Monday, 31 March 2014

"National Geographic Channel Pulls ‘Nazi War Diggers’ Series"



Despite tomorrow being April Fool's day, it seems to be true, the webpage is now blank, and surely not even NatGeo would make a classless joke about this now: 'National Geographic Channel Pulls ‘Nazi War Diggers’ Series' reports Tom Mashberg (New York Times Art Beat blog, March 31, 2014). I have not located the original statement, most news on the subject available at the time of writing comes from Mashberg's report.
National Geographic Channel said Monday that it would “indefinitely” pull a planned television series on unearthing Nazi war graves after days of blistering criticism from archeologists and others who said the show handled the dead with macabre disrespect. The channel said that after “consulting with colleagues” at the National Geographic Society, it would not broadcast the series, “Nazi War Diggers,” in May as scheduled “while questions raised in recent days regarding accusations about the program can be properly reviewed.” The show was to have been broadcast globally except in the United States. [...] National Geographic Channel issued a statement Friday defending the show and saying the criticism was premature, based on early publicity materials that “did not provide important context about our team’s methodology.” The channel pulled those materials from its website. That did not appease archeologists, battlefield historians and others, who have mounted a social-media and a letter-writing campaign aimed in particular at the National Geographic Society to derail the show. [...]  In its statement, the National Geographic Channel said that “while we support the goal of the series, which is to tell the stories of long lost and forgotten soldiers,” it takes “seriously the questions that have been asked.”
I must say most of us thought they were going to brazen it out and go ahead.

UPDATE 1/4/2014
Here is the statement from the "i - Go Detecting" (Steve Broom) blog:
STATEMENT National Geographic Channels International, in consultation with colleagues at the National Geographic Society, announced today that it will pull the series Nazi War Diggers from its schedule indefinitely while questions raised in recent days regarding allegations about the program can be properly reviewed. While we support the goal of the series, which is to tell the stories of long lost and forgotten soldiers, those left behind and still unaccounted for, and illuminate history working in concert with local governments and authorities, we also take seriously the questions that have been asked. National Geographic Channels is committed to engaging viewers in the exploration of the world and all of us associated with National Geographic are committed to doing our work with the highest standards. We know the same holds true for our producing partners, including our partners on this series.  

Worth a read on "Nazi War Diggers"


Andy Brockman discusses the issues raised by “Nazi War Diggers" in an extremely well-written and thoughtful article: "Springtime for Hitler and “Nazi War [Death Porn] Diggers” Heritage Daily March 31, 2014 .
The series of four programmes set out to “ to hunt for relics and bodies, uncovering a forgotten story of World War Two’s bloody front.” promising that the programme’s team of amateur talent would “come face to face with the dangers and cost of war.” However, hundreds of archaeologists from the USA, the UK and Europe as well as from across the blogsphere and social media, including many experts in human osteology and battlefield archaeology, are united in condemnation of the series. The [...] programme format follows a tried and tested television template whereby a group of metal detector users investigate a historic site accompanied by a dealer in antiques and other historic material.
Brockman discusses the withdrawal by National Geographic of much of the original publicity material from its website after just over a day and a half of criticism. He points out that modern archaeology does not win many battles in this world
But a victory this is. However, this was not a victory of archaeological organisations and professional bodies who have scarcely reacted to the affair. Instead, it has been achieved by the combined voices of hundreds of committed individual archaeologists who have raised their voices in the name of an ethical position and forced a corporate giant , the National Geographic Channel, part of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox media empire no less, to blink first. [...] Archaeology can and should engage with every available media outlet, pitching the content to suit the audience while at all times treating all its audiences with respect. Twenty years of “Time Team” taught us that. But it must be a case of Great Archaeology making Great Television, not Television generating content out of Archaeology at any cost, or calling people archaeologists just because they dig holes in the ground in response to the bleeps of a metal detector and pull up old stuff. That requires archaeologists to be active partners of the media, and to be prepared to say “No, you need do it this way.” Perhaps the principle lesson of the “Nazi War Diggers” affair and a lesson which places our politicians, and yes media production companies, on notice, is that when their opinions are properly, passionately and bravely articulated, archaeologists have more influence and more sheer people power than anyone thought possible.
Hat tip to Andy Baines
UPDATE 31.03.14
A few hours after that was posted on the Internet, the announcement was made that plans to broadcast the series had been shelved indefinitely.

New Blog, Meg Lambert from Glasgow


There is a new blog on illicit antiquities, from Meg Lambert now a serious researcher at Glasgow: Give and Take: A Sociological Response to the Illicit Antiquities trade. This replaces her enthusiastic, strongly-worded and much-loved (everywhere except a certain lawyer's office in Washington): "Things you Can't Take Back" blog now sadly defunct. She reports that she has:
used this past year to cobble together a new, more positive idea of what I want to say, who I want to say it to, and the tone I feel most comfortable adopting. [...] This new venture won’t be so much a news blog as it will be reflective commentaries on my PhD subject, no doubt spurred by recent goings-on.
Great news. Her thesis, as I understand it, looks at the 'tribal art' trade and in particular concerning objects from West Africa. This is an area which seems a trifle under-represent in the blogosphere relative to the interest of the subject matter, and it will be interesting to see how what she uncovers and the literature she gathers interlock with the questions about the antiquities trade. I am sure Ms Lambert's contribution to the debate will be very valuable and (as always) thought-provoking. 

UK Metal Detecting: All About Appearances?


Sam Hardy draws attention to a comment made by National Geographic's tekkie Kris Rogers under a video about "digging up bombs in another country". I was more interested in the content of the video itself and what it says about the root cause of the "Nazi War Diggers" fiasco. Mr Rogers is instructing fellow metal detectorists how to persuade landowners to let them on their land to hunt for and take away archaeological and other collectables. I must say he comes over a bit better than in the irritating videos where he's running around shouting about his finds or the gruesome one when he's in Greg Sweetman's bedroom with his hat on. Here it is:

You Tube video published by Addicted to Bleeps   

What is noteworthy is all the attention paid to "making a good impression" (notable for the fact that it shows the detectorist is alive to the fact that others might not see their activities in the same light as they do). What we do not find is any reference made at all to actual best practice, no mention of showing the landowner the Code of Practice for Responsible Detecting to show him or her that the applicant is indeed a responsible detectorist. What about taking a folder of printouts of all the finds the detectorist has reported to the PAS? The whole thing is all about appearances and not about convincing the landowner that the artefact hunter is engaged in real responsible detecting.

This rather puts the fiasco of what the National Geographic video shows into a bit more perspective. Now compare that with the text Mr Rogers co-authored for national Geographic on "Responsible Metal Detecting".



National Geographic Dig Themselves Deeper into the Manure Pile?


during filming, our production
crew remained in close contact with local
museums, including the Latvian War Museum
 National Geographic, 28th March 2014  


National Geographic made some claims in their damage control revision of their "About" page which do not stand up to examination. They have claimed the support of the German War Graves Commission (VDK - Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge), but the Volksbund ‘had nothing to do with it and do not want to be associated with it'. I have shown that they have tried to present the Polish organization they claim to work with as something it is not and are very vague about what permits they actually had and by whom they were issued. Now Sam has checked out the museum contact claimed and reports: 'The Latvian War Museum did not approve of the Nazi War Diggers' (March 31, 2014). He has obtained the information:
The understandably outraged Latvian War Museum has stated that it did not approve of Nazi War Diggers, it does not approve of Nazi War Diggers and, in fact, it tried to stop Nazi War Diggers.
So, maybe it is time for the National Geographic and Clear Story to stop being economical with the truth, and put its cards on the table about what was actually done on what terms and under what conditions. Let us see the texts of the legal permits under which these  diggings took place, let us see also some answers to some of the questions Dr Hardy and other have been asking since the programme's website went up and then was modified. 

