Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Republic of Ireland Publishes Guidelines on Use of Metal Detectors

In the Irish republic, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mr Jimmy Deenihan, TD, today (31 July 2013) published new guidelines for the public on the use of metal detection devices in Ireland - Advice Note on Metal Detection NMI NMS. The guidelines are being posted on the websites of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the National Museum of Ireland and will also be distributed as soon as possible in leaflet form to public offices where members of the public are likely to seek advice about metal detecting.
The Minister said that the guidelines were being issued “in response to growing numbers of reports being received by my Department and the National Museum of Ireland - borne out by evidence on the ground - of increasing levels of unauthorised and illegal use of metal detectors, often on important archaeological sites”. While the legal position in relation to metal detectors is clearly set out in legislation, the Minister said there was a need for comprehensive guidance that would be “clear and understandable to the public”. The Minister said that there was also evidence from internet sites and elsewhere of “illegal treasure-hunting and export and sale of unlawfully retrieved archaeological objects”. The intention of the guidelines, the Minister said, was “to clear up any confusion that may be leading to unintentional breaches of the law, to provide individuals and groups with an unambiguous statement of the statutory provisions surrounding metal detecting and archaeological finds and to spell out the consequences of contravening the law”. The guidelines will also alert the public of the potential damage that can be caused to archaeological heritage by random unauthorised metal detecting.
Like they have in England and Wales.
The Minister said that he hoped the publication of the guidelines would bring about a greater understanding of the potential damage that can result from what many would regard as “a harmless hobby” and why there is a need for strong and effective statutory controls. “Archaeological objects must be excavated in a structured scientific manner, with careful recording of their association with other objects, structures, features and soil layers.  Failure to expertly record the context from which an object has been removed results in an irreplaceable loss of knowledge of the past”, the Minister said. He added that “random searches with metal detectors cannot determine whether a find is of archaeological importance or if it is a recent discard. The result in either case is that the soil is greatly disturbed and any non-metallic evidence and objects are likely to be destroyed”.
At its nearest, the distance [edited]-- from Ireland to England and Wales -- [edited] is only 90 km, but its a whole load more intellectually from the land of the PAS-partnership of insanity.

Minister DeenihanPublishes Guidelines on Use of Metal Detectors Date Released: 31 July 2013

PAS Misleads....

See here: 'Republic of Ireland Publishes Guidelines on Use of Metal Detectors'. Nice to see the Portable Antiquituies Scheme keeping their eye on the ball there and keeping the public so well informed... Thanks to Nigel Swift of Heritage Action for pointing this error out. When the BM gets lost, it's good to know there is somebody knows what is going on.

Scattered in Private Collections

Detail of cup. Centre piece in Villa Giulia; outer
fragments from Bothmer collection.
Identification: Christos Tsirogiannis.
In March 2013 David Gill noted that the ever-diligent Christos Tsirogiannis had linked fragments of an Attic red-figured cup  from the Bothmer collection in the Metropolitan Museum to a vessel attributed to the Euaion painter in the Villa Giulia in Rome. The images of the Bothmer fragments were removed from the MMA website in June. Gill correctly assumed that this was because "an announcement was likely in the near future". Earlier today it was announced that the Metropolitan Museum of Art would be returning the cup fragments identified by Tsirogiannis to be reunited with the known tondo fragment   (David Gill, 'New York to return further Bothmer cup fragments' July 31, 2013).

The composite picture provided on looting matters is an excellent illustration of the damage to knowledge that is caused by the scattering of evidence  through the illicit market and private collections. The Bothmer collection was put together before the 1970s and 1980s donations to the Met. All that time the connection was not made between the scattered fragments. So what about all this guff about private collectors of dugup antiquities "studying" the objects they hoard and thereby "enriching our knowledge of the past"? It certainly enriches nothing at all if greedy selfish oiks simply sit on the stuff which they've acquired no questions asked. The Bothmer collection numbered over ten thousand sherds like this. What on earth would a collector do with that amount of hoarded stuff, except brag about it and gloat over it?

See also: Chasing Aphrodite blog, 'The Met’s Von Bothmer Collection May Be Evidence In Princeton Criminal Case', January 26, 2012.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: The Profits to be Made from Commercial Metal Detecting Rallies"

On an anti-archaeological metal detecting blog near you:
"why not drop a line to your local National Farmers Union office and explain the about the profits to be made  from metal detecting rallies which the CBA is cunningly steering farmers away from [?]. Tell them too about the runaway success of the Portable Antiquities Scheme"
It probably would be expecting too much for the semi-literate kneejerkers to actually see what the concern is.  The BBC programme which certain artefact hunters found so offensive was about "farming's role as custodian of the past, as we explore the balance between growing crops and preserving the archaeology which lies beneath them". An entirely laudable topic to be discussing with farmers, as I am sure any truly responsible artefact hunting partner of archaeology would admit.

It is interesting to note that artefact hunting PAS-"partners" see conservation as something farmers do only when paid (from RU funds for the most part) to do it, and if someone comes along willing to pay them not to do it, they will willingly give up their land to rape and pilfer by strangers.

The National Farmers Union is for, or against conservation?

Monday, 29 July 2013

Iraq: ICE "Cultivated Sources"

After the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, a whole load of stuff "found itself" in the USA:
 In 2008, 2010 and 2011, ICE repatriated to the government of Iraq a collection of cultural objects including Saddam Hussein-era paintings, AK-47 rifles, ancient tablets, clay statues, ancient gold earrings, coins, a Western Asiatic necklace and terra cotta cones, all illegally imported into the United States from Iraq. Through HSI’s cultural property and antiquities investigations, a team of HSI special agents recovered Iraqi treasures, and investigated the looting of the Iraq National Museum following the fall of the Hussein regime. The team volunteered to lead this mission, and scoured Baghdad in search of more than 17,000 items that chronicled the region's 7,000 years of civilization. HSI special agents electronically scanned the museum's inventory lists and manifests to determine which items were missing, and quickly determined that most of the museum's artifacts had been hidden. Eventually, they were able to recover many of the items that were looted by cultivating sources. Agents were also able to send information about looted artifacts to other countries to help recover them if they crossed their borders.
The question is whether the "sources" were waterboarded or otherwise "persuaded" of course.

ICE Press release: 'ICE returns Saddam Hussein ceremonial sword to Republic of Iraq' 29th July 2013.

