Sunday, 25 June 2017

Seller Sayles Demands 1417 Methods of Dealing with Art Traffickers

This is how they dealt with things in 1417
Dealer Wayne Sales has a go at the participants of the hearing on The Exploitation of Cultural Property: Examining Illicit Activity in the Antiquities and Art Trade" in the US House of Representatives. He calls it 'A Sad Day for America' (Ancient Coin Collecting, Friday June 23, 2017) and takes a tub-thumping populist stance:
it may say something about the very nature of representative government and who is actually represented versus who the electorate is. The three bureaucrats testifiying before Congress in this hearing presented one point of view. They [...] essentially blamed that loss on private ownership [of artefacts].
Well, no they do not. They place the blame on the business methods of the antiquities trade, the trade which Sayles is part of and party to. The blame is on the dealers who fail to take adequate steps to avoid trade with illicit sources - "traffickers". It may be argued that if all dealers and collectors took these steps, there could be a substantial reduction in trafficking. Sayles wants to see the blame placed on those no-good foreigners:
Nobody in the room talked about the failure of law enforcement worldwide to stop "trafficking". [...] Academia and Bureaucracy have no actual control over foreign governments, so they turn their attack instead toward the innocent who are blameless. [...] The failure of governments and law enforcement in foreign lands to eliminate looting and wanton destruction has become a harpoon in the side of law abiding Americans who love the past.
I really do not see any dealer or collector who buys portable antiquities on today's contaminated market without ensuring that the items they handle have documentation of licit origins as in any way 'blameless'. On the contrary, it is precisely this no-questions-asked approach which is responsible for the ease with which freshly surfaced objects of illicit origin (stolen, looted, faked or smuggled) can be monetised by being clandestinely slipped onto the undiscriminating market. The no-questions-asked approach is to be directly lamed for the existence of a market for illicit antiquities. That is a fact that must be obvious to all (it seems) except excessively unreflexive people like Mr Sayles. He whinges on:
How is any buyer in an international market able to distinguish between an object recirculating in a vibrant and venerable trade from one stolen yesterday? That is not the "buyer's" job, it is the role of law enforcement [...]

No, it is a function of the market's functioning based on verifiable evidence of the legitimacy of each object surfacing on it. If no verifiable evidence is available that an object is of licit origins (even in the 'absence of direct information that it is not'), that object cannot be acquired - because due diligence cannot be applied. This means producing a proper and verifiable collecting history on any object offered for sale by a reputable (repute-worthy) dealer, even in the case of so-called minor antiquities. This is the only reasonable response to the recent flooding of the international market by the products of cultural crimes such as theft, looting, falsification and smuggling.   Relying on a 'gut-feeling' that an object 'does not look like a freshly dug antiquity' is quite obviously not enough. In such a situation as the contaminated market of the 21st century, the burden of proof that something is licit quite clearly remains with the seller.

Henry V - king of England 1414-1422,
not known to have collected coins
Who gives a tinkers how long people have been collecting antiquities in the same way as '600 years ago'? This is the pathetically weak justification of the dealers today - they want to carry on doing things like it was still 1417. I doubt there are many other professions (apart from thatchers, fletchers and coracle builders) who'll use the same kind of argument. Yet the whinging goes on:
What those few elected representatives in Congress present did not hear [...] was the six-hundred-year-old story of how private collectors of antiquities have saved countless objects from loss through physical destruction for intrinsic metal value (for example, melting down silver and gold coins) or the countless museums worldwide that are populated with cultural property donated by private collectors. Why was that perspective not made clear? [...] The actual truth is that private collectors do far more to save the past than the loose-lipped academics ever dreamed of doing.
Mr Sayles needs to take a deep breath and a step back to reflect that the topic of the meeting was not 'antiques and antiquities in culture today', but specifically Collection-driven Exploitation of cultural property, and specifically, 'Examining Illicit Activity in the Antiquities and Art Trade'. Collection-driven exploitation of historical sites destroys culture. Rows of headless buddhas, the sources of the loose heads in many a western 'art' gallery, are just one expression of this. Dug-over sites which produce the type of metal artefacts Mr Sayles sells are another.

Dealer held "98% of objects without supporting documents": Sentenced in France

A 49-year old French collector-turned dealer sold 'archaeological objects of doubtful provenance' and remains of protected animal species on the Internet  between February 2013 and January 2017 in  Tanneron, near Draguignan in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, in southeastern France (G. D. , 'Il vendait des objets d'archéologie de provenance douteuse et des restes d'espèces animales protégées sur Internet' Varmatin 23/06/2017). Since he was unable to produce documentation of licit origins of the objects he stocked and sold, he got an eight months suspended sentence and fined 30,000 € for the possession, importation and sale on Internet of objects of archaeological interest and protected animal species. The authorities seized from his home a group of twelve thousand objects.
L'affaire est partie d'une plainte de la Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles (DRAC), qui a constaté sur son site la mise en vente de diverses pièces, principalement des lampes à huile, provenant d'un site de fouilles archéologiques, dans un centre antique des Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, propriété de l'État, classée au titre des monuments historiques.
The dealer, M. Laurent sold a large quantity of archaeological objects (such as Gallic coins) that could have come from unauthorized excavations. There were also gold rings and other metal objects. His house had been searched in February 2016 and all suspect objects were seized then, but a second search last January showed that Laurent, despite being under investigation, had continued his activity. New seizures were made, bringing the number of objects seized to twelve thousand. The dealer was unable to produce evidence that the objects he had were legally obtained.