Maybe some of the participants might feel that since the production company has been remarkably slow and disorganized about defending them from criticism for participation in such a shambles, that - contract or no contract - they might speak on their own behalf, and share some of the details. 

Vignette: 'Nazi War Diggers' logo from Clear Story website

"Nazi War Digger" Craig Gotlieb in Poland Again?


Sam Hardy has drawn attention to the dealings of National Geographic's "Nazi War Digger"  Craig Gotlieb in ground-dug, and other, Nazi items ('Who would sell a ‘ground dug’ German helmet or a ‘ground found digged out’ ring?', Sam Hardy March 30, 2014). One of them caught my eye, a "Westwall" ring which he wrote about as recently as 18th February this year on a forum,  (germandaggers.com) where he gives his location as "Alte Babitz,  Poland":
 ‘Come on this one is ground found digged out durring the exploration of the battelfiield near Stettin . This I was told by the owner. I have few more WESTWALL rings from this guy wchich are OK. I just do not know this pattern therefore I ask You for help.’
From the point of view of somebody writing from Poland, there is something incredibly aggressively revisionist in referring to a place which for coming up to seventy years (since 1945, as a result of the German defeat) has been called by the Slavic name Szczecin. The same applies to Alte Babitz, but where was he says he was when he wrote this? He says in Poland, but Babitz ist der Name folgender Orte in Polen:
  • Ortschaft in der Gemeinde Nędza, Powiat Raciborski, Polen
  • Ortschaft in der Gemeinde Baborów, Powiat Głubczycki, Polen
  • Ortschaft in der Gemeinde Oświęcim, Powiat Oświęcimski, Polen - the latter a site of a subcamp of the Oświęciem-Brzezinka camp.

None of these, as far as I can see were "Alte" Babitz, but there is a place just to the west of Warsaw, Stare Babice (which is a plural) which on German maps would appear as "Alte Babitz". Has Craig Gotlieb really been staying just outside Warsaw in the past few weeks, and what has he been doing here? (notable are several WW2 battlefields precisely in this region). Is he meeting metal detectorist colleagues contacted here during the filming of the National Geographic programme a year ago? Why is he using exclusively old German names in correspondence for places in Poland? Does he think that is in some way funny or clever? Whatever his reasons it shows complete disregard for the Poles. More to the point if Mr Gotlieb has been staying here buying dugup relics from artefact hunters in Szczecin or wherever, has he been sending or taking them out of the country and to whom has he been selling them and for what purpose? The latter is not insignificant under Polish law (Ustawa z dnia 6 czerwca 1997 r. – Kodeks karny art. 256 Dz. U. Nr 88, poz. 553,with all later amendments).
Art. 256. Propagowanie faszyzmu lub totalitaryzmu
§ 1. Kto publicznie propaguje faszystowski lub inny totalitarny ustrój państwa lub nawołuje do nienawiści na tle różnic narodowościowych, etnicznych, rasowych, wyznaniowych albo ze względu na bezwyznaniowość, podlega grzywnie, karze ograniczenia wolności albo pozbawienia wolności do lat 2.
§ 2. Tej samej karze podlega, kto w celu rozpowszechniania produkuje, utrwala lub sprowadza, nabywa, przechowuje, posiada, prezentuje, przewozi lub przesyła druk, nagranie lub inny przedmiot, zawierające treść określoną w § 1 albo będące nośnikiem symboliki faszystowskiej, komunistycznej lub innej totalitarnej.
§ 3. Nie popełnia przestępstwa sprawca czynu zabronionego określonego w § 2, jeżeli dopuścił się tego czynu w ramach działalności artystycznej, edukacyjnej, kolekcjonerskiej lub naukowej.
§ 4. W razie skazania za przestępstwo określone w § 2 sąd orzeka przepadek przedmiotów, o których mowa w § 2, chociażby nie stanowiły własności sprawcy.
Note, the act does not mention in paragraph 3 commercial use. According to the wording of the law, collectors (finders) don't go to jail, but dealers can. Anyone with weapons, even ground dug is also likely to lose them under other laws on possession of weapons. Actually, the anti-symbols law is rarely enforced, sometimes the police raid antiques markets in Poland and any Nazi relics (mostly actually reproductions) have their swastikas covered with masking tape for a few weeks afterwards.There is also some debate whether WW2 battlefields come under the antiquities preservation laws, which define the term "archaeological site" (what is protected) rather vaguely - though again human remains in them are covered by other legislation. Polish metal detectorists who restrict their exploration to sites of the 1930s onwards are not likely to get into trouble for it here. Most of them however are very responsible (I know a few of them) and their hobby magazines show many of them research the sites using the historical documents in a way that would put the average UK metal detector hoiker to shame (they use the term to use old documents and archaeological literature to find places to target for collectables only). Much of what Polish artefact hunters who I have observed do can merit the title military archaeology - that is not to say there are not also destructive and totally reprehensible (as well as stupidly reckless) cowboys.   A number of the latter each year though end their careers splattered in the forests.

'Ground Dug' need not mean 'Battlefield dug'


Sam Hardy has been discussing Craig Gotlieb's selling 'ground dug' metal artefacts (so metal detected) in the context of the discussion of "Nazi War Diggers". I would add a note of caution that the selling of metal detected items, Nazi or whatever, need not always represent grave looting. 

First of all, not all the items are what they are advertised as. On the thread (Re: Another one to judge #294930 - 02/19/14 10:52 PM) where the "Stettin battlefield" ring was found is this comment, posted by member Gaspare of the Nazi Daggers forum, addressing Mr Gotlieb:
[...] Ground dug stories are great. But it is not a provenance. My wifes cousins were some of the first Ukrainian diggers in late 1990. I've met many diggers, been to digs and helped out a bit, etc. Stories are just that, stories. Some diggers blindly trust other diggers. They buy from each other, trade etc. When the ground stops giving up pieces weird things can sometimes happen. [...].
Secondly, some metal items fell off the uniforms, many insignia and medals in both German and Soviet armies were held on with a long pin which were not fastened. Many of them would be dislodged and lost crawling through bushes or long grass in the dark or heavy rainstorm, or things became detached from the backpacks.

Thirdly, after an army had moved on, local peasants would forage among what they'd left behind at camp sites or battle stations, dropped utensils or tools lost in the grass could be reused, boxes for ammunition were sturdy enough to find a use in the farm, fuel canisters likewise. Helmets from both sides were regularly used (liners removed) to put poultry feed in, some weapons may be hidden away 'just in case' and can still turn up in the rafters of barns.

Finally, once it was clear the War was lost, many people with Nazi insignia or objects around the house quickly got rid of it when they were surrounded by enemy Soviet soldiers, and any found by the latter was confiscated and dumped. There are (were) whole dumps of the stuff in many regions in central Europe and for example such things may turn up in ordinary domestic dumps (bottle dumps). In some areas of central Europe, and Russia, bodies lay unburied, in others they were collected up to allow the fields to be brought back into everyday use. I have seen a number of isolated graves in the edges of the fields in areas where I have worked (including those with rusted helmets still on them as markers), and there seems no reason why those graves cannot continue to hold the fallen (and despite what National Geographic says, those graves are not being looted).

