of mankind". This "scholar-dealer" (sic) seems not really to have noticed that the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property has a whole preamble (referring among other things to the 'Declaration of Principles of International Cultural Co-operation' - see its article 1) in which the relationship between national responsibilities and global heritage seem to me to be adequately spelt out for the purpose of the Convention (that states parties protect the cultural heritage of states parties from removal as part of the global heritage). It would seem "AW" has skipped past the preamble to get to Article nine, which is a shame as he misses the point of what the document is about - once again arguing from fragments rather than a holistic treatment of the whole (the importance of "context" again). For "AW", the notion of "cultural heritage of mankind":
would allow any item of cultural heritage to be cared for virtually anywhere since it effectively would belong to us all.
Once again we find the collectors' lobby focussing on "ownership" rather than legitimate ownership. I, you and my cat can see - first of all from the very title of the document itself - that the 1970 UNESCO Convention is about "Illicit" activities (import, export and transfer of ownership) of artefacts, not at all who has what. "AW" cannot see that and gets lost in a cognitive labyrinth of his own making.

In reality it is only in the no-questions-asked dealers' little world  that there is any kind of "conflict" between nations helping each other to protect the heritage, and the US collectors' notion of "global heritage means I have the right to buy as much of it as I want, how I want".  It is these dealers and collectors who are creating any conflict.

Vignette: "Nomolypse Now", the US response in the cultural property war with the rest of the world? Surely not. 

Dealer AW Advises the Taliban


Over in the US, "AW, a scholar-dealer", writes on a lobbyist's blog, offering the help of collectors taking cultural property off the hands of those inclined to destroy it:
When the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan, as they possibly will once the US leaves with all its subsidies(sic), let's hope that they act in a more civilized manner about heritage. Instead of smashing everything with hammers, they should just call in Sotheby's and Christie's and arrange that all those blasphemous objects be taken away and sold, providing loads of money so that the indigent can receive clothing and other aid they might not have.
But, were not the Taliban already selling stuff off before? Museum objects were appearing on the market in Pakistan, there was at least one "Taliban coin hoard". Maybe semi-nonymous "scholar-dealer AW" or a pal once handled some items from it and wants more?

I rather think that "AW" for all the "interest in other cultures" he'd presumably claim his collecting represents, seems not really to have grasped the first (indeed quite fundamental) thing about Islam, Sunni Islam in particular and its notion of šhirk.  

I wonder whether "AW" knows his Bible? Deuteronomy 7:25 would certainly be applicable here. 

U.S. embassy to Americans: Stay away from Giza's pyramids



Uh-oh:
U.S. embassy to Americans: Stay away from Giza's pyramids
"A common theme from many of these reports is the lack of visible security or police in the vicinity of the Pyramids".


Archaeological Plundering in India

The Times of India has an article about archaeological plundering in India. "It remains a matter of great shame for us," says Alok Tripathi, director, Centre for Archaeology and Museology of Assam University.
India's Treasure Trove Act stipulates reporting the find of any treasure, exceeding Rs 10 in value, to the government which can then acquire it from the finder.'The Act provides for a generous reimbursement to the finder says Tripathi. "For instance, those who bring in gold coins are to be paid 20% more than the market value. But due to its provisions not being advertised properly and lackadaisical implementation, it has become toothless." The prevalence of a highly active antique smuggling mafia has further aided archaeological plundering. "Many such gangs - which often operate under political and police protection - are quite active in UP, Bihar and parts of MP," says KK Muhammad, former regional director of the Archaeological Survey of India. "In sites of ancient cities like Hastinapur and Ahichatra, their agents often plunder objects that come up on the ground during the rainy season." Although estimates are difficult to come by, experts say that every year, thousands of such objects - which are picked off ancient sites and may include some invaluable archaeological pieces - are shipped out of the country without anybody being the wiser. "Only when those responsible for preserving heritage passionately fight this menace through proactive means, can there be a change in the situation," says Tripathi. Till that happens, the country's history will continue to be surreptitiously lifted off the ground and slipped outside, piece by piece.

Atul Sethi, 'Archaeological plundering in India getting worrisome, say experts', TNN May 31, 2013.


Thursday, 30 May 2013

Bath archaeological thief caught after Bellarmine vase spotted on eBay

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According to the Bath Chronicle, it was realised that three 17th-century stoneware bottles offered by seller James Vessey recently on eBay had been stolen four years earlier from the storeroom of the excavations carried out in 2008 during the development of SouthGate shopping centre in Bath. Vessey ha been  employed by the Museum of London Archaeology during this excavation.
The team uncovered three Bellarmine vessels dating back to between 1650 and 1700 [...], but the items disappeared before they could be delivered to the museum for analysis. They resurfaced last year when another archaeologist spotted one of the vases for sale on eBay and contacted the museum's project officer Bruno Barber. Police then executed a warrant at Vessey's narrowboat home in Oxfordshire. Bath Magistrates Court was told that Vessey, who admitted theft, had a history of stealing historical artefacts from archaeological digs which he was working on, and in 2001 had been jailed for 15 months. [...]  The court heard Vessey was no longer working as an archaeologist and had been dealing with the illness and death of both his parents at the points in his life when he had committed his crimes. He was given a four-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to carry out 270 hours of unpaid community work, as well as to compensate the man who had bought the v[essel] from him on eBay. 

 PCs Peter Hunt and Gemma Kirby presented
the recovered vases to Bruno Barber (l) and Stephen Clews (r).
Source:
"Bath archaeological thief caught after Bellarmine vase spotted on eBay", Thursday, May 30, 2013

Finland Refuses Embassy Request to Return Ancient Artefacts to Iraq



Finland's National Museum has refused a request from the Iraqi Embassy to return a number of ancient artefacts to Iraq that were presented as gifts to the late President Urho Kekkonen in 1977. The museum says that the items now in its collection were obtained legally..."

More here

Photo: President Urho Kekkonen attended the opening of the Land of Two Rivers exhibition in Helsinki in August 1977. Also in attendance were ministerial-level guests from Iraq (Image: Amos Andersonin taidemuseon kuva-arkisto).

British Museum Budget Cuts Loom?


[A] dark cloud looms over the British Museum today. Rumour suggests (and ministers won’t deny) that the Chancellor is keen to lop a few million quid from its budget in the 2015/16 spending review which is due to be published this month[...]
Lloyd Evans, 'A priceless treasure: The Chancellor must not slash the British Museum’s budget', The Spectator 1 June 2013) trots out the usual reasons why, its a place tourists go and tourism makes money, we can generate international goodwill by loaning objects from its collections. And that's about it, oh yes, one more thing:
Suppose you’re hacking away at your Norfolk spud patch and your fork strikes the prow of a Viking long ship buried beneath the topsoil. You know exactly who to contact. The BM will send a task-force of world-class experts to inspect your discovery, to rule on its authenticity and to advise on its future disposition. You expect no less. [...] the BM’s Portable Antiquities Scheme deals with close to 100,000 finds every year. [...]
One hundred thousand accidental finds made by members of the public as described or just under 100 000 objects wrenched temporarily from the hands of artefact collectors to make one last record before they disappear? When was the last time the BM sent a team of experts out to study a Viking longship in a Norfolk potato patch, even metaphorically? Even the Staffordshire hoard was excavated by an outside team. Still if they are short of money, generating goodwill could not be easier than giving the Parthenon Marbles back, that would do wonders, as for the revenue, put screens up and charge tourists five quid each to go behind them and watch the careful dismantling and packing one by one of the exhibits in the Duveen Gallery.