Pour justifier le fait qu'il n'avait pas été en mesure de produire les attestations de légalité, qu'il aurait dû exiger de la part des personnes auxquelles il avait acheté ces pièces, Laurent a expliqué qu'il se les était procurées auprès de professionnels reconnus, en toute confiance.
Yep, we know this one, in order to justify the fact that he had not been able to produce the certificates of legality which he should have required from the persons from whom he had bought these documents, Laurent explained that he had procured them from recognized professionals, in whom he had full confidence. But of course the court saw this matter differently and declared it unprofessional:
Insuffisant de la part d'un vendeur professionnel, a estimé le tribunal. Tout comme l'absence d'un livre de police, d'un livre d'achats et de recettes, d'un registre de vente d'or et d'autorisations douanières pour des objets du néolithique et du précolombien qu'il importait des États-Unis. Laurent n'a pas non plus pu présenter au tribunal les factures de ses acquisitions, ce qui a conduit le procureur Michael Darras à remarquer : "En fait vous détenez 98 % d'objets sans justificatifs." Impossible dès lors de prouver que les objets qu'il vendait n'étaient pas d'origine frauduleuse.
His defence lawyer, Mr. Ludovic Serée de Roch, used the tired old argument that while Monsieur Laurent had lacked rigour, especially from an accounting point of view, 'que des milliers d'objets circulaient en France depuis des siècles, dont on était incapable de justifier la provenance'. For him, his client was an accidental victim of a "complaint on principle" filed by the Drac, to counter international trafficking. According to him, the case is flawed because the authorities had not been able to give a precise place of origin for the objects in dispute, and the investigation had therefore been insufficient. He is planning to appeal this judgment.

In addition to objects of doubtful origin, this same dealer also handled trophies of animal species (such as a monkey skull and  jaws of the Nile crocodile) protected by the Washington Convention.

Hat tip, David Knell

Saturday, 24 June 2017

International Art Market Helps Finance Terrorism, Experts Tell Congress

In the US, Officials from the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Smithsonian testified before the House Financial Services’s Terrorism and Illicit Finance Sub-Committee on Friday morning at a hearing dedicated to  'The Exploitation of Cultural Property: Examining Illicit Activity in the Antiquities and Art Trade' (Leo Doran, 'International Art Market Helps Finance Terrorism, Experts Tell Congress' Inside sources, June 24, 2017.
Knowingly or unknowingly, super-wealthy art collectors in the United States and Western Europe are propping up terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS through the purchase of looted cultural artifacts from war zones. The challenge for law-enforcement, customs officials, and art dealers is the opaque nature of the international art market. The longstanding problem of black and grey-market transactions among dealers and collectors famously led one critic, Robert Hughes, to declare “apart from drugs, art is the biggest unregulated market in the world.”
Brian Daniels, of the Smithsonian Institution and one of the expert witnesses invited to testify, added more details of hos the trade operates, including adding:
Indonesia, Thailand Singapore
experts have a rough sense of the path the stolen goods take before eventually ending up in private and public collections. Daniels testified that to his knowledge, most stolen art goods make their way to Southeast Asia, in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, or Singapore, before being distributed back to major art-trading centers like the U.S., Europe, China, and the Gulf States. Of particular concern to experts like Daniels is increasing cooperation between organized crime in Western countries and terrorist-linked smugglers. He noted an uptick in looting of archeological sites in Libya, which are then transferred to Europe through powerful organized crime syndicates like the ‘Ndrangheta in Southern Italy. The ‘Ndrangheta, or the Calabrian cousin of the Sicilian mafia, is the primary supplier of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin to most of continental Europe. The difficulty for art dealers is that without proper documentation explaining an object’s provenance, it is often extremely difficult to tell whether an object is being sold legally or illegally. 
So they handle it anyway. It seems that here is the crux of the matter. Dealers habitually ignore the risk (with no threat to their 'reputation'), instead of being sensitive to it. They cannot be bothered to obtain documentation of licit origins, as it is irrelevant to their purpose.
Further complicating the situation is a culture of secrecy that pervades the art world, which has, by tradition, awarded extraordinary privacy to buyers and sellers trading artworks at auction. Top auction houses, like Sotheby’s in the 1990’s have been accused of turning a blind eye to illegally stolen artworks and artifacts in order to pocket healthy commission fees
Law enforcement official Raymond Villanueva of the Homeland Security Department was another witness on the panel and 'highlighted a joint operation, Hidden Idols, which recently took down an art-crime ring in New York that was attempting to sell artifacts at Christie’s. Hmm, that's not the entire truth. The US only started an investigation into the gallery involved, operating openly under their noses for two decades, when the US dealer was arrested in Germany (reportedly after a tip-off by a jilted ex-girlfriend) and extradited to India, forcing the hand of the US authorities.
The panel also touched at times on instances of domestic art smuggling—in particular from traditional Native American burial grounds. Like the international crime rings, the experts indicated that they believe that the domestic illegal art trade is also often linked to organized drug trafficking, particularly in methamphetamine. 
The key point:
Unless they receive far more serious cooperation from the art community, the experts did not seem particularly optimistic that the illegal trade will be significantly curtailed in the near future.
And there would be no incentive for that collaboration if dealers and collectors had good grounds for a fear that is illicit sources were excluded, the market would cease to expand and dry up. Do they? 

The Dealer and the Heritage Debate

Hans Memling, a man
with an earnest expression
 and silly hat holds an
archaeological artefact
'What happened to the Debate?' asks a US dealer and activist for the no-quewstions-asked antiquities trade. He thinks that the reason for there being a lack of debate is the fault of cultural property professionals:
After founding the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild in 2004, I started attending U.S. State Department hearings of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) in Washington DC.  My intention was to establish a dialogue with Archaeologists who opposed the 600-year tradition of private ownership of ancient coins and members of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that was then becoming proactive in adding ancient coins to designated lists of material restricted from importation into the United States. 
Really? What kind of a 'dialogue' would that be, and about what? I would say that by authoring and publishing an article called 'Archaeology, a wolf in sheep\'s clothing' Sayles hardly made a start in establishing his credentials as somebody members of the discipline would want to talk with, and does nothing to show that he actually understands the point archaeologists are making - and without that understanding there is no debate.

The problem is that the CPAC is not in any way engaged in debating (still less opposed to)  'the 600-year tradition of private ownership of ancient coins'  (since 1404). That statement shows a clear misunderstanding about the role of the CPAC and the CCPIA.