In many cases, the Second World War battlefields which cover central Europe contain lots and lots of metal objects, but few human remains. A 1944 Red Army trench system I investigated a few years ago with the help of metal detectorists contained no military items at all, pots and pans and cutlery. The battlefields in which the bodies were left lying are those from the latter part of the War, in remote areas, away from settlement, and where the armies concerned were just passing through after decimating their opponents, the Kurland Pocket and forests around St Petersburg are extreme examples, but there are other areas like this, and here metal detectorists can find human remains as well as the lost relics of combat.


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Fragments and Holes in the Study of the Classical Past


Fragments, Holes, and Wholes: Reconstructing the Ancient World in Theory and Practice Warsaw, Poland, 12th–14th June 2014 An international conference organized by the Committee on Ancient Culture of the Polish Academy of Sciences the Institute of Classical Studies of the University of Warsaw the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw the Institute of Classical Studies of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.
Not a single mention of provenance, collecting histories or ethics in the entire programme. I see Dirk Obbink is going to be here - presenting his provenanceless Sappho fragments, but to listen to it will cost 150 €, so I think I'll give it a miss. I do not expect he'd answer any questions about it anyway. 


 

So, what is Responsible Artefact Hunting and Collecting?


In the afterrmath of the discussion on "Nazi War Diggers" and the "Near Maidstone A20 Anglo-Saxon grave trashing", Nigel Swift of Heritage Action asks "So what IS responsible metal detecting?
Personally I think I know exactly what the term means. It means working for the public's benefit, not your own. I'm confident every archaeologist thinks that too but in Britain there's a political and tactical need to avoid offending artefact hunters so most of them don't express it, not in in public anyway. Eight words unsaid, that's what makes Britain's portable antiquities policy bonkers for it lets anyone claim "responsible detecting" is whatever it suits them to say it is. 
The detectorists generally suggest that a responsible detectorist simply adheres to the letter of prevailing laws, or to the NCMD. Those who say it is more than that  (avoiding damage and fully reporting finds)  are hardly typical.
All the farmer knows is what he is told in the press ad nauseam, that there are just two sorts of detectorists - a tiny minority known as nighthawks and all the rest, who are "responsible". If only, if only officialdom and more archaeologists would stop saying that and tell landowners the real truth (an article in the farming press perhaps?) that "the rest" comprise every shade of responsible and none and that the term can only mean protecting the public's interest. [....] But not upsetting detectorists seems to outrank conservation or telling farmers the truth in many official quarters in Bonkers Britain. 

Donna Yates' Culture Crime News


If you are interested in antiquities smuggling and art crime, Donna Yates sends out a weekly email of news links: http://www.anonymousswisscollector.com/culture-crime-news. Commentaries on many of these stories which relate to portable antiquity collecting issues are provided on this blog.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

"Nazi War Diggers", the Polish Background


National Geographic has defiantly gone into damage control mode over its "Nazi War Diggers" programmes. They admit:
Unfortunately, a video excerpt from our show posted on our website did not provide important context about our team’s methodology.
Oh, I think it probably did. They want to stress that the series "operates in direct conjunction with organizations officially licensed to excavate battlefield sites and adhered to their procedures". Not in the video we saw they were not, not by a long chalk. So what is it we saw on that film? The film company decries the "misinformation being circulated". The information which is being circulated is based on what National Geographic themselves posted in the public domain to publicise the series and get people talking about it. That they are. NatGeo then go on to insist:
All relics uncovered by the team were cataloged and photographed and are now in safe storage. Items have been offered to museums. No items were trafficked or sold. The human remains found in the series will be reburied with due ceremony in military cemeteries under the supervision of the relevant war graves commissions.
It seems some artefacts however were brought back by team members from digging in Latvia. Some of these may be in"safe storage", but reports suggest that some were "plated and turned into candlesticks". What relationship do they have to the statements now being made by the TV company? How do the team know which war cemetery to bury these remains in? We saw some human bones hoiked from a small hoik hole dug in the middle of a battlefield from 1945, how were they identified as the remains of German soldier and not a Soviet one?

Some of this work was done in Poland. A photograph was made available by Donna Yates last night on Twitter. Here it is:

The caption said "Digging a German soldier in Poland for Pros dug, "stars" put in shot after. thnx ".

The photo raises questions. First of all Dr Yates does not mention that in itself, it is fake, somebody is shown "digging" with no handshovel or bucket to gather the loose. This surely is not a battlefield body. This looks like two skeletons from a mass grave - perhaps others lie at a lower level? There is an homogeneous sandy fill above the skeletons and the edge of the pit in which they lie seems to be indicated by the line on the right side of the pit floor, and the darker soil behind the crouching figure and in the right baulk. This excavation has therefore been made in the middle of one of the sides. Was the hole dug specifically to reveal bodies for the filming of Nazi War Diggers? Are the bodies Germans or Poles or somebody else?

We may then turn to the National Geographic damage control text, apparently written hurriedly to address the concerns expressed in the past few days. Look at what it says;
(Translated) Statement from Tomasz Czabanski, President of Pomost archaeological association in Poland
Before we go any further note how somebody sneakily slipped that word "archaeological" into the title of the organization. In reality the organization has no such word in its official name, is not an archaeological organization, though it does publish historical books (and there is one archaeologist in the association). The text goes on:
“Pomost Association is an organization dedicated to Polish-German reconciliation. We work on behalf of German People’s Union for Care of War Graves from Kassel (VDK). The work we do is on their behalf and for their benefit. These jobs are carried out under existing permits in Poland from the Polish official authorities. These jobs are carried out by the members of our association including archaeologists and historians. The episode for National Geographic relating to work in Poland was filmed with our consent, in accordance with the permit issued by the Volksbund (VDK) press department from Kassel. The works were carried out under our constant supervision and according to Polish procedures."
Note the vagueness about the "existing permits" and "Polish procedures". To conduct archaeological work or searching for artefacts in the Republic of Poland, a permit is issued to a named individual to do a certain project, and conditions are laid down in that permit which is issued as an administrative decision on application. I'd like to see the permits issues for the metal detectorist "Nazi War Diggers" to go anywhere near this work. They cannot be issued a permit in Polish law, due to their lack of archaeological training (that is the problem for metal detectorists here). Certainly no German VDK has any administrative powers to issue any permit for work carried out in the Republic of Poland. I really think we all deserve to hear in more detail, just what it is that "Pomost" did, and what the actual involvement of the three UK metal detectorists and the US relics dealer were in this.

This, taking into account the features shown in the background and general setting looks a bit like the exhumation by Pomost at Podła Góra (formerly Steinbach), near Świebodzin. Here German villagers (not necessarily all "Nazis") were massacred by a group of soldiers of the Red Army. But that exhumation, surely, took place four years ago, so I do not think it can be, but then, if its a later project, for some reason (unless I have missed something), it seems not to figure on the "Pomost" website. Why? Why again the secrecy? What actually is shown in this photo, and what took place in Poland for the needs of making "Nazi War Diggers"?

And whatever this site in Poland is, in what way are the US producers justified in alleging that it is in danger of being "looted" which gives rise to "Nazi War diggers" having to "race against time" to save it from Polish looters?  

Cancel "Nazi War Diggers" Eastern European Metal Detecting Escapade?




