Saturday, 31 January 2015

Blood Antiquities, Now Blood Manuscripts?

"Get a brain.." who?
Over on the blogs and forums of those involved in the no-questions asked trade in dugup antiquities, the brown-skinned folk of the antiquities source countries are depicted as ignorant savages who associate their countries' heritage with an oppressive regime and thus will willingly destroy it or flog it off cheap to middlemen supplying foreign markets here for example, the same idea here and the notion is also a notorious leitmotif running through the IAPN/PNG paid lobbyist's blog. These spokesmen for the milieu see looting as the inevitable result of a country ruled in a manner that is recognizably un-American (and so therefore in their views by definition bad and wrong). If only, they argue, the laws protecting the heritage in those countries were relaxed, looting (done by the general populace in revenge for not being run by America) would magically stop. This is really an offensive racist view of America's neo-colonialist and xenophobically-blinkered right with which (it would seem from what they and their spokesmen write and how), many collectors and dealers of dugup antiquities align themselves.

Meanwhile the situation is far more nuanced. The brown-skinned folk these people deride by their simplistic cardboard-cutout picture of the outside world do not fit the stereotypes these commentators wish to impose. We may think of the people in Syria who are doing their best to oppose the destruction of sites of cultural importance over there, some of them losing their lives as a result (remember Samira Saleh al-Naimi for example). In Iraq just now we are learning of others (Sinan Salaheddin and Sameer N. Yacoub, 'ISIS burning books at Iraq libraries and loading artifacts onto refrigerated trucks at night, residents say', Associated Press January 31, 2015) who cannot be fitted into the insulting stereotype which some antiquities dealers and their spokesmen attempt to propagate
Since the Islamic State group seized a third of Iraq and neighbouring Syria, they have sought to purge society of everything that doesn’t conform to their violent interpretation of Islam. They already have destroyed many archaeological relics, deeming them pagan, and even Islamic sites considered idolatrous. Increasingly books are in the firing line. Mosul, the biggest city in the Islamic State group’s self-declared caliphate, boasts a relatively educated, diverse population that seeks to preserve its heritage sites and libraries. In the chaos that followed the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein, residents near the Central Library hid some of its centuries-old manuscripts in their own homes to prevent their theft or destruction by looters. But this time, the Islamic State group has made the penalty for such actions death.
But foreign collectors can help preserve the past too, and put a little money in the coffers of the groups  which do fit their one-sided stereotypes of the "Other". A University of Mosul history professor (who spoke on condition he not be named because of his fear of the Islamic State group), said that locals reported that locals who live near these libraries observed that the older books from historical libraries were removed during the night in refrigerated trucks with Syria-registered license plates.
The fate of these old materials is still unknown, though the professor suggested some could be sold on the black market. 

More on Spanish Claims of Militant Funding through Antiquities Sales

More information is emerging from the Spanish portion of Operation Aureus which supports the rather vague claim made earlier that it might be connected with funding terrorism (Glen James, 'Gang of 'antique smugglers who sold looted treasures to fund ISIS busted in Spain' , Daily Mirror, 31 January 2015).
A gang of alleged antique smugglers have been arrested after being suspected of selling stolen Egyptian relics to fund Islamic State terrorists. Spanish police claim the network were operating out of mosques in Barcelona after they raided a shipment which they believe originated in Egypt. They added that the gang had gone to great lengths to try and hide what they were smuggling - which included human figurines, animal figurines and small bronze statues worth several hundred thousand euros. [...] Officials from the Spanish civil guard who carried out the operation said they believed money raised was going directly to fund jihadists. Four Egyptian men and one Spanish man were arrested in the city as a result of the police operation that also led to the seizure of 36 pieces of artwork in Valencia, which are believed to have originally come from Egypt. Experts from the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid say they suspect the antiquities had been looted from sites around the Egyptian towns of Saqqara and Mit Rahina south of the capital Cairo. They were in a container that came from the northern Egyptian port city of Alexandria and was being shipped to Barcelona. A police spokesman said: "This gang had gone to extreme lengths to avoid discovery. They operated in a network that was centred around mosques and other venues located in downtown areas in the city of Barcelona." They said that the one Spanish man arrested had been a dealer in antiquities who appeared to be the gang's local contact and who was supposed to sell the items on the black market. Those arrested face charges of smuggling cultural goods, money laundering, and membership of an international criminal organisation.
Now, note what would have happened if that (Barcelona?) dealer had been asked by investigating journalists about the looting of antiquities in Egypt and the question of antiquities sales financing militantism. He'd join the chorus of course of European and North American dealers chanting the litany of 'we don't see an increase in the amount of such stuff coming onto the market - honest'. This is what all the rest of the dealers are telling journalists. It is what they want their customers sincerely to believe. Yet it is being alleged that this particular dealer had a container containing a load of them waiting for him in one of Spain's largest ports. This dealer is reported to have been cynically dealing with four Egyptian gang members (allegedly working out of the mosques). What is the truth behind these allegations? Will the dealer concerned issue a press statement?  Will he co-operate with authorities and say who'd been buying stuff from him? Anyhow, alerted to the issue and its potential significance:
Spanish police also confirmed that they were stepping up monitoring ports, airports and border control points following fears that there would be an increase in similar types of smuggling in particular with regards to shipments from the Middle East where conflicts are being fought.

Whom Does US Mummy-Mask-Trashing Serve?

If anyone is in any doubt about why some people in the US see mummy-mask trashing as a good thing, take a look at this video, the pace is slow but there are some real verbal gems towards the end. Best approached I think with a good bottle of red:
Since the unbelieving lost have been mind controlled into not believing the Gospel
and subsequently not abiding in it, Edifying Others helps reveal the layers of mind
control that keeps lost sinners in their stony heart condition of Mystery Babylon 

mind control (Posted on You Tube by Edifying Others)
And watch out for that masked masonic mind control.

Bizarre and Disgracefully Arrogant Response over New Mark Fragment

Dr Danny Zacharias and Dr Craig Evans of Acadia Divinity College have just made a video in reply to the criticisms of mummy mask trashing. It is called 'Craig Evans Leads Scientists to New Discoveries at ADC', and  video features on the blog of Dr Zacharias under the title: "The Truth Behind What Dr. Craig Evans Has Been Doing at Acadia Divinity College". To describe the video as bizarre (as did Roberta Mazza) is an understatement. It has a tagline "brought to you by the scientists at ADC". I suggest Acadia Divinity College press officer might like to have a word with these two. 

At the beginning, tooth-baring Dr Danny Zacharias looking snazzy in his little woollen hat and smiling announces that he's "just got back" from a covert operation in Egypt where "I go there quietly, and basically I just, well, I, I raid tombs, I loot, ah pillage and find some good stuff there". Just under one and a half thousand people have seen this video. How many understand what its context is?  Acadia Divinity College Wolfville, Nova Scotia folks, remember the name. 