As for the adding of ancient coins 'to designated lists of material restricted from importation into the United States', again the narrow focus of the dealer distorts his view of what the CCPIA does. Ancient coins are just as much archaeological artefacts as glass beads, bronze fibulae and all the rest when it comes to the pillaging of the cultural heritage of the country concerned. No manner of weak self-serving arguments conjured up by the coineys to suggest they and the things they collect are in any way 'exceptional;' will hold water.  Burt the very fact that they expect them to immediately makes them a tiresome partner in any form of debate ("yes, everybody else should follow the rules, of course, but not us"). They then go from that to calling into question what exactly US lawmakers really deep down in the back of their consciences had in mind when they wrote the CCPIA.

In fact, the CCPIA is only about undocumented artefacts/cultural property. It establishes the need to have documentation of the licit origins of items a dealer wants to import into the US. In true Disney-bred fashion, the requirements are not in fact onerous. But even for the no-questions-asked dealers Sayles represents, this is too much bother.

But then where is the debate? The CCPIA sets out a procedure for importing certain items into teh US, ACCG challenge this. Tha arguments are rather like the Russian delegation to a meeting to discuss the principles of exploiting mining minerals from the Moon demanding recognition of their claim to be exempt from the treaty because "Russian astronmers discovered the Moon in 1404".

Sayles quotes an anecdote which to his mind epitomises the arrogance of the professionals:

I had in fact sent a formal letter to Prof. Jane Waldbaum, then president of the Archaeological Institute of America, suggesting that our respective organizations had common interests and might explore areas of potential cooperation.  [...]  I never did receive a reply (in retrospect, no great surprise).  At one of the CPAC meetings about six months later, while waiting in the lobby for clearance to enter, I happened to recognize Professor Waldbaum standing alone in the room.  I walked over and introduced myself.  I mentioned that I had recently sent her a letter and wondered if she had received it.  She looked me straight in the eye and said "yes", then without another word, turned and walked away.  At that point, I had a pretty clear indication where we were headed. [...] I had by that time become fairly well recognized in the field of Numismatics as an author, publisher and collector advocate.  She knew very well who I was and who I represented. 

Indeed, and probably recognized that there was nothing she wanted to say to this impudent little man. We do not know which areas Sayles had presented the idea that his dealers' lobbying group shared any 'interests' with the AIA. Obviously it was not all that convincing - my guess is that it contained a reference to a 600-year tradition of doing it like in the fifteenth century, and this is in some way supposed to convince an upstart discipline like archaeology (though they are all wolves in sheep's clothing) that it is worth discussing things with the loony fringe of coin fondling.

I would say that what the story indicates is the arrogance of the dealers and their lobby, demanding exemption from measures to clean up the antiquities trade because they are in some undefinably unique way special, and also 'interested in the past (like archaeologists)'. that's a pretty pathetic arguing point - especially when it is intended to cut across and trump all other arguments about why we should clean up the antiquities market.

There is one area of potential co-operation from coin dealers and coin collectors which would interest us, and that involves only handling items with the documentation required to show individual items are of licit origins. No other offers of help or 'friendly advice;' from these clowns is needed. Ithink we all need to turn our backs on their whingeing until they actually get round to getting their house in order and cleaned up their corner of the market. When they've shown they can do it, we can co-operate. But co-operation will not be built on us saying: "all right, you lot carry on as if it was still the fifteenth century".

The coin dealers have worked hard to alienate themselves from any discussions of how to bring coin collecting kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Take for example the disgusting way they (Sayles and Tompa included) treated any suggestions by one of their own number, Nathan Elkins. I do not think we have to look very far from an answer to the question posed disingenuously by the ACCG, 'What happened to the debate?'. The ACCG happened to the debate.

Questions for a US Dealer

A US dealer disapprovingly writes of the foreigners:
"The failure of governments and law enforcement in foreign lands to eliminate looting and wanton destruction ..."
Tell us, has your OWN government and law enforcement eliminated it in the US and territories under their control (eg Iraq in 2003)? Is there no wanton destruction of petroglyphs, ancient burial sites and sites producing collectable pots and lithic items in the US? To what do you attribute looting and destruction back at home, and is it in any way different to what happens in other lands driven by the same mechanisms? So how would you deal with it in the US?

Friday, 23 June 2017

Investigating Metal Detecting: Big Funding, No Results Again?

Remember this (PACHI Thursday, 23 June 2016)?
Investigating Metal Detecting: Big Funding, No Results Again?Where is the final document of the Leverhulme Trust funded project 'ThePortable Antiquities Scheme Database as a tool for archaeological research' in which Roger Bland was principal investigator? It was due to finish last year and all we have from it so far is a rather slim and tentative "Guide to Researchers' which says mainly what we already knew.
Still no results published, still no answer to the question. Surely that slim booklet is not the product of a project funded on the scale this one was? Is it?

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Caring for the Archaeological Record?

"Provenance Creations"
Metal Detecting Finds...Transformed! My husband "Chicago Ron" Guinazzo leads metal detecting tours twice a year to England. We met in 2012, and I joined him on these trips. We dig all types of items; coins, tokens, buttons, watch winders, buckles, bells, clothing fasteners, etc. All of the artifacts we find are reported to the British Museum, and exported with proper documentation. I personally research, sort, clean, and polish the artifacts. In designing the jewelry piece, I try to maintain the integrity of the artifact. You are receiving [buying] a real piece of wearable history!
Yes, by stripping, drilling, mounting them on thongs, a tidy profit can be made in Chicago of bits ripped out of the archaeological record of another country. Please, give a link to the records of all of these items 'reported to the British Museum' - do the buyers of Ms Guinazzo's twee jewellery get a certificate giving the PAS numbers and link to that description of what it is in the PAS record? And a copy of the export licence?

So here we have it, detectorists claim indignantly "we ain't in it fer the munny", except when they are. Chicago Ron makes money from Britain's heritage by organizing metal detecting holidays for his paying American pals to go over to England to fill their pockets with artefacts ripped out of sites known-to-be-productive and take them out of the country, his wife takes the things these collectors reject and makes more cash by turning the 'non-collectable' artefacts into tacky trophy jewellery. It's a win-win situation for the artefact coveters, but what loses out is archaeological preservation and the British heritage.