Cancel let's have some responsible archaeology TV from National Geographic. So how many responsible metal detectorists (see background) are we going to see join this campaign and why? I am in two minds about this campaign, any damage that was done in the field by these people (if indeed that was the case) has been done and is irreversible, whether the programme is shown or not. But certainly it is worth giving the TV company a run for its money by vehement and troublesome public protest and perhaps after this happens another thirteen or fourteen times (after the "Diggers" fiasco) the American edutainment channel may think twice about commissioning a programme like this without first thinking about what they are doing.   It seems the only way they are likely to be persuaded to do this.

I personally would welcome the show actually being screened in all its crassness. Let people in the UK (first, then the rest of the world) see what the constant PAS "you done well" head-patting has led to - a total lack of self-criticism and only a strengthening of the feeling of entitlement among UK metal detectorists. Perhaps when viewers see hoiking of human remains where a more delicate approach is clearly needed will at last start the public debate about artefact hunting and collecting that we so sorely need and its supporters (PAS included) are so strenuously trying to avoid.

UPDATE: See Heritage Action's  So what IS responsible metal detecting? - by Nigel Swift

.

Fury over the National Geographic channel historians digging up Second World War graves


Guy Walters and Ryan Kisiel, 'Fury over the National Geographic channel historians digging up Second World War graves' Daily Mail  28 March 2014

Dealer Gotlieb and three UK metal detectorists with spades and suitable facial expressions (Daily Mail).
The Daily Mail informs its readers that the formerly respected National Geographic is under attack for its forthcoming series called ‘Nazi War Diggers’ due to be screened (though initially only in the UK) on May 13, about excavating war graves on the Eastern Front from the Second World War (three ordinary men in a race against time - 'to save this history from being looted or lost’). The article quotes Dr Tony Pollard, the Director of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at Glasgow University, as saying the US TV show show is insensitive and a ‘disgrace’:
‘I’m appalled that a major broadcaster has sunk to the levels of exploitation television,’ he said. ‘I’ve been at the forefront of battlefield archaeology for fifteen years, and I have spent much time getting the subject taken seriously. 'This just looks like they’ve gone around digging up bodies, because TV likes a dead body.’ Dr Pollard regards the way in which the programme’s presenters handle human remains as being particularly insensitive. [...] ‘This shows no evidence of even the most basic archaeological principles - this is treasure hunting not archaeology. 'I have seen human remains brandished like trophies before but in dodgy youtube videos. The fact that this comes from a commissioned TV series is quite beyond belief. ‘The trailer on the internet was absolutely shocking, and very damaging for National Geographic.’ 
Other quotes come from Shannon Boomgarden (Natural History Museum of Utah) and Dr Sam Hardy (University College, London, who specialises in research into the illegal antiquities trade). The Mail, being the Mail adds some salacious detail about the production company which hardly adds to the expectation of gravitas* and also mentions the removal of the Gotlieb quote.
Yesterday, National Geographic appeared to back down over the programme, and removed the video and the archaeologists’ comments from their website. They also removed the quote from Mr Gottlieb. A spokesman for National Geographic said: ‘Unfortunately, a video excerpt from our show posted on our website did not provide important context about our team’s methodology. This series operates in direct conjunction with organizations officially licensed to excavate battlefield sites and adhered to their procedures.’ 

* "the same company that made Sex Box - the controversial feature aired on Channel 4 in October where couples had sex in a sound-proofed box before being interviewed about the experience in front of an audience".

Friday, 28 March 2014

US Antiquities Dealers on Egyptian Antiquities Looting and Smuggling


The paid lobbyist working for international dugup antiquities dealers declares once again a belief in American exceptionalism and exclusivity (Peter Tompa, 'Thanks, But No Thanks', Friday, March 28, 2014):
any "emergency" is entirely of Egypt's own making and American collectors, museums and the small businesses of the antiquities and numismatic trade should not be made to pay the price. 
Meanwhile Wayne Sayles tries to make it personal ("the predictable response from Poland"). Yes, Poland is watching you and drawing conclusions. The whole world is judging what you do and say, and you are not doing the image of the US any favours abroad. Shame on you dealers and collectors.

Peruvian Authorities Confiscate Archaeological Pieces from Cusco Stores


Authorities in Cusco confiscated Inca and pre-Inca ceramics and textiles that were being sold to tourists in stores on Cusco’s Pasaje Inca Roca in the San Blas neighborhood in the city’s historic centre. Among the 180 objects seized were ceramic vessels, textiles and metal artefacts from the Inca, Chimu and Chancay cultures. The objects were probably found by grave robbers or stolen.
Authorities said they planned to charge the individuals who were selling the objects. The law prohibits the sale of antiquities —colonial and pre-hispanic art and artifacts— not only for shipment abroad but within Peru itself. Objects such as pre-hispanic pots and colonial paintings can be held in private collections in Peru but should be registered with the Ministry of Culture. Archaeological looting and art theft are major problems in Peru, which has a rich history of Inca and pre-Inca cultures, as well as the Spanish colonial era. The government over the years has reached important agreements with other governments to prevent the smuggling of archaeological and historical objects into those countries from Peru, and has also been successful in recovering hundreds of objects through these agreements. The high demand in the illegal antiquities trade worldwide, however, makes it difficult for countries like Peru to stop all smuggling.
Peruvian Times, 'Authorities Confiscate Archaeological Pieces from Cusco Stores', March 28, 2014.

The "Archaeological" death wish tracked down?


An allegation was recently made that unspecified "archaeologists" had been directing death wishes throughout the social media ("everywhere") towards a UK metal detectorist who got involved in a programme emitted under the name "Nazi War Diggers". The person involved however refused yesterday to name and shame the individuals (individual) concerened, saying it was in the hands of the police. So far no trace of such messages have been found in the social media, but this morning I stumbled across this, is this the mesage to which Kris Rogers refers?

MMM 03-26-2014, 03:56 PM  Wehrmacht-Awards.com Militaria Forums  thread: Craig Gottlieb and "Nazi War Diggers". It seems US based dealer in Nazi related objects Craig Gotlieb was by this time no longer flavour of the month on that forum and this criticism is directed at him:
Truely appallng! Are there no depths to which the boy wonder will not descend in order to get his publicity fix. This guy is now totally beyond the bounds of any possible respect for his actions. I am even more ashamed to see that his retard digging buddies are from the UK. If I could have a wish Gottlieb and his tard chums would all be sharing that grave space now. It about time Gottlieb was denied the oxygen of the publicity that he craves and is just totally ignored.
Crass and over the top, typical collector stuff, but a police matter? Hardly. Neither is there any evidence that "MMM" is an archaeologist or "educated person"...

Derek Fincham and Arca


Derek Fincham reports that he has resigned from his position with ARCA (the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art), citing "differences regarding the management of the organization". 

Can't Even Get That Right: European Convention of Literacy Standards Needed


According to the "responsible detecting" section of the national Geographic webpage, which obviously nobody actually checked, "Kris, Craig, Stephen & Adrian" write:

"We were all working in accordance with the European Convention on the Protection of Cultural Heritage, which means –
i. If human remains are accidently (sic) uncovered, they are reported to the local police / local authority dealing with cultural heritage
ii. If human remains are knowingly going to be excavated, then the organisation in charge of the excavation needs to have a license.
If you are on a dig and uncover remains, do report this immediately to the local police.
It is not at all clear, since there ios no such convention, which document they have in mind:



European Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property Delphi, 23.VI.1985
Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe Granada, 3.X.1985
Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society Faro, 27.X.2005
European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Revised) Valetta, 16.I.1992 

None of them actually mention treatment of human remains. I suspect they had another document in mind and somebody has substituted the title of some imaginary EU document in place of its title.