 Oh, and yes, get rid of the fund-gobbling artefact hunter partnering of the PAS. Let the BM's fiunds be spent on and in the Museum, and let outside
artefact hunters do their own propaganda ("Hoard Hunters" is the way to go, I'd say).

ACCG Again Fall into their own hole...


The ACCG has the following article on its Facebook page:
 'Worthless' ancient coins may hold key to distant past  www.theage.com.au "An Australian anthropologist based in the US says he is excited to be finally able to explore the Northern Territory site where five medieval-era African coins..."
I presume their highlighting it is supposed to illustarate how coin collectors "preserve" history, or can "prove something" through their coin accumulation. What the article does in fact show very well is the precise opposite of everything the ACG stands for, the importance of findspot, and collectors keeping a record of where coins came from...

Washington's Arthur Houghton and the Big Lie

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Several days back Arthur Horton III, President of the US Cultural Property Research Institute decided he was going to defend the dugup antiquities industry from a few comments that were being made about it. He determined that the best way to do this might be to present "the Arthur Houghton vision of  what the 1970 UNESCO Convention is really about". Not untypically in such circles, he decided that it would be acceptable to do this without citing any real details, such as information where the fragments of it he was quoting actually came from. Why would he do that? Perhaps the reason is that he knows that most US dugup antiquity collecting types would never in a million years check for themselves what is written by one of their fellows. And the rest, well Mr Houghton does not really care what others working in the field think.

Mr Houghton scribbled about half a page on his ideas, no references cited. In order to analyse it, put the fragments (quoted out of context and reassembled into a different whole) into their original context requires a much longer discussion (with references). A bit of a waste of time in one way, no metal detectorist or coin collector will ever read through to the end, that is what the lobbyists anticipate and hope for.Wasting everybody's time by their stupid arguments is obviously another of their aims, they think if they keep it up, the rest of us will get bored and wander off leaving them alone to get up with whatever it is they want to get up to without somebody looking over their shoulders.

The truth is it turns out that, if you do take the trouble to analyse Mr Houghton's breakdown of what he thinks the UNESCO Convention contains, his presentation is found sadly wanting (and please do not take what I say for granted, click on the link and check it out for yourselves... something Mr Houghton is not inviting his readers to do). He has juxtaposed fragments discussing different things to produce a misleading picture. Does he care? No, he does not care, he is in no hurry whatsoever to enlarge on what he wrote, to refute comments that challenge his perception of the wording of a crucial document.

All he can manage in that direction is to write insulting comments about the presenter of such an analysis, but stopping well short of actually addressing the points presented. Instead, he does what artefact hunters and collectors and their dealer pals always do. He attempts (May 28, 2013 at 6:37 AM) to deflect discussion onto a new topic - in this case his doctrine of Houghtonism. He assumes that it is enough for his gullible readers to assert that there is something wrong with anyone who'd actually read the 1970 UNESCO Convention when he has already "told" them what it says. 

I think this exchange is symptomatic of a broader phenomenon. It is only through the collective use of a series of Big Lies that there can be any justification for the whole area of the collecting of dugup antiquities (and here I have in mind its full panorama from the artefact hunter with his metal detector and spade right through to the antiquity dealers either on the internet or plush London/New York galleries and auction houses). We've all heard them. Blogs like this (Looting Matters, SAFE Corner, Heritage Journal etc, etc) give the opportunity to examine the other side of the story, break down the deceits into component elements and challenge the basis of all of them.

There is a notable reaction to such critiques from  those caught up in the big lie (and here I have in mind an even broader group, including alongside those mentioned above those heritage professionals who grasp the opportunity to enter "partnerships" with such collectors and support their heritage-gobbling activities). In almost EVERY case, the sole reaction that there has ever been - and can ever be expected from such people falls into three, and five only, categories:
1) Ignore the discussion totally,
2) Dismiss the discussion as of no importance, the work of some misdirected 'radicals',
3) Personal attack,
4) Answer with some unsubstantiated glib triteness (usually in the form of a "two wrongs make a right" or a "fait accompli" pseudo-argument),  
5) Attempt to deflect discussion onto another topic. 
The sixth, actually engage with the topic and attempt to address the issues raised, is never an option for the proponents and victims of the Antiquitist Big Lie. Mr Houghton is no exception, he is a typical product of the genre.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Better Out...


On a metal detecting forum near you (for example in the thread: " Re: Hoard Hunters - Metal Detecting on TV" at Tue May 28, 2013 11:20 pm) member "Gwawrer" (proud "Member of Cheshire Metal Detecting Society") has a noteworthy comment:  
Its better out of the ground and in your hand for the history or monetary value rather than left in the ground to rot doing nothing for anyone.
Sort of like osprey eggs then, better in an egg collector's pocket than left up a tree "doing nuffing for anyone"? Does the PAS do no outreach at all about the conservation of the archaeological resource among these folk?  Among anyone?

Vignette: Osprey nest, "collectables up a tree" for some, something to be conserved for the rest of us.

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: "Hoard Hunters": A Reaction


Hoard Hunters, Episode 1.
A guest article by Nigel Swift 

"To understand this programme you need to know the background, which many don't. Years ago Mr Brun led (jointly with a self-confessed ex-nighthawk) a breakaway group of detectorists who were unwilling to accept the “best practice” recommendations of archaeologists and PAS. He set up a rival database as an alternative to reporting to PAS or conforming with what archaeologists think is right. Not that you'll find much about all that (or his raucous attacks on archaeologists) on line as most of it was deleted from Youtube and elsewhere just prior to the launch of this series. Mr Brun now presents himself as “responsible” on the basis that detectorists alone have the right to define what responsible means. On that basis, even though they may not report their finds to PAS or conform to the official Responsibility Code, detectorists are all “responsible”! Good innit! They're entirely beyond criticism by archaeologists or anyone else for they alone decide what's the best way to behave!

 So.... when you see telly programmes about a couple of blokes with long-established connections to Minelab (for many years Mr Brun ran the "Minelab Owners Forums and Minelab Owners TV!) using new Minelab deep-seeking machines (that can go down far below plough level into archaeological layers) you needn't worry about whether that's "responsible detecting". The official Code and every archaeologist says it isn't but Mr Brun say's it's fine because he, not them or you dear Reader, is the sole arbiter of what's responsible and appropriate behaviour.

And you needn't be puzzled about who is behind the making of this programme either. Minelab is a massive US company and it wants to sell oodles of it's new deep-seeking machines in Britain. The fact the British archaeological establishment sees digging below plough level as very wrong and irresponsible would normally be an insurmountable difficulty and they wouldn't even have tried to tackle the British market with such a product. But they got lucky: They had close connections with a couple of artefact hunters leading a whole group of similar-minded detectorists who had redefined "responsible" to mean something entirely different to what the archaeologists say. So it was a perfect solution for them - they got these people to pitch an idea (with Minelab finance as part of the proposal perhaps?) which actually amounted to advertising their wretched site-wrecking machines on peak-time TV in our country in defiance of the wishes of, one would like to assume, every British archaeologist. Yet it is presented to the public as "responsible"! It's pretty neat. A real coup, The public won't realise that "responsible" as used in the programme actually means the opposite - and best of all the Minelab marketing men will have long noticed that most of the British archaeological establishment are highly unlikely to say a dicky bird about this deliberate assault upon our heritage.

