Monday, 30 September 2013

Is it just me?

Is it just me, or do other readers get a
You don't have permission to access [...] on this server." 
message when they try to access documents on the UNESCO Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws? Is it something I said?

 In for a penny, for well over a year now the link to the list of states parties to the 1970 UNESCO convention seems not to be working (for me at least). Anyone got any idea why? or is it my computer?

Keep Spinning it Out... Baltimore Coins Test Case one Big Yawn

It seems Rick St Hilaire is as bored as the rest of us watching the ACCG's lawyers draw out still further the process of getting the Baltimore Illegal Coin Import Stunt forfeiture case into court: "Accusations pepper the ACCG's pleadings as the trade group makes efforts to paint a picture of intrigue and wrongdoing within the U.S. State Department" that's basically it (Rick St. Hilaire, 'Accusations, Embargoes, and More of Same for Baltimore Coins Test Case', Cultural Heritage Lawyer blogspot Monday, September 30, 2013).

Focus on Metal Detecting: Buckland Brewer Rally

There was a commercial artefact hunting rally held this weekend near Buckland Brewer in North Devon which sounds from the forum chatter to have been a right shambles (Fishermansam , Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:04 pm and Keeleyohara, Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:58 pm). The participants were reportedly not able to find the site using the maps supplied at the gathering point. One of them mentions trying to access "land right around a famous iron age castle (sic)" then "the land surrounding a 13th c. market village". Another also headed "for the castle area". The problem was that the fields indicated as available on the map were full of tall vegetation (such as Christmas trees) or otherwise inaccessible ("the guy who gave me the map was very enthusiastic and said "good things should come from there its never been detected" well i should of twigged on then really ..."). In the case of the castle site, a fellow detectorist "said hed been trying for over an hour to get to the area that the castle was and that it was completely inaccessible boggy marshland full of trees and very high grass and had given up" so the participants "made our way to another area with was supposed to be a settlement but either these ancient people didnt have 2 pennies to rub together or it had been detected before".

It seems the organizers had not done their homework and inspected the site before selling the tickets: 
we then had an organiser come up and say the farmer hadnt listen to a word the club had said about the type of land to detect on and apologised on behalf of the club and said he was opening up the rest of the land that was being saved for the next days dig
I bet both the organizer and the farmer kept their money though. Throughout the rally, participants were coming up with almost no collectable finds at all (nota bene which was said by all to be unusual - "evey single person i spoke to had not found a single thing not even the tin foil and gun cartridges ") and the thinking was that all of the fields made available had been heavily detected before, and thus already depleted of any collectable elements of the archaeological record. Note also one other thing, these people are all targeting likely productive areas next to ('castle', market town) or on ("settlement") known sites and monuments. Their collecting is not random.

Vignette: One way to stop metal detecting

Military Stationed in Afghanistan told not to buy Looted Artefacts

Afghanistan is awash with historical artefacts, but soldiers are being told it's not acceptable to buy and export looted antiquities (duh) ['Aussie soldiers told not to buy Afghan loot' SBS News 30 Sep 2013].

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Our Generation's Lost Heritage: Archaeology Drops the Ball

Jonathan Owen, 'Heritage sites being left at mercy of planners, archaeologists warn', Independent Sunday 29 September 2013.

UK budget cuts will leave future generations with huge gaps in the preservation of the historical heritage as there was no one there to protect it:
[UK] Archaeologists have warned that budget cuts to the sector will leave future generations facing a lost legacy of historic heritage abandoned “to short-termism” and “financial expediency”.
So sort of like archaeological sites all over the country also gutted of most of their diagnostic metal artefacts in a single generation - a lost legacy of historic heritage abandoned “to short-termism” and “political expediency”. So the rest figures:
Specialist advisers act as a safeguard against planning proposals which would otherwise damage local heritage, as they help councils to make informed decisions. Yet local councils across England have lost about one in three archaeological advisers and building conservation experts since 2006, according to the charity.[...] The number of archaeological advisers, including historic environment records (HER) officers, has fallen by 28 per cent, and building conservation advisers have been cut by 33 per cent over the past seven years. In the past 12 months alone the number of archaeological specialists has fallen by 3 per cent and the numbers of conservation officers by 4 per cent.[...] Campaigners are calling for “responsibility for the nation’s heritage” to be borne equally by local and national government. The provision of conservation and archaeological services, to safeguard the historic and built environment, should be made a statutory obligation on all local authorities, Rescue proposes, but says that also means they should be given the resources needed to do this.
Perhaps not the main factor, but certainly not insignificant in the undermining of the position of archaeology and conservation is the message that "anyone can do it' with a metal detector and that by hoiking stuff out of archaeological sites, we are in some way preserving heritage. Archaeology has dropped the ball in not explaining matters in an articulate and meaningful way loud and long enough for the preservation message to hit home, but merely "going with the FLO" (sorry, could not resist) and keeping quiet about the insidious destruction of archaeological evidence for the entertainment and profit of an exploitive minority right under their very noses.

If Britain cannot afford or organize these measures, what are the hopes for other, poorer countries?  And (to address another point made on behalf of collectors) as we see, the mere fact that there is a free market for antiquities in Britain, does not in any way improve the financial position of archaeology there - and nor can it in the specific legal conditions which are the background to that market. On the contrary the Treasure Act costs public funds (or funds from the public) that could be more usefully employed in heritage research and preservation than being put into the pocket of a lone Treasure hunter who's targeted a site and hoiked something out from deep down under the plough horizon.

In Praise of Britain's Polish Metal Detectorists

Igor Murawski ("Von Worden") suggests that the fact I have written about their annual commercial rally indicates that I have something against Polish metal detectorists in Britain just because they are Polish (rather an odd idea considering where I live) and insinuates:
Surely [this is] not because we are the first club in the UK in which members have obligation to report 100% of their historical finds to PAS, another target of your hate-posts?
This suggests that Mr Murawski has not even begun to get to grasp with the reasoning behind my comments on this blog, neither about reporting of finds, the effects of current policies on the archaeological record, the heritage issues at stake  nor the PAS. Still, that's more his problem than mine. I'd like to turn to the comment about the manner in which his club considers itself exceptional.

There were at last count about 200 artefact hunting clubs in the UK, most of them (like Mr Murawski's) affiliated to the NCMD and applying only THEIR Code of Conduct (but then only a few of them having a specific clause in their membership regulations obliging members to abide by it). Only one other UK-based artefact hunting club, as far as we know, obliges its members to abide by the official Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales, and that is the Crawley and District Metal Detecting Group West Sussex which makes reporting finds compulsory - “Any person found not declaring finds to the Finds Liaison Officer will be expelled from the group immediately“. Maybe Mr Murawski can point us to the regulations of his own group which sets out this stipulation, I could not find them on the website or forum. The CDMDG was founded in 2006, the Polish club in 2009 so I am not sure whether the claim that the Poles were the "first" can be upheld.

It is a shame that if every single one of the Polish club's finds are PAS-recorded, the photos in the website's gallery are not captioned with the PAS number allowing the viewer to go to the actual record instead of having to guess what it shows. But then exactly the same comment can be applied to the Crawley club's webpage finds gallery.

So if a group of thirty folk in Crawley can introduce such a rule in their club and the expat Poles in theirs and both clubs have people fighting to join, why cannot the other hundred and ninety or so other artefact hunting clubs in Britain apply such a rule to their members, both in their independent searching, as well as their participation in club 'digs' and other commercial artefact hunting rallies? What is preventing them all becoming paragons of responsibility?