Nazi War Digger Brings Back 'Ground dug in Latvia' Helmet: "No Trouble With Customs"



National Geographic insists that all the artefacts dug up by the team they sent to Eastern Europe to dig up wartime "Nazis" were sent to museums Is that the case? When was this filming secretly done? Questions surely must be raised by this thread: a thread "Ground Dug in Latvia" on the "wehrmacht-awards.com" forum started by Craig Gottlieb06-11-2013, 07:09 AM #1 note: now listed as 'Expelled')  boasting:
 Here's one for you. While mostly known for more well-preserved specimens, I found this in the terrain where it fell in 1945. Pretty cool, to know the history of the helmet all the way back to then! [Attached Images File Type: jpg helmut.jpg] [...]  I'll bring it home and decide what to do with it. If I decide to clean, I'll definitely get help from some new friends who know what the heck they're doing. But, I sort of like it as-is. What do you think?
"james m" 06-11-2013, 07:37 AM :
Let us know if there are any issues getting this thru Latvian customs when you leave the Country.
Craig Gottlieb 06-15-2013, 04:14 PM #4
Nope. I flew back to Finland.
kyles bullets 06-15-2013, 06:09 PM #5
Nice helmet! I hope one day I can go to a battle field and search for relics just like you did. I would never sell it just like you!
Craig Gottlieb 06-17-2013, 12:27 AM #6
I found another one sticking 1/2 way out of the mud (on it's side). I was sure I had found a soldier, but there was NOTHING else in the mud - even the other half of the helmet was missing!
Then there are a few posts on cleaning the object, professional stuff like vinegar, lemon juice... Then: Craig Gottlieb 06-17-2013, 08:37 AM #8
[...]  I also brought back two Russian mortar tails, and will be turning them into a pair of candlesticks. I will probably go for the "ultra modern" look and have them cleaned and plated, so my wife doesn't complain about rusty bits on the dining room table. Also, I got a beautifully ripped-open shell fragment given to me by my friend Viktors, and I'll probably do the same thing ... modern art. 
More: Craig Gottlieb 06-17-2013, 09:47 AM #11
For the helmet, I'll probably leave it alone. Cleaned, it'll look like a junky helmet. Rusted out, it looks like what it is ... a helmet found in the Kurland Pocket!
Just in case this goes the way of much else associated with "Nazi War Diggers" exploitive escapades in eastern Europe, here's the Google cache of the page.

There is a whole thread on the same forum devoted to former member Gotleib's involvement in the programme (and much else): 'Craig Gottlieb & "Nazi War Diggers"'. It seems that even many WW2 relic collectors view the NatGeographic escapade with some distaste.

UPDATE 29.03.14
There is a pretty thorough follow-up piece on this on Sam Hardy's Conflict Antiquities blog which is worth reading (he saved the screenshots in case the forum is asked to by National Geographic in damage-control remove this information)


U.S. Victims of Jerusalem Bombings Lose Bid for Artifacts


Further developments in Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 03-cv-09370, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). A federal judge in Chicago says survivors of a 1997 terrorist attack blamed partly on Iran can't seize museum pieces in Chicago's Field Museum and the University of Chicago U.S. collections to help pay a $412 million judgement against Iran. Survivors of the suicide bombing in Jerusalem sued Iran's government, accusing it of being complicit. A Washington, D.C., court had awarded that judgment.

District Judge Robert Gettleman ruled yesterday the antiquities were legally beyond the victims’ reach. “The court recognizes the tragic circumstances that gave rise to the instant action, but finds that the law cited by plaintiffs does not offer the remedy they seek,” the judge said. State Department Attorney David Strachman, who represented lead plaintiff Jenny Rubin, her mother and the other seven, said today in a phone interview that his clients were “very disappointed” with Gettleman’s decision and blamed the U.S. State Department for arguing against the seizure.[...]  While the university and the natural history museum claim ownership of the remainder of the sought-after artifacts, the claimants contend they were illegally removed from Iran and still belong to that country. 
Among Gettleman's findings was that there was no evidence Iran's government claimed ownership of the collections.

Sources:
Associated Press,'Museum items can't be seized to pay Iran judgment'  wistv.com  Mar 28, 2014
Andrew Harris, ' U.S. Victims of Jerusalem Bombings Lose Bid for Artifacts', Bloomberg Mar 29, 2014

"Nazi War Diggers" in New York Times

Hoik Hole dug on burial site by National Geographic team note pinpointer
(edited from photo in Daily Mail)

Tom Mashberg ('TV Series Is Criticized in Handling of Deceased', New York Times March 28, 2014) weighs in on the controversy surrounding National Geographic's metal detecting spree on the Eastern Front. Tony Pollard, director of the Center for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow (who has appeared on National Geographic programs and other documentaries about the unearthing of war dead) is quoted as saying:
"I have never seen such a casual and improper attitude toward the treatment of human remains [...] It makes me shiver,” [...]  Dismayed archaeologists posted the minute-long video on YouTube and other websites on Thursday. But National Geographic, citing copyright infringement, sought to scrub the clip from unauthorized sites.
However it seems the damage has already been done, critics say the video initially used to promote the show "was enough to convince them that the archaeological work was being done in a “cavalier” and “disrespectful” manner, as Mr. Pollard put it".
In the clip, a cast member is shown pulling hard on a half-buried leg bone, which the team speculates belonged to a German soldier who fought the Red Army in Latvia, on the Eastern Front, toward the end of the war. Once the bone is disinterred, another cast member holds it to his shoulder and speculates that it might be an arm bone. His colleague responds that it is too long and must come from a leg. “So that’s his leg,” the second cast member then says.
Mashberg also describes the thoughtless TV channel's other attempts at damage control. 
Chris Albert, a spokesman for National Geographic Channel in Washington, said in an interview that “we understand and appreciate many of the issues that are being raised,” but he added that there is “a lot of misinformation and gossip.” “Part of it is our fault because we released a clip completely out of context that was not representative of the show,” he said. “But I hope people will withhold judgment until the show starts.” [...] In its initial press materials, the network quoted one of the cast members, Craig Gottlieb, a dealer in military artifacts, as saying, “I feel that by selling things that are Nazi-related and for lots of money, I’m preserving a part of history that museums don’t want to bother with.” By Friday, however, that comment had been deleted from the site. [...] One of the two metal-detecting specialists on the show, Kris Rodgers, said on Twitter that he agreed the show had been promoted with “a very bad clip.” In response to the outcry, however, he added: “Trust me. It was done properly.”
Mashberg correctly reports that the view is that the program is a sensationalist attempt to generate ratings at a time when archaeology-themed shows have become a mainstay of cable programming.


"Meanwhile, Hungarian archaeologists have claimed to have found the tomb of Atilla the Hun", Ummm No (duh).


"Meanwhile, Hungarian archaeologists have claimed to have found the tomb of Atilla the Hun" says the cultural property observant Peter Tompa, thinking he has some kind of archaeological scoop (current labels ""). The discovery was being mentioned on any archaeological blog at the time - or indeed in any mainstream media. His source was an authororitative article from - ahem - the news page of some US-based organization called "New World Order Media", but the other articles currently on its home page give a good view of the reliability of Mr Tompa's "news" source. 
'Biblical Giants Unearthed in Golan Heights?'
'Secret Society Announces Discovery of 13th Crystal skull'
'Atlantis Cuba: Underwater Ruins Could Be Linked to Atlantis'
'Remains of Pixie Specimen Discovered in Ireland' and so on
What an embarrassment. Unfazed though by the realisation that the photo clearly shows a very post-medieval burial in a coffin and no fifth century internment, Mr Tompa attempts to salvage the situation and take another swipe at those hated archies:
Addendum (3/28/14): Apparently the news about Hungarian archaeologists finding Attilla's grave was faked. It does lead one to wonder how much archaeological "truth" out there is not for real.
Pathetic. It actually leads one to wonder just how much truth there is in anything reported as fact by certain cultural property lobbyists.