I could go on about the inane jokes, the low-brow aspirations, the unappealing dialogue and the general absence of cultural values in the programme but I'm no TV critic so I won't. I'd just suggest that the programme comprises a large US Company doing Britain's heritage harm via a couple of naïve people who hold the mistaken view that good behaviour is what they alone find it convenient to say it is. Discuss".

Thank you, Nigel.

Vignette: A swift in flight, heads-down tekkies encased in their headphones rarely see such a sight in their use of Britain's countryside. 

...and the tekkie verdict on "Hoard Hunters"?

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It was interesting to see the reactions of those most interested in last night's "Hoard Hunters", other metal detectorists. There were mixed reactions, there were some who loved it, like "zendog" (Tue May 28, 2013 11:51 pm):
Generally enjoyed the programme, just still don't understand why the TV companies think they have to have at least one larger than life hyper presenter for all these types of series. I think they think the audience like it, I think they are wrong. Good to hear them reinforcing the permission, record and report message. Not sure I would have bothered to dig that lump of iron. Looking forward to next weeks episode.
Others, such as forum member "Grant" (Tue May 28, 2013 11:29 pm) were less impressed:
I thought the guys who presented it were just irrating to watch , especially the guy who kept getting that bloody megaphone out, what a twat, I was hoping to see more detecting, instead it was just two guys jokeing about, hopefully it it'll get better but has the thumbs down from me unless it improves.
another one less than impressed  was "Selectcase" (Tue May 28, 2013 11:31 pm):
The jury is out for me at the moment - Driving around like a nutter in a tombraider 110 landie with a megaphone kind of put me off a little.
"Mikes334" gets more personal (Tue May 28, 2013 11:37 pm): 
I,m with Grant on that one ... That Gary Brun is so annoying .I'm pleased he's not my M.D buddy .......... elmtree ya safe mate !!
"Jamie B." (Tue May 28, 2013 11:48 pm) has much the same feelings: 
It was as I expected ... I knew the prat with the hat would be acting the idiot and basically be the "johnny vaughn" character ... The heritage (great surname) was the "Steve brooker" character with all the passion and knowledge and the archeologist was the museum/pas fella The one great thing was the archeologists voice!! It could be so much better with less dicking about and more finds and history of the people and area. 5/10.
or indeed discussion of the issues surrounding artefact hunting and collecting. "Johny-blaze" (Wed May 29, 2013 1:17 am) agrees with Grant and Mikes334 concerning Mr Brun's onscreen  antics: 
he's as funny as a kick in the nuts :E
Meanwhile on another thread a post by "Coltmanwest" (Tue May 28, 2013 11:14 pm) pulls no punches:
Did anyone else out there have to hide behind the sofa while watching the biggest load of s##t ever, about detecting..I hid!!..out of embarassment!..Maybe the next episode will be hosted by the chuckle brothers! Any comments people...I am gobsmacked.
If such reactions from the UK detecting community are anything to go by, it would seem that in the public eye some damage was done to the image of detectorists by this programme, which is kind of what one would expect on hearing that the man with a hat was going to be the presenter. Apparently they tried to get the FLO to visit them in a field, but they did not turn up. Maybe the Portable Antiquities Scheme as part of their public outreach might like to publish a statement about this programme for the benefit of millions of people whodo not go out hoiking historical artefacts from the ground, or cleaning Roman coins fresh from the soil by putting them in their mouth (!).
Vignette: The Chuckle Brothers

Washington Legal Firm's "CPO" can't keep his eye on the ball ?


Blogger Cultural Property Observer addressing his militant sidekick Arthur Houghton attempts (May 27, 2013 at 7:28 AM) to explain away just one aspect of what I said about Mr Houghton's earlier questioning of the position of UNESCO and Bulgarian antiquities in the wake of a recent repatriation of some seized items:
"Arthur, [Mr] Barford cites Bulgarian law on his blog to support his views, but he does not mention that significant portions of this law [...]  were struck down by Bulgaria's Constiutional (sic) Court.
Don't I? Peter Tompa, star cultural property lawyer of Bailey and Ehrenberg PLLC, the author of those words, seems once again to have failed to check what he writes about. He gives no dates or other details, but one can only assume that he is talking about what happened back in September 2009 ("Bulgaria's Constitutional Court Rules on Cultural Heritage Law", Wednesday, 30 September 2009), about which US coin collectors got inordinately excited ("US collectors on Bulgaria's Constitutional Court Ruling on Cultural Heritage Law", Friday, 2 October 2009).

I pointed out at the time that US collectors did not really understand what the whole affair is about. It seems that in the intervening four years, Bailey and Ehrenberg's cultural property lawyer has not actually made any effort to get to grips with it. If he had looked, or (since I explicitly wrote it) understood, what was there staring him in the face in black and white, the version of the antiquities law that I quoted in my discussion of what had been published on his CPO blog was in fact the version which incorporates any changes resulting from that 2009 court decision:
"[...]  we find the Bulgarians doing that in the  ЗАКОН за културното наследство, in Art. 6.1 and 7.1-3 of the current antiquities law, as updated October 2012."
In my books October 20012 is later than September 2009, though maybe Bailey and Ehrenberg's lawyer might argue otherwise. That notwithstanding, it seems that once again, the lawyer has been careless with the facts and not taken the trouble to do his homework, nor did he really take the trouble to read the text which he then and his pal then attack. Not very "observant" of Cultural Property Observer.  
 

Houghtonism, a "modern" (?) Elginism

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In his latest comment to the text "Something's Missing from the Discussion About the Repatriation of Some Ancient Coins to Bulgaria", the President of the American Cultural Property Research Institute Arthur Houghton voices his thoughts about a brave new world of world heritage run by the Americans for the Americans:
[C]ountries that knowingly engage in the destruction of their own cultural heritage cannot complain if it is taken away from them. China, which continues to systematically destroy its ancient past through aggressive development, is a prime example, but I would have to add Turkey, Italy, and a bunch of other countries that allow and even encourage public and private construction on top of ancient archaeological sites -- or, like Afghanistan under the Taliban, simply set out to destroy their own historic past. Can you think of any reason why such undeserving states should claim ownership of the very material that they willfully (sic) allow to be obliterated? [...] Perhaps a new UNESCO resolution is needed here, one that would allow the divestment of cultural material from countries that act to destroy it. In view of the importance of the matter and with the thought that the idea can get real traction in certain political quarters, I have begun to some soundings among friends in Washington with a view to rewriting UNESCO (sic). 
I guess Washington would first have to renew payment of its subs to UNESCO to get that one through. Houghton should remember that UNESCO still  is run on democratic principles (despite the recent US attempt to force its will on the body and then withdrawal of funds in a huff when it could not). How Houghton and his friends in "certain political circles" intend to force the will of US collectors on the international cultural heritage community remains to be seen. I think it unlikely that the proposers have thought this one through properly. It seems to me that Mr Houghton has missed out the vital link in logic between UNESCO's aims of promoting peace by building it in the minds of people all over the world and his suggestion that UNESCO should be taking stuff away from the developing nations and giving it to the Americans to 'look after'. From the course of the preceding discussion about the actual contents of the 1970 UNESCO Convention, I think one may confidently predict that he'd be unable to explain it.

I also find this latest suggestion wholly inconsistent with Mr Houghton's earlier (but misinformed) insistence that  the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property allegedly actually only refers to a highly select body of pre-selected artefactual material, not sites built over by housing, hydroelectric dams or hospital-building. Now he seems to have shifted tack.