The film then shifts to Dr Craig Evans' office. Note on the right the framed papyri by the window in full daylight - next to the framed photo of a Pope.  Then the professor starts fooling around, takes the 'mummy mask' from Dr Z, makes a big show of  putting on the gloves [Remember Josh McDowell saying they do not wear them?] As he does so he chants "do the rule [sic] everything right, just the way you're supposed to do it" - in a mocking singsong voice. Then takes a batten of wood and repeatedly bashes the 'mask' ("you have to saften these things up") and then takes out a bit of paper which is he says is Secret Mark dated to the "forties" (the in joke is that Craig Evans is one of the main proponents of the  thesis that Secret Mark was a forgery). Then the two make fun of the archaeologists: "what do we do with that now? ... it's an antiquity, I could just shred it", "save the postage, run it through the shredder" the Professor suggests carelessly (note the slip "we can send it back to the museum"). How droll, eh? Canadian academic humour, a winner every time. 

This is just sheer arrogance. Instead of responding in a normal fashion to criticism of the apparent involvement in wanton destruction of Egyptian antiquities, these two have gone the other way, mocking the critics raising issues which worry them. What they are clearly doing is making out that they are fulfilling a strategy of provocation - in which case they then dismiss all and any criticism pretending that the critics have 'fallen into their trap' - because they meant all along to provoke. That is a childish tactic, and is exactly the modus operandi adopted by some of the metal detectorists (discreditable blogging duo Stout and Howland are the prime examples). In the case of the Mark papyrus criticisms far better would be to make a video explaining the origin of the papyrus and the actual extent of the involvement of Dr Evans in this growing scandal. And if he's signed some kind of non-disclosure agreement to protect the reputation (or whatever) of the papyrus's owner, I'd say it behoves him to keep silent and accept with humility the lesson learnt about the wisdom and consequences for science of such a dodgy deal.


Meanwhile, You Tube is a very public medium and Evans and Zacharias should consider that not everybody watching it will know what it is about - which means that the good name of Acadia Divinity College Wolfville, Nova Scotia is being dragged through the mud by two members of its staff. They represent the college as being involved in the looting and pillaging of Egyptian tombs and then laughing about blatant and damaging mistreatment of antiquities. This kind of ill-considered provocation can only create misconceptions, and earn a bad name for the Green Scholars Initiative - if indeed it is involved with the Mark Papyrus - and North American biblical scholarship as a whole.

Massive blaze devastates Russian library housing unique documents, Ancient texts

'Massive blaze devastates Russian library housing unique documents, ancient texts ' Russia Today: January 31, 2015

One of Russia's largest academic libraries, which contains millions of unique historic documents, has gone up in flames in Moscow. A part of the building’s roof collapsed before dozens of fire fighters managed to contain the blaze. The fire erupted at around 10 pm local time [...] on the third floor of the Academic Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION) in Moscow. According to the Emergency Situations Ministry, some 2,000 square meters were engulfed in flames, prompting the roof to cave in. According to preliminary data, the cause of the fire could be a malfunction of the electrical system[...]  With 49,000 readers and 330 employees, INION is the largest research center in Russia in the fields of social sciences and humanities. Its collection consists of 14.2 million texts in both ancient and modern European and Asian languages, including rare 400-year-old editions. 

Al-Arish Museum badly damaged by Sinai violence

In the North Sinai town of Al-Arish in Egypt  on Thursday when a series of coordinated attacks by militants hit sites in and around the city, killing at least 30 people.  The museum is located next to the Al-Arish security directorate, a focal point for militant attacks. Fortunately this affects the building and offices, the collection had already been evacuated to a secured location at the start of the militant attacks in July 2013. The entrance gate and the façade of the museum were totally destroyed, a number of ceilings collapsed, and glass windows and doors have been shattered.
The museum occupies 2,500 square metres and included 1,500 artefacts that tell the history of Sinai from the pre-dynastic period to the medieval period, including Pharaonic, Graeco-Roman, Coptic, Islamic and other items. Artefacts unearthed at excavation sites in Sinai such as the Horus military road in Qantara East and Tel Basta in the Nile Delta were also on display. 

PAS to staff: “Don’t mention the crooks”!

The Heritage Journal has a thought-provoking text called 'PAS to staff: “Don’t mention the crooks”!' which refers to not mentioning problems with finders on the secret PAS forum which replaced their public one. As they point out, laundering of finds stolen from one land owner by find spot description "is probably the easiest, most profitable and hardest to prove fib in the whole country and even when PAS suspect it they’re forbidden to say".
Dr Bland is snooty about amateurs who criticise his organisation but actually it is they who are entitled to be snooty about him. His database must contain large numbers of lies to a degree he can’t know and which he doesn’t acknowledge. Lucky for him that Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has just confessed to Parliament: “I have made no formal assessment of the effectiveness of the Portable Antiquities Scheme.” If he had done so he’d have put a couple of his permanent officials on it and trust me (I know some) they’re super-smart people and would look a lot further than PAS’s own self-adoring Annual Reports. I guarantee they’d work out the implications of the fact that the contributors to the database are mostly not High Court Judges and can make lots of money simply by saying Corby not Kirkby. Whitehall officials can see when Emperors have no clothes just as well as amateurs can and they can’t be dismissed as know-nowts for saying so.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Quiet About Aureus

Operation Aureus began in the second week of November 2014 and some of the results are now being announced in the international media. This was an international operation supported by Europol to prevent the theft and trafficking of European cultural property. So it is rather odd that on the blogs and websites associated with the dugup antiquities dealers, there is not even a peep to inform collectors that these raids took place, some people handling the sort of antiquities they buy have been arrested, let alone commenting on the involvement of state security forces instead of the police or other interesting features. For example on the blog of the IAPN and PNG paid lobbyist, coin dealers and metal detectorists (suddenly experts in conservation when it is brown-skinned folk presuming to do the work) are still making a meal of the Tutankhamun glue job. This has every appearance of being an attempt to deflect attention from what is happening on the European antiquities market and the scale of the problems revealed by these early raids. There are, it is reported, more to come. Who will be next? Mr Tompa, any "observations"?

MP Jenrick Quoted as Source in ISIL Funding

A recent article in the Tribune is a very good example of how some newspapers go about creating a 'news' story ('Stolen artefacts funding ISIS military operations' The Express Tribune, January 30, 2015). According to the article, Mr Jenrick, a former Christie's director, "commended the positive attitude of markets for not accepting looted material". But then the sentence below quotes him as the source for the information that the objects ARE appearing on the market. The Art Newspaper text which I have discussed here (and David Gill here) seems largely to be compiled from second-hand sources and there are things here which I think most likely derive from dubious sources (which Jenrick asked on Twitter to reveal has been unable to do). But it is just scissors-and-pasted by the Express Tribune journalist and a stock photo added and 'presto' - an article. The net result is Jenrick is in this derivative text being cited as an authoritative source for all the information presented as  'fact' established by a British parliamentarian.