Cultural Peroperty Observer has obviously not been following this case with the attention it deserves, Mr Tompa can't spell Sevso either.

 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

British Museum Not Bidding For Fragment of Assyrian Stele, Even Though it Has The Rest


Artistically broken
chunk of carved basalt

Another object in the April 3rd Bonhams sale in the news is the lower part 1.4m tall (lot 99 est. £600,000 to £800,000) of an Assyrian royal stele dedicated to King Adad-nerari III of Assyria (c. 805-797 B.C.) from Tell Sheikh Hamad (eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border). The Syrian site has been excavated since the 1970s by German archaeologists led by Hartmut Kühne. After a previous failed attempt to sell it at Christie’s New York in 2000, Karen Radner (an Assyriologist at University College London), linked the piece with a fragment of the upper part of the same object in the British Museum and identified the praying figure as Adad-nerari III (Martin Bailey, 'British Museum will not bid for fragment of Assyrian stele—even though it owns the rest', The Art Newspaper 27 March 2014). The basalt stele would have been installed at a shrine commemorating a military victory. The British Museum’s fragment (Inv. No. BM 131124; 1881,0721.1), depicting the head of the king, was discovered by Hormuzd Rassam in 1879 and accessioned two years later. The piece consigned to Bonhams depicts the lower two-thirds of the praying king. It is being sold by a private collector in Geneva and was “given as a gift from father to son in the 1960s”, according to the auction house, but no details about when it left Syria are available. Bonham's description only suggests: "it seems this lower stele section, forming the larger part of the monument must have been removed prior to [1978] and likely prior to 1975 when Kühne began surveying the site". A curse written in cuneiform on the object condemns anyone who removes the stele from its original site.

UPDATE 28th March 2014
Nord on Art ('Hazy History for some Antiquities at Bonham’s, April 2014' – UPDATED March 28, 2014) mentions this piece too and adds the following information.  The organization Heritage for Peace suggests in its March 26, 2014 newsletter (following an article in Al-Akhbar, 17 March 2014) that the relief is could be recently looted, Bonhams is interpreting that the fact that it was not seen by Kühne as meaning it had already been removed from the site, an alternative explanation is that it was still buried in an area not explored by Kühne (the upper part had been hurled down the side of the tell) contains the following:
The article publishes a video entitled “Stop the Theft and Sale of Antiquities in Syria”, by the Saadeh Cultural Foundation. The video is addressed to UNESCO, the Syrian Government and Bonhams. The video claims that Auction Lot 99, which is apparently from Tell Shiekh Hamad, in Haseke province, is looted, despite Bonhams claim is was excavated in the 1970s. [...] Therefore, the foundation argues, it must be looted. Looting has certainly been reported at the site since at least September 2012.
To read the full article (in arabic) and see the video (arabic with English subtitles) in Al-Akhbar, click here.

H. Rassam, Asshur and the Land of Nimrod, being an account of the discoveries made in the ancient ruins of Nineveh, Asshur, Sepharvaim, Calah, etc, Cininnati & New York, 1897, p.312.

K. Radner, 'The Stele of Adad-nerari III and Nergal-eres from Dur-Katlimmu (Tell Saih Hamad)' in Altorientalische Forschungen, Vol.39, Berlin, 2012, pp.265-277.

Worth Reading on "Nazi War Diggers" Metal Detecting Show


Call of Duty mod
John Roby, 'We don’t need a TV show about looting Nazi battlefields', Digs and Docs March 26, 2014

The National Geographic Channel International (the U.S. version of which previously brought us the program Diggers) has greenlighted a show called, no kidding, Nazi War Diggers, which it, apparently un-ironically, refers to as a ‘factual series.’

Sam Hardy, 'Urgent ethical and legal questions for National Geographic, ClearStory and their Nazi War Diggers', Conflict Archaeology March 26, 2014.

Rather noteworthy is that after this text was published, the threads to which it links disappeared from the metal detecting forum: "The requested topic does not exist". I suspect that is not a coincidence and rather puts the "Nazi War Diggers" in an even worse situation. Why have these texts been removed if nothing wrong was being done - and the two removed threads contained that information supplied by the participants in the event?

UPDATE
... and then the video disappeared from the National Geographic website, together with all the comments from members of the public condemning what they saw there. It remains to be seen whether the TV company replace it tomorrow by one showing the work of the detectorists and Nazi relic dealer in a better light than this talentless hoiking.

Detectorbloke has noticed:

Gone is the Mr Gottlieb's quote that  “I feel that by selling things that are Nazi related and for lots of money, I’m preserving a part of history that museums don’t want to bother with”. now he says "I'm an historian and a military officer. Where other people see fields and trees, I see a battlefield I see fighting positions. I see fields of fire.".
What is new though on the website is an awfully muddled account of "responsible metal detecting". It is not at all clear to whom that is addressed and where it is applicable, and why going out on a known battlefield with buried human remains improperly prepared to deal with all its problems is at all "responsible". Disturbingly, it also mentions that the National Geographical team was working "with" groups that had licences to excavate and exhume, but over here the permits have to be for specified persons and projects, and the wording of the text on the website makes this quite unclear. I think we should be able to see the permits.   

Two more objects surface from Medici and Becchina archives in London auction houses


cute, but Becchina
University of Cambridge researcher Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis has reviewed the catalogues for three upcoming London auctions of antiquities (Bonhams on April 1; at Christie's on April 2; and again at Bonhams on April 3) and he has identified two objects as having figured in photos of objects in the archives of two art dealers, Giacomo Medici and Gianfranco Becchina. These archives were confiscated by Italian and Greek police and have been used to identify objects handled by these two dealers which had been looted and smuggled from at least 1972 until 2006. Obviously the continued surfacing of objects that have passed through these dealerships is of interest and concern.

1) Lot 173 in Christie's Sale 1548: Greek Core-Formed Glass Oinochoe "from the Eastern Mediterranean", circa 2nd-1st century B.C. Tsirogiannis has determined that the object figures in the Medici archive, but the declared collecting history is vague in the extreme: "Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1988, lot 198".

 2) Lot 22 in Bonhams April 3 sale (#21926): Canosan polychrome painted lidded pottery pyxis, circa 3rd century B.C. Tsirogiannis has determined that the object figures in the Becchina archive, the declared collecting history is not much better: "American private collection, New York, acquired from Ariadne Galleries, New York City in the late 1980s". Tsirogiannis indicates documentation which suggests that Ariadne Galleries bought the items from Becchina.
"Why do Christie's and Bonhams still fail to supply the full and correct collecting history of the objects, especially when they advertise their due diligence before the auctions?" Dr. Tsirogiannis wrote. "Why are these objects depicted in the Medici and the Becchina archives?"
Catherine Sezgin, 'Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis matches two objects up for auction in London with objects identified in the Medici and Becchina archives', ARCA Art News blog March 27, 2014.

"Death Wishes from Archaeologists"?