This Houghtonism is basically an extension of the Witschonke Premise. The latter only referred to not taking preventive action in the case of countries that did not live up to what US collectors expected of the (sic). In proposing Houghtonism, the President of the CPRI seems to have in mind that no repatriation of stolen or dodgy material already in the USA should be contemplated if the country it came from was not halting development in, for example, cities with an historical town centre. It is almost as if the Mr Houghton  wants to see developing countries of the world kept in the stone age for the convenience of American collectors. Furthermore, from what he said, the President of the US CPRI is actually suggesting that he envisages the citizens of nations that do not comply with the US-led vision of what constitutes preservation should acquiesce, without complaint, to having their cultural property taken away from them. Like naughty schoolboys caught out and reprimanded for looking at girlie magazine in the toilets which they are forced to give up and which them make their way to the teachers' common room.

What on earth is one to make of such suggestions?

I would be the first to say that the 1970 UNESCO Convention needs rewriting, but rewritten in a manner likely to strengthen the position of the countries that are losing so much already to the global no-questions-asked market (exemplified most strongly by bodies such as the CPRI or ACCG and on blogs like Peter Tompa's). It seems that in proposing Houghtonism, the CPRI ideologist has other ideas, he wants to recruit UNESCO in his attempt to weaken the position
of and disempower the "source countries" still further. If that is the way discussion in the US really is going, the sooner we kick them out of the 1970 Convention, the better. 

UPDATE 30th May 2013:
One lobbyist has just referred to "Houghtonism" as a "thoughtful view of the subject" of cultural property management. Hmmm.

Meanwhile Mr Houghton himself has not been idle. He cites the recent bulldozing of a mound in Belize as a springboard for threatening:
"countries that knowingly engage in the destruction of their own cultural heritage, including those that willfully allow and even encourage public and private construction that destroys their own historic past".
He reports that in Welthaupstadt Washington:
"I have found significant support among very well connected political circles for an amendment that would allow signatory states to impose draconian measures against State Parties that violate the intent of the Convention in this manner. I will have more for you on this at a later time".
Just like that, the Americans are going to produce a new draft of the 1970 UNESCO Convention to suit them, and the rest of us are going to meekly accept and one by one put our names under it? Dream on, Mr Houghton. (What he CAN do is lobby for rewriting, or rescinding the CCPIA, go on, show the world just what it is the US no-questions-market is up to.) We will watch the CPRI website for news of this initiative.

Don't Ferget

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"Ray" reminds fellow detecting forum members:
dont forget tonight ......... THE FIRST EVER PROGRAMME DEVOTED PURELY TO METAL DETECTING.............. ray
::g ::g ::g ::g ::g ::g ::g ::g
As if they would. Tune in to "History" Channel, folks who can, it's going to show what UK metal detecting can look like.

Hoard Hunters Season 1 Episode 1 "Roman Riches"

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Hoard Hunters, Season one, episode 1: "Roman Riches" May 28, 2013 10pm  

Plot: In this episode the boys are focussed on a hoard of 1400 Roman bronze coins unearthed near Turvey, Bedfordshire in December 2006. The coins date from the middle of the 4th century towards the end of the Roman Empire in Britain. Some coins in the hoard have a propaganda message stamped across them: ‘happy days are here again’; others are emblazoned with the names of two Roman usurpers Agnentius and Decentius. Gary and Gordon are keen to return to the site with their state-of-the-art technology in the hope of finding missed coins; Gordon even believes there’s an opportunity to find a whole new hoard.
Vignette: UK metal detecting's new stars.

Monday, 27 May 2013

"Ding Jihao was here"

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"Ding Jihao was here" scratched on a temple relief at Luxor.  The 15-year old vandal lives in Nanjing in east China's Jiangsu Province. It is not recorded how many historical monuments this unthinking loutish youth yob has defaced in his own country. After all, it is from his country that comes this exemplary message (reproduced here from 'The Heritagist' blog). Meanwhile Caixin Online is running a slide show of Chinese graffiti left on various historic landmarks, mostly in China.

Mind you, if instead of his name we'd seen "Bazza Thugwit, Basildon woz ere 2013" on the Egyptian monument, how many British netizens would be searching him out and would his parents issue a national apology, or just respond curtly with a  two-word phrase ending in "off"? (And anyway, what's the difference between Thugwit scratching his name on the surface of an archaeological site, and digging a hole beneath the surface?)


Caixin Online, 'China in uproar over Egyptian vandalism', 28th May 2013.

"Dirt Fishing" in Idaho and out West

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Brandon Neice ("Dr Tones") from Caldwell, Idaho (?) posted a comment on my text about reactions to the proposed "DigWars" TV show I made a while ago.  I was trying to see who he was, and among other things I came across his video channel on  "treasurehuntervideos.com". These have to be among the most dynamic and exciting metal detecting videos ever made.... (yawn). Check them out, if you skip the boring bits, looking through all five current episodes of "Dirt Fishing America" will not take long:
1) Minelab CTX 3030 Finds BIG SILVER. Two Barber halves in one hole!
"Are you kidding me? Wow, 1896!!"
2) CTX 3030 Metal Detecting. GOLD & SILVER!
3) Minelab CTX 3030 finds deep old silver! Metal detecting.
4) Metal Detecting for treasure, coins and relics.
5) BIG SILVER coins and ghost town treasures!
"On this episode of Dirt Fishin America, Dr.Tones and Pickhead metal detect a historic property for big silver coins while Dirt Digler and wife scout some ghost towns and mining camps for an upcoming episode. The civil war relic they find will surprise you!"
 One would have thought, with all the bellyaching US coin collectors do about furriners not protecting sites, "ghost towns and mining camps out West"  in America would be protected from this kind of digging - even if the participants try to anorakise it by calling it "dirt fishing". Or is the fact that, as seems apparent from this video, they are not, part of the root of the problem?

Bulgarian Dugup Coin Seizure: The View From Baltimore County


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The Bulgarian coin seizure discussed in the past few days seems to have put the jitters among quite a few people associated with the US  trade in dugup artefacts of foreign origin. Maybe it was James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York, saying the case would "send a message to those who mistakenly perceive cultural theft as a low-risk, high-return business". Now veteran campaigner and Tompa sidekick Arthur Houghton joins in the discussion on what he calls Peter Tompa's "forum" (recte lobbyist's blog). He reckons:
 the rules (sic) on ownership are clear: those countries that allow an open market in antiquities forfeit their right to claim those antiquities as belonging to the state. 
But, so far, we have been talking about export licences which are nothing to do with "state ownership". Once again the US antiquitist lobby is trying to befuddle us (or is itself befuddled) by trying to present chalk as cheese. There seems a lot of it about in those circles. Whether all, or any, artefacts are state or private property really has no relevance whatsoever to the export procedure, the two are, as I have pointed out several times, totally unrelated. We may use as just one example which should be well known to the US antiquitist lobby (because they are always banging on about it), England and Wales. Here, as in the UK generally,  non-Treasure archaeological artefacts from non-protected sites generally belong to the landowner to do as he or she wishes. They may gift, or sell, them to a finder for example. Nevertheless, in every single case, every find from a metal-detecting holiday, every eBay purchase, an export licence is still needed to send them out of the UK. To come back to the point Houghton was trying to make, nearly all of the recent cases of non-issue or deferral of UK export licences for cultural property have affected privately-owned items.  There really are no grounds for Houghton's dismissive tone, he clearly has himself got confused.