Bulgaria busts international antiquities trafficking ring

As a further result of Operation Aureus, an international operation supported by Europol to prevent the theft and trafficking of European cultural property, the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security (SANS) announced two apparently related recent operations in Bulgaria part of ('Bulgaria busts international antiquities trafficking ring', The Sofia Globe January 30, 2015). These two operations by SANS took place in the period from November 26 2014 to January 26 2015.
It said that the operations were against an international organised crime group involving Bulgarian and foreign citizens that sought out and acquired various archeological objects and other objects of cultural value that were sent abroad illegally. SANS said that search-and-seizure operations had been carried out in 11 cities in Bulgaria at 36 addresses. Investigators seized more than 2000 ancient and medieval objects and coins from various eras and various objects, all meant to be protected by the Cultural Heritage Act. These included rare Thracian weapons, Thracian horse-riding decorations, antique pottery, bronze and precious metal, ceramics and glass, various types of jewellery – bracelets and earrings, rings with precious and semi-precious stones, brooches, bronze appliques, bronze and pottery figurines of people and animals, ancient and medieval seals, sets of antique surgical instruments, pieces of marble, Roman votive sticks, antique metal containers with ornate decorations in gold and silver, Christian crosses and icons.[...] Also seized were numerous metal detectors, including specific geo-radar systems for the precise study of layers of earth, devices for cleaning artifacts, scales, auction house catalogues, specialist literature, invoices related to trade and trafficking in items of cultural value. The agency said that it had found and documented production facilities and facilities for the production of specialist equipment for the needs of the organised crime group. Numerous computers and electronic communication devices used by the group were seized, SANS said. SANS said that it had inspected one of the largest private museums, owned by a business person identified only by his initials in the agency’s media statement. 
 It is interesting to see the state security agency involved in this one, rather than the police.

"RESCUE: Questions to the political parties": Where is Article 10?

"Nope, I see no problem with
article 10... Trade's OK"
Rescue have written to MPs and politicians across the spectrum on behalf of their members to gauge where each party stands on issues key to the future of heritage protection in Britain ("RESCUE: Questions to the political parties"). Key issues highlighted include the protection of local heritage planning advisory services and Historic Environment Records, local and regional museums, the correct solution for Stonehenge and the future of English Heritage.

What is from the point of view of the subject matter of this blog very interesting is the lack of any mention of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and artefact hunting and collecting per se (but see Tim Loughton's question 14 July 2014 and the answer, allocated funding goes only up to 2015-16 but "future funding arrangements will be considered as part of the next spending review"). What I do see as a potentially significant point is the question:
Are you aware that Britain stands in breach of several significant articles of the Valetta Convention (specifically all or part of Articles 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9)? If so, how do you propose to address the issue and to ensure that we comply with our international obligations under the Convention?
Articles 2 and 3 directly affect (among other things) antiquity collecting and the issuing of permits. Go, RESCUE, go.

I was saddened to see that they omitted mention of Valetta Article 10. Why is this omitted from the list of 'significant articles' of which Britain is in breach? Britain is one of the biggest global consumers of decontextualised archaeological artefacts for private collection (see this case involving Rescue just last week), and here we see that this is not something the parties are being asked about. Policies on illicit antiquities and the antiquities trade are apparently considered not 'significant'. Why is this issue continually being marginalised by British archaeologists? In many other countries in Europe and North America, the archaeological bodies take their responsibilities more seriously than in the UK. Why? Are they really all too worried about what the metal detectorists and dealer pals will say? Does this issue not concern Rescue in any way? Look at the six elements of Article 10:
10 (i) not done yet -despite being mooted in the Nighthawking report,
10 (ii) hardly ever done, and then, largely as a private initiative,
10 (iii) not done. No such body.
10 (iv) who knows?
10 (v) see iii
10 (vi) "to restrict, as far as possible, by education, information, vigilance and co-operation, the transfer of elements of the archaeological heritage obtained from uncontrolled finds or illicit excavations or unlawfully from official excavations"
Britain-total-fail, just look at! The Portable Antiquities Scheme does none of these things, and if it does not, what body have we that should? 
 And I personally would say Article 10 is a very minimalistic approach to the issues.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Thoughts on a UK Metal Detectorist's "History is for all of us"

"There's a story to tell. I feel like
I'm adding to a huge picture that is history".
Kris Rodgers

On a metal detecting blog w-a-a-y down the Alexa ratings, an artefact hunter has a go at me, deliberately makes some false allegations, threatens he's sending his "legal team" after me for some imagined slight, and then a day later complains I do not come running to his invitation to have "a friendly chat, legal wrangling aside" on Skype with him. Lunatic. Anyway, I suspect he wanted to make the same points there as they always do, and a portion of which we have in an earlier post on his blog ('History is for all of us', Friday, 16 January 2015).  Let's have a look at it.

He of course starts off by playing the victim. There is a "negative opinion of Metal detecting from certain elitist groups within other communities". He argues that artefact hunting deserves support "[due] to its contribution to the historical record" (PAS database, finds in museums, tekkie show-and-tell talks to groups). He goes on playing the victim:
Now, we are hounded by the aforementioned elitist groups quite often, because they feel they have the monopoly on historical preservation. In most instances, this is purely down to the subject of education. [...]  The elitist among them are closed to discussion. Rude, and feel a sense of entitlement because they formally studied for many years so they could involve themselves in historical preservation. They feel the layman should have no right to do this, as their way is the only way. In some cases it is pure bitterness.
Well, is it, and who is "hounding" whom? I suspect Mr Rodgers, too busy feeling victimised, really has no inkling of what the issues are. The metal detectorist searching for sympathy argues that "elitists" (archaeologists and others) want to control what he calls "historical preservation" as though old houses, postboxes and churchyards were the problem. But then it is the preservationists, including this blogger, who also say they are concerned with historical preservation, but of the information in the sites from which the collectors' collectables re extracted. So do both sides want the same thing?

We may surmise that Mr Rodgers is here conceptualising "historical preservation" in an object-centred manner. He 'preserves' in his personal collection the nice collectable objects that are "lost" in the soil. He takes them out of the ground so he and perhaps sometimes others can touch, see, talk about them. But then the object of preserving ecosystems and rhinos is not to put them all in zoos, or stuff them to put in a museum case. And whether anybody actually "sees" Rhino 26456 ever in its lifetime is not the point of wildlife and environmental preservation.