PhDiva on the Leutwitz Apollo

Dorothy Lobel King ‏@DorothyKing 12 h anyone who claims it's a Greek original can't be taken seriously 
I would love to see the full results of those analyses, alloys, trace elements and corrosion products. Do you think they'd send them to me if I asked nicely?

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: How Much of this Advice was heeded by Fund-Raising Heritage Grabbers?

In the context of yesterday's Village Heritage Grabfest, it is worth noting that the Worlingworth Local Historical Society's website has been built with the help of a grant made by Suffolk County Council - and by a Community Projects grant from Mid-Suffolk District Council in 2009. This sits uneasily with the message of this document (one of the first in the country to set out archaeological concerns about rallies, well before the PAS got their finger out and were shamed into producing their own version).

I wonder just how many of the recommendations set out in this document were applied yesterday at the Worlingworth rally? In the interests of the wider heritage debate, I hope that the organizers will be producing some photos and maybe a video of the heritage grabbers in action so we can discuss this event in its broader context.

Where are the archaeological finds that were made in the fields of Worlingworth now? Where will they be in twenty years time?  How is scattering them without (please correct me if I am wrong) documentation "preserving" anything?

Focus onUK Metal Detecting: Loans to Museums

A British metal detectorist takes exception to my comments about the number of finds which are being hoiked out of the British archaeological record without being reported or recorded:
may I suggest you contact a few museums to see how many items I have given or are on long term loan agreements with them. Like everything you print, no research is ever undertaken to show what we contribute, only what we take.
First of all museums do not now release information which could be construed as personal data. I suggest if a metal detectorist wants to have that point taken into consideration, they'd do better to put the tally online themselves.

Secondly, and more importantly, by UK law, a museum has no business accepting any finds without the sign-off form from the original owner, that is the landowner. It is not the finder that is granting anything to the museum, but the landowner.

Thirdly, isolated individuals filling museums with loose displayable geegaws is  not the same as preserving archaeological context.

Worlingworth History Group Rally Today

If all went according to plan, today sees the beginning of the Worlingworth History Group commercial artefact hunting rally, looting the remains of the past to... er... save (o)the(r) remains of the past. Quicker and easier to rip out some of the brasses in the floor of the chancel and flog them off, I'd have thought. Heritage Action have a Message for the WHG (22/09/2013). Not that anyone in the village of Worlingworth appears to be in the slightest interested or concerned about this.
 WORLINGWORTH LOCAL HISTORY GROUP is holding its first METAL-DETECTING RALLY on the 29th September. Metal detectorists from all over the south-east of England are coming to Worlingworth to enjoy our hospitality and hopefully they'll uncover some interesting artefacts from the past. Funds raised will be ploughed back into the community in a number of ways. If the day proves to be a success, then it might become an annual event!
Covering more and more fields as each one becomes successively "hammered".

Saturday, 28 September 2013

"Daj mi adres pana HGW, wytłumaczę mu bardzo szybko że się myli i bardzo szybko przeprosi za zaistniałe chamstwo z jego strony ... "

Over on a metal detecting forum near you, discussion is continuing about the Fifth Offley commercial artefact hunting rally. But the people concerned would prefer to be the only people doing it:
"Może warto Drogi Panie P.B. pogadać z nami na naszym forum a nie obrażać?"
Insulting? Where, maybe they'd like to show us where they have been insulted in my post largely about Julian Watters and the PAS? These Poles seem quick to take offence at an imagined slight. If England is a country with "normal laws" and these folk are doing nothing wrong, then what is the problem with bringing out into the open what they are doing and discussing it openly? They want to participate in the joint archaeological heritage of the British Isles, then let them also participate in discussions about it. As for the guy ("Marand9", 29thSept 10:07) wanting my "address", the link to the blog leads also to its comments section. Let the rally participants feel free to use it to tell me where I am mistaken about what I, and everybody else, saw on that film.

As for my joining their online discussions, as I explained earlier, I tried to register to learn more about the group but was rejected ("Cultural Property Immigration: the UK's Polish "Historical Explorers"..." Thursday, 13 September 2012). I also invited these people to comment on my blog posts last year, but the group's members adopted a "don't speak to him" policy (not the first group of artefact hunters to do that).
Podaję adres blogu Paula Barforda, jednak proponuję by powstrzymać się od komentowania tam jego wpisów [...] zapewne blog pana PB działa jak kilka polskich for poszukiwawczych, gdzie "nieopoprawne" wpisy są momentalnie usuwane a jakakolwiek polemika niedopuszczalna.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Obviously if artefact hunters disagree with what I am saying or wish to address my concerns, this is the place to do it. I suggest if they are afraid that I will delete anything that does not suit me (the usual telkkie excuse for not engaging in proper discussion), then they can post the comment in duplicate, once here, with a copy on their own forum for all to see. 

UPDATE 2nd October 2013:
Needless to say, the vulgar comment has not been removed from the Thesaurus forum.

ACCG Run by Story-Telling Clowns

"To refrain from making unjustified and/or false statements
or misrepresentations
in my relations with others,
and to fully cooperate in the advancement
of our hobby and business in my relations
with collector and dealer alike".

I would have thought it recognisable by most normal people to be a rather risky task to attempt to write a biography (and psychological profile) of someone you have never met and have not the faintest idea of what he did where, when, with whom, why and in what order. But that is basically what the ACCG's Dave Welsh has just done, making it all up as he goes in his latest  ad hominem "Ancient Coins" commentary There is very little in this entire ill-researched text which is true, apart from my name being Paul Barford. Most of the disparate pieces of information Welsh hangs on that name are false or misrepresented.  Really, really pathetic.

This is US numismatic "professionalism" folks, at its very best and worst. These are the people running the ACCG.

They perhaps make up the same sort of baseless stories about the coins they acquire and sell ("yes this one was probably buried on the edge of a battlefield, you can see the brown spots, that's blood", "oh yes, licitly acquired, I talked to the man that dug it up myself").

UPDATE 29.09.13:
The clownish storytelling continues: "Mr. Barford's Provenance" (Sunday, September 29, 2013). The ACCG's Mr Welsh sets out his path of deduction which led to his first story and which, as have said, rather casts doubt on his powers of reasoning in general. 

He seems not to see any conflict in his (false) assertion that his subject allegedly "failed to matriculate  (he means graduate) from the Institute of Archaeology in London", yet within a few years "he became first an assistant lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw, and later was appointed as an Inspector of Ancient Monuments in the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland". He imagines I left both positions in 1989, because there is some kind of an "absence of any published account", I do not follow the logic there at all, there is none. He also regards it as significant whether I am digging at present or not (presumably for him on this hangs the use of the label "archaeologist"). Since he does not read Polish he will have missed the reports on my fieldwork well subsequent to 1989 date (and he missed the documented fact that while this blog has been in progress I have been absent doing archaeological fieldwork in Luxor, Egypt for four months in 2009, 2010 and 2011). But then, I do not think "digging" or "fieldwork" is the only thing archaeologists do. 

In answer to his last "point", I have never presented myself as an "expert", I write a blog, my blog is about an issue. I write it for myself, it can be read by those who want to read it, or can be ignored by those that do not. I really have no obligation to explain to anyone else any more than that, and nor do I intend to. I think there is more than enough about me on the internet already and, seeing the misuses unscrupulous people like the ACCG's Mr Welsh put it to, do not intend multiplying it. I feel absolutely no need to justify myself to the likes of Mr Welsh and Mr Tompa's sock-puppet-Houghton or their guffawing metal detectorist and pot-digging friends. 