USA Hands Back Illegal 'War-trophy'

Among the items that "found itself" in the USA after the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a sword stolen by somebody (unnamed) from Saddam Hussein'soffice and smuggled into the United States by U.S. military personnel (ICE Press release: 'ICE returns Saddam Hussein ceremonial sword to Republic of Iraq' 29th July 2013). Ten years later the sword was returned to the Republic of Iraq. The object had been sold  in October 2011, presumably by the bloke that took it, to the Amoskeag Auction Company (AAC) in Manchester, N.H., it was advertised in their Jan. 7, 2012, auction catalogue as having been:
removed from Hussein's personal office in the Iraqi military command complex in Baghdad by the U.S. Army 126th Military History Detachment after the regime fell in 2003. The catalog also said that the consignor was attached to the unit as a combat historian, that the sword was not claimed by the U.S. government and that the consignor was granted permission to keep the sword as a souvenir. In January 2012, HSI special agents in Manchester learned that it was being auctioned and initiated an investigation [and] coordinated with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) regarding the validity of the sword’s importation into the United States and the regulations surrounding the importation of war trophies from Iraq. It was determined that this ornate ceremonial sword cannot be considered a modern battlefield weapon and is therefore not eligible to be exported as a war trophy. Additionally, the import of this historic sword was prohibited by DOD’s Office of Foreign Assets Control pursuant to an executive order which prohibits trade or transfer of Iraqi cultural property.
The sword was seized by HSI special agents seized as a possible Iraqi cultural artifact. It had by this time already been sold (for $15,000) by AAC but the buyer had not paid and the object was still with the auctioneer. On April 30, 2012, the sword was administratively forfeited. Fourteen months later the handover ceremony was staged, a private ceremony held at Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily’s residence in Washington.
“Cultural property -- such as the sword being returned today to the people of Iraq -- represents part of a country’s history that should have never been stolen or auctioned,” said HSI Associate Director James Dinkins. “We will continue conducting these types of investigations to ensure that current and future generations aren’t robbed of their nation’s history.”
Note the sense of entitlement embodied in the statement: "the sword was not claimed by the U.S. government and that the consignor was granted permission to keep the sword as a souvenir". Why should the US Government have any claim on any personal property in the invaded country? The very idea. Also WHO (name, rank, authority) "gave permission" to steal it? One of the commanding officers of the U.S. Army 126th Military History Detachment (the what?) maybe? What else did he give his men "permission" to half-inch? Has there been an official enquiry?

Guatemala: "Almost all archaeological sites have suffered looting say experts"

During the XXVII Archaeological Research Symposium held in Guatemala from July 22, experts have been discussing discuss measures to prevent and eradicate the looting of archaeological sites.
The director of the Cultural Heritage, Oscar Mora, reported that the country has more than four thousand archaeological sites, almost all have suffered lootingExperts agree that the looters are from the villages near archaeological sites. It is believed that the heaviest looting occurred in the early 1970s, when the illegal sales may have totalled about U.S. $ 13 million a year.
In March this year the auction house Sotheby's, in France, auctioned a batch of 300 pre-Columbian artifacts from Mexico, Central and South America. Guatemala demanded the return of 13 of them.
"Casi todos los sitios arqueológicos han sufrido saqueo, dicen expertos" Prensa Libre, 25/07/13. (via Donna Yates)

Syrian Looters in Bulldozers Seek Treasure Amid Chaos

The no-questions-asked antiquities market has a lot to answer for:
Looters in bulldozers armed with automatic weapons are exploiting the mayhem of Syria’s civil war to seize sites [...] “It’s tragic, objects from archaeological sites risk being lost without us ever knowing they existed,” said Jonathan Tubb, keeper of the Middle East department at the British Museum. “It can be callous to talk about this in the face of appalling human loss, but Syria’s cultural heritage is of such great importance to our understanding of human history that it’s only right we’re concerned.”[...] while antiquities officials have started local initiatives that include watch groups of tribal elders and civilians to protect sites, they’ve been confronted by gangs of heavily armed men and earth-moving equipment.[...]  The sort of prize looters seek would include bronzes and ancient tablets inscribed with religious or economic text, which can fetch 300 to 400 pounds ($460-$610) each and are often found in stashes of several hundred, he said. Most looted objects end up in Turkey or Lebanon, according to  [Mamoun ] Abdul-Karim [head of Syria’s Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums].
 Caroline Alexander and Donna Abu-Nasr, 'Syrian Looters in Bulldozers Seek Treasure Amid Chaos',, Jul 29, 2013

One Way of Eliminating the Problem

Somebody who I bet did not vote for the Republicans ("Revolution Solutions" 14 hours ago) wrote a comment to the above article asking who will buy looted artefacts:
The one and only enemy of you ,me and all the normal [...] people,who want to share the planet with the rest of humanity, is greed. And at least for now, the greedy ones with power are few, who control the world. They are the enemy. the rich who will buy these artifacts. the private collectors. these are the people we need to eliminate from our society if we are to progress to another way of life[...].

Egypt: Government deposed, looting continues

In Egypt the government was deposed over three weeks ago, many people have been killed and injured, thousands of archaeologists are running around protesting meanwhile looting of archaeological site continues.
Looting Update: Illicit digging is being carried in full speed in the area of Dahshur, and Lisht, where the pyramid itself is being looted. The looting is also done in several villages in Giza and Mit Rahina as well as Abu Sir el-Maleq, Akhmim ٍSheikh Ibada and Tuna el-Jebel
The international trade needs to be extra vigilant to stop this stuff coming onto the market.

Vignette: Egyptian archaeologists shouting

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Making Responsible Statements

Ton ("a British responsible detectorist") writes:
 Mr. Barford, [...] Since he lives and works in Poland, perhaps [...] ought to focus his energy and anger towards tackling the ransack of huge amounts of roman coins from that country ending up on Ebay 
Shocking eh? Huge amounts? Now I am just an archaeologist, but it seems to me that this would be very odd. Poland was not IN the Roman Empire (I'd of expected anyon passinitly intrestid in 'istry to no that)... but then if a "responsible metal detectorist" responsibly asserts that it is the case that huge numbers of Roman coins are being looted in Poland and exported out of the country via eBay, well, we'd better take a look. After all Mr Ton, being a responsible guy, would not have made an irresponsible claim, would he?

Obviously the point being made here is that if this is true, I would be victimising UK detectorists (collectors love playing/depicting themselves as the victim) and being inconsistent because I'd be protecting the dugup antiquities industry in Poland, while attacking that elsewhere. Metal detectorists love talking about the characteristics, foibles, attitudes and genitals of the people criticising them rather than actually listening to what the points made actually are and addressing them. Is it therefore true that  there is a "ransack" (sic) of "huge amounts of Roman coins from [Poland] ending up on Ebay"?

Searching for both "Roman coin" and "Poland" on at the moment we come up with a dozen or so coins. One is an overpriced Sigismunt III being sold from the USA and two equally overpriced near contemporary coins from London and New York. There ARE 14 heavily stripped Late Roman Bronzes on offer from Ilawa, Poland. These most likely originated as a bulk lot from the Balkans, perhaps imported directly or through western markets. If we look on the UK eBay (where "Ton" is) we do not even find them in a search. If we turn to the Polish eBay website we find the 14 noted above plus five more offers (one containing five circles of metal the seller insists were once Roman coins before the collectors got their hands on them). These coins all look like "Balkan bulk buy" types.

And that's it. When you look, there is no evidence whatsoever of any  "ransack of huge amounts of roman coins from that country [Poland] ending up on Ebay". This turns out to be another piece of deceitful writing from the collectors' lobby trying to deflect discussion from the real issues

So, once again we see UK metal detectorists making claims they cannot substantiate and which turn out to be smoke and mirrors deception, as is the case time and time again. "Ton" either did not check that he knew the difference (about 1000 km) between Poland and Bulgaria and misled us all, or he thought nobody would actually check his glib statement (as if!) and he'd get away with misleading us all.

Vignette: Damaging inability to stick to the truth - UK policies on metal detecting ARE damaging the archaeological record. 