When are these metal detecting holidays organized for legal-innit-looting parties from abroad going to be banned?

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Great Mosque of al-Nuri in western Mosul Destroyed

This aerial view taken on June 21, 2017 and
provided by Iraq's Joint Operation Command

 shows destruction inside Mosul's Nuri mosque
 compound CREDIT: AFP
The same area in August 2008 (Google  Earth)

The Islamic State has blown up The Great Mosque of al-Nuri with its distinctive leaning minaret in western Mosul, according to U.S. and Iraqi forces (Alex Lubben, 'ISIS blows up 845-year-old mosque, tries to blame U.S.',  Jun 21, 2017). The twelfth-century mosque, along with its minaret, was one of Iraq's most famous buildings. Haider al-Abadi, Iraq's prime minister, said the destruction of the sites was "an official declaration of defeat" by Isil in the eight-month-old battle for Mosul. Probably the aim was to deny the government the possibility of declaring victory there. The destruction of the mosque (apparently by explosives previously placed inside it) has also beebn taken by some as a form of confirmation that the Russian claim to have killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have basis in fact.
The leaning minaret  AFP
The mosque [...] carries symbolic weight in Iraq and the greater Middle East. The Great Mosque of al-Nuri also carries symbolic weight for the terror group: It’s where ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave his first speech as caliph in 2014, days after the terror group declared its caliphate in Iraq and Syria. ISIS has held the city as its de-facto capital in Iraq since then, using it as a central hub for commerce and illegal oil sales, and stealing stores of weapons and cash from the Iraqi forces who had abandoned the city. [...] But ISIS, over their newswire Amaq, contradicted reports from Iraqi forces, claiming instead that the U.S. was behind the mosque’s destruction. The U.S.-led coalition forcefully contested that claim, saying in a statement that the “responsibility for this devastation is laid firmly at the doorstep of ISIS.” The coalition added that it had confirmed through drone surveillance that the mosque was destroyed. An investigation is underway. Taking the mosque back from ISIS militants, who have waged a long and bloody campaign to hold the city since Iraqi forces began their offensive eight months ago, would have been a symbolic victory for U.S. and Iraqi coalition forces.
It is believed that ISIL is still holding up to 100,000 civilians in Mosul, using them as human shields during combat. The taking of the western part of Mosul, with its winding roads and small buildings, has proved more difficult than the eastern part which fell five months ago.
The Old City in West Mosul has been the site of the deadliest fighting in the course of the 8-month-long offensive. The Iraqi army believes there to be only 300 Iraqi fighters left in Mosul; there were 6,000 at the start of the offensive, according to Reuters.
BBC News Battle for Mosul: IS 'blows up' al-Nuri mosque 22nd June 2017. 

I am not fully convinced that the much-published footage of the controlled explosions that reportedly depict this tower being felled are authentic, at least one version in the web seems to have been manipulated. This film (disseminated by 'Palmyra Pioneer) shows the damage on the ground and you can see the building was blown flat by explosions from inside and there are no traces whatsoever of craters.  An air-conditioning fan is represented as a bomb fragment.

Warped Priorities

Ten countries, who account for 2.5% of world GDP, host 56% of the world's refugees. The world's 6 richest countries host The world's 6 richest countries host less than 9%

  <9 br="" orldrefugeeday=""> 

But guess where the bulk of the looted cultural property goes. People before trophy artefacts.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Florida Artefact Hunters Face Charges

James Call, 'Arrowhead hunters face felony charges' Tallahassee Democrat June 13, 2017
Florida Wildlife officers arrested two artifact hunters they say were mining Taylor County creeks and river channels for ancient arrow and spear points. Deanna Danielle Ray and James Garrett Taylor faced 3rd-degree felony charges for the unlawful removal of archeological specimens located on [state owned] lands. A Florida Wildlife Commission spokesman said officers were alerted to a suspicious vehicle in the Econfina Wildlife Management Area during the last week of May. Ray and Taylor, according to an FWC report, fled when a trio of officers approached them in a wooded area [...] Further investigation found artifact digging tools, a dig site and female shoes.
The use of a dog was necessary to capture one of the looters.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Well, What DO the PAS think?

Heritage Action have another cogent observation about how Britain treats the nation's archaeological heruitage (Metal detecting: six words that still can’t be said', 18the June 2017)
At a time when detectorists persuade farmers to deep plough to maximise their loot, when a huge registered business called Lets Go Digging is paying up to £1,000 to get access to farms and at a time when Dr Sam Hardy’s work is pointing to between 90 and 98 percent of recordable finds not being reported, we’d like to make the point we made a few years ago: “Ever heard PAS or the Government say “not reporting detecting finds is immoral?” How come? Well, Britain is special. It’s the country where theft of society’s knowledge of it’s past isn’t morally indefensible [...] [This] dates from when it became evident that most detectorists take “voluntary” to mean “not necessary”. At that point, for the Scheme to assert reporting was necessary on moral grounds would be to point out a too-painful truth to their partners and indeed to their funders. Thus, “moral obligation” has been dropped.
HA suggest that it would be an interesting litmus test of attitudes if one was to write to PAS, or one of the FLOs or the Government and ask them straight out “do you think not reporting detecting finds is immoral?” I thought I'd do just that: (the topic name comes from an earlier -bulk post requesting information):
Sunday, June 18, 2017 8:48 AM
To: 'Michael Lewis'; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; 'Mary Chester-Kadwell'; 'Helen Geake'; 'Lauren Speed'; 'Robert Webley'

Subject: Re: Maintaining high levels of reporting by artefact hunters: from Paul Barford

A question for the PAS from myself and Heritage Action:

do you think not reporting detecting finds is immoral?