UPDATE 7.10.13
As a kid I had one of those "wobbly men", on a hemispherical base that was weighted in such a way that it kept boucing up every time it was pushed over. Coineys have their own version, the "Davewelsh Wobbly Man". Here he is, regardless of what is true or not, again spouting forth the same wobblylibellous junk on Peter Tompa's blog.  
- Barford left the Institute of Archaeology in London without matriculating. 
Not a fact, can be checked in the Institute's journal where a summary of my dissertaion is published. Mr Welsh has not checked any facts, he's just making this up.
- I believe that he was later awarded a baccalaureate degree from the Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw.
Not a fact, Polish universities in this period did not offer such degrees (they do now). At the time I studied a five-year course led to a master's degree, which I was awarded before I started teaching there (documented in the Institute's prospectus for the time). Mr Welsh is ignorant of this.

-  Mr. Barford's expectations [...]  were thwarted by the fall of the Polish Communist regime
Not a fact, as for many people in Poland in 1989, funnily enough this was the beginning, not an end. 

As I said, Mr Welsh continues to make it up as he goes along, filling in what he does not know from his own wild imagination - totally divorced from the realities of place and time. Again, in any kind of writing history, context is all important, decontextualisation makes any attempt to write history pure fantasy. 

 This is US numismatic "professionalism" folks, at its very best and worst. These are the people running the ACCG.

To protect Syria's antiquities — don't buy them

Erin Thompson (professor of art crime at the City University of New York) has an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, To protect Syria's antiquities — don't buy them September 29, 2013.
Coins, jewelry, sculpture and other objects from Syria's archaeological sites can be stunningly beautiful and are eagerly sought by collectors. Recognizing the damage done by amateur diggers who supplied this trade in the past, Syria's domestic law has forbidden unauthorized excavation and export of antiquities since 1963. That essentially means there was no legal trade in recently excavated treasures even before the fighting began. But the chaos of the Syrian civil war gives looters and buyers unprecedented opportunities.[...] Since the fighting began in 2011, investigators have found hundreds of Syrian antiquities for sale on the black market in Lebanon and Turkey, the first step in a chain of transactions that, in many cases, will lead to sales in the United States and Europe. [...] You don't need to travel to a secret warehouse in Beirut to get Syrian antiquities. You can simply go online, where $119 will get you a coin minted in 150 BC for the Seleucid kings in Apamea, once a flourishing city and now a heavily looted archaeological site north of Homs, in the Syrian countryside. The website I saw informed the buyer that the coin shows an "earthen green patina with some minor deposits" — such coloring and encrustations mean that this coin was recently unearthed from centuries underground and is tantamount to an admission that it came from an illegal excavation. 
It is nice to see that part of this might be based on a reading of an earlier post of mine with a link to a coin dealer's website for that coin. Even nicer to see that if you follow that link, you find "this product does not exist any more". While it is good to see the message is getting across even to dealers, it is disturbing to read that the coin mentioned might have been destroyed (John Anderson, Praefectus coins, Vancouver Canada and USA).
The looting of a big chunk of heritage can take place like this, coin by coin, object by object. [...]  There is a simple solution: Do not buy antiquities. The United States is a major market for these objects, with some buyers who know better and many who don't. Americans can create a market for smuggled antiquities and drive looting, or they can defeat it. There was a major decrease in elephant poaching after Americans decided that the beauty of ivory was no excuse for the destruction that brought it to market. We stopped buying ivory buttons, figurines and other trinkets that seemed individually seemed too small to make a difference — but they did. We need to have the same attitude when we see a tempting ancient coin, statuette or piece of jewelry. 
Then the author addresses the usual justification of the heritage-grabbers:
Some collectors [...] argue that they are rescuing antiquities by giving them a new home outside of the instability of Syria. But such thinking only feeds the market forces that result in looting. Moreover, the extraction of "rescued" antiquities involves the destruction of the surrounding archaeological context and any associated objects that lack the beauty required by the marketplace. When context is destroyed, so is the chance for the kind of careful study that reveals the workings of ancient civilizations .[...] It is best simply not to buy antiquities, particularly from Syria or anywhere else where conflict and heritage are colliding: Iraq, Afghanistan, parts of South America and Egypt, where in August an entire museum was ransacked, with rioters stealing the antiquities and burning the mummies.  As the international community wrestles with what action it must take to end the death and destruction in Syria, every one of us can help simply by not acting — that is, by not buying Syrian antiquities, beautiful as they are. For the sake of Syria's heritage, and the world's, remember: No market means no looting
Powerful words.  Let us see if self-serving greedy collectors pay the slightest bit of attention.

Metal Detectorists: From Name-calling to Identity Theft Now

The next stage in the vicious harassment of a grassroots UK heritage group for expressing its views on the erosion of history by artefact hunting. It seems certain UK metal detectorists (ambassadors for the hobby) really do not know when to stop.
From Heritage Action's Heritage Journal:
Another artefact hunter of similar ilk, a Mr Taylor, (who has been spoken to by the police for openly publishing threats to come to my house and attack me), has taken to impersonating us so if you see any obscene or otherwise objectionable comments in the name of Heritage Action or similar or any of its members, they won’t have come from us.
Frankly while the rest of the detectorists just stay quiet and do not react to this kind of stuff coming from their own ranks (by trying to stop these louts, distancing themselves from it every time it happens, solidarising with the victims, or even just apologising), I think we are justified in holding them all responsible. 

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  

Ugly Rhyton Belatedly Given to Iran

A 2,700 year-old silver chalice may be a new token of friendship between the United States and Iran, at least that's the way Iran's cultural heritage chief sees it. Whatever the case, Mohammad-Ali Najafi was palpably delighted Friday to see the ancient Persian artifact return to its homeland. The ceremonial drinking vessel -- or rhyton -- had gotten snagged in a U.S. customs warehouse for years, held up by bad diplomatic relations. It had been in New York since 2003, when an art dealer smuggled it into the country from Iran. Customs officials have long wanted to return the rhyton to Iran, according to a New York Post report. But decades of frigid relations between Washington and Tehran kept it frozen in bureaucratic limbo.
That's what you get when the Americans condition their honouring the 1970 UNESCO Convention on whether they are friendly towards the Convention's other states parties today or not. I bet they are glad to get that off their hands, they've had this thing, supposedly from the Kalmakarra Cave, known as the Western Cave, in the western highlands of Iran (looted between 1989 and 1992)  since 2000. What an ugly ridiculous looking piece, which it has been convincingly argued may be a fake ('Is the Kalmakara ('Western Cave') Griffin a Fake?', Saturday, 12 June 2010). Readers of this blog will know the name discretely missed out of the report of the US "art dealer", who imported it for some reason saying it was from "Syria".

Tara Kangarlou and Ben Brumfield, '2,700-year-old Persian artifact a gift of U.S. diplomacy to Iran?' CNN, September 28, 2013

Cleveland: We've got a Praxiteles, and it's Ours

The Cleveland Museum of Art's ancient bronze statue of Apollo has stirred controversy since the museum purchased the work in 2004 reportedly for $5 million from Phoenix Ancient Art.Now they are making a big exhibition of it:
The Cleveland Museum of Art rarely publishes catalogs that try to stir broad public debate on politics, law, cultural identity and global diplomacy. With the release of a new catalog today, however, the museum is wading directly into the international controversy over collecting ancient works of art whose ownership histories, or provenances, remain partially or entirely unknown. The book, “Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo,” authored by the museum’s curator of Greek and Roman art, Michael Bennett, accompanies a new exhibition opening Sunday that focuses on a controversial ancient bronze statue of Apollo purchased by the museum in 2004. Using scientific evidence and art-historical analysis, Bennett builds the most forceful case yet that the life-size bronze is an ancient Greek original, not a later Roman copy, and that it is likely the work of Praxiteles, one of the greatest sculptors of ancient Greece. The book is also an impassioned critique of international laws aimed at halting trade in looted antiquities. Bennett states that such laws – while correctly focused on halting illegal activity - have also had the effect of casting stigma on “orphaned” works such as the museum’s Apollo, whose time and place of excavation and recent history can’t be proven beyond doubt. [...]  Bennett, however, states that the Apollo was one of thousands of antiquities in private hands whose ownership histories are not completely documented. Lack of such documentation, Bennett writes, is not evidence that an object was looted. It’s not a case of guilty until proven innocent. “Illegality cannot be presumed, or we are heading toward a repeat of the Spanish Inquisition or the McCarthy hearings,” Bennett writes.
Yep, there it is again. Catchy soundbite, but what, in real terms does that mean? Actually it is the clarion call of no-questions-asked collecting, and as such surely in today's market is the wrong approach. This presentation was apparently scheduled for 2006, but then various things 'happened' and the plans were shelved.