Addicted to bleeps » Wed Mar 26, 2014 11:55 am
Nat Geo have created a mini site for the show.
They've releases videos, pictures, etc etc.
Here's the first video for it. Arrgggggg! Scary!
http://natgeotv.com/za/nazi-war-diggers/videos/human-bone-removal
One of the "Nazi War Diggers' metal detectorists is feeling depressed. Metal detectorist Kris Rogers writes ('Addicted to bleeps' Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:20 pm ) that since he announced his participation in the programme, he has discovered what people can be capable of on the internet. Welcome to the club.
I've never received so much venom, hatred and spite. It's been constant. I'm just a presenter (sic). But it's got really personal now. Had threats and all sorts. It's just not stopping. Because I do many things on the internet, I'm getting it from everywhere. My detecting youtube, Facebook and Twitter. My bass lessons youtube, Facebook and Twitter. My personal blog youtube and twitter and Facebook. Apparently I should kill myself. That's nice. Thanks for that. I used to hold archeologists in high esteem. [...] But after all this relentless hate. These are educated people. Look at the comments. 
Well, Mr Rogers has my sympathy, I and my family have been through this for a large part of the time I've been discussing artefact hunting and I agree, people can be animals on the internet, something akin to road rage I guess. My impression is that what I have been getting is not from particularly "educated" people, so if Mr Rogers really has been getting this sort of treatment from heritage professionals too, it's a serious development. I am having a hard time, however, working out where these death-wish comments from 'archaeologists' are, There are absolutely none for example under the blog post on the Nazi War Diggers where you might expect them. Certainly if you go through the 140+ comments under the NatGeo video there are quite a few comments from people who explicitly identify themselves as (or you can guess are) archaeologists and every single one of them is written in a temperate language, but is entirely condemnatory of what we see in that film. And quite right, what we see in that film is an utter scandal.

I note that in his first post about it Addicted to Bleeps did not write anything along the lines of "I know what this looks like, but believe me that actual excavations we did were not like this". He just presented it as a straightforward chunk of the programme. It seems it never for once crossed his mind, until he started hearing other people's reactions, that there is anything wrong with what we see in the video used to promote the programme.

I'd be interested to see what Kris Rogers has in fact been receiving from archaeological colleagues. It would be helpful if he'd post some links and some names of the people allegedly sending him threats and even death wishes.  If people, archaeologists in particular, really have been doing this, then let's name and shame them together. If archaeologists have been sending such things from work computers, then disciplinary action is in order.


UPDATE 27th March 2014
That's interesting, both threads about Nazi War Diggers have been deleted from the UK and European Metal Detecting Forum. "As you were chaps, nothing to see here" they say. there was no discussion of this programme at all in metal detecting circles. Shhhhhhh....

UPDATE 28th March 2014
Odder still, when sincerely offered help in dealing with the rogue archaeologists who have allegedly been threatening and sending death wishes, Mr Rogers goes strangely quiet. He says its a police matter  " I'm not allowed to say. You know this". No, there is no reason why Mr Rogers cannot bring himself to say "Joe Bloggs of Barsettshire County Council Archaeology unit posted this yesterday on my blog [link]: "Mr Rogers, You are [***]. I am disgusted, I think you [***] and I want you to [***]" . Let the world know what an intemperate blackguard Joe Bloggs is.

It's pretty obvious to all of us that one reason why he cannot report what Joe Bloggs the archaeologist said is of course if Joe Bloggs said no such thing. Perhaps Joe Bloggs, or somebody else, exasperated by slippery tekkie talk and hiding behind enforced confidentiality (from the TV company) said "oh for goodness sake, it's pointless trying to talk with you, go take a long walk off a short pier" or something like that. That could be interpreted as a death wish by the over-sensitive (and as we have seen such a description can be applied to many metal detectorists). Alternatively it could be seen as a  black-humour colloquialism fairly commonly used in UK English with no intention that the recipient actually does harm themselves.

More telling is how if you follow back Mr Rogers' tweets to check out what threats have been sent to him there. The first mention of such a death wish comes at about eleven in the morning on Thursday,  (addressing Tanya Peres who'd stressed that although she disapproved of what the video showed, she had never said such a thing "Please don't put words in my tweets. I would never say something like that. Dude?"). Rogers replied without supplying any further details: "One of you did. The authorities are dealing with. Now, please stop harassing me". Professionals expressing an opinion on a video involving disturbing scenes involving human remains is not harassment. So rather than being threats "everywhere" in the various sources listed in the (now deleted) post from the metal detecting forum, it now seems that (whatever was said) it was one person in one place and that person was of course not Tanya Peres.

Now we see " 59 min.
"Right, I'm off this account now. Hope I get lot of apologies from you when the show is out. (yea right!) Enjoy, and take care x"
If apologies are due to the programme's creators I am sure they will be forthcoming. I'd still like to know about the background to the allegations that "archaeologists" (plural) were sending threats and death wishes to just one of the people featured in the programme. Is it true, or another of those little get-outs, like deleting threads on discussion forums, and twitter accounts, that detectorists use to avoid discussing uncomfortable subjects?

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

White Diggers, Black Diggers, British Metal Detectorists and the TV Company


"Out there, they just
discard the bones, and take the loot
".
Addicted to bleeps Wed Mar 26, 2014 8:30 pm 

In the context of the discussion of the team of metal detectorists from Britain who went with a Nazi relic dealer on an artefact hunting trip to the Eastern Front, I thought I'd post up a link to a news item I read with interest some time ago, but did not comment on at the time. I see however that it's coming up in other people's comments on the newly-released video clip from the National Geographic "Nazi Diggers programme": Lucy Ash, 'Digging for their lives: Russia's volunteer body hunters' BBC News, Russia 13 January 2014
Of the estimated 70 million people killed in World War Two, 26 million died on the Eastern front - and up to four million of them are still officially considered missing in action. But volunteers are now searching the former battlefields for the soldiers' remains, determined to give them a proper burial - and a name.
These groups work meticulously to locate the remains and identify them so that they can be returned to their families for proper burial, the news report gives a few examples. The author also writes:
These teams are known as the "white diggers", but there are also those dubbed "black diggers" who search for medals, guns, coins or even gold teeth which they sell online or to specialist dealers. They are not interested in identifying the soldiers - they just leave the bones in the ground.
Yesterday I gave a link to a forum with which one of the National Geographic "Nazi diggers" is associated which is selling 'Eastern Front dug' relics including a dogtag the condition of which suggests that it comes from a Missing in Action body dug up by such Black Diggers. The group that the BBC journalist reported on has a:
strict set of guidelines about how the remains should be excavated, labelled and stored. Each soldier is photographed and their location is recorded and entered into a digital database.
One of the photos of the BBC photogallery (photo 3 here - warning, shows human remains) showing two fallen German soldiers uncovered by the group illustrates how, in accord with such a protocol and methodology,  the White Diggers clear down and around the groups of remains over a large area before removing them, revealing the relative positions of any associated items and allowing the retrieval of the bodies as ordered remains, not the amateurish 'wiggle-and-hoik' in a narrow hole methodology seen in the Nazi Diggers video which has prompted such concern, and in some outrage.