Thank you
Paul Barford


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Metal Detectorist Lost

Someone who I assume to be an artefact hunter asks me to do his footwork for him:
Could you signpost or provide a link to the laws/ regulations relating to metal detecting in France. Despite Google I can only seem to find interpretations which don't refer or link to the source of the knowledge.
He and any other people intending to go artefact-hoiking abroad (and those buying artefacts coming from foreign countries) would do well to have a look at the UNESCO Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws'.
2756 laws of 188 Member States are published on the Database website. There have been 10,812 researches and 1,196.049 impressions in the last three months.
Uh-oh, though ten thousand other folk have managed it recently, he does not seem to be able to suss out how the search engine works...  metal detectorists, huh?

What you need, Mark is the Code du patrimoine Version consolidée au 12 mai 2017; probably what you are looking for is in Livre V Archéologie/ Titre III: Fouilles Archéologiques programmées et Decouvertes Fortuites (for example (Section 1 : Autorisation de fouilles par l'Etat. (Articles L531-1 à L531-8), Section 3 : Découvertes fortuites. (Articles L531-14 à L531-19)) but probably most of all Titre IV : Dispositions Diverses, in which if you look, you'll find: Chapitre 2 : Utilisation de détecteurs de métaux. Is that it? Can you manage by yourself now?

Friday, 16 June 2017

Thicko Hoikers and their 'Partnership' with the FLOs

Read this thread, note the thicko who cannot read even plain English:
    Nickinstick: [,...] (Camping NOT included) .Camping isn't available onsite but Thorney Lakes Campsite is right next door, (please book separately) [...]  bob79  [...] Hi Nickinstick, is the cost of camping included in the price[?]  Bob  [...]   Hello Bob No it isn't I'm afraid, there isn't room on the site. But Thorney Lakes Campsite is right next door. Thanks Nick [...] bob79: £15 a night, sorry mate too expensive. 
Obviously for some of these folk, pocketing pieces of the past is something that should come cheap.

Now ask yourself if the FLO will be present on the Muchelney Weekend Rally 30th Sep - 1st Oct and if so what he or she will say about the search methodology... and will any thicko understand anyway?

Irresponsible UK Collectors "Refreshing" the Pillage Rate by Inciting Deep Ploufghing

"The farmer has been pursuaded (sic)
to deep plough and sub soil all worked land so
the already productive fields will surely yield more!"  (the the deliberate destruction of a productive
UK archaeological site
for personal
 entertainment and profit)

Heritage Action draw attention this week to the problem of  collectors of archaeological artefacts emptying a 'productive' site of diagnostic and collectable metal artefacts and instead of walking away and fully and informatively recording and disseminating the archaeological evidence they all claim they have 'saved' from obliteration n the active ploughsoil, merely ask the farmer to slice into the archaeological material still in situ beneath the normal reach of the plough. They do this so they can get their grubby scabby hands on more and more of the archaeological collectables they crave and covet. This is by no mens any kind of 'saving' evidence, still less preservation, it is utterly destructive - especially when accompanied by the crude kind of recording of associations that we see from the vast majority of these collectors (the ones that do record and report anything at all which is a minority).

This is appalling and has been going on for many years while the PAS watch on apparently with their hands in their pockets (no chance then, of this being part of the 'best practice' PAS shrinking violets are being paid to effectively instill. Pathetic showing).  I was searching for the source of the quote, but... well quelle surprise, following the link brings us to:  
The requested topic does not exist.
clear evidence that somebody in the metal detecting world knows full well that what was being proposed is completely and utterly wrong and calls into question what these hoikers give as their justification for pocketing the lot. 

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

Complete Misunderstanding from Dealers' Representative

The US-based representative of international dealers' associations quite clearly does not understand the intent of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the legislation implementing it in the US (Peter Tompa: 'Problematic MOU Request', CPO Friday, June 16, 2017). His reaction to the fact that a war-torn country has asked the US for help  to prevent the passage of smuggled items of cultural roperty onto the open and highly absorbent US market :
It remains to be seen how a country with two competing governments, that is over-run by militias and which remains in danger from ISIS can meet its obligations under UNESCO and the CPIA to protect and preserve is own cultural property let alone that which may be repatriated from the US under the terms of any agreement.  
 What a tosser. This request is precisely in order to gain help in protecting its endangered cultural property from the US. The USA is one of the few countries which signs the 1970 Convention and then requires other states party to individually ask before it will lift a finger to actually put into action what signing the Convention actually would oblige a less-hypocritical nation to do automatically - that's the point of having the blooming thiung in the first place. Libya is in no way governed by the USA, and what the CCPIA 'obliges' it to do is neither here notr there. Just who doe these Trumpists in Washington think they are? The very idea!

Once again we see the low-brow superficiality in teh antiquitiest' lobby who see everything merely in terms of 'repatriation'. What we are talking about Mr Tompa is preventing smuiggling, by dodgy exporters selling smuggled items to equally dodgy US dealers. Are you and the dealers' associations you represent (at last count IAPN, PNG and ACCG) supporting the dodgies? Are you supporting the dodgies?
 It remains to be seen ..
what? By whom? They have asked for help because they need help.
 that help should be focused on protecting its world class archaeological sites from the depredations of ISIS and other radical Islamic groups. Turning US Customs loose to seize and forfeit "undocumented" "Libyan" artifacts will only harm legitimate trade and the appreciation for Libya's ancient cultures.  It certainly won't help protect Libyan archaeological sites and museums from their greatest threat, which is hammer and explosive wielding religious fanatics.
I'd say all and any help should be focussed on all the issues, and not merely the ones that do not hurt US "trade" in artefacts from the region. There is no reason for scare quotes when referring to documentation. The CCPIA lays out quite clearly what documents are required for an object to leave Libya and enter the legitimate US market (that is the bit that is legitimate and acknowledges art. 3 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and uses documentation to verify legitimacy). But the scare quotes by the representative of the IAPN, PNG and ACCG again suggest support of the dodgies .  Let\s leave US 'appreciation of Libya's ancient culture' (sic) to those who handle objects with documenatble legitimacy. The cowboys and pirates have no claims to legitimacy.