Steven Litt, 'The Cleveland Museum of Art wades into global controversy over antiquities collecting with exhibition and catalog on its ancient bronze Apollo', The Plain Dealer September 27, 2013

Vignette: Praxiteles

Connundrums about Leutwitz "Praxiteles"

There are several things as somebody living in this neck of the woods that I simply do not understand about the apparent ease with which Cleveland accepted the collecting history supplied by the dealers that sold this object. Several things really do not ring true. I'd like to go through some of them and ask how Cleveland approached each of these conundrums. A key point is this one: 
Before the museum bought the sculpture from Phoenix Ancient Art, it obtained a written statement from German lawyer Ernst-Ulrich Walter stating that he found the sculpture lying in pieces in a building on a family estate he reclaimed after the fall of East Germany. Walter also reportedly said he remembered seeing the piece on the family estate in the 1930s.
Steven Litt, 'The Cleveland Museum of Art wades into global controversy over antiquities collecting with exhibition and catalog on its ancient bronze Apollo', The Plain Dealer September 27, 2013 
I've discussed Mr Walter (and, I think, not without significance, his museum) earlier here. He said he saw this statue in the 1930s, in Hitler's Germany that would be, which is the first record of its being above ground anyone has traced so far. Interestingly, it is reported that the object was seen in 1994 by Dr. Lucia Marinescu, former Director of the National History Museum of Romania who for some reason viewed the work in fragments "while touring the estate". It is not clear what the relationship was between Marinescu and Walter. What is also of note is that this report however was for some reason only published in 2003. In 1994 the sculpture was sold (very cheaply as a "garden ornament" by the hapless Ernst-Ulrich Walter - despite having been told by Marinescu that it was ancient) and subsequently reassembled and restored before passing through the hands of a Dutch dealer (still in 1994). The subsequent ten years of its collecting history are missing. Brodie says "It then dropped out of sight until it reappeared on the Swiss premises of Phoenix Ancient Art in 2002" - which as we note with interest was the timing of the publication of Marinescu's report of her examination of the statue in Leutwitz, what prompted her to dig out her notes and publish them at precisely this time? 
In the September 2004 issue of the Art Newspaper, the then Cleveland director Katharine Lee Reid was quoted as saying that the museum had exercised due diligence before the acquisition, but that Phoenix Ancient Art had not revealed to the museum details of the statue’s recent provenance. This reticence was understandable, she thought, because the company would want to protect its competitive advantage [...]  Rather confusingly, Phoenix Ancient Art’s proprietors Ali and Hicham Aboutaam subsequently stated in a letter published in the November issue of the Art Newspaper that “… it is acceptable and common practice, for obvious competitive reasons, to omit all but the last decade of ownership in publishing a history …”, though the last decade’s ownership history of the bronze was exactly what they had omitted to tell the Cleveland.
There is no information about an EU export licence for it (Neil Brodie, 'Cleveland Apollo Sauroktonos', Stanford ; see also Henry Adams, 'Questions About Apollo',, May 10, 2012).

The scientific tests cited in the catalogue (which I've not seen, would be glad to see the full report, is this the 'catalogue'?) are not relevant to the due diligence question, they were carried out after the purchase - who would use "solder" on a heavy object like this?

I'd also like to ask whether anybody from Cleveland has been to this hamlet (Leutwitz) and seen the house this was in the garden of?  I suggest it might be an eye-opening journey for the Cleveland staff, it's only about an hour from the Polish border, I'll take them there if they'd like to get in touch. 

We are not talking about a half-metre little garden ornament from a fountain, but a 1.7m tall chunk of ancient bronze. So here are some odd conundrums to explain away.

1) Some time before the 1930s, possibly a long time before that (since it was supposedly soldered onto a "17th-19th century" base, this thing turns up in a Saxon garden. So we are asked to believe that a previous owner of that estate had bought it either on the Grand Tour himself (in which country?) or  from someone else who'd been on one. Obviously there is no problem that we have no documentation of any of that, lots of people went Grandtouring. But has anyone looked? Were there any other items on the estate or in other properties owned by the family which would be Grand Tour items? Was that checked out? 

2) Let's assume that a pretty big classical Greek statue was on a rural estate in the state of Saxony in (say) the nineteenth century. Bought some time back in the mists of time beyond living memory of Ernst-Ulrich Walter's family. So this would be in cultured Saxony, not far (40 km) form the cultural centre of Dresden. Yet nobody noticed this classical Greek sculpture? Not a single person in the Saxon cultural elite spotted it, made a note of it in their diary, nobody sketched it, made an engraving, total silence? Is that not really a little difficult to believe given the cultural climate of precisely this region at precisely this time when Romanticism was in full flower? There was quite a bit of rivalry between the regional centres over the possession and display of classical antiquities, but this one somehow simply did not get noticed. A statue (we are now told) of Praxiteles.Odd that. How does Cleveland explain that?

3) Further on, the Weimar Republic. Saxony is now part of a greater Germany, accessible to scholars from other centres. This is still a period of interest in Classical antiquity, a period when no end of amateur antiquaries were active. We are talking about the German states here, not some cultural third world, an area of Europe where antiquarian studies not only were advanced, but to some extent leading the trend. Still the Leutwitz Saurokthonos goes unnoticed. Not a single guest to the house and estate mentioned a word to anybody else about the lovely old statue that stood in the garden (or was it inside in the hall?) not a mention in a diary, magazine, no museum official or gallery owner gets to hear of it. It stands in oblivion through the entire period of the Cleveland collecting history. Unlucky chance, Cleveland?

Perhaps the Americans might like to try and compile some statistics, how many certain Grand Tour items in Germany, and former regions of German (so like areas now in Poland) surviving to our times have ABSOLUTELY NO mention in the nineteenth and early twentieth documentation? I can tell them that my contacts with colleagues here who are looking at "the classical tradition" as an influence in the Enlightenement and Romantic culture in central Europe (and its a well-developed field here) inform me that although references may be difficult to track down, that's because there is a lot of scattered information to go through, not because its not there.
 4) 1933 Hitler comes to power. For much of the next decade his agents scour the whole of Germany and later occupied Europe for notable artworks to add to the collection for the proposed Linz Museum (so that among other things is what the US "Monuments Men" were engaged in finding and returning). Still the Leutwitz Saurokthonos somehow goes undetected.  Neither does any high official of the Nazi party make the object's owner an offer they can't refuse for its purchase. It just sits there ignored. Why?   Yet this is precisely when the lawyer says he saw the statue on open display on the estate. Only he saw it? Only he noted it?