The medieval Murano Gradial, [pininterest] cut up by collectors and
bits scattered. Many of the cuttings can be traced to the sale of
William Young Ottley (Sotheby's, 11 May 1838)
I would say Mr Rodgers' object-centred approach is the equivalent in another field of collecting to the people who collect the pictures from old illustrated books or cut the illuminated initials out of manuscripts. They are scattered ('preserved from loss') decorating the walls of a number of people, giving a man-cave an 'erudite' or 'period' feel (and perhaps evoking the antiquarian spirit). Yet they originally formed an integral part of something else, they went with the text and cannot be understood fully without that text, and the text cannot be understood with the missing bits now on the back of a cut-out fragment (reconstructed in the figure above). That in these dumbdown days not everybody is interested in laboriously reading through the liturgy written in bookhand, but can immediately and effortlessly appreciated the 'art' of the nice colourful and decorative pictures is no excuse. I imagine those "preserving a little piece of the past" in the form of framed bits of book page on their wall did not think twice about the fact that there had once been a text accompanying them which has something to tell us about the times in which that collectable 'art' had been created. Or that by encouraging the dismemberment of that text by buying the products of cultural vandalism, they are contributing to the destruction of information, knowledge, about the past.
Now, I think most people would recognize that taking scissors to an otherwise intact book to sell the cutout pictures individually is vandalism for profit. Trashing the book is the result of greed, pandering to the desire to accumulate. This is not "preservation".

In the same way we may see an archaeological site as a 'text'. A trite metaphor, but in fact one appropriate in several senses. It is sheer vandalism to go around hoiking out individual collectable items from an archaeological pattern or assemblage in a way irreversibly decontextualising them and divorcing them from the information provided by other pieces of evidence not collected (Mr Rodgers can hardly deny this is what happens even in his own case, see the piece of lead in one of his recent videos - an artefact which is archaeological evidence, but not felt collectable by Mr Rodgers). Mr Rodgers does not understand how or why this is important, but goodness knows it has been explained time and time again. We have a seventeen million pound PAS set up to do that job, are metal detectorists capable of learning the lessons it should be teaching them?

None of the techniques required to make proper observations of what a (surface) site is composed of, where the material is within it and with what densities and associations are at all difficult to understand, apply and master. That's why we say "archaeology for all", archaeology, good field archaeology, CAN be done by amateurs. Of course it can. But the issue is that to "be" archaeology - and not just a treasure hunt, an archaeological methodology has to be applied to creating and then analysing the data. Amateurs can do it (Shakenoak showed they can even do and then publish good quality excavations, Little Oakley was another example).* The question is then, why we get situations like the Holt Hoard Hoik which I discussed earlier, the bloke concerned had a few weeks earlier been out with archaeologists, watched them in action, and then calmly went and trashed a site with a digger, a metal detector and two mates - and proudly filmed it.    

Mr Rodgers may object to me pointing out that a large number of metal detectorists one 'meets' online on the forums, contributing to discussion lists, sending comments to newspapers and even this blog are clearly not the sharpest knives in the drawer. They demonstrate it with everything they say and the way they say it and react to the reply. There are of course other metal detectorists with A-level GCEs, one I know is doing a doctorate at Bristol. They are not so much a problem as the ones ("challenged by formal education" as a PAS annual report put it not so long ago) who are quite simply capable of none of these things. These are the people whose effect on the archaeological record through ignorance and carelessness (and, yes, lack of responsibility) is tragic in its consequences.  PAS attempts to brush this problem off by insisting that since most metal detectorists are "history enthusiasts" (we even had "citizen archaeologists"), that they are "doing the same as archaeologists, they are the same as us". Well, no, most definitely they are not and in a number of areas. They are collectors and collecting does not actually have the same aims or approach to the evidence as archaeological research. There is no escaping that, which is why the PAS refuse to discuss it with us. 

Mr Rodgers apparently begrudges professional archaeologists all that 'training' they have to do their job. A group of people have spent some time training, getting experience in a series of techniques and the application of a methodology. It stands to reason they are going to be better at it than a group of C2s and Ds who not only have not, but have no intention of trying to learn. Mr Rodgers seems to think (along with most detectorists it seems) that to watch "Time Team", or whatever, replaces all the training in diagnosis, technique, observation and analysis an archaeologist can have, that "digging up stuff ("historical preservation") is easy" ("You don't need a good exam grade to use a spade"). But there is more, much more, to archaeology than hoiking artefacts out of the ground and putting them on display somewhere.

If my kid or dog is sick, I take it to a specialist to look at it and advise me. Somebody who has training and experience in diagnosis and treatment. I do not think taking her to the butcher's wife who's watched all the episodes of "Dr House", "Emergency" and "Nurse Jackie" is in any way helpful, and the butcher's wife would hopefully recognize a situation where it would be irresponsible to even try to apply any irreversible and potentially damaging karaoke  treatment to either. Again we come back to that definition of what it means to do artefact hunting "responsibly", responsible for what and to whom?

As for the "history belongs to everyone", the Kris Rodgers apparently wants to interpret that to mean, "if it belongs to everyone, it belongs to me, so I can help myself to it". What however it also means is that the historical record belongs to the other sixty-four million people in the country who are not Kris Rodgers and that Kris Rodgers (with his one-sixty-fourth-millionth ownership states) has a duty of care to what belongs equally to others too. Rather like the flower beds in a public park. A duty of care of the archaeological record is not to just trash it for the few collectable bits that take somebody's fancy. and which they can add to a growing personal collection which accumulates in worth as they do and deprives the rest of us of not only the appropriated object, but the associated knowledge that derived from its context in the ground and in relation to other information at the findspot. In the same way as it is not exercising a duty of care to pick the wild orchids, shoot the rhinos or cut illuminated initials out of a fifteenth century manuscript. If the collector wants to demolish part of the finite and fragile archaeological resource, let it be done in such a way that creates and preserves knowledge, and that means doing it by a learnt methodology that allows that. Otherwise artefact hunting becomes knowledge theft and knowledge destruction, even though the pretty decontextualised geegaws are kept in somebody's collection.

* The PAS record suggests this site and its environs are now being looted for collectables by artefact hunters (I imagine using my report as a guide to where to target). What archaeological information are they generating compared to what the amateur archaeologist recovered and to what degree is the damage caused being mitigated?

What Made Tutankhamun’s Facial Hair into the Most Newsworthy Thing in Egypt?

William E. Carruthers ('What we are talking about when we talk about Tutankhamun’s beard?' January 29, 2015) puts the discussion of Tut's beard into its post-colonial context and argues that we should fight inequality which will somehow resolve all problems.
Once again, the scientific stability of the objects was linked to (and became more important than) the political ‘chaos’ occurring outside their institutional home. Once again, protesters outside were dying in their droves.[...] So how can anyone attempt to address this situation in any sort of constructive way? Perhaps one suggestion would be to stop blaming victims. Maintenance workers and conservators working with very low budgets and under very high pressure do not deserve criticism. The root causes behind this situation do, and unpacking them can go some to way to helping understand why.
And of course all the collectors over on the IAPN/PNG lobbyist's blog who suddenly felt themselves the world's greatest experts on conservation the moment the anti-Egyptian news stories broke are betraying the worst possible kind of neo-colonialist and xenophobic prejudices which simply serve to maintain these inequalities.