In general, as in many central east-European states, antiquities are vested in the state in Bulgaria, but the conditions under which archaeological finds become private property are given in Art 2a (3) of the ЗАКОН за културното наследство, I suggest people who think like Mr Houghton read it, there is an up-to-date translation into English.  .

Arthur Houghton, still stuck on the topic of "ownership", asserts that “good title can be passed whenthe objects are exported in violation of state laws”. This is a "they cannot touch you for it legality". That may be the case in the US (where all sorts of strange things are regarded as "legal"), but the US is not the only country in the world and it is not the same everywhere, the UK for example (2003 "dealing in cultural objects (offences) act”). This is where, if you analyse them carefully, the so-called codes of ethics of  dug-up dealers come unstuck, they only require the dealer/collector to be "ethical" by remaining merely within the law of their own state, rather than stipulating that any transactions are conducted in accord with all applicable laws. A strange idea of ethics that. Oddly enough though, not even the US always applies this principle like that, for example US citizens who travel abroad for the purpose of having sex with minors have been known to be arrested when back home for a crime committed abroad.It would be useful to see how this precedent could be applied to the trafficking of dugup antiquities. The foreign exporter may be out of reach of US authorities, but the importer who participated in (commissioned, agreed to and financed) the crime should not be.

UNESCO deals principally with restrictions on trade that should apply to “important” cultural property whose export would constitute an “appreciable impoverishment” of the national cultural heritage and defines “cultural property” as items that are “specifically designated” by a State Party as being “important" -- which, in the case of coins, Bulgaria has not done. 
Flubber, flibflam, flippsh - what a mess. I really wonder whether the retired museum professional has actually read the Convention in the last few years, or is he just quoting from (faulty) memory?

Let's deal with the last bit first. Houghton suggests that Bulgaria has "not specifically designated coins" as cultural property that comes under the Convention. For this we go to the much misquoted and on those grounds maligned (in US antiquitist circles) Article 1 of the Convention. Ridding ourselves of coiney misrepresentations of what it says, we find it actually states: 
For the purposes of this Convention, the term `cultural property' means property which, on religious or secular grounds, is specifically designated by each State as being of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science and which belongs to the following categories... [followed by a list of categories]. 
Check it out. Now, obviously the place in which a state would do this is in the relevant section of the cultural property legislation of that state. Lo and behold, we find the Bulgarians doing that in the  ЗАКОН за културното наследство, in Art. 6.1 and 7.1-3 of the current antiquities law, as updated October 2012. Specifically designated in this legislation are any dugup artefact, and thus including coins, BUT there is an exemption for milled [machine-made] coins (Art. 7.4(1)), but no mention is made there of ancient coins and hammered coins, these therefore are included in the items coming under the term 'cultural property' in Bulgarian law - sanctioned by the convention's Art. 1. That's the easy bit. Houghton simply had not gone to the sources when making his assertions. Certainly not the first time that has happened when any coineys try to make some kind of argument in favour the no-questions-asked trade. I suppose they feel that facts only get in the way of a good story.

So, when you actually check the facts rather than engage in name-calling, it turns out that it is not "flat-out wrong" that "the UNESCO Resolution covers Bulgarian coins". Ancient coins dug up in Bulgaria are indeed covered by the relevant legislation. His suggestion that to assert otherwise is "mendacious poppycock" seems therefore rather to be due to his own misunderstanding of the facts. I am surprised to find that a cultural property lawyer would be posting such misinformation on his blog. I do not expect though either culprit will have the good grace to apologise for his mistake.
So what about the Houghton's notion that "UNESCO (sic) deals principally with restrictions on trade that should apply to “important” cultural property whose export would constitute an “appreciable impoverishment” of the national cultural heritage"? Where does that come from? Well, it is certainly not any text out of Articles 1, 2, 3, or 4 of the Convention. Most importantly it is absent from article 6 (the one about export licences). It is absent from the Convention's articles 7, 8 and the article 9 which the US has such a fixation upon. There's absolutely no mention of it in nine, check it out. It is also absent from articles 10 ("each item"), 11, 12 and 13 (we'll come back to 13d in a moment). You'll not find it in Articles 14-26 too. So where does Arthur Houghton get this idea from? 

The Convention's Article 5 discusses the setting up of specialist national conservation services for the protection of the cultural heritage (something the US has still to do) and then sets out seven tasks such a dedicated organization should carry out (not all of them having any relationship whatsoever to the actual subject of the Convention). Among the functions it postulates is that they should "draft laws and regulations designed to secure the protection of the cultural heritage and particularly prevention of the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of important cultural property". Mr Houghton seizes on that last phrase. Clearly this relates to that which is deemed important by dint of being defined in the relevant local legislation, as opposed to other manifestations of culture which are not, rather than (as I assume Houghton thinks it should be read), important and unimportant individual examples within the categories defined in the legislation - note that defining that cannot be the domain of lawyers.  This article  of the 1970 UNESCO Convention also tasks the organization with: 
establishing and keeping up to date, on the basis of a national inventory of protected property, a list of important public and private cultural property whose export would constitute an appreciable impoverishment of the national cultural heritage.
This is where Houghton gets the idea that the whole convention is about protecting only the objects mentioned in such a list. If the object is not on the list, is it the intention of the Convention's authors that the object should not be protected by export licences? Take the Crosby Garrett Helmet for example, dug up on a Friday, in the auction room on a Monday, not on anyone's list as it was not discovered until just before it was put on sale. Is it the intention of UNESCO that such an item should be exported willy nilly because not previously on an inventory? While the workings of the mind of UNESCO experts are not always clear to us, I hardly think anyone, apart that is from Mr Houghton and his dealer pals over in the USA, would consider that this really was the intention of its authors.

Nevertheless, I would suggest that if Mr Houghton really thinks we should all be bound by such an interpretation of the Convention, he tell us where the US has this specialist national conservation service doing the seven tasks set out in the convention, in particular, where is the US national inventory of protected important public and private cultural property? Let's not have the pot calling the kettle black, more US "don't-do-as-I-do,-do-as-I-say" hypocrisy. If Mr Houghton wants to condition compliance with article 3 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on Bulgaria showing it complies with every single bit of every single article of the Convention, let the US lead the way by showing that it too has.  Every single bit of every single article, Mr Houghton, the US should in this regard either put up, or shut up.
The States Parties to this Convention undertake [...]  to prevent by all appropriate means transfers of ownership of cultural property likely to promote the illicit import or export of such property [...]  to recognize the indefeasible right of each State Party to this Convention to classify and declare certain cultural property as inalienable which should therefore ipso facto not be exported, and to facilitate recovery of such property by the State concerned in cases where it has been exported. 
Note, "certain cultural property" (like dugup archaeological artefacts coming under the antiquities preservation laws), not "certain items of cultural property".  Does Mr Houghton and his dealer and collector pals - citizens of a state party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention - "recognize the indefeasible right of each State Party to this Convention to classify and declare certain cultural property as inalienable", or not? If the US does not recognize this, then it should do the honourable thing and withdraw from the 1970 UNESCO Convention which many US citizens have not the slightest interest in, or intention of, "honoring".  

Vignette: The man and the flag he represents

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Bit of Dead Sea Scroll, Anyone?