Was not the US fighting a war on the hammer and explosive wielding religious fanatics? How's it going? Stopped any yet - or is this post by one of the supporters of those efforts an admission that throughh total incapacity of the present administration, the problem is still spreading? And by what US law, in fact are ' hammer and explosive wielding religious fanatics' in foreu=ign (sovereign) countries stopped by US agency? I would like to know.

In the meanwhile, regardless of the protests, moans and false arguments/misdirections of the dealers' associations, let us do all we can to stop artefacts looted, stolen or otherwise illicitly obtained by dodgy dealers and middlemen in the MENA region from being exchanged for US dollars paid out by dodgy dealers and middlemen in the USA. That would be a start. 

I would say it is an indicator of legitimacy of dealers whether they wholeheartedly support (and include in their own business practice) such measures, or whether they fight them.

And by the way ... coins ARE both archaeological artefacts as well as significant cultural property - that's before Tompa starts his traditional weasel-worded campaings of trying to rile compliant coineys to comment-bomb the US Department of State in the public consultation phase of any CCPIA deliberations. Watch this space for some coiney-comedy.

Where Did You Say Those Antiquities Came From?

Libya now asks for US market to be regulated

Libya, another ancient coin-producing country, requests US assistance under Art. 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention. (Notice of Receipt of Request From Libya Under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property).
Libya's request seeks U.S. import restrictions on archaeological and/or ethnological materials representing Libya's cultural patrimony from the prehistoric through Ottoman Era. 
What twisted lies will the dealers lobbyists be telling US collectors this time to get them all riled up and opposing the move?  Let us see.

The names say it all

Here are some metal detectorists who've signed up to irresponsibly dig up pasture:
Peck106, Bicks, ahc56, chriscuddon, Paulhills, Murf, Thills, Pete2317, KevDavis, bodger, Saffron, Hhills, Carlallison20, Kphillips, Welly8812, marks, rickyfletcher, granv, Springj86, Frey@1stheB3st, TigerSteve, Noobie, Bargeman, TEZZA, Howie26, AnnTurrell, JamesG, Aggyh16, phil2401, LordDarren, badger1970, parki17, parki, Dobbi, Karlwall, Justicou.

Six look like real names, the rest are the transparency-dodging made up alternative identities under which UK artefact hunters hide what they are doing.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Naked Truth

The Naked Truth (St Louis)
 has a nice pair of torches
I am blocked from commenting on the misleadingly-named Cultual Property Observer blog, run by a US-based lobbyist for the international dug-up antiquities trade. So under one post about the five-year extension of US-Peru bilateral cultural property agreement under the CCPIA we read there are 'no comments', this is the seventh I have sent to the discussion and which has been rejected/ignored:
  US-Peru encourages information sharing to identify sources of jeopardy to Peru's Cultural Heritage. Have you or your collector and dealer friends shared any information which would help identify these threats, Mr Tompa? Or are you just concerned to attempt to redirect attention to other issues because you want to have any restrictions removed from free-for-all commerce which would include the fruits of plunder and smuggling?
Your refusal to engage in any discussion of this and any other related matters here is clearly indicative to everybody of your (plural) TRUE aims. Shame on the lot of you - you claim altruism, but the rest of us can see that the sole motor here is greed. 
There will be no answer because deep in his black soul, the lobbyist knows this is the naked truth.

"Jammy Geoff" in Not-Very-Christian Dispute Over Bronze Age Gold Find

Matthew 13:44 for all those committed
Christian metal detectorists out there
with their misplaced feelings of entitlement
(Rembrandt understood this back in 1630)
There is a  dispute between a metal detectorist and a group of Hampshire land owners after a Bronze Age gold bracelet was found in Meon valley ('Row over bronze age bracelet found in Meon Valley' Hampshire Chronicle June 14th 2017)
Metal detectorist Geoffrey Slingsby, 76, from Waltham Chase, has unearthed so many items over the years he is known as 'Jammy Geoff' to British Museum staff.
Jammy Geoff, who is on such familiar terms with the staff of the BM is a 'committed Christian' and 
'says that he has given all money made from his finds, amounting to several thousand, to his church the West End Community Church which has just spent four million pounds on a new building. Over the years he has found a gold medieval wedding ring, a Saxon belt strap end, an Elizabethan gold ring as well as a broken Bronze Age torc'.
And no doubt several hundred other pocketed non-Treasure finds apart from those three Treasure items. I suspect this is the church. If so, these Baptists are not averse to taking money from the collection-driven exploitation of archaeological sites (reminder: Matthew 13:44). Shame on you.
Winchester Coroners Court heard that a gold Bronze Age armlet or bracelet was found on April 23 2016 at a site in Soberton in the Meon Valley [5.37 km from his home, PMB]. The problem arose when the landowners of his latest find were not all agreed as to whether Mr Slingsby had permission to detect on their land or not and whether he has a right to the money given as compensation for the bracelet being declared treasure. [...] The detectorist Mr Slingsby asked for permission to detect the land from the tenant farmers however he was not aware at the time that they were just tenants [...] The land in fact belongs to three people jointly, Ann Jordan from Guildford, her niece Deborah Stefek from New Zealand and her nephew Alan Richards from Portchester. [...] The senior coroner Grahame Short ruled that the armlet should be declared treasure but he would not apportion ownership, saying that was for the parties involved to settle.[...]   Mr Slingsby [...]  said: “I had full permission from the tenant farmer. It should be shared 50/50 between the landowner and the finder. I won’t be detecting on that land again.” 
Yeah, since he clearly does not know the law, probably not. I think actually the finder, who reportedly did NOT ascertain who was the legal owner, and would therefore have been acting illegally should forgo any of the discretionary reward due to the apparent lack of legal basis for him carrying out a search on that land for collectable artefacts to take away. Furthermore, if that is the case, he should obviously surrender any other artefacts he removed from that property to the legal owners.