Vignette: Global Civilians for Peace

Hat tip to Sam Hardy

Can You Buy Real Antiquities in Israel?

Even if you're getting a real artifact from Israelite history, chances are it's not kosher says Marty Friedlander ('Can you buy genuine antiquities in Israel?' Haaretz  Jan. 14, 2015). The article discusses Israeli Antiquities Law of 1978 and the loophole which allows tourists ot buy antiquities "sometimes for little more than a history textbook would cost".
there was a grandfather clause in the law that permitted the sale of items already in the inventory of the antiquities shops. And there are dozens of authorized antiquities shops, many in the Old City of Jerusalem, and in upscale hotels. All offer a certificate of authenticity with each sale. The upshot is that the salesman may show you a perfectly genuine Hellenistic oil lamp - that he swears has been sitting on the shelf of his shop since Menachem Begin entered office. “What can I do? Sales have been slow.” (Wink, wink.) [...] Ah, but was it robbed as part of an illegal excavation? This is a far tougher question, one that if asked is liable to have you thrown out of the store. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is the byword of this business.
 He points out that the number of sites in Israel, many unguarded mean that there is an abundance of genuine material available
that it makes no sense to start making counterfeit pots and vessels.  Coins are different. They are more likely to be counterfeit, several Old City antiquities dealers admitted to this reporter. Archaeologists concur [...] ancient coins offered for sale are more likely to be fake than other types of antiques. 
 While the Antiquities Law permits the sale of some the full gamut of artifacts, it forbids the export of some, including columns and ossuaries (stone boxes for secondary burial of bones).

"Working with the Dealers"

Antiquities La-la land
"International cooperation is key to shrinking the market for looted art from the Middle East" says UK MP Robert Jenrick () former director of Christies. After discussing deliberate destruction of monuments by fundamentalist Islamist militants, the conservative MP for Newark says, " it gets worse",
"through systematic looting, these works of art are funding the murderous activities of IS. Indeed, these activities are now believed to be their third largest source of revenue, after oil and robbing banks. [ooops PMB] A brave network of informants, today’s “Monuments Men”, give us shocking reports from the ground: IS employing contractors with bulldozers to harvest antiquities on an industrial scale; IS deploying militants to ensure their control sites and “supervise” digging; and licensing looting with a formal “tithe” of around 20%. The sums involved are difficult to gauge, but likely run into tens of millions of dollars of income for IS and other terrorist groups 
I'm not really convinced he's checked - or understands-  the next information he presents as facts either. I suspect his researchers have only half-read what they found on the blogs (and I think it is clear that's where this comes from). His conclusion is that "our heritage is at risk and is being used to fund terror and it is imperative that we act now". Well, it certainly IS imperative that we act now to deal with the trade in illicit antiquities, and it IS good to hear that a group of members of the British Parliament are urging action and have found support in the UK Culture Secretary Sajid Javid.
So what can government do? The key to fighting the trade in illicit antiquities lies in co-operation. In the UK and the US we are asking for coordinators to be appointed who can establish forums to bring together law enforcement, museum representatives, government and representatives of the art trade. We do not need new laws in the UK at least, where we have a robust framework tackling the sale of Syrian and Iraqi antiquities since the outbreak of recent conflicts....
"We do not need new laws in the UK at least?" I would question whether the Right Honourable Gentleman really has thought through how effective the UK's legislation in this regard actually is in practice. Is that what the Portable Antiquities Scheme would tell him if he asked (did he ask)? Is that what the CBA would tell him if he asked (did he ask)? Is that what the CIfA would tell him if he asked (did he ask)? Is that what the Glasgow Trafficking Culture people would say if asked (did he ask)? Is that what anyone in the UK researching illicit antiquities would say if he asked (did he ask)? Of course UK law needs changing. The Palmer Report (remember that?) and the Nighthawking report said the same thing about dealing with illicit antiquities - several years ago and the British government has.... done nothing. As for those "forums", are the police, museums and dealers the only persons needed to discuss these issues with the UK government? MP Jenrick  goes on to state the obvious that we need a change in law enforcement.
 In many countries dedicated art and antiquities law enforcement is under-resourced to deal with domestic crime and certainly inadequate to tackle international criminal and terrorist activity. Cases can go uninvestigated despite evidence, cooperation with the industry can be limited and penalties imposed by the courts are often dispiritingly low. That needs to change and there are positive noises from the UK and US governments. 
Yeah, and...? How are the police going to apply these "wonderful laws" when they do not work? But of course we get the UK's typically fluffy bunny approach to antiquities collecting beginning from "above all, we need to promote and reward good market behaviour". Hmmm PAS all over again:
And to the surprise of critics, there is much of it going on amongst major players in the industry. The decision of a number of auction houses to significantly increase their due diligence, principally by requiring evidence of provenance predating the conflicts of the early 21st century (using the year 2000 as an immovable date) is hugely welcome. If only objects with provenance of this kind can be sold, the market for illicit works will shrink. There is early evidence that this is changing the behaviour of buyers and sellers.
What the Dickens...? Where did this "2000" materialise from? How interesting that dealers and their supporters can declare it and pretend that they're being generous while ignoring the standard arbitrary date of 1970. I note also that the author accepts that objects with firm collecting histories going back fifteen years can be found - most dealers suggest they cannot and they'd all end up in the gutter if we insist on any kind of documentation. What "evidence" does Robert Jenrick have that even the major dealers are keeping out and collectors refraining from buying dodgily-documented items in general? The only thing that will surprise "critics" is Jenrick's statement in defiance of the fact that this is simply not what is happening, as anyone who looks into it can see. (By the way, critics of what?). Writing for the Art Newspaper the Member of Parliament for Newark blunders blithely on:
 If these standards could become common practice they will not only change the market, but ultimately feedback to those on the ground in Iraq, Syria and future conflict zones. Those of us who oppose an outright ban on antiquities—believing it would be counter-productive, creating a black market in which both antiquities of licit and illicit origin were traded—or of further restrictive laws and treaties, welcome the voluntary actions of the industry and hope they quickly become common standards that protect the industry from the heavy hand of some law-makers.
Well and truly in la-la land. In discussions with the antiquity dealers and collectors, all of whom will tell you they deplore heritage crime, the moment we get to the nitty-gritty "why don't you then....?' find a thousand and one reasons why they can do nothing to change the damaging no-questions-asked (ask no questions get told no lies) status quo. Christie's too guards jealously its right to be secretive about where exactly artefacts they sell have come from and been, and when. Reading the dealers' lobbyists's websites and forums (and there is no shortage of sources of information on this) shows unequivocally that there never will be any "voluntary actions of the industry" as a whole to make it more transparent and accountable. Over there, it is a 'cold dead hands' mentality and I do not see why Robert Jenrick (who surely, given his employment history, cannot be unaware of this) disregards this simple fact. At his conclusion, we almost hear the strains of Rule Britannia rising and swirling around his declamations:
In times of great turmoil it is easy to feel helpless and to turn a blind eye, but the leadership of the United Kingdom, the United States, our allies and that of the art business itself can make a difference. Our transatlantic campaign seeks to recognise and support those in the art business who take a lead, by urging co-operation, sharing of information in relationships of trust and resourcing and prioritising law enforcement—backing good market behaviour; tackling the unethical and the criminal robustly.