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For that collector that has almost everything: a small trophy bit of a Dead Sea scroll (Daniel Estrin, 'Fragments of biblical treasure are up for sale', Huffington Post 25.05.13):
Parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls are up for sale - in tiny pieces. Nearly 70 years after the discovery of the world's oldest biblical manuscripts, the Palestinian family who originally sold them to scholars and institutions is now quietly marketing the leftovers - fragments the family says it has kept in a Swiss safe deposit box all these years. Most of these scraps are barely postage-stamp-sized, and some are blank. But in the last few years, evangelical Christian collectors and institutions in the U.S. have forked out millions of dollars for a chunk of this archaeological treasure.
The dealer who initially got his hands on the scrolls, Kando had some fragments in his possession. In the mid-1960s this secret collection of fragments was "transferred to Switzerland". Kando died in 1993, but his sons then began marketing these fragments, it was the perfect time to sell. Martin Schoyen bought over a hundred bits. Then they started to flog them off in the US. Asuza Pacific University, an evangelical Christian college near Los Angeles bought some, then the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Then the Green family, "evangelical Christians in Oklahoma City and owners of the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts retailer, bought 12 fragments for its private collection, the world's largest of rare biblical manuscripts". The source of these is unknown.

A separate AP article gives some indication of where some of the other bits ended up: 'The Dead Sea Scrolls at a glance'. Now, what 'research' actually can anyone do with a scattered fragment  the size of a postage stamp from a much larger group of fragments of a scroll elsewhere , except to brag that you've got it? Nobody's going to understand anything of such a fragment without seeing it in the context of the text from which it came.

Whever happened to "JBH"?

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I can find no recent news on the topic of the US citizen "JBH" who was arrested and imprisoned for 30 days in Macedonia allegedly for attempting to take out of the country some ancient coins he'd bought from a Macedonian from Shtip (Prevented, New Attempt for exportation of Cultural Heritage', 13th April 2013, with photos).


Is he still in custody awaiting trial? Or was he released on the quiet, perhaps after doing a 'deal' with the American authorities?

An Open Trade? Caveat emptor

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The case of US citizen "JBH" who had been staying in Shtip, Macedonia and upon attempting to leave the country on 12th April was arrested and imprisoned for 30 days in Macedonia allegedly for attempting to take with him some ancient coins is an interesting footnote to the attempts by US collectors and dealers to talk of 'their rights' by claiming there exists an "open trade" in ancient coins in countries such as Macedonia and Bulgaria as if that justifies smuggling them out of the country (for example into the US). See for example one writer here, here and here.

According to the Macedonian customs agency (Prevented, New Attempt for exportation of Cultural Heritage', 13th April 2013, with photos), "JBH" had bought  a bunch of earth-crusted ancient coins from a Macedonian citizen "living in Shtip and dealing in sale of coins" at an arranged meeting (10th April?) at a roadside petrol station. My guess is that of the three 'Makpetrol' stations on the road from Shtip to Radovish (since both men were based in Shtip) it is this one (photo: 41°44'7.53"N   22°11'8.54"E) that was involved.
A petrol station to you and me, but business premises
for some Macedonia ancient coin dealers?

Now, I do not know where most US dugup ancient coin collectors make their purchases, maybe it is in pre-arranged deals in similar places, across a chip-greasy coffee-stained table at desert roadside cafes for example. As a mere layman it seems to me that a petrol station forecourt is not really the sort of place one would expect legitimate transactions with legitimate businessmen in a supposedly "open" market in erdfrische coins to take place.

Interpreting the Artefacts: 'Hairdo Archaeology'


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Learning about the past from objects. Janet Stephens, a hair stylist from Baltimore is a 'hairstyle archaeologist' who specialises in recreating how women in ancient Rome and Greece wore their hair.
She spoke to the BBC about a museum visit that marked the start of a long journey of discovery on which she solved a historical mystery and had her work published in an academic journal.
Peter Murtaugh, 'Hairdo archaeologist' solves ancient fashion mystery', BBC 26 May 2013.

Syria (1) Evidence of Looting from Google Earth as of 5th May 2013, Southwestern parts


As I mentioned earlier, I decided to have a look through the Google Earth coverage of Syria looking for evidence of the looting. As guide to the search I used the ANE Placemarks for Google Earth by Olof Pedersén (I mentioned them earlier here). I imagine it does not show every known site in Syria (it shows very few flat sites, or lithic sites, concentrating mainly on tells), but it probably highlights the most important and visible sites -  so those looters searching for good stuff to sell might be expected to be targeting. I consider my search of the sites highlighted in this database and the areas around to have been quite thorough. The evidence will be presented within the present administrative districts of Syria in three posts, the southwestern regions (this post) and the western and northern regions (below - under construction).

The latest photos of these sites on Google Earth at the time of writing (sadly, mostly from 2012 rather than this year) were examined from a variety of 'heights' (300 to 100 m most commonly) and where holes were seen, they were marked with a red placemark. Single holes often in the top of mounds were ignored, they could just as easily have been dug by bored teenage boys fired by folk legends of 'treasure'. Also open trenches obviously made by archaeologists (a surprising number of open holes in fact) were ignored, but were searched for evidence of subsequent digging and disturbance (fairly rare in fact, though some may have been hidden in shadows of trench walls). Also ignored were irregular holes made at the foot of tell slopes, often with traces of tracks leading to them, where it seems the mounds had been damaged by activities connected with quarrying soil (mud brick?) for building or other purposes. A very large number of tells in fact had modern or old cemeteries on them, either covering a substantial are of the surface, or part of the area. While these represent disturbance, they also may well have discouraged amateur digging in the near vicinity. A number of sites - especially in the coastal regions and in the southwestern tip of the country facing Lebanon had military installations on and in them, including the digging of sunken artillery posts. These are not listed here.  I have not been to any of these sites, nor have I sought ground-level photos.

I have not listed the eroded traces of what seem to be earlier looters' holes which also appear in the layers of earlier photos, going back to the years before the current civil war. These would repay further study, but the present project was intended to look at the effects Google Earth shows of the present conflict. It seems there had been a spate of looting of some sites before 2007 (though in many of these cases earlier Google Earth photos were not detailed enough to check when).

To save the reader ploughing through it, the results show that at the time of the survey (5th May 2013) there was in fact little evidence of the sort of looting exhibited by Apamea, Al-Suqaylabiyah district of Hama governate, and nowhere else on the same scale (which in itself raises questions about what is happening at Apamea). most of the looted sites are in the north of the country. 

[I've not yet worked out how to embed Google Earth placemarks into this post, when I do, I hope to come back and do that, until then to use this you'll just have to use the search box to find the spot]


Southwestern region

Quneitra Governorate (35 sites listed on ANE placemarks)

No looters' holes detected 

Daraa Governorate (18 sites listed on ANE placemarks)
Few looters' holes detected, one possible example at Tell Ash'ari ( 32°44'36.62"N  36° 0'52.17"E)

As-Suwayda Governorate (10 sites, mostly in west,  listed on ANE placemarks)

No looters' holes detected (photos mostly 12th Feb 2011)

Rif Dimashq (30 sites, mostly in west, listed on ANE placemarks)

Few looters holes detected. One extensive area of holes to NW of cemetery (some graves exhumed?) at Tell Ghizlanieh  (33°23'39.51"N  36°27'12.78"E).

Homs Governorate (44 sites, mostly in west, listed on ANE placemarks)

A number of looted sites detected:

Tell Hajbah [ 34°53'58.93"N  36°53'53.94"E],Qatna/Tell Mishrifeh [ 34°49'57.33"N  36°51'54.12"E],
Tell es-Silla,
Tell Noguaira,
Tell Arquni [ 34°34'55.36"N 36°39'26.24"E]
Tell el-Kebir [ 34°35'53.93"N ] 36°31'40.15"E,
Tell Zira'at/Ribla.  [34°27'34.65"N  36°34'23.38"E]
Palmyra (Tadmur), despite international concern, no clear traces of looters' holes seen here on Google Earth photos.