CBA Director on Metal Detecting Rallies

Mike Heyworth of the Council for British Archaeology ( Farming Today, Radio 4, 6.00 minutes in) is beginning to take a less ambivalent approach to artefact hunting than he was a while ago. Here he is on commercial artefact hunting rallies:
“you can get hundreds if not thousands of metal detectorists converging on very sensitive archaeological sites and that can cause a huge amount of damage to that archaeology and that information is completely lost …. I’d like to see much more of a clampdown on those sort of rallies because I don’t think they’re in the public benefit"
I think the question is broader, whether in the long run current British policies on artefact hunting and collecting are "in the public benefit". In fact they only benefit a selfish exploitive minority many of whom basically could not care less about the long-term and overall effects of what they are all doing.

See Heritage Action: "At last! Paul Barford and Mike Heyworth in total agreement!" 28/07/2013.

Let this go on record, in the first half of the previous decade, when I took part in forum discussions on UK heritage policy and metal detecting in particular, I was fairly frequently getting emails from Mike Heyworth asking me to tone down my criticism of artefact hunters who were (he argued) just a different way of manifesting an interest in the past, and as such had a place in the general picture of British archaeology. I have no idea to what degree he himself sincerely believed what was, after all, the official [post Denison and Dobinson report] CBA position on artefact hunting a decade ago. I am glad to see that a decade on, he is coming out and from time to time can be heard more frequently expressing mild exasperation with the situation - which is as it should be. Things were probably not helped much by the fact that, despite the detector-tolerant policies of the CBA throughout the first decade of the 21st century, there were frequent attacks on the CBA by the metal detecting community. Clashes over the "Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales" in particular became rather nasty (the Code is today almost universally ignored). Perhaps the CBA realised that they were getting British archaeology nowhere trying to pander to these people, and their "partner' the PAS. The latter put the CBA in a really stupid position with the non-collaboration over the issue of best practice in "Britain's Secret Treasures" (it seems from the preliminary announcements that the CBA will not be in the projected second series).

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Sacred Statue Looted, Replaced by Fake

Chasing Aphrodite blog: 'At Looted Temple In India, Locals Unwittingly Worship a Fake', July 24, 2013 make the point:
The case shows once again that today investigators and journalists around the world are doing the research that museums should have done years ago.  
and some of them are refusing to do even now.

US Lobbyist: Second Best Good Enough for Brown-Skinned Folk

 Peter Tompa, Washington Lobbyist on behalf of the dugup and knocked-off antiquities trade, sent  the following comment to the article on the "Chasing Aphrodite" blog "At Looted Temple In India, Locals Unwittingly Worship a Fake":
I’m not sure I understand the point of your headline. Presumably, the worshipers view the statue as a manifestation of God. Whether that statue was made 900 years ago or last week is likely of little relevance to them on that basis (July 24, 2013 at 8:27 am)
So what he's saying is that, in his educated western opinion, the brown-skinned Worshipping Oriental Gentlemen of Vriddachalam temple in Tamil Nadu really should not even consider it at all disturbing that,  in a distant secular and profane context to which many of them will never even have access, western tourists and connoisseurs are enjoying the original 'manifestation of god' removed from the sacral complex. I am sure the Washington observer would continue that they are after all only pig-ignorant, culturally insensitive idol-worshippers less worthy of great art than the white folk with their museums and different beliefs. That seems to me to be the train of thought revealed by that comment. Tompa assumes that "such people" should not even notice the difference, and have no claims on the object they lost - which now enhances the lives of others. This is exactly what Donna Yates was talking about in the context of the looted objects she studies:
The illicit antiquities trade is a prime example of neocolonialism. When objects are stolen from vulnerable areas of the developing world and moved into the hands of rich people in the developed world, we perpetuate an unjust imbalance. We keep people down.
Tompa is engaged in keeping down the brown-skinned worshipping oriental gentlemen of Vriddachalam temple in Tamil Nadu, not leaving them the option of rising up and asking for their statue back. In the eyes of adherents of the neocolonialist model of knocked-off-art-appreciation,  they are "ignorant natives" whose unsophisticated needs should be satisfied with second best.


Donna Yates, Detroit and Rio Azul

While I welcomed Donna Yates starting her amazing video blogs (please, more, more!) I was rather apprehensive that this would mean she'd stop doing the written one (Property of an Anonymous Swiss Collector). Fortunately I was too pessimistic, the blog is continuing. The latest post from her ("The looting of Río Azul and the "looting" of the Detroit Institute of Arts", July 27, 2013) is a masterpiece of the genre illustrating why the cessation of her blogging would be a tragedy. It's a fantastic piece of writing which entertains, informs, moves and shocks all in one breath. Highly recommended.

Iraq, US reach deal on stolen artefacts: official

A senior Iraqi official said on Friday that Baghdad has reached an initial deal with the US on the return of more than 10,000 artefacts stolen from Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion:
"We have reached an initial agreement... on returning more than 10,000 Iraqi artefacts that are in the United States," by August 2014, senior ministry advisor Baha al-Mayahi told AFP. But there are still details that need to be worked out, and the artefacts must all be registered in an electronic archive at Cornell University in the state of New York before they are returned, Mayahi said. The two sides agreed not to go into details about how the artefacts came to be in the United States, he added. He said the US was cooperating with Iraq on returning stolen artefacts, and that over 1,500 had been brought back to Iraq from the United States so far.
"Iraq, US reach deal on stolen artefacts: official", AFP July 26, 2013

UPDATE 15th August 2013: There was a lot of confusion about these "artefacts", it now seems likely that it was this Jewish archive that was being discussed. Michael E. Ruane, "Archives readies a schoolgirl’s records and a trove of Jewish treasures for return to Iraq", The Washington Post August 13th 2013. This of course has been a long-running dispute.

Iraq Antiquity Thefts: al-Mayahi Summary of the Figures

In the article "Iraq, US reach deal on stolen artefacts: official", AFP July 26, 2013 we are told:
Some 15,000 artefacts were stolen from the national museum in Baghdad by looters in the chaos that followed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, Mayahi said. More than 4,000 have been recovered. Authorities have recovered a further 130,000 artefacts stolen from elsewhere in the country, but there are still tens of thousands of pieces missing."

High Crimes: Studying the Illicit Antiquities Trade in the Bolivian Andes

Donna Yates, "High Crimes: Studying the Illicit Antiquities Trade in the Bolivian Andes", Day of Archaeology 2013 July 26, 2013:
The past is what we say it is, and we believe that the physical remains of the past are important. That they are worthy of being preserved as tools of both memory and identity. When they are ripped from their contexts and sold on the black market, everyone loses. We are all robbed because we will never get to know the information those objects contained. “Neocolonialism” is a word that is bandied about quite a bit in Bolivia: it is a word that even people with no education know. The illicit antiquities trade is a prime example of neocolonialism. When objects are stolen from vulnerable areas of the developing world and moved into the hands of rich people in the developed world, we perpetuate an unjust imbalance. We keep people down.
All the time shielding what is going on by paternalistic platitudes about altruistically "caring for" what the (necessarily "corrupt" and "ignorant") Brown Folk of the ("under"-)developing world cannot.

DOA Uncategorised

Doctor Donna Yates took part in the Day of Archaeology 2013 and found to her surprise "the Day of Archaeology website doesn’t have a category for this post to fit into!" but then it's run by Dan Pett of the artefact hunters' partners" Portable Antiquities Scheme, so it wouldn't would it? Yet the 1970 UNESCO Convention has an Article 10, just somehow UK archies tend to want to forget that.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Lexington Metal Detectorist on Collaboration in Heritage Management

Scott Clark, metal detectorist, lives in Lexington, KY USA ("has been metal detecting since aged 15, researching historical sites, participating in archaeological surveys and enjoying the physical, social and intellectual benefits of the hobby"). He has contributed a text ("Metal Detecting and Archaeological Advocacy – Some Observations and Ideas from a Detectorist", July 26, 2013) to the Day of Archaeology 2013. Readers might know I am generally dead against this, I hold - for reasons set out here -  that "metal detecting" is not archaeology.

