Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Knowledge theft: Insidious Creep of Acceptance

OK, Ms He, how did this get on the market, then?
Poor Helena He, she lost some of her antiquity-dealing profits the other day: Alex Ross, 'Roman jewellery stolen from shop' York Press 25th April 2017.
Ancient Roman jewellery worth more than £5,000 was stolen from a York shop by two thieves. The men removed three pairs of earrings, a Roman necklace, gold ring, silver pendant and gold necklace on Saturday from a cabinet in Brigantia, a shop in The Red House Antique Centre in Duncombe Place. Devastated owner Helena He has run the shop for more than 10 years and says one thief managed to unlock a cabinet and remove valuables while another acted as a look out. One pair of earrings alone cost £595. She said: “It’s very shocking.
Yet not once does the news article seem to suggest that selling off loose bits of the archaeological heritage to scattered private buyers is in any way a shocking way to treat the archaeological record.

Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record shocks nobody in Britain because metal detecting has taken over the national imagination as a way to turn dirt (and everybody's history) into private profit. And British archaeologists and museums are aiding and abetting the process. The aforementioned shop (an Aladdin's cave of various suspicious-looking artefacts with no paperwork mentioned upfront - where did that Middle Eastern Glass come from?) is just a stone's throw from the Yorkshire Museum. Meanwhile those artefacts will pass onto the international no-questions-asked antiquities market with the flood of other surfacing (from underground) artefacts, and will never be seen again. So, a bit like the other artefacts Ms He sells in her shop.

Brigantia is cited as part of the collecting history of various noteworthy objects by Timeline Auctions here, here  ("Property of a West Yorkshire lady; from the private collection of John Moor, Brigantia Antiquities, York, UK; acquired in the 1960s. Extremely fine condition. Very rare" Treasure Trove legislation was in force in 1960s), here (dodgy attribution), here (dodgy-looking to my eye), here, here ("Ex Brigantia Antiquities, York, UK; formerly from a North Country private collection in the early 1980s, acquired from Astarte Gallery, London, UK. Very fine condition. Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate. ")... and so on. There seems an interesting connection here - and in no case is the actual point (or even country) of origin noted.

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