This is quite interesting, because I was told by the Kent Coroner (when I asked in connection with the 2014 Holborough finds and the evidence that needed to be examined about whether the artefact hunter who dug up this 'Treasure' actually did have permission to be on that site that day), that the establishment of these circumstances of the discovery was not the task of the Coroner's inquest. As readers will know, there has been absolutely no media report of any Holborough Treasure inquest - which in the circumstances I think is a very significant comment on the role of the PAS.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

"What we know and cared about is only that it's a Statue of Zeus Enthroned'...: Just Say No

The Getty has landed itself in another dodgy portable antiquities mess and are trying to extricate themselves by sending an object back to the presumed source country. This 'Statue of Zeus Enthroned' was exhibited by them in Malibu and Cleveland in the trophy-art show 'A Passion for Antiquities: Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman' (October 13, 1994 to April 23, 1995) and its skimpy collecting history is given as:
[before 1987] Robin Symes (London, England), sold to Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, 1987. 1987 - 1992 Barbara Fleischman and Lawrence Fleischman, American, 1925 - 1997 (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1992
. Trying to put on a brave face after wiping the egg off, they announce:
“The decision to return this object continues our practice of working [...] to resolve issues of provenance and ownership of works in our collection in a way that responds to new information as it emerges [...]”
The key point though is that in any respectful and respectable (respect-worthy) acquisitions policy of any portable antiquity, collecting and verifying the full information of how a particular object the museum is interested in acquiring got onto the international market and left the source country should be a sine qua non of any further considerstions. Obviously, if the Fleischmans had not themselves obtained such documentation, the Getty and its Trustees should simply have walked away from the proposed 'deal' wit them.

The dealers' defiant "they-can't-touch-you-for-it-legitimacy" came undone in this case.

This object was 'grounded' by the Italian authorities presenting a joining fragment found more recerntly near naples. How can collectors claim to be 'preserving art' if the process which leads to it coming on the market in fact divorces fragments of the whole one from the other due to lack of proper excavation?

Let's Go Digging Up 100 Acres of Freshly Cut Pasture

Chris 'Gloucester dig, Slimbridge 16th July 100 acres of freshly cut pasture' Let's Go Digging [up Archaeology for Personal Entertainment and Profit],  June 14, 2017.
The postcode for this dig takes us to the heart of Slimbridge near to the village church of St John the Evangelist which dates from the early 13th century and is a grade I listed building. There are 6 Roman roads identified in this area and various Roman villas. The following write up, with special thanks to Slimbridge Dowsing Group says it all really! We have the area, hopefully we will have the finds!
The fact that the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting says keep off pasture dig seems not to have affected these people's decision about where to take their members, who'll presumably not be a bit interested in what the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting says either. Water off a duck's back for this crowd obviously. Their idea of good practice is something else. This instruction from the organizers says it all:

Please note: We expect all items considered treasure for the finder to provide identification and a contact number. Whilst it is not our responsibility to report items of treasure found on our digs, we will advise the finder to do so and expect confirmation it has been done.
 Not a word though about reporting with the PAS. That's because The Treasure Reward is held out to landowners as the reason why they should allow these grabby people onto their land in the first place. This is all being done for profit, profit, personal profit - at the cost of the heritage, at the cost of the public purse from which the Treasure ransom comes, and the organizers pocket large sums week after week, a nice little earner. And of course everyone asserts that nobody is in metal detecting for the money - except those that are. Targeting known sites of Roman villas and roadside settlements and around Grade I medieval sites is a sure way to allow each participant to fill their pockets with finds worth hundreds in aggregate on the portable antiquities market. This is simply disgusting, and the British archaeological establishment stands around with its hands in its pockets watching - the PAS in the front row.

Leyline Lunacy: What UK Detectorists Say About the Past

Dowsers talking to their dowsing rods
An artefact hunter 'Chris' ('Gloucester dig, Slimbridge 16th July 100 acres of freshly cut pastureLet's Go Digging [up Archaeology for Personal Entertainment and Profit],  June 14, 2017) as a result of his collecting portable antiquities reckons this is how the past looked:
“One of the main features of Roman roads is that they are usually remarkably straight. There is a theory that this may be because the Romans used dowsing to plot the route in the first place. If you stand in Bath and ask your dowsing rods the whereabouts of Salisbury, you will get a one-direction straight answer. 
Another guy ('what have the Romans ever done for us?') reckons it was the Druids wot done it.

There are a whole load of straight highways in Poland built through the dense forest from one city to another between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Sadly nobody here has found any documentary evidence that the Tsarist engineers who were responsible for the ones I tend to travel most often 'asked dowsing rods' to get from Warsaw to Białystok.

As a matter of interest, can anybody tell us the number of Treasures reported under the Treasure act were found by dowsing rather than metal detector? That statistic should give a pretty good indication of the degree to which 'dowsing works'. How many? The database seems not to want to say - maybe we need to search it with dowsing rods.

Mosul Museum Changes hands Again

The situation in central Mosul is still fluid. @ArchLayla reports that ISIL has reoccupied the Mosul Museum.

Yahoo Portable Antiquities Collecting Forum

I am told that an attempt at rabble-rousing by one of the dealers involves a comment concerning the demise of Yahoo which hosts the ancient artifacts forum:
This change will very likely be well received in Warsaw, where members of this group were recently described as "antiquities pirates."
Indeed, and also for the most part too illiterate to know the significance of when I refer to them as 'Yahoos'. It was another Swift who coined the term  in 1726 in his novel Gulliver's Travels (1726) 
Swift describes them as being filthy and with unpleasant habits, resembling human beings [...]. The Yahoos are primitive creatures obsessed with "pretty stones" they find by digging in mud, thus representing the distasteful materialism and ignorant elitism Swift encountered in Britain. Hence the term "yahoo" has come to mean "a crude, brutish or obscenely coarse person".
Perhaps dealers and collectors prefer that to the term 'pirates'?

Half-brains digging up Pasture

Three giggling people playing teenage retards attempting to be entertaining while they detect on pasture. Typical of the genre. Pathetic.

"Metal Detecting Somerset With Manic Dev and RoyG" posted on You Tube by "The Ferret" 20 Feb 2017 

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

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Sotheby's and the Intelligent Soil Acids: What's the Real Grounding?