Of course the narrow-headed beep-beep crowd gathered around the new "Nazi War Digger" smug TV stars just do not understand what the fuss is about. Their FLOs have been busy telling them for seventeen years that narrow hoik holes is "you done well" and really have no idea how the rest of us appraise what they are seen doing on the National Geographic Channel video.  On a metal detecting forum near you (Re: First video for Nat Geos 'Nazi War Diggers'!) the beleaguered "Addicted to bleeps" (Wed Mar 26, 2014 3:44 pm) is having a bit of a problem  explaining something to a fellow member who'd been roused by reading what was said on blogs outside the hobby to write critically of what the video showed:
Detectorbloke/Housed, I just read your blog post in relation to PB's blog post [UPDATE 27.03.14: even that coy reference to this blog without a link was too much for the ever-so-sensitive forum owners, where it seems my name is not to be mentioned - they immediately changed "PB's blog post" to "## MOD EDIT ##"]. Please, please, please don't knee-jerk like he does. There is information written about this as we speak. A public, Q&A. We were monitored very, very closely. The film is made to look like we just dug people up, willy, nilly, ha ha! In truth, there were a LOT of professionals on site with us at all times. Please understand that everything was treated with full professionally and decency, and very much in the boundaries of the law. 
The hole we see them digging on the video clip chosen to advertise the programme does not look like any project with which any reputation-caring professionals would be involved. The hoiking out of the femur was not done professionally (if there were professionals standing around watching this, why do we not hear "no, STOP!" and "no you foolish man, it's a femur" from behind the cameraman?). The names of these professionals will be in the credits at the end, won't they? As I say I'd like to see the excavation permits if this project was done in "the boundaries of the law".

The scene where one of the participants pretends to weep thinking about the poor boy they'd dug up is typical US vomit-making disneydumbdown, yuk (this is the guy that's reportedly hoping to make a big profit selling the personal possessions of a mass murderer). Pay particular attention to the music and the transparently obvious way it is used to build up tension and pathos. Most people however are disturbed by the bit where on camera they hand around the cranium amateurishly speculating about the significance of the damage on it (or Estuary English explaining 'ow this 'ere shrapnil wuld rip yer flesh apar' rip yer internal oganz apar' - horrible way t' die, horrible as he chucks the find somewhere off camera).  It's as if only now they realise they are on a battle site. One is reminded by the tenor of the discussion of the little boy who rewinds the DVD to play the fountain of blood and brains in the headshot of some gory film, crying delightedly "did you see that? Cor!". Disgusting. 

Interestingly the video attracted in the first day over 140 comments, almost all of them reacting with distaste at how the US TV company has sent some amateurs abroad to make a total mess of an exhumation. I saw some archaeologiosts (but no FLOs which is perhaps significant) and ordinary people expressing shock, dismay and outrage (several would like to see these diggers go to jail).     

"Going to a museum, but I've gotta play with it first"
These are not "knee jerk" reactions. I would argue anyone who takes part in such a project (even if at this stage the name "Nazi War Diggers" had not been chosen) should be aware how what is filmed is going to look to an outside audience expecting the highest professional standards. In taking part in such a project, they should be careful to behave at all times on camera accordingly, which includes not digging hoik holes and yanking out human remains while the camera is rolling. Is that so difficult to understand? Is it the case that after seventeen years of expensive outreach to metal detector using "finders" the PAS has not yet  got over to them the information what those proper professional standards should look like?

One caution. How possible is it that NatGeo has deliberately chosen provocative film and photos (the skulls) in order provoke public outrage, calculating that it will get people talking about their series and maybe encourage more people to watch it? Even if that is the case, it is still exploitive. Do they have TV standards commissions in the US?

What kind of xenophobic remark is that "over there, they just discard the bones"?



And Central Searchers' Thick as a Brick Award goes to ....


Big Andy from Coventry on the discussion of the video from "Nazi War Diggers"!
"Spot on chaps nice to see a positive slant on the hobby"

New Developments Concerning National Monuments Act in the US


The US House of Representatives approved legislation on Wednesday that would would affect the manner in which the US President designates national monuments, H.R. 1459, the Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act. This is a bill that Republican supporters say is needed because presidents of both parties are abusing their power to select these sites.
Members passed H.R. 1459, the Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act, in a 222-201 vote. Democrats cast the bill as an anti-environmental measure, and only three Democrats supported it — ten Republicans opposed it. The bill would amend the 1906 Antiquities Act, which today gives the President the ability to designate monuments without any public process or environmental review. Republicans said this power is too broad, and can too easily transfer state land to the federal government.

Pete Kasperowicz, ' House votes to curb White House authority on national monuments', The Hill March 26, 2014.

Sounds a tad familar does it not?  Perhaps there is a chance of getting the CCPIA rewritten too, and in the process making it more effective in the conditions of the market as it exists in the second decade of the 21st century.

The Dancing Shiva Four Corners report


Video: Quentin McDermott and Deborah Richards, 'The Dancing Shiva;' Four corners March 25, 2014

Four Corners investigates the art scandal that's engulfing the National Gallery of Australia, and asks were Australia's finest art experts duped?
Four Corners investigates what is now shaping up as one of Australia's biggest art scandals - a scandal that's shaken the National Gallery and dented the reputation of some of the country's top art curators and gallery administrators. [...] As one art critic told the program: "To me it's extraordinary that museum professionals can acquire Indian objects or Indian artefacts in this day and age and not seriously check the provenance." The program asks why, with so much evidence pointing to the art work being stolen, the Shiva hasn't been returned to India? The Dancing Shiva highlights the ongoing failure by many galleries to conclusively establish provenances relating to antiquities and throws the spotlight on the ethics of trading in objects which carry deep religious and cultural significance in their country of origin.
Aired on Monday 24th March at 8.30pm on ABC1.

UPDATE:
Chasing Aphrodite: 'Reckless: In Pursuit of Shiva, the National Gallery of Australia Ignored the Advice of Its Attorney', 27th March 2014.

Sevso Treasure: New Developments


PhDiva had the lowdown on this first ('Sevso Treasure: New Developments', Wednesday, March 26, 2014). This news broke today: 'Sevso Treasure, “Hungary's family silverware,” returned',  The Budapest Business Journal on the web:
I am a little unclear about what exactly Hungary bought as the article says seven (7) items, and the Sevso Hoard is made up of 14 items: It seems a bit odd if Hungary bought half the Hoard
A later report  gives the price as 15 million Euros and  said that the artifacts were taken back to Hungary from London a few days ago after long negotiations with unidentified sellers.
So they presumably bought some of the pieces off Northampton or the Trust that owns them, not other newly surfaced items.[...] 15 million Euros for the larger pieces of the Hoard sounds like a very good compromise - in theory they would be worth a lot more on the open market if anyone would buy them, but if Hungary couldn't substantiate their claim ... I assume the price is a reimbursement of the owner's cost.
Fifteen million Euros is reportedly a third of the asking price for the whole Hoard in 1990. The items will be on display at the Parliament for three months. I believe (on a number of grounds) that the hoard really did come from what is now Hungary, and it is a shame that the current shape of international legislation and the way the finds were 'laundered' by the deliberate opaqueness of the antiquities market prevents it being returned to that country without them having to buy back what everything suggests was illegally taken from them.

UPDATE 27th March 2014
There is a press release from the Hungarian Prime Minister's office 'Ancient Roman Seuso-treasure repatriated to Hungary', March 26, 2014:
The silver Seuso-treasure consists of fourteen silver vessels used for dining and washing. The Hungarian State has now acquired seven silver pieces of the Seuso-treasure: the Hunting (Seuso) Plate and the Geometric Plate, the two geometric ewers, the Basin, the Casket, the Dionysiac Ewer and the copper cauldron that was used for hiding the treasure 1500 years ago.
The Seuso-treasure was found in the middle of the 1970s around Polgárdi, situated close to Balaton. Despite the international investigation that has been ongoing since then, little is known for certain about their history until their aforementioned appearance at the New York auction in 1990.



 
Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.