I did read, however, Mr Clark's transatlantic contribution with interest because as an example of the (US 'let's all work together') genre it is quite unusual. In the US, there is a rather superficial approach to this topic, seen well in the recent "discussion" between Stout and McIntyre discussed elsewhere here or the Butch Holcombe stuff. These people have not taken the opportunity to find out what the real problem is (the archaeologist in the trio has even not ever been metal detecting). As a result we get several themes gone over time and time again (metal detectorists taking part in archaeological projects, tekkies voluntarily showing archaeologists some of their pretty finds and documenting their findspots, "rescuing the past"). What we do not get from them is the setting of those elements in the wider issues concerning relic hunting and the archaeological record, or even any indication that they are aware of those issues.

Mr Clark, on the other hand, has been interacting with archaeologists and while working alongside them, has actually been listening to, and thinking about, the views of the heritage community on what the problems are. He has then set about thinking about concrete finding ways around them. While it is still in the realms of "wouldn't it be nice if...?", there are some good attempts to grapple with the issues which is the only way forward. Certainly an advance on the aggressive and confrontational Stout-Holcombe-Howland approach.

The problem is that in detecting, alongside the individuals capable of thinking and articulately presenting the position reached by reflection like Mr Clark and a number of like-minded individuals in the UK, there are a much higher proportion of detectorists, on both sides of the Atlantic, that do not have these abilities. They respond by knee-jerk reactions, they follow the crowd, engage in mobbish behaviour and simply do not understand how what they do fits into the wider scheme of things, moreover they adamantly refuse to even try to understand. The PAS tries to make out that the "metal detecting community" is for the most part composed of normal, concerned, responsible, intelligent folk engaged in a "study of the past", but who are just misunderstood. They need to because the government would not give them money otherwise.

The actual picture is far more complex, the thrusting on us all of the PAS one-sided rose-tinted spectacle vision totally obscures (and, shamefully, is meant to obscure) the huge element, an undercurrent, of individuals that are portrayed on this blog by the metaphorical device of the fictional Thugwit Brothers. These are the people we need to take into account whenever assessing the hobby, not the 20% who can be brought with varying degrees of success into the fold by persuasion and logic, but the 80% who are totally resistant to anything like that. Note that Scott Clark admits that his views on collaboration in heritage management has not won him many friends in the US metal detecting community.

With that in mind, I'd like to heartily recommend a reading of Scott Clark's text, he has some good ideas and appears to welcome further discussion. Mr Scott has a blog Readers might like to compare this with what is offered (ostensibly with the same aim) by "American Digger Magazine" (but do not say what you think too loudly, as the latter apparently tend to be very touchy about the issue)

Vignette: Lexington, Kentucky.

Proculus Coin STILL Not in PAS Database

The Proculus coin found mid-November 2012 which the PAS identified as an extremely interesting "fifteenth century forgery" which was brought in for recording by its finder STILL is not in the PAS database. Talk about a "backlog"...

Obviously for anyone wanting to study the reception of antiquity in Renaissance Britain, Camden and all that, this object would be a prime piece of evidence. So why is it not in the database? What else of importance has been omitted from this "database" through prejudice against the object or finder? Indeed, what kind of "data" are these if subjective factors are at work on what goes in and what is kept quiet?

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Going Artefact Hunting in Silchester? STOP!

( Reading, United Kingdom searched today: — best detecting spots silchester 26 Jul 16:57:16 
Did he do another one for "Silchester, scheduled Roman town site?"Can the PAS check their website records, is this person a PAS-Partner?  By the way, while on my blog, he visited this, rather disturbing to see this site is still up.

Emerson Andrew wants help from a metal detectorist

From a Treasure Hunter's blog near you, Emerson Andrew (Napoli, Italy) writes (Gold buried in Carpathians Mountains Wed May 29th, 2013 03:42 pm):
Hello, My name is Emerson and I did some research on gold buried in Carpathians Mountains.I need someone who is passionate about finding treasures and a few metal detectors, I know the area where it would be very high chances to find Dacian ancient gold( Since living near).You can make research on google maps Sarmizegetusa, Hunedoara etc etc. I hope to receive an answer.
"Not-in-it-fer-the-munny" you understand. BTW, metal detecting in any area containing Dacian gold would be 100% illegal without a permit. But I do not expect the Treasure Hunter Forum (sponsored by Mowrey Gold scrap buyers) is terribly bothered by any of that...

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: How the TVC Works

Ian Richardson, 'Valuing Archaeological Finds' Day of Archaeology 2013, July 26, 2013. A welcome and revealing short text on how the Treasure Valuation Committee works, worth looking at next time you come across a UK Treasure Hunter complaining they "did not get enough dosh" from the public purse and that the TVC is "biased". I think this text explains the reality fairly well.

How's the report on the Montgomery Hoard Coming Along?

Two years ago today I put a post up here on the Montgomery Hoard, found by a metal detectorist: "Another Tekkie Finds More Old Coins in a Pot - Whoopee". I made a few archaeological comments and for my pains received a most unusual communication from a Mysterious Welshman calling himself Gruffydd. Maybe he or somebody would like to tell us how the report on the hoard is coming along, when will we be able to study the die links of the coins in this assemblage through the medium of the monographic publication? When will that be out please? After all, what is this Treasure Act for if it is not to facilitate full documentation and publication of the hundreds of hoards and other important finds hoiked out of the archaeological record of England and Wales by Treasure hunters with metal detectors?

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: More "Archaeologists Supporting Artefact Hunting"

Over on a metal detecting forum near you, one "sinclairuser" from "Castleford in the soviet state of West Yorkshire" writes (Wed Jul 24, 2013 1:59 am ) in the thread discussing the Gary Brun/Gordon Heritage TV show "Hoard Hunters":
hi all being in a unique position here, in that i,m an archeologist/historian first and detectorist second, i just wanted to state a few points.
He suggests the programme producers should have used a different "token archie" who should be replaced by "the local PAS rep", and he also disapproves of "putting trash(metal) back in the ground" ("unforgivable for any responsible detectorist"). He then adds:
detecting does not need to win over archeologists, THEY ALL understand the need and benefits of detectors and geotechnology even if they only admit it privately. we are of course in a rebirth currently as just about every mover and shaker in uk archeology is pro detecting within the PAS framework upto and including an amnesty for nighthawks detecting unknown/virgin sites. the public at large are the ones who need "schooling" in what is right and proper detecting practice.
Indeed, and is PAS doing enough in that regard? Absolutely not. His definition of "nighthawks" was queried, and "Sinclairuser" explains (Thu Jul 25, 2013 1:39 am ):
my definition of nighthawk is someone who steals be that from us, landowners or the nation. these people are not detectorists they are the sort of people who would rob you anyway the detector is a means to an end, i really get that, so do a lot of archies. But there are sites being "night detected" by an extremely small number of "renegades" this form of "nighthawking" is very rare and takes place on land where the usual archeology/heritige (sic) procedures never took place, due to it being nationalised, m.o.d. or the rich and powerfull. in this case its important for the site to be opened up and investigated. the question of trespass is minor, the recognition of finding the object or potentially the site is the hook to come clean. BUT what the PAS would term nighthawking as is basically anyone detecting/removing items from somewhere they don't have permission for.
gurble, garble, waffle, flim-flam, flum. Sharp-as-a-knife terminology there from Archaeologist Sinclair user outreaching to the tekkies.  With diction like that, does he work for the PAS, or did he flunk the written exam? When he joined the forum, however, he decided to do so incognito. On his 'profile' it says under "occupation": "radio/detector engineer".