Here's an interesting thingy from the recent Sotheby's ancient marbles auction (lot 51):

So is this rather odd visage  properly grounded? Well, what they say is:
Rome art market, 1960 or earlier
Adolph Loewi, Inc., Los Angeles, acquired in Rome prior to 1961
acquired from the above by the [Denver Art] Museum in 1965 (inv. no. 1965.22)
It'd be interesting to know why they thought this arresting image should not be in their Roman art collection and why a Los Angeles dealer had problems shifting it. An art historian may not spot it, but the archaeologist in me is really (and I mean really and utterly) intrigued by the behaviour of those soil acids which attacked the marble of the ear, hair and beard, but respected (almost deliberately) the face and breast. This seems not to be a restorer's recarving, as it seems to me you can perhaps see this in the right eye and lips.

Statement of laziness: I cannot recall for the moment my Sotheby's login, so have not checked what the 'condition report' says about the chemical composition of that encrustation or its disposition (because for some reason that escapes me, you need to log in to see that highly sensitive part of the object's description). From past experience the answer would probably be 'not a lot' as the so-called condition reports rarely actually describe the condition in any significant detail that anyone who has prepared one would recognize.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Gotcha Again Gulliblies: The Uncomfortable Truth

'The involved trafficker who supplied 

Becchina with this antiquity,was known to 
have been involved in the acquisition of numerous
 illicit antiquities from Greece in the past'.

Another ancient geegaw should be being quietly withdrawn from sale in a gullible auction house about now as potentially tainted (Greek hunter of stolen antiquities identified a Greek marble funerary stele).
 The stele is lot 8, at the 12/6/2017 Sotheby’s antiquities auction in London. Tsirogiannis identified it in the confiscated Becchina archive, and, judging from the documentation, the stele appears to have been in Becchina’s hands from 1977 until 1990, when it appears to have been sold to George Ortiz. Note that both Becchina and Ortiz are not mentioned in the ‘Provenance’ section given by Sotheby’s. Therefore, at least the two first parts of the ‘provenance’ section must be false, one way or another
and the auction house was again too gullible to check out the dealer's say-so. And again, their reputation takes another blow.  How many of the other items 'checked' with the same 'thoroughness' but handled by dealers who have not yet let their business records get into the hands of the investigating authorities come with similar dodgy collecting histories? Given the state of this market, will the truth ever be known? By refusing to verify and document collecting histories, this market is still generating thousands of potentially tainted artefacts for future generations to cope with.

John Hewett

The reported collecting history of the stele in the Sotheby's sale (lot 8, at the 12/6/2017 Sotheby’s antiquities auction in London.) is odd as David Gill notes: 'the fragment appears to have been provided with a falsified collecting history (that can be traced back to the 2008 sale at Sotheby's':
John Hewett, Bog Farm, Kent, 1960s New York art market, acquired from the above on November 3rd, 1980 American private collection American family trust (Sotheby’s New York, December 10th, 2008, no. 28, illus.) acquired by the present owner at the above sale
There is a 'Bog Farm' in Smeeth, Ashford TN25 6QX. Who was this John Hewett?  Presumably this guy -  . He had a range of items, including stone things, like this broken-off corbel ('acquired in London' - ummmm) and this knocked-off head of Apollo sold at Christies in 2015 , also  this bronze and some other stuff; (here too). Here is one handled by Hewett, now in the getty, with a much better collecting history - but in the light of the Sothheby's mixup, we might be justified in asking whether it is real. He handled paintngs too.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Ancient artifacts from Mosul Museum found in ISIS home

The Iraqi Ministry of Interior on Tuesday announced the recovery of  artefacts belonging to the Mosul Museum in Mosul city (G.H. Renaud, 'Ancient artifacts from Mosul Museum found in IS home'', Kurdystan net, 6 June 2017). They were found inside the house of Islamic State (IS) militants on the eastern side of the city.  While militants filmed themselves smashing up items in the museum, when the latter was liberated, it was found that many objects had been taken away
 In later reports, it was discovered some antiquities were sold and trafficked by the militants. Iraqi forces recaptured the museum from the extremists on the western side of Mosul in March, but the museum and its content suffered significant damage. IS militants destroyed items left in the museum and part of the collection is still missing, assumed to be stolen or smuggled out of Iraq. The extremist group took over the museum in 2014 when it first emerged in Iraq.

'Metal Detecting', a Hobby for Grabby Oiks

Artefact hunting
There is a rather pathetic 'comedy' making a social coomment by parodying irresponsible detectorists, those who search the archaeological record to find historical artefacts in order to appropriate for themselves and do what they want with them in private (including sdestroy them and hide - thus steal - the knowledge) and expects everyone to bow and pander to them. What a contemptuous breed of losers.

Love the mac. His mum bought it for him.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

More Barrel Fish-shooting in UK

"A keen eyed treasure hunter has unearthed a 13th Century crucifix that will now undergo valuation by experts, before interested museums can bid on the item" (Bucks Herald). It's got nothing to do with eyes, reward-hungry hunters are equipped with electronic tools for finding metal items to sell back to society or they'll grab the lot. Museums do not 'bid', Society foots the ransom bill, which is set at a fixed price by the valuation committee.

Vignette: Get a metal detecvtor, can't miss.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Metal detecting damages 3,000-year-old wooden road

Damaging the archaeological record
Illegal metal detecting has caused irreparable damage to a prehistoric road in central Ireland with the country\s leading heritage charity calling on the Government to intervene to save the road (Ryan Nugent, ' Illegal metal detectors damage 3,000-year-old wooden road ,Irish Independent 2 June 2017).

An Taisce: The National Trust for Ireland [...]  has criticised the Minister for "standing idly by" and wants a licensed metal detector survey carried out along the route. Dr Mark Clinton of An Taisce said that the area is of international importance and [...]  "These pits would have been dug by illegal metal-detector operators - 45 'hits' could have equated with 45 ancient objects of antiquity," Dr Clinton said. "How much longer is the Minister going to stand idly by while this monument of International importance is destroyed?"

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