UPDATE 29.01.15 David Gill has a few words on this text too: 'The market and looting: a Parliamentarian's view' Looting Matters Thursday, January 29, 2015.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

1460 Battlefield Site Bulldozed in Northampton

More cultural problems in Northampton ('Battle of Northampton site needs more council protection' BBC 27 January 2015)
 A conservation group has criticised a golf club for contaminating a site of historical interest in Northampton. The Battlefield Trust has written to Northampton Borough Council to seek more protection for the 1460 site of the Battle of Northampton at Delapre. The Delapre Golf Centre that rents council land at the site had cleared soil on its site for building work. The borough council said it had told the golf club to stop the work and was awaiting an explanation. Northampton Battlefield Society chair Mike Ingram, said the soil clearance would have destroyed surviving battlefield archaeology. "Knowing where artefacts were found is vitally important for understanding how a battle was fought and is part of the archaeological record," he said. "By stripping the top soil and heaping it up, the golf club has caused that to be lost."
So taking stuff from ploughsoil on a non-scheduled site DOES matter. As Natasha Ferguson wrote about detecting on battlefield sites .... "A clear solution to this problem is to give Registered Battlefield Sites the same legal protection as Scheduled Monuments and only permit metal detecting on them under licence. Until the law is changed in that way, sadly such disasters could recur."

part of the bulldozed area (photo Mike Ingrams)
Related Stories

Patrick Byrne, Campaign for survey of Northampton Roses battlefield 19 Sept 2012  

Roses battlefield: Tenders put out for conservation plan 04 Dec 2012

Yes Minister, You Were Set up

The minister metal detecting
MP Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham, Conservative) generally is remarkably supportive of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. the background to that is that on the metal detecting forums we hear of metal detectorists actually approaching this or that MP to get them to enquire after PAS funding or whatever. Mr Loughton presumably has metal detectorists in his constituency and presumably seeks their approval. So it's a bit odd in that context that he came out with a rather unusual question, unusual in the context of his earlier ones. He was induced to ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 20 January 2015, cW). If we assume that he's not asking this because he is interested in curtailing the Scheme's funding, we might consider why he asked it in the first place.

Is it taking things too far to suspect that he was again put up to this by metal detectorists? What answer did they expect to get? Given the increased angst that metal detectorists have been feeling over the past few years that their critics have been pointing out that voluntary recording is not getting more than a fraction of the objects dug up and into artefact collectors' pockets recorded by the Portable Antiquities scheme (among them the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter), were the initiators of this question not eager to have an official statement that these criticisms are invalid? How, after all, could a government minister responsible for it answer otherwise?

Mr Vaizey was probably not very happy to be placed with his back against the wall like that. How to answer? He was probably aware that, as I pointed out:
The PAS's own figures published on p. 14 of the 'Guide for Researchers', produced as part of the Leverhulme Trust funded project 'The Portable Antiquities Scheme as a tool for archaeological research', indicate that metal detectorists alone are removing something like 260,000 objects from the archaeological record a year. Given that the PAS has for some time been capable of recording only around 80,000 finds per year from all finders (Ibid.), it is difficult to consider this as in any way an "outstanding" result. The annual 180 000 artefact shortfall indicated by the PAS's own figures means that every six years another million archaeological artefacts dug up by artefact hunters are simply disappearing into private collections or onto the antiquities market without adequate record under current 'heritage' policies. In England and Wales, the government is significantly under-resourcing the Scheme to a degree which prevents it making up the difference or even recording all finds reported to it.
 He could hardly say that, could he? So he smiled his charming little-boy smile and acted like he did not understand the question, and dodged the issue:
I have made no formal assessment of the effectiveness of the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
He was after all asked, "what assessment he has made" and therefore was not duty-bound to mention the PAS's own assessment. I think one may well be forgiven for thinking that the bulk of his reply had been drafted by some office girl in the PAS regurgitating web-found bits of text to bulk out the obviously cop-out "answer".

In reply to "Does this answer the above question?" normal people may like to vote "no", he all-too-obviously does not say that the PAS is not effectively mitigating the knowledge losses due to artefact hunting. Metal detectorists will want to vote "no" in disappointment than he did not come straight out and say "The Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter is wrong", but deftly avoided the issue. Go on Mr Loughton, try again. Baz and Slasher, Trev and Tony will fank you for it.

"SS Central America" Salvor Located

The U.S. Marshals Service have tracked down Tommy Thompson, 62,  for whom a federal civil arrest warrant was issued for him in 2012 after he failed to show up to a key court hearing. He was found at a hotel in Palm Beach County, Florida. In 1987, the treasure hunter had found an 1857 shipwreck off South Carolina containing as much as 10 tons of gold, then allegedly failed to pay off his investors and disappeared ('Fugitive treasure hunter who found 'Ship of Gold' nabbed after two years on lam', FoxNews January 28, 2015). The wreck site is being re-examined by salvage teams with more modern equipment.

Spain's Guardia Civil seizes 36 Looted Egyptian antiquities

On the back of 'Operation Aureus', the Spanish civil guard warns that jihadism has entered the trafficking of stolen cultural property.
The director of the Civil Guard, Arsenio Fernandez de Mesa, said Wednesday that terrorism jihad might be "nourished and seek economic backgrounds" through smuggling of cultural items of high value. Fernandez de Mesa was speaking during the presentation to the media of the 36 archaeological objects of Egyptian origin that agents of the Heritage Group of the Central Operational Unit of the Civil Guard has seized at the port of Valencia, in the context of Operation hieratic. The operation was carried out in coordination between the Civil Guard, the Tax Office and the Ministry of Culture as part of a wider operation called AUREUS and directed by Europol and developed in 16 countries, 11 of them European. Five people have been arrested in Spain (four Egyptians and a Spanish antiquities dealer) and two in Egypt, a country where the investigation remains open. They are accused of alleged smuggling of cultural goods, laundering capital and belonging to an international criminal group, so that the maximum penalty facing them would be fifteen years imprisonment. 
Arsenio Fernández highlighted the work of the 3700 agents of the Heritage Group of the Central Operational Unit of the Civil Guard from the beginning of the operation on June 2nd, when they detected suspicious containers at the port of Valencia, until it ended on November 19 with the arrests. The material recovered, which it is believed may have been looted from the Egyptian archaeological sites of Saqqara and Mit Rahina, came hidden in decorative pots of little value.