I think we have here another example of that curious tekkie tradition, producing sock-puppet pseudo-archaeologists speaking out in favour of artefact hunting. I have written of this a number of times (most recently in April, "Maintaining the Myth in Ipswich"). The intention of the metal detectorist writers of such deliberately misleading texts is to create the impression that archaeologists (in the UK) are rock-solid behind the artefact hunters. To the educated eye, it is quite clear that "Sinclairuser" is not who he claims to be, but to the intended readers his text is supposed to be yet another testimonial to the idea of a widely-supported archaeologist-artefact hunting "partnership" in exploiting the archaeological record as a source of collectables dug up and scattered for personal entertainment and profit. The fact is that, outside one misguided organization, the PAS, and its camp-followers, such testimonials from real (not pretend) archaeologists are few and far between. So, in order to maintain the myth, the detectorists make them up.

To what extent ARE British archaeologists  "pro-detecting" and see the "need" for it? The establishment pushes a tolerance (nay, "partnership") approach as the public face, but what are real archaeologists actually saying "privately"? And do they use some of that 'book-larning' punctuation when they discuss their real views? 

Vignette: Sinclair

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Death of Ernst-Ulrich Walter

Ernst-Ulrich Walter, the man who told the Aboutaams he'd found the Apollo statue, later to be known as "the Cleveland Apollo" after the museum that bought it on his say-so, has died (24/07/2013).

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

US Iraqi Loot: Assyrian Head to be Seized

Courtyard News Service (Dan McCue, "Looted Assyrian Head Will Return to Iraq" Wednesday, July 24, 2013) thinks we should all be jolly happy that but only "The United States will return an ancient Assyrian head to Iraq, 10 years after it was stolen and smuggled out of the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003". The object is apparently still in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security.
The Customs Service investigated the sale of the Assyrian head by an antiquities dealer in Dubai to a collector in New York in 2008. Law enforcement agents learned that the dealer, Hassan Fazeli, "advised the purchaser that the defendant property was from Iraq, but that Fazeli would list an incorrect country of origin on the United States Customs importation documents," according to the federal complaint. "Fazeli acknowledged to the purchaser that he often listed 'Turkey' as the country of origin on United States Customs importation documents because he had Turkish papers he could use." Prosecutors claim they know of at least two prior occasions when Fazeli tried such a ruse, in each case trying to smuggle Egyptian antiquities into the U.S. Fazeli shipped the Assyrian head to the United States on July 30, 2008. In addition to allegedly falsely stating it was from Turkey, he listed its value as $6,500, though it has been appraised at $1.2 million, the United States [says]. U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman issued a seizure warrant for the shipment containing the antiquity Aug. 12, 2008. Customs agents seized the head the next day. 
Just in case its readers do not know, Couurtroom News Service helpfully adds: "Assyrians are indigenous people of Iraq, being descendents of the ancient Mesopotamians" and (perhaps they missed the newspaper stories): "Widespread looting of antiquities in Iraq broke out shortly after U.S. troops entered Baghdad on April 8, 2003, with a focal point of the activity being Iraq's National Museum".

The case is discussed in more detail (with quotations from the court documents) by Rick St Hilaire ("Seized Assyrian Head Named in Forfeiture Complaint - Smuggling Allegations Raised", Wednesday, July 24, 2013) who is as puzzled as the rest of us about the delay in starting procedings to return the item. Perhaps it has been decorating a HS office as a trophy somewhere in the interim?

It is rare in cases like this for details to be released about the name of the person involved at one end of the chain (the collector who bought it is not named). St Hilaire has checked and found that the Dubai dealer is facing no criminal charges in the US in this or any other case. So presumably is free to carry on trading. The court documents mention his role in the shipping of Egyptian objects from Dubai to the US.   
Vignette: Gilgamesh strangles the illicit antiquities trade (Louvre), the US cannot quite seem to manange the feat.

North American Coiney with Neo-Nazi Sympathies

The sister of a New Brunswick man who left everything he owned to an American neo-Nazi group has obtained an injunction to keep the estate from leaving the province Monday.
 The estate is worth almost $250,000 and contains a vast collection of ancient coins, some of them gold [...] When Harry Robert McCorkill died in 2004 in his late 60s, he left his estate to the National Alliance, a U.S. white supremacist group [...]   The antique coins and reference books alone are worth an estimated $55,710. One coin, worth $4,500 according to an appraiser’s estimate, dates from when the Carthaginian general Hannibal occupied northern Italy.
Perhaps imported from Munich? We recall the discussion a few weeks ago with some US collectors who want to keep their hands on Nazi documentation from Europe.  Where do these American Neo-Nazis come from?

Eric Andrew-Gee, 'Injunction stops New Brunswick man’s legacy of hate from leaving to U.S. neo-Nazi group',  The Star (Canada) Tue Jul 23 2013

 Neo-Nazi organisation to accept million-dollar silver collection Ancient Roman Coin Blog.

Vignette: Reportedly an NA rally. 

No Exhibition of Sicilian Antiquities at Cleveland Museum of Art

US Relic Hunting: "What we won the right for from the British"