5) The Red Army sweeps through Saxony in 1945. The Dresden collections are dismantled, some of them are taken to Moscow by the Red Army Trophy Commission (whence parts returned only in 1958). But the statue of Praxiteles was not spotted, not moved. Had it been hidden? Is there any documentation of its evacuation ? (As there is of many objects hidden by the German authorities at this time - in fact pretty full lists survive for parts of the region, I've seen them.)

6) On 7th October 1949, the German Democratic Republic was created from the Soviet Occupation zone (which included most of Saxony). The archaeological conservation services and the monuments protection services were set up and were increasingly well-organized in true German style, and from at least the late 1950s their work included surveying and inventorising historical buildings all over the DDR and publishing the inventories, as well as taking under state protection significant items where necessary.  Now I have met a number of the scholars involved in this kind of work, both archaeological as well as historical buildings (the latter admittedly fewer) and have always judged them to be professional, thorough and competent - despite the external limitations placed on them by virtue of where they lived and worked. Yet, odd, isn't it that in the whole period 1960 (let's say) to 1990 - thirty years, the Leutwitz Saurokthonos a classical Greek statue that had been (we are asked to believe) on the estate many many years, remained undetected.  Why? What went wrong? How many other classical Greek sculptures by Praxiteles on German estates remained undetected for a century or more until they suddenly "surface" on a surprised and delighted market many years later? I mean, how incompetent can the Germans be? 

7) We are told that Ernst-Ulrich Walter's family lost their estate, that it was confiscated by the State and the buildings put to other uses (state farm?). That they did not take a potentially valuable statue might not surprise us (depending on the circumstances). Some kind of official commission would have examined the buildings and estate. Apparently they did not spot the Praxiteles. Again, maybe that might not surprise us, Party aparatchiks were not always very cultured and enlightened folk back in those days. But then somebody else moved into the building, nobody bothered about the Praxiteles.  Again, peasant farmers maybe. We'd have to look into the history of the estate and that might provide an explanation why the statue continues to be in oblivion. Did Cleveland do that, has Cleveland done that? 

8)  November 1990, DDR collapses in a heap of chaos. Any visitor to the regions neighbouring Poland at this time would have observed a number of things. One of them is how a number of buildings had all the wiring and piping stripped out by metal looters, times were hard, the West did not pick up the tab and help out the Ossies straight away. But the several kilogrammes of saleable and valuable 'scrap' bronze lying in portable form on the floor of some building on a building in the throes of changing ownership were not remembered and not carted off to be melted down? Why? Again, we'd have to look into the history of the estate and that might provide an explanation why the statue stayed lying on the floor to be found by the estate's new owner, collector Ernst-Ulrich Walter. Did Cleveland do that, has Cleveland done that? 

The Aboutaams' collecting history supplied for this object suggests that several generations of German researchers were totally incompetent. So incompetent that a major artwork on an estate within cycling distance of a provincial centre like Dresden went completely unnoticed for a very long time despite the number of successive historical changes taking place which in other cases (almost one might say in every OTHER case) has led to some kind of record of a given piece of important art in a given place at a given time. Here all we have is an after-the-fact reminiscence by the lucky finder. 

This is very much a close parallel to the 1998 purchase of the Ka Nefer Nefer mask by SLAM from the same dealer. Here too was a signed statement by someone who was vague about the details when questioned, that the mask had been "seen" in Belgium (when in this case other documentation indicates it was still in Egypt) it then was also said to have been owned by two collectors of eastern European origin (Kaloterna and Jelinek), a story that I have earlier pointed out in this blog seems rather odd in the (documented) context of what Eastern European collectors were in fact able to acquire in this period and from where.

Perhaps these stories passed unremarked in America, where there seems from what I read others writing about the country where I live and work,  to be a prejudice that "behind the Iron Curtain" lived only wolves, rabid communists and peasant farmers of neanderthal intelligence. Having travelled a bit in the eastern bloc, I may agree that there was some variation across the region - but pre-1989 Poland and especially Eastern Germany were by no means the dark cultural backwaters that they are painted by their enemies. But the  Leutwitz Saurokthonos was (we are told) in 1930s Germany, and possibly had already been in Saxony since the base was put on it for display back in the nineteenth (eighteenth? seventeenth?) century. Yet, Cleveland asks us to believe that absolutely nobody saw it, absolutely nobody realised what it was in stupid old Yurope? Only the "superior" Americans are capable of that?

Vignette: With Dresden just down the road, how did it escape notice all that time? 

English for US Art Historians (2)

This is what we call a "lizard".

Apollo Sauroktonos by Praxiteles -
copia nei Musei Vaticani- Salla delle statue,
IV century B.C. (photo by M. Pardy)
This is not what we call a "python". Pythons don't have legs and they don't look much like lizards. Longer for a start. Of course if your statue is missing the tree and the animal, it's not possible to say if it was a python, lizard, or a koala.

See: Steven Litt, 'The Cleveland Museum of Art wades into global controversy over antiquities collecting with exhibition and catalog on its ancient bronze Apollo', The Plain Dealer September 27, 2013

ACCG - Arguing Round in Circles Group

The ACCG might as well be renaned the ARCG (Arguing Round in Circles Group). Now their current mouthpiece in his daily onslaught suggests that I am "Missing the Point" (Ancient coins blog Friday, September 27, 2013) when I stress that since (a) the ACCG has now joined ranks with metal detectorists to fight for "collectors rights", and (b) PAS responsible collecting is about preserving archaeological context, it follows that responsible collecting as a whole should logically be defined as doing the same. The ACCG are having none of that.
Collectors acquire these things for their intrinsic value, not because they have an interest in the archaeological context in which they are found.
To a collector or dealer, provenance is NOT the recording of a findspot. It is instead the collecting history of a coin or other antiquity.
Yes, we can see every dealer's website, every online showcased collection full of that [irony script /off]. And the process of taking it out of the ground, where when and how and under what legal situation, is someow NOT part of that collecting history? It is surely the fundamental first part of the collecting history which determines the licitness of all subsquent transfers of ownership. Meanwhile one has to congratulate Mr Welsh on his astuteness and grasp of the subject in hand. He gets it in one when he suddenly (it seems) discovers:
 Meanwhile Mr. Barford clearly is only able to think about artifacts being illicitly excavated today and later being sold to collectors. 
Yes indeedy, that is, in a nutshell, what the whole blog here is about. And one of the problems here is the way that dealers and collectors pretend the problem does not exist, because "coins have been collected since the days of Petrarch don't ya know"? ("consider the immense numbers of unprovenanced coins and other artifacts that were excavated long [ago]") and when the collectors and dealers alike have busily been throwing away of carelessly losing all the documentation of previous ownership, then who is to say what is what? I have addressed this question so many times I really cannot be bothered to repeat myself. ACCG's Welsh is wasting everybody's time and trying to deflect us from getting to the core of the matter by arguing around in circles. It is not me that is "missing the point".

Friday, 27 September 2013

"Jordanian Codices" Saga Drags on...

Just when you thought we'd hear the last of this months ago, the so-called "Jordanian Codices" surface in the news again. This time a complaint by the people hoping against hope it now seems to profit from their publication against a TV company is not upheld. It's quite long (pp 24-46) and bits repeat so can safely be skimmed to get a general idea of what is going on.

For the record, almost from the beginning when I looked carefully at the published photos, for a number of reasons my personal judgement has been that they are modern pastiches (ie fakes), but am by now hardly alone in that.