A sculpted head of the goddess Sekhmet was recovered, which would have netted the culture ciminals around 100,000 euros. Other items sezed on their way to greedy unscrupulous collectors were canopic jars, wooden sarcophagi and a wooden chest. These objects are being kept for the moment in the National Archaeological Museum.
The director of the Civil Guard recalled that UNESCO revealed during the meeting held last December in Paris, the proliferation of criminal groups arising from armed conflicts in the Middle East and neighboring countries, where certain terrorist groups use the illicit trafficking in cultural property for funding. While the Civil Guard has stated that this operation is not directly linked to terrorism, they do not rule out a relationship, since some of the detainees have criminal records.
Alajandra Elorza, 'La Guardia Civil advierte de que el yihadismo ha entrado en el tráfico de bienes culturales robados' El Mundo 28th Jan 2015 


Focus on UK Metal Detecting: PAS Self-Recorders Will take Steps so You Don't Find Out Where Stuff is From

Re: PAS data on coins mapped. Postby jcmaloney » Wed Jan 28, 2015 10:08 am
[...] From a self recording perspective I will be "protecting" all future findspots !!
Self-recorders taking steps so the PAS does not find out where stuff is really from rather defeats the aim of the PAS database. This is the whole reason why self-recording is not a good idea, passing data through the liaison officer is at least some kind of filter and check, if nobody is checking people like Mr Maloney can write any baloney they like in the "findspot' field. Any comments from the PAS itself in response? Don't hold your breath.

Operation Aureus: European crackdown on Illicit Antiquities Trade

According to a Europol press release, 'European police arrest 35 and recover thousands of stolen cultural artefacts', 28 January 2015. I expect we'll be hearing more about this soon. Europe has a significant historical, artistic and culture heritage, which organised criminals groups are keen to exploit. Recently, thirty-five individuals have been arrested and 2289 cultural artefacts seized, in an international police operation supported by Europol to prevent the theft and trafficking of European cultural property.
European law enforcement authorities in 14 countries* launched Operation Aureus, which culminated in a week-long coordinated action to prevent the further looting, theft and illicit trafficking of cultural artefacts. As part of the action week, law enforcement authorities carried out checks on 6244 individuals, 8222 vehicles, 27 vessels, as well as 2352 inspections at antique and art dealers, auction houses and second-hand outlets. Checks were also stepped up at airports, land borders and ports, while information campaigns warned travellers about purchasing such objects. Specialised law enforcement units also performed checks on websites and online outlets suspected of selling cultural artefacts. Speaking at a press conference earlier today, the Director-General of Guardia Civil and the General Director of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs confirmed that Spanish authorities had arrested five individuals, searched four properties and seized 36 Egyptian archaeological artefacts with a total value of between EUR 200 000 and 300 000. In addition mobile phones and various cash currency was confiscated, including EUR 10 000, during the action week which took place from 17-23 November 2014. The operation was named 'Hieratica' in Spain and was initiated by the Spanish Guardia Civil and the police of Chipre [Cyprus PMB]. Christian Jechoutek, Assistant Director at Europol, explained that Europol had supported Operation Aureus, which was part of the EU operational action plan against organised property crime, by conducting preparatory coordination meetings for the action, facilitating information exchange and providing intelligence to the participating countries. To support investigators on the spot, an experienced analyst, connected to Europol databases, was sent to the Guardia Civil command centre in Madrid. The operation initiated 38 new investigations, with more expected. The operation's development was also supported by Interpol, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the cultural authorities of the participating countries.
* Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, United Kingdom.

Our Heritage at Risk in Syria and Iraq

"International cooperation is key to shrinking the market for looted art from the Middle East" says UK MP Robert Jenrick () who then goes on to blame ISIL for everything:  "No one group has done more to put our heritage at risk than Islamic State [...] We are witnessing cultural barbarism at its worst—it’s ugly, inexplicable and epic in scale—and now is the time for us all to act":
We live in a time of the most tragic and outrageous assault on our shared heritage that any of us have seen since the end of the Second World War. Ancient treasures in Iraq and Syria have become the casualties of continuing warfare and looting. And no one group has done more to put our heritage at risk than Islamic State (IS) who are not only taking lives, but tearing at the fabric of civilisation, looting and purposefully destroying the culture and collective memory of millions. And unlike some previous assaults, IS are not concealing their destruction of mosques and churches and crusader castles, they are doing so brazenly with bulldozers and bombs, available for all to see in heart-breaking “before” and “after” satellite images and shared with pride on Twitter. This is not a cultural crime to be revealed once the fog of war has cleared, this is a 21st-century crime being conducted purposefully, in full view and on social media. [...] IS want to rob future generations of any connection to the rich past of this region, denying religious and cultural ties that bind and will form part of the reconciliation to come.

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Detectorists on the Ball

Readers who are on the ball will remember that one year ago (Feb 19, 2014) there was the launch of the PAS vanity project "Lost Change" - "an innovative and experimental application that allows coins found within England and Wales and recorded through the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), to be visualised on an interactive, dual-mapping interface".Quite what purpose that really serves has never really been demonstrated, but that is beside the point - due to public funding it has bee in the public domain for a year. If you are a metal detectorist focussed on yourself however you may not have noticed what the PAS is doing for the public. On a metal detecting forum near you "Jungle" (Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:59 pm) announces: 'PAS data on coins mapped' - noting it has been "launched without the full data set". "Danzigman " is sure these missing data will be added "after 29 when the update is finished" (want to bet on that?).  Member "f8met" Cambs and Suffolk (Tue Jan 27, 2015 10:34 pm) is focussed on himself, collecting is after all a self-centred activity, and agrees: 
There is a lot missing. None of mine seem to be on there. 
So when is "Lost Change" going to be finished?

Member "Stratman" (Wed Jan 28, 2015 1:18 am) is appalled by the prospect.

 Yes, it might be useful to members of the public who pay for the PAS and who want to know what metal detectorists have taken and from where (for example in their home area). Why should artefact hunters feel they are entitled to have an elitist monopoly on this information about the common archaeological heritage? In any case, the information reported by Stratman is totally false. Those are roads, not field boundaries and the findspotas (as are all PAS data in the public domain) are generalised. As is explained here, if any metal detectorist would like to check before a knee-jerk reaction would find:

While much of the the data is made available for re-use on the PAS website under a Creative Commons licence, some details are closely guarded to prevent illicit activity (for example night-hawking or detecting without landowner permission) and so this application has been developed with these restrictions in mind. An object’s coordinates are only mapped to an Ordnance Survey four-figure National Grid Reference (which equates to a point within a 1km square), and only if the landowner or finder has not requested these to be hidden from the public.
If the PAS cannot rely on their metal detecting "partners" knowing what the Scheme is doing/has done, then how can they expect the rest of the public to whom they outreach to know? How "effective" is that?