Chicago Mike (Michael Burmeister)  contributes (24th July) to a thread ("Anthropology Group Objects to TV Show 'Dig Wars'..") on Inside Higher Education very revealing of the tekkie thought processes:
I as a person who has enjoyed the metal detecting hobby for more than 30 year's I believe that the archaeologist would be more open to us . I mainly look for coin's or item's that people have lost , I have never gone relic hunting and would like to some day in England where when you find something it is turned in to a corner who either say's that it is either part of a hoard or just a lost by someone and if it is a hoard it's part of the crown and if it's a item of historic value the museum's bid's on the item and the finder has a right to accept or reject the offer if he take's the offer the money is split between the land owner and the finder if the offer is rejected the finder can either donate the item.
Wow. I suppose it was too much effort to check those "facts"...Even in Chicago, I bet you can find out how the system in "England" actually works, and the real name of the official to whom  you report Treasure finds. Anyway the hapless apostrophe-abuser continues, addressing the readers of Inside Higher Education:
We find what you are looking for and we don't take forever putting it on display. You have a wealth of information that you have either been told about or which is in documents that can lead you to these site's . And instead of putting the item's out for people to see they sit in locked room's being either studied or cataloged all of which you should already have information on . I haven't been to a field museum because of this when will you say enough and show all the item's that you have not just what you might think that people would like to see . In high school I was very interested in our history I got B's and C's in school we are told in school about thing's that happened but we were never showed at the museum how an item was used we had to guess and that is what we in the hobby . Once I found out what happens to item's that you have and don't display I lost interest in history
Well, I hope in his no-kid-left-behind school this guy got Fs for the punctuation of his written work. I am a bit puzzled about why these people want to see rows and rows of pieces of pottery and broken flint laid out on permanent display so "people can see what you have".  Is it part of the "your government is keeping something from you" trope? When I was a kid in England, I lived near two museums which still had exactly this approach to display, they both had rows of massive mahogany cases (where are those tropical hardwood cases now?) with boards with rows and rows of potsherds pinned to them, several tens of thousands of them. Further along there were rows and rows of flints. Fascinating places for a kid obsessed by archaeology. I looked and looked at them every time I was there, which was any weekend my parents were in town shopping (they'd dump me there and collect me several hours later I made it vocally very clear that I hated traipsing round shops). I am not sure what it actually gave me. Those old nineteenth century displays were changed, first Colchester, then Ipswich. I resented that to be sure, there was an air of old-world charm about the old displays, but the new ones were what (I think) people needed more. It is interesting though to see the artefact collector hankering after the nineteenth century approach. He goes on to make the point they all do: 
I don't make a lot of money doing this hobby that's because I'm in this hobby for the fun and exercise that come's with the hobby but now day's I don't get to do my hobby much because people like you are telling the people that are in government that we are people that don't care and that is the farthest from the truth we do care . You see us as thief's and looter's we want everyone to see what is out there and we want everyone to enjoy but if you don't let anyone enjoy his freedom in his hobby you are going to lose something very close and that is the right to be free . And isn't that what we won the right for from the British .
Ol' King George was an implacable opponent of metal detecting. Famous for it. (I do not think it was because he saw them as "thiefs and looter's" as much as information thieves and losers.)  Notice here how the argument about conservation has been shifted to "telling the people that are in government that we are people that don't care" - and this allowing the rejoinder, "but we do care". Sneaky, or is the writer actually totally unaware of what the issue actually is? (That's a rhetorical question by the way).  

I wonder if Chicago Mike can see a way for "everyone to see what is out there" and "everyone to enjoy" without greedy individuals digging holes into it to take out the collectable items and discard the rest? Is trashing sites by hoiking out collectables making "the past" available to "everybody"?  I do not think it is, any more that shooting rhinos to hack off their horns to sell to those who want to buy some is making this bit of "nature" available for "everyone to enjoy". It's the same argument.

So to come back to the argument: "we don't take forever putting it on display" or "putting the item's (sic) out for people" instead of hoarding them away in "locked room's" (sic). when, for example, will metal detectorists like Chicago Mike "show all the item's (sic) that [they] have"? Where is the Chicago-Mike Field Museum, for example?   Where are all of Chicago Mike's finds on permanent display  for "everyone to enjoy" and so "everyone [can] see what [was] out there", that is was out there in the archaeological record before Chicago Mike and his mates hoiked them out and carted them away to their personal collections?

Vignette: off to kill some Brits.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Changing Trends in the Antiquities Market or Idle Chitchat?

almost seems these days to be batting more for US collectors and dealers ('If You Believe That Antiquities Looting is Driven by Rich Americans or Europeans, Think Again', Saturday, July 20, 2013). he argues that it is a "naive view" that reducing the demand for antiquities by collectors and museums in the US and Europe will lead to looting of archaeological sites to supply the global market with antiquities will be reduced concomitantly. Rothfield apparently now teeters on the edge of denying
that the global antiquities market is dominated by Western collectors.
The reality is that there are plenty of collectors from other parts of the globe whose demand is more than adequate to fuel looting. But don't take my word for that. Here's what a Greek detective has to say [...]
Mr Tsoukalis believes the most popular buyers are Russians, Chinese and Latin Americans.[...] "We've tracked down ancient Greek antiquities as far away as Colombia - in the hands of drug dealers".
On that basis he suggests that we need to concentrate on "other means" of combating the trade in illicit artefacts rather than just going after American and European public opinion, collectors and dealers. Agreed. I think though we have to be very careful with using such arguments. The dugup dealers' lobbyist Peter Tompa has bounded into the ring ("Reality Check" Tuesday, July 23, 2013) schoolboyishly proclaiming that "it's not our fault!"
Kudos to Larry Rothfield for exposing the fallicy (sic) of the outdated claim that demand from American and European collectors drives looting.  These days wealthy Gulf Arabs, Chinese and Russians are far more likely to buy recently looted material.
"Wealthy Gulf Arabs, Chinese and Russians" - the Moslem "threat", the "yellow peril" and the "Reds" three US stereotypical bogeymen in one breath.

Let us note what the Greek detective actually says. I'll point out first that it is unclear from the BBC article where and when the sting described actually was - and indeed who Detective Georgios Tsoukalas actually is (I'd be grateful for help here from readers). Is he this Independent Law Practice Professional? [Surely not though this one (!)].

What he actually says is that in his opinion Greek looters are looting to sell stuff outside Greece to foreign markets and "the most popular buyers are Russians, Chinese and Latin Americans". He adds the (otherwise unconfirmed) anecdotal information that "Greek antiquities [have ended up] as far away as Colombia - in the hands of drug dealers". Firstly the Colombian link, he does not say if the drug dealer was dealing in Greek antiquities or collecting them. In fact this story is a bit vague, Donna Yates - the go-to lady on South American looting these days -  was querying it on Twitter. I'd like to see some more details on this.

To what extent is Tsoukalas' phrase "Russians, Chinese and Latin Americans" police information and or is it just pub-chat expressing a local variant of the xenophobic stereotypes? Note the lack of a mention of the overland route (through Macedonia or Bulgaria) to German and Swiss markets? More to the point (bearing in mind Tompa's spin), no mention of "Gulf State Arabs".Are these names not quoted here mainly to express the idea that greek heritage is being carted off, "far away"?

Is Tsoukalas really saying that the European and US market in dugup Greek antiquities is insignificant besides the others as both Rothfield and Tompa would have it?

Let us finally note that one reason why the US might not be a "popular" buyer is precisely because of the fact that there is an MOU with Greece and packages containing Greek antiquities run a igher risk of being detained going through that border than, for example, the Colombian one. The MOU would therefore have shut down one sector of the global market  to Greek smugglers.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Khaled bin Walid mausoleum

Assad army damages Khaled bin Walid mausoleum in Homs, Syria. The building itself comes from the beginning of the 20th century, but has huge symbolic value.