Southeastern region
Deir ez-Zawr Governorate (44 sites, mostly in west, listed on ANE placemarks)
basically a desert area, except for a cluster of   24  sites along a 200 km stretch of the Euphrates, and another 7 in the lower reaches (60 km) of the Khabur.

There are two Roman town sites here, Circesium (Buseire - latest photos 2007) and Dura Europos, neither of which show any clear signs of looting from the satellite photos. The latter (latest photos 7/4/2011) has a couple of irregular pits in the centre, but these were there in 2007. The only clear looting in this area is at Tell Marwaniye, but these holes were visible in photos of 12/12/2007. The site at Mari (Tell Harir) has photos of 21/5/2011 where there are few unambiguous traces of looters' holes, perhaps there has been some digging within the open trenches 200m to the east of the protective building and there is a cluster of dark features with light soil around just to the north of this, they may be holes but are more likely bushes (the resolution is not too good). 


Syria (2), Evidence of Looting from Google Earth as of 5th May 2013, Central and Western (coastal) regions


This is a continuation of the post above.

Central/Western region

Hama Governorate (44 sites, mostly in west, listed on ANE placemarks)

  detected (photos)

Apamea [35°25'24.53"N  36°24'1.89"E], the site has been extensively looted. There are no clear traces of this beginning in the photos of the central regions in 15/9/2007 and 20/7/2007, the areas of irregularities seem to be spoil heaps and old excavations. Looting of the site had however already begun, outside the walled area to the east of the main site and on the shores of Apamea lake to the southeast (I presume a cemetery area) .

(the neighbouring site Tell Jiffar - 35°25'9.70"N   36°26'20.21"E - is also looted, but is in the adjacent governate)

Tell Braidij [ 35°23'17.08"N  36°27'51.91"E] - damaged by (military?) earthworks on top, holes on the flanks.
Salba [35°20'6.08"N  36°26'46.94"E] extensive spread of holes
Tell Latmin [ 35°21'38.53"N  36°39'14.42"E], some holes, but digging may have started here before 2010
unnamed site 7km SE of Hama [35° 5'28.74"N  36°48'43.34"E], could be quarrying.
Tell Taibet el-Ism [ 35°19'15.37"N 36°51'46.98"E], holes on northern flanks, but they were there in 2007. 
Tell el-'Aoueir [ 35° 9'44.35"N  36°54'52.89"E], holes on the edges, though it seems these are tree-planting holes from before 2007.
Er-Rubba [35° 7'54.96"N 36°58'54.08"E] - extensive scatter of holes on east side of site, these were here before 2007 (2004?) but there is clearly renewed digging here between August 2010 and Feb 2012 and possibly later.
Tell Tamak [35°10'18.65"N  37° 2'35.49"E], I am not clear what the grey spots are here. There are similar marks in the fields northeast, and they extend quite a distance from the site and also appear in other areas in the region. probably not looters' holes.
Tell Sna [35° 7'20.23"N 37° 7'9.62"E], there is a cemetery here, and some holes on the northern edge and on the eastern margin of the tell surface. These probably are related to other uses of the site than looting (?).
Tell el-Agharr [35°13'25.82"N 37°13'9.09"E], holes on northern margin, may not be looting-related. Vague marks on southern edge too.
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Tartus Governorate  (12 sites listed on ANE placemarks, mostly along coastal strip)

 Only on one site, Tell Ghamqa [34°52'18.69"N 35°53'14.72"E] were holes detected, but these are off site (the site itself was badly damaged by military earthworks before 2010)

Latakia Governorate  (13 sites listed on ANE placemarks, mostly along coastal strip)

No looters' holes detected.

Syria (3), Evidence of Looting from Google Earth as of 5th May 2013, Northern and Eastern Regions

This is a continuation of the two posts above.


Northeastern region


This region is currently mostly in the hands of rebels, so seems worth treating as a single unit.
Deir ez-Zor (As Zawr) Governorate is covered in post number (1) in this series.

Idlib Governorate (53 sites shown on ANE database)

There is a spread of looters' holes at Tell Jiffar [ 35°25'9.70"N  36°26'20.21"E],  which seem related to the ones at Apamea to the west. The latest photos were taken 4/4/2012, but in fact the majority of these holes were dug already by the time the photos of 15/9/2007 were taken but between the two sessions the extent of the digging had increased at least two-fold (and some of the earlier holes on the SW had been filled in).

There are what look like looting holes in the top of Tell Freji [35°31'35.25"N  36°50'6.68"E] and on its sides, they are visible on the photos of 29/1/2007 as well as the most recent ones (21/7/2010).

Tell el-Khazna [35°33'7.74"N  36°55'0.02"E], in the latest photos (21/7/2010)  there are no clear traces of looters' holes, but this is a matter of lighting. In the photos of 29/1/2007, there are clear traces of some big holes, though they look eroded even by then.

At  Tell Khanzir [35°26'0.84"N 36°57'44.24"E], the latest photos are from 29/1/2007 and show an arc of (possibly looters') holes going across the site, also some other digging activity.

 The site at Sheik Barana [35°33'33.42"N  36°58'23.27"E], has some interesting eroded mounds suggesting ruins in it, the area is riddled by looters holes in the latest photos (21/7/2013) but photos taken with raking light 29/1/2007 show that the are within and a small discrete are to the NW had been dug over by that date.

At  Mesherfet el-Khanzir [35°28'54.44"N 36°56'57.04"E] on a badly-damaged tell site, there are some unclear indications of some kind of activity, possibly including hole-digging, between the houses. It is not clear whether this is looting or some other kind of activity. These holes were there in 2010.

It is not clear from the Google earth photos what is happening at Tell Unad Khalil [ 36° 1'18.40"N 36°42'0.58"E], while the tell itself seems not to have looter holes, there is some kind of a masonry compound to the south which has what look like holes appearing in it (19/5./2011 onwards). I am not sure however whether this is an archaeological feature, and the activity involved may be dumping rather than digging.

At Soultane [35°48'25.19"N  36°58'28.88"E] right on the edge of the province, rather fuzzy photos of 22nd August 2011 might show some looter holes in the summit, but these seem to have already been present in photos of January 2007 where the surface of the mound seems pockmarked with shallow holes.

Ebla (Tell Mardikh) [35°47'53.01"N 36°47'55.60"E] is a huge site, with extensive areas of archaeological trenches left open, many of them looking very eroded. It has been left in a dreadful state by previous excavators. There is some dumping on the NE corner, and maybe a few traces of digging within the trenches on the west side of the central complex (if that is what it is, it took place before June 2010), but the latest photos (22/8/2011) show little trace of extensive looting. 


Aleppo Governorate
There are a large number of sites showing signs of looting on the Google earth photos.

In the northern region of the province there are very few recent satellite photos. A number of cases which seem to relate to recent looting were spotted:
Arpadda (Tell Rifa'at) [36°28'21.44"N 37° 5'40.70"E] photos of 11th May 2011 show the surface of the mound covered in holes of various shapes, sizes and depths on the surface and flanks. Many, but not all, of them are visible on the photos of 11th October 2011, but there are no earlier ones of any quality. Since the tell is surrounded by a town, some of these holes may be related to the use of opebn=n space around the settlement rather than being purely for looting.