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

St Louis AIA Board Resigns over Antiquities Sales

St Louis by night (Wikipedia)
I had a suspicion that this is what was going to happen all along. On Sunday night, January 25, the St. Louis officers and board of directors, having earlier received a vote of support from their members,  decided to resign effective as of January26, 2015, in order to allow AIA-STL to continue its association with the national organization by meeting the requirements set forth by the AIA Council at the 2015 Annual Meetings. Prior to their resignation, the officers and board picked their replacement interim officers and board. 

Hat tip to Dorothy King

Rescue "shocked" by looting in Baltic states

Rescue News is "shocked" by looting in Baltic states:

but not it seems by the sale of the products of it in the UK through portals such as eBay. As I have been pointing out, it has been going on for some time. Look at seller Psysheja from Riga for example, on eBay since October 2008 ( (4123  feedback points including from UK buyers). An example of what he or she  deals in:
Medieval Viking Era Viking Jewelry Decoration Quantity: 1 Lot differnet size and type Original period Ground excavated item. Very interesting finding- items from ancient times. Very old and unique item with huge history from old villages-living places. Try  other items!
eBay one part of a metal detectorist's haul, probably from Latvia

"old villages-living places" is what we call archaeological sites. And where is Britain's Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act? What use is this dead-letter law here? Absolutely none, UK buyers are filling their pockets with cut-price loot and everybody turns away pretending they did not see. Can't upset the metal detectorists can we? If you do not want "Viking" (sic) stuff, Psysheja from Riga has also a wide range of ground-dug First World War militaria from German and Imperial Russian bodies and some WW2 stuff thrown n for good measure, oh and Roman fibulae too. Or there is parmaur (186 feedback), razdolb (6663 ), tamerlan-2008 (2923 ), aleks12372 (143 ), frauenburg78 (Estonia 563  feedback)and a whole host of other sellers of such stuff. 

It is all very well to say "well the Latvians should post guards on rural cemeteries and close all the borders" and just say the problem is "somebody else's fault" and therefore not something the rest of us need bother about. But this stuff is crossing UK borders and then is it still "somebody else should do something"? 

And what about, for example, the apparently unrecorded "Anglo-Saxon" finds (or objects so-described) currently being traded out of Dubai by a seller (tarb2011 525 ) who also has an irritating quantity of what he says are unprovenanced "Middle Eastern" antiquities (not all of which fortunately are what they are described as) and rather grotty ancient coins. Is that too somebody else's problem? Are the "Anglo-saxon finds" ("from an old collection" which "could" have been found by legal and even "responsible" artefact hunting), being used to 'launder-by-association' items that most likely were not? If our attitude is that the Latvian authorities have the responsibility to stem their damaging dugup cultural property haemorrhage onto the world antiquities market, then by the same token UK authorities should be doing something to investigate the licitness of the trade in items of British origin. Or is this something we all do together, and then, what actually is the UK - one of the centres of the trade - doing about it? Anyone want to ask Ed Vaizey

Monday, 26 January 2015

Britain can Save Money by Looking After the Green Bits

not quite gone (field near Kingswinford)
OMG: 'Decline of England's natural environment 'hits economy' (BBC 27 January 2015). Then if it "hits the economy", we'd better take note, eh? No other reason to after all...
England's natural environment is in decline and its deterioration is harming the economy, an independent advisory group has told the government. The Natural Capital Committee says pressures will rise with population growth and has called for a 25-year investment plan. [...] Its report said measures like investing in improved air quality and greener cities would bring economic benefits.
After years of non-stop erosion, degradation and decline of the natural environment, a 25-year investment plan is needed to put things (economically) right. Cleaning up Britain's dirty air ('saving on health expenditure'), restoring peat bogs and creating wetlands ('preventing floods'), improving fisheries ('saving on health') and improving green spaces in cities ('get people outdoors and improve their mental and physical health'). "improving the natural environment provides valuable goods and services to people such as clean air, clean water and recreation in both urban and rural populations, and can save our NHS billions." And the historical environment? Oh yes, getting fat people out there clambering over stiles, swinging coils and digging holes in the archaeological record will also  'get people outdoors and improve their mental and physical health'. And Roman coins and wild orchids can all be sold to improve the economy.

A Look at Freeports and Other Art Storage Facilities

Jessica Tasman-Jones('Hidden Treasure: A look into the world of freeports', Campden Wealth 23 January, 2015) takes a look inside the free port storage places. Here there are huge quantities of art works stored under high security, and carefully controlled humidity and temperature.
Those that have been to a freeport describe them as something straight out of a Mission Impossible or James Bond film. Within one freeport, several logistics companies will act as operators. At Le Freeport Luxembourg there are six; some specialising in fine art, others in precious metals, and one even focusing on data storage. A client to such a facility would be met by multiple layers of security; think bolted doors one after the other, fingerprint recognition technology, and cameras at all angles. Only then would they reach their prized collectibles. 
Besides the controlled and secure environment the freeport offers, the main purpose of the facilities is that they offer tax advantages – suspension of value-added tax (VAT) and customs duty. 
The art and antiques market reached €47.4 billion in 2013, and that’s just the transactions that take place in the light of day, at the likes of Sotheby’s or Gagosian. Many sales go unrecorded, between private collectors, for example, or behind freeports’ vaulted doors. Freeports are known for their discretion and the total value of collectibles stored in them worldwide is not known, but European Fine Art Fair’s 2013 annual report (the TEFAF report), cited an estimate that globally there was $100 billion in storage in these facilities. 
Until recently, since the 1970s, Switzerland had been the only major player but with the recent openings of the Singapore Freeport and Le Freeport Luxembourg, as well as the Beijing Freeport of Culture, which opened late last year, there has been a sudden proliferation of the facilities.
This could be partly due to the changing motivations for buying collectibles. Last year, the third annual Art  and Finance report, released by Deloitte and art market analysis firm ArtTactic, revealed 76% of buyers are now acquiring art and collectibles with an investment view, compared to 53% in 2012. If they keep their investment in a freeport, they could save “pre-financing” upwards of 25% in VAT and customs taxes, depending on where the piece is bought. [...] Freeports aren’t meant to circumnavigate capital gains taxes, but the TEFAF report says in practice an object could change hands multiple times behind a freeport’s vaulted doors and authorities would be none the wiser. 
The article also looks at other art storage facilities and the benefits and drawbacks of keeping collections there (there is also some interesting discussion of loans from artworks in store for occasional public display).

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