Vignette: shell damage

Qatar Currently Building Encyclopaedic Museum Collections

A New York Times article notes with apparent suspicion that Qatar ("a tiny Persian Gulf country with enormous wealth and cultural ambitions to match") is "buying art at a level never seen before":
“They’re the most important buyers of art in the market today,” said Patricia G. Hambrecht, the chief business development officer for Phillips auction house. “The amount of money being spent is mind-boggling.” The purchasing is directed through intermediaries by Sheika al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, chairwoman of the Qatar Museums Authority and a sister to Qatar’s new emir. At age 30 she has become one of the most influential players in the art world. 
Sheika al Mayassa (Mozah) is reported to have a budget somewhere about $1 billion a year to spend on purchases by the museum authority, of which she was named chairwoman by her father, the former emir, in 2006. The Qataris have used it to secure from dealers and at auction "a host of undisputed modern and contemporary masterpieces by Francis Bacon, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons". Art experts say the sheika is trying to amass the best of the best, whatever the price. Leila Heller, a New York dealer suggests that  Sheika al Mayassa “wants to make Doha a hub for art in the region, where people don’t necessarily have to fly to New York and to Paris and to L.A. to see great shows. Doha has an ambitious plan of opening close to 20 museums of different kinds”. Other items are also flowing into Qatar, readers may remember the Prospero Collection of ancient coins ('Buyer of Prospero Collection Coins Reportedly Having Trouble Paying' 18 November 2012 see here: Saud bin Muhammed Al Thani for the background). Sheika al Mayassa is quoted as indicating the role art will play in Qatar’s future: 
“We are revising ourselves through our cultural institutions and cultural development [...] Art becomes a very important part of our national identity.” In an interview that year with The New York Times, the sheika suggested that establishing art institutions might challenge Western preconceptions about Muslim societies. “My father often says, in order to have peace, we need to first respect each other’s cultures,” she said. “And people in the West don’t understand the Middle East. They come with Bin Laden in their heads.” 
And the crux for the NYT article:
American art institutions could be expected to be frustrated to see so many important pieces leaving the United States. But some museum executives say that’s just how it goes. “Sure, there are lots of works of art that we have absolutely wanted,” said Glenn D. Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art. “But if Rothko and de Kooning and Kline, among others, end up circulating in Moscow, Qatar and Shanghai, that’s not so bad — it’s a projection of American culture and importance that is meaningful.”
 The dugup dealers' lobbyist Peter Tompa makes however the suggestion that American dealers should be cut some slack over importing illegally exported antiquities and works of art now the US does not play such a dominant role in the art market ('Qatar and Other Newly Rich Countries Change Market Dynamics', Tuesday, July 23, 2013). "It's also well known the Gulf Arabs also have a taste for high quality antiquities" he whines, and if the industry is forced to concentrate only on legally obtained material, the US will no longer be so competative.

Source: Robin Pogrebin, 'Qatari Riches Are Buying Art World Influence', New York Times, July 22, 2013.

Vignette: Qatar.

PASofAmerica: Getting it Up

Metal detectorist John Howland to pineapple fantasising Florida archaeology graduate Lisa McIntyre:
"Now, if anyone can get a US version of the PAS up and running, you can".  
Hear how she's going to do it on the Butch Holcombe American Digger/ 'Relic Roundup' chatshow tonight.

Still, that will please the ACCG who've been moaning that the PAS-idea has not been catching on. Now somebody else is doing it (that's the way coineys like it), maybe they'll condescend to jump on the bandwaggon. 

American Anthropological Association Belatedly Objects to TV Show 'Dig Wars'

Quick off the mark in America, on July 10th the American Anthropological Association wrote to the Travel Channel objecting to and asking for changes in the TV show "Dig Wars" ('Anthropology Group Objects to TV Show 'Dig Wars'...', Inside Higher Ed July 22, 2013). This show (on US TV since June 12th 2013) is set around Chicago Ron and has been discussed here and here and on a host of detecting forums and blogs near you:
contestants are sent to various locations with metal detectors to see if they can locate and dig up antiquities. The material they dig up is called "loot," and is evaluated for its financial value. "Reasonable viewers watching this program may be mistakenly led to believe that such behaviors are ethically acceptable," says the letter. "On the contrary, the looting as portrayed in the show is deeply disturbing. The overall message is that this nation's cultural and historical heritage is 'loot' that is up for grabs for anyone with a metal detector and shovel. This is the wrong message to give the public, especially in an age when so many historical sites are disappearing."
True to form, the old chalk-and-cheese:
A spokeswoman for the Travel Channel said via e-mail that no laws are broken. She said that [...] the channel believes that "metal detecting enthusiasts should always abide by state and federal laws." 
"No laws are broke" ain't ethics lady. Their dullard spokeswoman also reckons hoiking them out of the ground is some form of "preservation" and assures us that Travel Channel welcomes "dialogue". She says they also hope that their "programming will continue to inspire viewers to travel to new destinations to discover each location's unique history". Just down the corridor, Animal Planet is organizing televised fluffy animal hunting expeditions, hoping this will encourage more people to get out to new destinations to discover each location's unique natural history and blow it brains out. That's conservation commercial TV style.

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: "How to Save the heritage From Nighthawk Scum"

UK Detecting Rallies "Open" Weekend dig, August Bank holiday 3 day event (Arrive on Friday 23rd after 2pm, detect 24th, 25th 26th, leave on 27th 10am).  [Apostrophes as in original]
500 acres in Thaxted, Essex. CM6 3QF. We will be camping on a stubble field. There will be Dealers, Toilets, Snack Wagon, water supply, we have the Barn with a bar next to the camp site and possibly a live band (awaiting conformation) [sic] Shops, Pubs/restaurants & B&B's in the nearby village. Weekend Pre booked Fee's £30 for 3 days  Or Pre Book £10 per day if you require a one or two day ticket please state which day/days. [...]Or: pay on the day £15 per day.
Another one based in Luton. What however is more significant (except for the absence of a mention of sufficient pre-arranged PAS attendance) is this:
We have been on this farm before and had some fantastic finds from Celtic, Roman, Saxon to Medieval. This farmer told me that every 7 years he ploughs the fields as deep as he can go, This year he is making an exception and has agreed to do it one year early for our weekend rally.
Deliberately Ploughing up the Past for Profit? So, should the PAS be attending? Remember when they said that they were "rescuing the stuff from the (supposedly) hostile ploughsoil? What hypocrisy then to deliberately seek to get artefacts from the layers below the active ploughsoil into that environment so they can hoik out some of them and cart them off? And what about the artefacts brought up from those previously undisturbed layers and now in the active ploughsoil because the artefact hunters requested it, and then are not "rescued" during the weekend commercial artefact hunting grabfest? Is there a commitment from members to go back there afterwards with their GPSs to recover them too before they "deteriorate"? Will they be paying the farmer too?  Where will the record be deposited?

Well, Not Really a Matter of Such Great Concern

Readers may remember the "petition" got together by a group of antiquity dealers intended to hound one of their number. By the middle of March 2013 they'd got 93 collectors and other dealers to sign. Today, the number is barely over a hundred - and includes one archaeologist (!):
Name not displayed, Japan # 104 (using the petition as springboard/advert for accusation of a shipwreck salvor)  
Mr. Matthew Orkisz, MI Jun 26, 15:26 # 103
Name not displayed, NY  May 28, 13:39 # 102 ("I worked there. FAKE!!!")
Mr. Richard Nable, GA May 04, 20:03 # 101
Mr. Tom Baker, NY Apr 04, 15:17  # 100
Drs. Maarten Kersten (Egyptologist/archaeologist), Netherlands Apr 04, 10:11 # 99 ("As an egyptologist/archaeologist I hate the hardly discernable fakes as fraud! Not the cheep tourist fakes of which villagers indeed are dependent. But not only the "chique" fraud is immoral ! Here in Holland we have currently a huge discussion on a famous kind of "Antques Roadhow" on tv, in which showing of and so encouraging trading in illegally imported genuine antiquities is to be condemned" - so is signing a dealers' petition, logical?).
The one that takes the biscuit however is the bloke who used to work with a dealer who he is now calling a fake seller. Duh, if you work with him, and know you are handling fakes Mr 'Name not displayed' and did not report him at the time, you are an accessory to a crime. Not exactly a person the US authorities should be heeding.