ACCG Singing from Same Songsheet as UK's Irresponsible Artefact Hunters

Now we have the ACCG and the dissident detectorists in bed together let us see how they get on singing from the same songsheet.  Dave Welsh lauds the champions of free hate-speech ("Freedom of Speech "California style"...", Ancient Coins (sic) blog, Friday, September 27, 2013). He claims he is a "leading" blog owner:
due to my well known and consistent opposition to Mr. Barford's [...] views, and to his vocal insistence that an unrealistic, rigid requirement for provenance documentation of every artifact (however minor and inexpensive) is a necessity for "ethical collecting." 
But wait a second... That is precisely what in the UK is the definition of responsible artefact hunting, isn't it? The requirement for provenance documentation of every artefact (however minor and inexpensive) taken out of the archaeological record to be collected, the information loss is to be mitigated by reporting the object together with its findspot to the relevant institutions, through the Treasure Trove law in Scotland, the PAS in England and (for the moment) Wales.

The ACCG say they "support" the PAS in England and (while they still have one), in Wales. They constantly say they think every country producing collectable coins and artefacts "should have one". Yet here an ACCG officer distances himself from the underlying principle of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is the recording of minor (ie non-Treasure) objects together with their findspots - irrespective of financial value.  )

So, if the UK Code  of Responsible metal Detecting in England and Wales brands those who collect archaeological artefacts (including coins) and do not do these things "irresponsible", surely we would now be justified in applying the PAS message more widely and saying that artefact collectors of any kind who acquire material without such information and curating that information are also irresponsible. That would explain the ACCG's current interest in uniting with the dissident artefact hunters of the UK which reject the concerns we have with rather sketchy application of best practice we see to be the effect of over fifteen years of PAS outreach in much of Britain.

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: "Not Grassing" - Keeping quiet about illegal artefact hunting"

"We need to coin a word for keeping quiet about nighthawking" say UK tekkies.
The whole matter concerns a problem one member has (MRSP an elderly lady from Garston, Herts Thu Sep 26, 2013 10:58 pm):
[A] bloody nighthawk found rare gold item on my permission...and had the cheek to show it to some people I know. I am livid... the farmer doesnt know.. would you tell? the nighthawk is unlikely to come clean about it
It is not explained whether MRSP is "livid" that somebody got something from "her" field (i.e., something she might have found legally instead) or that somebody has stolen from the landowner for whom she has a lot of love and respect. 

Member "m111kca" thinks of self-preservation (Thu Sep 26, 2013 11:38 pm): "I would tell the farmer as if he starts leaveing holes the farmer may think its you, also contact the police". Member  Nenhyandai (Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:09 am) has a more public-spirited approach:
Why even hesitate? you have a duty to inform the farmer and inform the police. Do you know this chap and are you 100% sure that he found this item on the land you detect on? if so, then you need to inform the correct authorities pronto.
Member "housed" (Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:44 pm) is of like responsible opinion:
definately needs reporting. It's theft pure and simple.   
Now, it is totally clear what anyone (anyone responsible) learning of a crime being committed is obliged to do. There is no question that the landowner should know he has been robbed, and given any information the reporter has. Secondly the police should be informed.

But then, what? "officer, I was talking to this bloke and he said Robbie Robbalot of Lootings Cottages on Church street has been robbing my mate's farm and gotta lotta stuff stashed away". Hardly enough to get a search warrant is it? Robbie Robbalot is going to deny it (and also will be tipped off that someone's blabbing and will try to remember who he showed the stuff to). I doubt whether on the strength of hearsay evidence, Robbie Robbalot would even be put on any kind of watch list. None of which absolves those who know about episodes like this from reporting them. Let them at least figure in the statistics.

UPDATE 28.09.13

MRSP (Fri Sep 27, 2013 6:47 pm) clarified what happened and what her concerns are:
it wasnt exactly treasure,, but the nighthawk found a rather valuable coin which he boasted about. he knows he shouldn't have been on the land, and was trespassing,and in my own personal view he should offer my farmer the 50% value.. which is around 600 pounds (the coin sells for around 1200 in the condition it was) I would have done had I been the finder.. however the guy, who I dont personally have much to do with is rather uncouth.. and is unlikely to own up.. should I leave it and put it down to sour grapes on my part, or let the farmer know? He isnt a rich farmer and I am sure he would appreciate the value of such a coin on his pastures.  if I tell the farmer he still cant get his 50% because I cant make the nighthawk hand it over.. its really sad because this fellow was boasting about finding this, and he shouldnt have even been on the field detecting.. I feel like a 'grass' if I mention it, but I feel sorry for the farmer.. as well as pissed of that I wasnt the finder! 
(so if he was "a rich farmer", she'd have less of a problem not "grassing"?).

I include the next one not because I understand what point the guy is making, but the novel use of apostrophes. Here's the grammatically-challenged "cantfindnothing" (sic) (Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:05 pm):
You should really inform the farmer someone without permission is detecting on his land if you know that to be true' and not just for the finds reasons' as mentioned in a earlier post'..possible holes left everywhere will look bad on the person the farmer knows is on the land' and that is you' and anything else metal detecting related a responsible detectorist would not do'..this person probably will do' again that will be directed at the person he gave permission to'.. So in my opinion you should inform the farmer'..besides why should he find what you and the farmer should be enjoying'
Except as has been made clear above, it would not be the "something" that finder and landowner would "enjoy" together but the dosh from flogging it off (remember the official mantra: "only interestid in th' 'istry, not in it fer the munny").

"Noel Coward" and the Scumbags

Right back at the beginning of my writing on artefact hunting and collecting, one of the biggest barriers to getting any kind of message across was the resistance of my readers to seeing the picture as a whole. We had a group of metal detectorists, allied with their archaeologist supporters, who refused point blank to see what they were doing in the wider context of collecting of antiquities in and from other countries. "Absolutely not", they'd protest and then get sullen and quiet when you asked why not. Then we had all those collectors pretending to be collector-scholars on the other side. They "had absolutely nothing", they said, "to do with" the hoi polloi arrowhead collectors, pot-diggers and (heaven forbid) metal detectorists [if I could be bothered to look, there is a really insulting post on Unidroit-L by coin dealer Dave Welsh on this lowest of the low from which eroodite collectas like wot-he-wants-to-be absolutely separated themselves]. Again if you asked them what, in substantive terms, was the difference, they'd all go sullen and quiet. Both sides were mortally offended that somebody should draw a comparison between the two. The Brits were also angry that I was pointing out parallels between what they said and did and what American collectors said and did across the Great Cultural Divide.

The reason for this is obvious. In these circles, the notion of personal responsibility is almost always pushed to the back of the mind; the problem is always "somebody else". It's "the nighthawks (we don't like them)", it's "the Radical Archaeologists (being unreasonable - they've not only got an agenda, but character faults too)", it's "the brown folk (doing the looting)", "corrupt gubn'mints (allowing it to be smuggled)", "cultural property nationalists" - or whatever. The excuses are multiple and all equally comfortably putting the whole blame somewhere else entirely than on the shoulders of the people engaged in artefact collecting. The fact that a stereotypical Other is doing damage is clear, the intimation that the person addressed has any part in this is dismissed as insulting.  That's why metal detectorists did not like being likened to ACCG coineys, and why the latter (though ostensibly fighting for "collectors' rights") considered it in some way demeaning to be associated with detectorists and the collectors who get the stuff our of the "dirt".

Five years on, and look how the tables have turned! As we saw, archaeologists are now running a mile from an invitation to explain their position on artefact hunting (Mr Hedge where are you? Don't worry, the PAS can't face it either). More importantly, both sides now are admitting they are "in this together". Tekkies are happy that "Dave and Peter" (on first name terms now) are giving me "crap", while "Dave, Wayne and Peter" are happy now to jump into bed with the Thugwits. As a wise commentator on this blog noted here just now, by these liaisons, collectors are:
making the situation clear for all to see. You can't present yourself as Noel Coward if your best mates are - well, different.
.. and it seems both sides over the past few weeks have dropped the pretence and showing their real faces at last. Steve Taylor is an ACCG hero (I believe they are going to give him one of their tinny awards like Roger Bland got next time he's in the States) Dave Welsh is the toast of the Bognor Grabbers Metal Detecting Club every first Friday of the month in the Pig and Whistle. One big happy family, united by a shared inability to address the issues.