At Tell Bahouerte [36°34'41.97"N 37°18'46.80"E] holes are visible on the summit of this site in photos of 10th June 2011, given the topography of the site, these seem likely to be looting holes.

The regular-shaped tell at Dur-Šamši-Adad (Qal'at Halwanji) [36°38'38.64"N  37°54'16.49"E] has open archaeological trenches across its summit in the latest photos of 22nd September 2009, in the photo some irregular holes can be seen at the base of the mound and in the valley in the middle of the east side. the latter seem likely to be from artefact hunting.
 
 Tell 'Ain el-Beida [36°43'33.60"N 37°58'15.43"E] a few holes visible on the flanks of the mound in the latest photos of 22nd September 2009.

At Tell Amarna [36°44'43.15"N 38° 0'49.37"E] to the east, the site has (at least two overlapping systems of) large open archaeological trenches visible on the photos of of 22nd September 2009 and on the southern edge of the mound are some very clear holes, perhaps of looters in eroded open archaeological trenches. The mound surface is pockmarked by shallower holes.  
South of Aleppo, several of the tells in this region are partly built-over. Several of them therefore have damage that could be related to normal use of the terrain next to settlements.

Tell el-Quobli [36° 5'38.18"N 37° 7'36.25"E] latest photos 30th September 2012 show large random holes in mound surface and earth digging (?) at the base. Some of this was present on photos of June 2011, but there is a hint that there is more going on in the later photos around what seems to be an archaeological trench at the summit.

At 'Ayn Hassan [36° 3'29.02"N 37°13'10.56"E]   the latest photos of 21st September 2012show extensive damage to the site, with earth-digging and dumping at the base, a road across its top, and random holes all over the surface. Many of them however are also visible on photos of June 2009, though it seems digging has continued and expanded, probably looting is involved. 

Tell Berne [36° 2'1.72"N   37° 0'18.44"E] this is a much damaged site with encroachment and digging in several areas. On the west side the latest photos of 5th June 2012 show a cluster of holes, some rectangular, others more irregular some of which could be from looting. They begin appearing though in photos of June 2011.

Chalcis (El-'Is / Qinnasrin) [35°59'21.56"N 37° 0'13.82"E] is a tell where the tops of walls can still be traced on the ground surface. At a number of places around them are holes, though the ones visible on the latest photos (10th September 2011) are largely visible on earlier photos (most clearly 20th August 2010) where they seem to be heavily eroded. One fresh hole in the southwest corner of the site was 'fresh' in photos of 2007.



Ar-Raqqah Governorate (37 sites shown on ANE database, mostly in the Balikh river valley [oddly few in the Euphrates floodplain here]).
Tell es-Saman  Sharqi  [36°12'8.17"N 38°59'55.27"E], there are holes all over part of this site on the photos of 20/8/2010 and 9/8/2010 which are the latest on GE. The site at Tell Shakhin [36°19'8.16"N 39° 0'14.75"E] has a dense scatter of holes all over it, at first sight these look like looters' holes (though they lack upcast), but the appearance of similarly-textured ground in areas adjacent where there is no archaeological material suggests this is geological (karstic?) in origin rather than evidence of looting.   


Al-Hasakah Governorate

In this region are the sites of Tell Half and Tell Brak, the latter well-represented on the antiquities market before the civil war (figurines, many fakes though). Tell Halaf (Guzana) has a cemetery on top, and the latest photos 21/11/2010 do not show any clear signs of extensive looting. Tell Brak  is shown very clearly on photos of 30/10/2010  and there are only a few irregular holes on the north edge which might be looters' holes, and four more on the SW side of the top, but they all look old.

Most of the Google earth photography of this region is 2010 vintage or older, which makes it difficult to assess looting after the outbreak of war. The following are of note:

Tell Qarta  [36°49'57.34"N 40°13'45.12"E] fuzzy photos from 23rd June 2010 show possible looting ..

Tell Dibak [36°53'20.65"N 40°36'42.41"] photos from 10th November 2010 show a few small holes, their nature is not clear.

Tell Salander [36°51'52.05"N 40°47'55.75"E] photos from 21st November 2010 show a few small holes, their nature is not clear.

Tell Ašnakkum? (Chagar Bazar) [36°52'32.13"N 40°53'51.75"E] fuzzy photos from 21st November 2010 show looters' holes in old excavations.

Ger Ghanishan [36°48'46.99"N 40°53'52.64"E], fuzzy photos from 23rd June 2010 show possible looting ..

Tell Makhad er-Rejba [36°35'22.07"N  40°44'59.98"E] an odd ring of holes around the cemetery in photos of 10th November 2011 (but appearing earlier than 27 October 2010), rather than looters' holes they seem likely to be military foxholes.

At nearby Tell Bazari  [ 36°36'7.32"  40°47'15.96"E] there are scattered holes on the flank of te tell, minor looting? (Photos of 7th August 2010, and later - latest photos 16th November 2012, no change)ring of pits on south flank look like foxholes.

Tell el-Aswad [36°35'3.36"N 40°53'43.87"E], further to the east, random holes in several areas of this large site, but again appearing on photos of 27 October 2010 (latest photos of November 2012 show little change in the number of holes).

Tell Dibé [36°39'54.92"N  40°55'43.88"E] there seems to be some random and perhaps shallow disturbances at various points across this site, occurring after the photos of 17th August 2010 and 17th April 2012. It is unclear whether this is looting or simply damage.

Tell Judayda  [36°25'55.51"N  40°51'25.92"E] the photos of this site are all of poor quality. It is possible that the photos of 2nd December 2011 show looting, but this is unclear. 
 
Tell Shuraq  [36°56'9.09"N  41°12'21.99"E]  on the latest photos of 22nd October 2011, there are some quite large irregular holes dug at various points on this tell, but the same holes are faintly visible on photos of 18th August 2010

Tell Dhahab [36°53'51.85"N 41°10'36.66"E] the edges of this tell have been quite extensvely damaged by earth-0digging at the base, and on the latest photos of 22nd October 2011, there are some quite large irregular holes dug at various points on the west side. These feature\s however are all (faintly) visible on photos of the 14th April 2010. 

 Tell Abu Kassab  [36°37'54.37"N  41°16'32.77"E] and Tell Murshud  [36°35'35.02"N 41°11'17.20"E] the latest photos of 14th August 2010 are low definition and seem to show a number of large, scattered (looters') holes in the site.

Tell Griefat [36°54'40.11"N 41°50'36.98"E], surrounded by a modern village on three sides shows quite a bit of damage from hole-digging at its base. Two clusters of features on the west flank visible in photos of 29th November 2011 could be looters' holes, but they are (just about) visible taken in the middle of August 2010.

Tell Kirab  [36°57'45.68"N 41°53'8.67"E] a large and deep square hole in the middle of the site, surrounded by buildings appeared before August 2010, rather than looting, this looks like an attempt to build illegally on the site. The hole remained open in the photos of 29th November 2011, but by them=n had acquired some smaller holes in the side walls, probably artefact hunters.

Es-Saddiya [36°51'18.11"N 42° 6'23.32"E] In photos of 30th October 2010, there are a number of random holes of unclear nature in several parts of this site which lies immediately adjacent to a village, they were apparently dug after the photos of 23 Sept 2006.


In the south of the province are few sites which exhibit signs of looting. One possible example is Tell Maqada [35°44'42.18"N  40°46'1.16"E] which has very fuzzy photos showing possible holes but this is from 31/12/2004.

 
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