Hate, or Duff Beer, Rots the Braincells

After one Duff Beer too many, one suspects, Dealer Dave tries to rationalise the findings of Peter B. Campbell in his recent article ("The Illicit Antiquities Trade as a Transnational Criminal Network: Characterizing and Anticipating Trafficking of Cultural Heritage") in International Journal of Cultural Property ("[no title] "Sunday, July 21, 2013). He does not bother to review the text itself, or comment on its conclusions, like the 'scholar', he actually is (like a certain UK metal detectorist on July 9th), he got as far as the "acknowledgements" at the bottom of the first page. Here's what he deduces on that basis:  [my comments in grey, my emphasis in bold]:
The fact that Campbell cites the notoriously radical archaelogy-blogger (and sometime archaeologist) Paul Barford as one of his most important sources speaks for itself [actually Campbel acknowledges by name sixteen people]  

Barford is well known as an extremist of the most bitter, and unnecessarily provocative, stripe. [...] His repetitive and unjustified criticism of the antiquities trade and antiquities collectors is founded not upon laws and regulation, but upon his own unique radical theory: that provenance is essential and that no one should be allowed to possess or trade in unprovenanced antiquities. [actually that is not what I say] This narrow-minded perspective is shared only amongst a small group of the most unreasonably radical archaeologists, amongst whom Michael Mueller-Karpe is a notorious example. [totally off-topic and wandering excursus on the latter]  [...]  Clearly this radical extremist is so far removed from the mainstream of archaeological thinking that his views must be dismissed as irrelevant insofar as cultural property law is concerned. That irrelevance ipso facto completely discredits what Barford, and by extension Campbell, maintain to be the standard of ethics for antiquities collectors and dealers.

So that's it, the dealers' answer to Campbell. Among the people he cites is this heretic radical, so "ipso facto" is completely discredited. No need to read "all those words", eh Dave? Mr Campbell is based at Southampton, one of the centres of archaeological excellence in the UK. Perhaps in a US university in Dealer Dave's experience, reading an archaeoloblog and a few websites and writing an article around them might be considered "deep research", but it seems to me that Mr Campbell cites quite a lot of details independent of the blogs of the people he mentioned in the acknowledgements. Enough, and used in a way which would not prompt me to simply dismiss it out of hand as Dealer Dave attempts to do.

Let us separate questions of ethics (responsibilities) from what is required by the letter of the law. The ACCG clearly equates the two. In many areas of life, including all manner of commerce, they are however not the same, never have been and never will be.

It is hardly "radical" to state that the global antiquities market is the destination of stolen and looted artefacts. It is hardly "radical' to suggest that the looting and smuggling of antiquities is only profitable because people will buy them, either knowingly or unknowingly. What - in reality - is "radical" about that?

I'd be interested to know how one could characterise "mainstream archaeological thinking" on a global scale on the antiquities market and antiquities collecting, in the so-called "source countries" for example, or even in Dealer Dave's own country. The AIA for example - are they, or are they not, representative of US "mainstream archaeological thinking"? Actually I think, like many statements from this milieu, this is more representative of antiquitists' wishful thinking than any real knowledge about archaeology, archaeologists and what archaeologists as a whole think.I suppose it is pretty difficult to get such knowledge if you do not actually read beyond the bottom of the first page on anything, and maybe look at the pictures...

Ceramic Fragmentation Analysis

"As a curator I've often wondered why so many Greek pots in museums are broken. Now I know :-)"

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Farmer Brown: “So you think you’re insured against damage by artefact hunters?"


An important public information notice from Heritage Action's Farmer Brown:

The text also considers the liabilty of a farmer to injury to the artefact hunter on their land if they are there due to having a "contract" (to search the land and take away items, including to the financial benefit of the landowner). He urges landowners to seek legal advice whether such a contract (finds agreement) does not give the artefact hunter a position where he "can sue the pants off the landowner!”
Don’t let them wriggle. Make them ask their legal department if their advice to us to get a finds agreement could cost us dear in court, yes or no ?

Donna Yates on Detroit and Rio Azul

Following the news about the Detroit bankruptcy, Dr Donna Yates recalls the case of some of the material they bought, for example a vase discussed in the trafficking Culture encyclopaedia thought to have been looted in the late 1970s from Tomb 12 at the Guatemalan site of Río Azul.

Stephan Salisbury (1986, ‘The Struggle to Save a Past From Plunder’, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 11 May) reports that the vase was offered for sale, along with other objects, by the Andre Emmerich Gallery in New York. It was reportedly subsequently in the possession of  businessman Peter G. Wray (Scottsdale, Arizona) and was bought by the Detroit Institute of Arts in April 1984 (accession number 1984.12.A, Arthur H. Nixon Fund). Donna Yates quotes a notable soundbite from the Philadelphia Inquirer article:
When then-curator of African, Oceanic and New World Art Michael Kan was asked if the museum required any export permit documentation proving the item was legal before purchasing the piece he responded, ‘Oh, heavens no. Who has time to do that? We’re very busy people here. I don’t know what that’s like. It’s like asking people if they check out every vitamin that’s in a capsule’ (Michael Kan, quoted in Salisbury 1986).

Donna Yates: "The rape of Rio Azul was heartbreaking: I used this for a poster for @saveantiquities You Have Been Robbed". If the Detroit Institute has got the loot, then how can they sell it? At least however if it comes on the market, that is one way to get them to come absolutely clean about where each item came from and was vetted by them. It would be a laugh if many of the items could not find a buyer due to poor documentation by a "too busy" museum of due diligence and collecting histories. 

Vignette: DIA Rio Azul pot

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Mistaken Identity?

Since these days anyone can come across all manner of archaeological artefacts and decide to sell them, detecting1969 ( 15 Feedback score, all private sales) from Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom writes:
hi and welcome, my hobby is metal detecting been doing it now nearly two years, I came a cross this Saxon penny last Friday and decided to sell it, i know nothing about it a part from its silver and i have been told it could be very rare, size of the coin 20 mm weighs 1.9 grams. I will start the auction of at 99p so grab yourself a bargain listing only for one day quick sale, good luck. "This listing was ended by the seller because there was an error in the listing".
Yes, he probably forgot to say that it was Wulfred Archbishop of Canterbury silver group II, transitional monogram, Obv. facing bust with large pellet each side of face. R. monogram of DOROBERNIA. Moneyer Saeberht (North 240. S.888)  sold for 2600 quid in June 2009 by London Coins - so how did it end up in a Nottinghamshire metal detectorist's finds pouch, and why's he in such a hurry to sell it ?He's also selling a Garrett Euro Ace metal detector.

Hat tip to Richard of Englishammered

Good News for the Trade in Ancient Greek Dugup Antiquities

In Greece, there has been a rise in the last three years in illegal trading of dugup archaeological artefacts. According to police reports, there has been a 30% increase since the crisis took hold in 2009.
Detective Gergios Tsoukalis  says  "In the last few years with the crisis, people who have reached their limits have become more easily tempted. They are more likely to either sell antiquities in their possession or search for them in abandoned excavation sites, in order to sell what they find to dealers who take them abroad". He believes the most popular buyers are Russians, Chinese and Latin Americans. "We've tracked down ancient Greek antiquities as far away as Columbia - in the hands of drug dealers".

So it seems there is no better time if you want to buy some Greek antiquities - no questions asked...

Amid Greek austerity, plunder of priceless treasures', Watch Theopi Skarlatos' report in full at the BBC's Fast Track website 

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