Vignette: Noel Coward (Wikipedia)

UPDATE 26.09.13:
Striveful Hopbun Fleetfoot asked me to post this:
"This reminds me of a poem  recited to me by my Great Aunt in the sixties (she must have been born in the American civil war - how about that!)". It's an anti-alcohol poem from 1933, and here it is rendered as a wonderful Frank Crumit song, and the animation's pretty good too:

"California style"

It says on the box:
The ACCG was formed to provide a voice for ancient coin collectors on issues that threaten the hobby. [...] [to] provide decision makers in the legislative and administrative branches of government with our own views on the complex issues surrounding preservation of historical sites [...].
I remarked upon how one of the ACCG's officers has been attempting to achieve this aim on behalf of all coin collector members. Today the world wakes to find another one. This one is very revealing of the US mindset. They think we should worship their free-speech ethos, yet are all for suppression of comment when it affects them. So we have here Mr Welsh musing about "Slaying Barford" (Thursday, September 26, 2013), not by the US preferred tactic of remote stealth attacks by political assassination drones, but by "One Detectorist's Revenge".
"Steve Taylor remains the only detectorist to ever have shut Barford up, which he did for about two months in the fall of 2011".
This is quite interesting, I am assuming the ACCG have full awareness of just who it is they are getting (figuratively) into bed with here. I don't expect that, as with our previous discussion of the meaning of the words il/licit, Mr Welsh's memory has retained the full facts about why this blog was hidden (not closed) for several weeks. The Warsaw Prosecutor General still has the files. At the time, readers may remember that Mr Welsh was loud in declaratively offering his support to me and my family as a result of the events following Mr Taylor's actions. Sincerity it seems is not his middle name.

Thus it is we now find ACCG's Mr Welsh lauding UK metal detectorist Steve Taylor for "shutting Barford up" for two months and writing "the Barford Song". Obviously the ability to shout down any critical comment and engage in vulgar insult-throwing is very much to the taste of this Reputable Dealer,  Professional Numismatist (sic) and pillar of the Ancient Coin Collectors of America Guild.  Whether or not that is what will impress the "decision makers in the legislative and administrative branches of government" (in the offices of some of which it would seem are individuals whom are quite frequent visitors to this blog) remains to be seen.

I rather think debating the various views "on the complex issues surrounding preservation of historical sites" involves engagement of the issues involved, not shouting down those who raise them and running away from providing an alternative reasoned argument. All the time in this recent discussion with ACCG spokesmen Wayne Sayles, Peter Tompa and Dave Welsh (and Sock-puppet-Arthur through the medium of CPO) about possible ways forward for the antiquities market we see nothing but sniping, insults and ad hominem attacks.

Vignette: California style - uramaki inside out

UPDATE 27.09.13
The dealer professes innocence (see the comments about personal responsibility - always somebody else, innit?). "What Mr. Barford apparently did not realize is that he is so cordially disliked and hotly resented (perhaps hated might be a more accurate word) by the UK detectorist community..." really that is a bit difficult NOT to notice it when you spend any time at all on their forums.

Mr Welsh defends the reactions of detectorists and coineys to the concerns I raise as "free speech" and accuses me of "double standards", allegedly considering that "harsh criticism may justly amd appropriately be directed toward collectors, the antiquities trade and metal detectorists" while allegedly believing that
"Barford himself and other anticollecting archaeologists are "off limits," and their targets are not allowed to reply in kind".
But they do not, do they? I say WHY (sometimes using concrete documented examples from a forum post or You Tube video) I believe that the majority of metal detected finds are not being recovered in a responsible manner, I say WHY I believe the PAS is not achieving the aims it was set up to reach 9again sometimes using concrete examples), I say WHY there are problems with the current phrasing of the UK Treasure Act (using concrete documented examples) , and WHY we should be concerned about what is and what is not happening in Wales and Scotand (artefact hunting wise, using concrete documented examples), I say WHY there are huge problems surrounding metal detecting rallies. I say WHY these are huge problems with 1980s US laws intended (we are told) to "Implement" the 1970 UNESCO Convention (umm, using, again concrete documented examples). And much much more, I say WHY. And all we get from that sorry load is "the Barford Song" and from ACCG's Welsh "the Amazing Talking A-hole" (instead of setting out what he'd determined to be a feasible recording system for coins on the market). That is certainly not what the rest of the world would consider as "reply in kind". Not by any means.

And from that point of view I would suggest that to answer in kind, there ought to be less ad hominem attention to  "Barford himself and other [critical] archaeologists", but their arguments. If the critics are right, then the responsible collectors will want to address those problems and set the situation right. If they are wrong, then responsible collectors surely can demonstrate that. I think most normal people are able to comprehend that arguing "Paul Barford is a pathetic, useless A-hole" does neither of those two things and has even stopped being an entertaining diversion from discussing the real issues.

Baltimore Illegal Coin Import Stunt Seizure process continues

The ACCG Baltimore Illegal Coin Import stunt coins (ACCG)

Next stage of this disturbing attempt to stave off the cleaning up of the US numismatic market :
The Court has given the government until September 27, 2013 to file its motion and the Guild a month to respond.
Peter K. Tompa, 'Court Sets Briefing Schedule in Forfeiture Action' ACCG News August 07, 2013.  I must say I am curious to see how the US Government answered the coin collectors' latest whingeings in this stupid battle. I hope its a massive put-down. Let us remind ourselves what this is about: 'Some of ACCG's Coins', Tuesday, 9 August 2011. Let us also note that Ehrenberg and Tompa use the "Hong Kong getout", and it's important to ask them how they think these coins got to Hong Kong and when (before or after 1930?).

What is particularly telling about all this is that you'd think that by now some responsible collectors would be telling those that self-appointed themselves to be the representative of all 50 000 of them that they want the US coin market cleaned up - apparently not.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Syrian Red List and One Man's Failing Eyesight

The sock puppet on Peter Tompa's blog who he insists is the ageing Arthur [Houghton  III] writes insultingly (September 26, 2013 at 12:33 PM ):
"...Mr. Barford has once again revealed himself for being the fool he is. He evidently has forgotten, or never knew, or hardly cared, that countries must ask for an MOU for one to be entertained".
Well, if you look at the post of mine which is being discussed, admittedly it's right down the bottom, so those of short attention span may not have got that far, it says in black on white (and I have my screen set at large font size myself):
Obviously it is not really a very effective way of implementing the Convention if it can only be achieved by Syria asking the US very nicely to help it keep looted heritage in the country, when the US has been stomping about with its World Policeman hat on for the last few weeks, threatening to blast Syria into Kingdom Come. That's just dumb.
Can you see that? ACCG-Sock-puppet-Arthur in his haste to be insulting can't.

It is "Life" that is "a walking shadow" in the quote Sock-puppet-Arthur cannot quite seem to remember from his Macbeth. Looking at the strange spectacle of the overall tone of the gentleman's many recent "contributions" to the heritage debate on Peter Tompa's blog, I have another apt one for him, building on the same metaphor:

[...]  big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
As You Like It, Act II Scene VII.

Syrian Red List

I've just been looking at the Syrian Red List and wondering what its actual use is.
"Should you suspect that a cultural object originating from Syria...."
The people that wrote this may not have noticed (which would be a shame) but those who've spent a lot of time and some of them gone to great hardship trying to understand this trade and its connections have been fairly consistently writing for , oh... , about a year that the stuff is mostly being smuggled across the porous borders, particularly that to the north to Turkish middlemen. So unless the pot, lamp, statue or whatever has "Made in Syria" written in big letters across the base, then how is the item identified as "originating from Syria" at any other border or in any other selling place after that? Sadly the Red List is silent on that. What it needs to do is specifically highlight the types of objects that if found in an assemblage might set alarm bells ringing that the group of loose finds may be worthy of closer scrutiny as potentially Syrian (Tell Brak eye idols for example, Islamic coins of certain types with certain legends etc.)
"Should you suspect... contact ...."
- so if Bobbis Scraggs sees three lamps on eBay or in Messers Grebkesh and Runn's store that look like the one in the picture, what's he supposed to do? Get onto ICOM in Paris?

 Has this document in its present form any actual practical purpose apart from vaguely raising awareness and making the people who wrote it and paid for its writing, printing (and postage) feel good?

("Oh no sir, Syria? Nahhh. This, its from an old Turkish collection. Ottomans, you know. Syria - ABsolutely not. I give you my word as an honest antiquities dealer, it's not from Syria. Really. What's that? Documents sir? No, not really... But you can trust me. Really. Just look at this patina".)

Vignette: Might come from Syria, but most probably will surface on the market in a completely different country.  

ACCG's Tompa: Due Diligence "Objectionable"

Collectors say that they want to help preserve the past. Collectors say they deplore looting and would "never" knowingly buy a stolen or looted object. Dealer say the same things.  There is however a huge gap  between insincere declarative posturing and action. ACCG's Peter Tompa (lobbyist for numismatic trade associations) discusses the "Red List of Syrian Cultural Objects at Risk" (noting sourly that it was produced "with the support of the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center"). He takes exception to this bit of the all-too-brief document:
"Museums, auction houses, art dealers and collectors are encouraged not to acquire such objects [ie originating from Syria] without having carefully and thoroughly researched their origin and all the relevant legal documentation."
Mr Tompa labels this "objectionable" and says it "makes little sense" in today's antiquity market ("the objects on the list are presumed "guilty" until proven "innocent"..." and it breaks their little hearts).  

Mr Tompa calls my opinions "surreal", but I say  "Museums, auction houses, art dealers and collectors should be encouraged not to acquire ANY dugup ancient objects without having carefully and thoroughly researched their origin and all the relevant legal documentation". What is actually surreal about that? It's what we call due diligence, and its what all collectors and dealers (declaratively) claim indignantly they are all already doing.

Sale of ancient Egyptian Artefacts Reportedly Halted in Jerusalem

Nevine El-Aref ,'Sale of ancient Egyptian artefacts halted in Jerusalem', Al Ahram, Wednesday 25 Sep 2013
On Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs upon the request of the MSA, asked the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take all required procedures in collaboration with the Egyptian embassy in Jerusalem to stop the sale of 126 ancient Egyptian artefacts. These objects were put on sale in two auction halls, Eweda and Bidoon, in Jerusalem [...] Eweda is currently exhibiting 110 artefacts while Bidoon is displaying 16 others. The stolen objects include a collection of ancient Egyptian clay vessels, vases, ushabti figurines and stelae.
Ali Ahmed, director-general of the Repatriation of Antiquities Department in the MSA, explains that the objects in question were traced through a routine web review of all international auction halls carried out by the department periodically.
All of them? So how come several dozen have items on sale exactly the same, with even less visible collecting histories and Ali Ahmed did not question them? Can we assume, since the Egyptians say "all international auction halls" and they've only questioned these two, that all the rest are deemed entirely kosher by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities? Or did they really only kick up a fuss about the ones in Israel because they are in Israel?

Here's the current offering of eighteen items by on Via Dolorosa Street which is a shop, not an auction house. Certainly some of them have reported collecting histories going back several decades and export licence numbers quoted. Are these the ones the Egyptians say are "stolen"? Certainly when Google made its cache on 19th September, exactly the same objects were on display on page 1, BUT a bronze Sekhmet is missing that was on the cache, made the same day, of page two. Not all these antiquities are 'as advertised' I would say. I really don't like the look of the stela-not-a-stela, but could be wrong.

The other one they mention is presumably  Aweidah Gallery  also on Via Dolorosa Street and which is also a shop, not an auction house. Aweidah also trades through Trocadero. ("Each piece is a unique legacy from the past. When we hold an artifact created during the lifetime of Alexander, Hadrian or Christ, we become in some small way a part of that era. Brave men have risked their lives for these legendary items, extolled in the Bible, collected by Kings, stolen by scoundrels, now they are within your reach because you are in Aweidah Gallery [...]").

Ancient art at Aweidah gallery, Old city Jerusalem (You Tube film
Ts Der·).

Aweidah also are still offering 62 items (are these the ones left after the others withdrawn?). Aweida's Egyptian antiquities cached July 2013 page looks quite different from the current one, but it is not clear why. Unlike the other website, these items have few details of previous collecting history, and - to be honest, to my eye not all of the ones on display are 'as advertised'. 

So what is really going on here? 

Paignton Bronze Age copper ingots declared 'treasure'

Herald Express, 'Paignton Bronze Age copper ingots declared 'treasure'..', This is Devon, Thursday, September 26, 2013.

Reporter annoyingly keeps calling them "Treasure Trove" and Torbay Museum curator Barry Chandler has apparently had his head down a hole for fifty years: "There was a whole class of these objects that were practically invisible and suddenly in the last 20 years we have had a lot more appearing". I personally know of at least six Bronze Age hoards found in the early 20th century in SE England which have these "invisible" ingots in them. But by hook or by crook, the advocates of Treasure hunting have to make up an "interesting" story for bread and circuses consumption and this is the best they could do I guess.

Loss of Specialist Professional Advice in UK Archaeology and Building Conservation

This is not a good time to be an archaeologist in the UK, not that it has been for several decades now. RESCUE –The British Archaeological Trust has issued a powerful statement in response to the latest  report on Local Authority staff resources and in particular the ongoing loss of specialist professional advice in the fields of archaeology and building conservation.
“RESCUE believes that the country is close to reaching a point at which the provision of services designed to safeguard our historic environment is no longer adequate to meet the challenges that present themselves on a day-to-day basis. [...] At what stage will we decide to act collectively to support under-resourced and vulnerable services and thus ensure that our historic sites and landscapes receive proper protection through the planning process?”
Still, they still have their PAS and a Treasure Act, so all sorts of shiny goodies are coming out of the ground to keep the bread-and-circuses appearances up. Wiv lottsa Trezure coming up year after year,  'ow many care, really, about the planning an' resourse conservashun? 
Hat tip to Heritage Journal.

Sanctitas and Artefact Hunters' "Standards"

Sanctitas? 'Bemused' and now blasphemous Mr Welsh obviously has absolutely no idea of the concept.

"Am I out of bounds?" asks a metal detectorist who needs to ask, on a blog supposedly showcasing his personal "standards". He is assured by fellowing guffawing M8s that he is right on topic. As we saw with the fate of the John Winter blog, the cerebral is wasted on the bulk of web-active detectorists. What keeps their visitor numbers up is lowbrow, dumb-down, attention-span-easy topics mixed in with loads of anti-preservationist (anti-establishment, anti-academic) demagogy, egregious name calling and mudslinging.

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at these attitudes, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the British archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy". 

Vignette: ACCG coin dealer wades so far into the gutter, he drowns in his own bile. 
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