Monday, 25 June 2018

To One of the Authors of the Text-With-an-Overlong-Title

I'll do a proper response to the text Dobat, A, Deckers, PS, Ferguson, N, Heeren, S, Lewis, M and; Thomas, S 2018, 'The Complexities of Metal Detecting Policy and Practice: A Response to Samuel Hardy, ‘Quantitative Analysis of Open-Source Data on Metal Detecting for Cultural Property’ (Cogent Social Sciences 3, 2017)' [Open Archaeology, bind 2018, nr. 4] when I get my head above water with an ongoing project, but here are my first thoughts, addressed to the three of the authors that are also editors of the series of pro-collecting texts that it appears in ('Aspects of Non-professional Metal Detecting in Europe'):

It should start:
Dear Mike Lewis,
Thanks for your reply, at least one of you did. But I am not sure I appreciate the tone of this:"I don’t feel I need to say more to you on this, especially as you don’t really understand or appreciate the role of the PAS in the fight against heritage crime".
an excellent example of the typical form of PAS 'outreach' there. Written in the usual dismissive style typical of a true metal detectorist!
 I am sure we’ll come back to that another time.  
Our issue with the Hardy paper is in relation to poor methodology and some basic factual errors.
No it's not, it's because it raised the question of the figures that the PAS and its supporters in twenty years of trumpeting its Propaganda of Success have not been able to contemplate producing, the number of items that are removed from archaeological sites and assemblages by artefact hunters in the first place – quite obviously the only yardstick by which we can measure ‘PAS success’ in mitigating the damage caused. Hardy produced some numbers and you did not like them.  That's why you (plural) wrote what you did and in the way you did. 
And no, you (plural) do not so much show that there is a better methodology, but merely snipe at what he did, and throw up side issues as padding and a smokescreen dragging discussion off in different directions to avoid focusing on the one, uncomfortable point, which you try to dismiss, but do not quite manage it (and it’s not the one that you misidentify as Hardy’s ‘purpose’). Again - as I can say after a decade and a half engaging with them – this is a typical metal detectorist strategy.
A number of the issues you raise show that the five of you did not check back after you drafted it with Hardy’s text, to see if he did write what you impute. I did, and in several places you in fact totally misrepresent what he actually wrote. Yours thus become ‘emotive arguments’ (p. 322) rather than what one would expect as the joint product of several university academics and museum professionals.
You claim on p. 323 that your (plural) text is "not a defence of 'liberal' approaches to Collection-Driven exploitation of the archaeological record", yet on pp 328-30 of your response, that is precisely what you do. Section 5 has NOTHING to do with what Hardy wrote, but everything to do with justifying maintaining the status quo.
It is you [plural] that 'mix cause and effect' (p. 327-8) when it comes to the UK and US legislation. What you call 'metal detecting' developed within pre-existing legislative formats, and those forms did not 'arise' ... 'in contexts where metal detecting (sic) is openly and widely practiced' (p. 327). And – in a transnational context - legality is not just about ‘reporting’ (p. 325). Again, your approach is object-focussed, while the core of most of the legislation you discuss is concerned with protecting ‘places’.   
This text that has been belatedly added to the pro-collecting stance of the majority of the other ones in that ‘Topical issue’ collection two years after the deadline simply reinforce the impression that, as the sand washes from beneath your feet, you are more keen than ever to prevent any serious discussion on this topic, rather than properly engaging with it in any broader context.
You call Hardy 'biased' on p 322 and 331, but nowhere justify that statement, neither do you show that the five of you are in some way 'unbiased'. I would say the tone and content of this 'response' illustrates very well indeed the specific position from which it is written - and that has nothing to do with Hardy's text and conclusions, but is primarily concerned with buoying up your own preferred model, the one your volume of collected papers promotes, and trashing any evidence that this is not working the way in which it is claimed to be.
 Prove me wrong, Mike, and commit yourself to working with fellow author Dr Ferguson's TTU (part of the 'organisations and national and local authorities responsible for engaging with metal detectorists') [CCd here too] to do what the five of you agreed is 'the way forward' (p 331), through ‘ground truthing’ (after already twenty years of PAS  liaison and partnership with artefact hunters and collectors), and proper research by your own 'flawless methodology' to provide more reliable 'quantitative analysis of metal detecting for cultural property' (ie Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record). Can you do that? Commit to stop sniping at those of us trying to raise serious issues and concerns ('detractors', the 'old perspectives', 'biased assumptions') and actually get stuck into providing proper useable information about the scale of the problem that has yet to be addressed (PAS 2003 aim five was about this, and you said a decade ago that you’d 'achieved' this - let us see). Replace the traditional PAS puff-statistics (wotta-lotta-stuff-we-got) that you’ve been boring us with for twenty years with something more holistic, incisive and substantive. Can you?  
I do hope also that when you do, this time you will not make pronouncements like that it is "fundamentally wrong" (p. 323) to say that collection driven exploitation of a site (for that, not 'objects' is what Hardy was writing about), ripping random diagnostic items of (just) metal out of the complex patterning of archaeological assemblages (I'm talking here about surface sites too) with inadequate record is damaging. Because you say you ‘argue’ it in the paper (p. 323), but in fact neglect to present those arguments. There are many of us who however are sure that to express concerns about this is not it is not a disproven 'old approach' or a 'biased assumption' that it is damaging sites the world over (that transnational approach). Just pop along the corridor and talk to your Museum colleagues worried about the damage being done by artefact hunters in post-'Revolution' Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen for a better perspective on this (sic) 'old approach'.  
Thanks Paul Barford 
He won't of course.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Artefact Hunters Damage Hadrian's Wall Again

Brunton Turret (Copyright Historic England)
Illegal treasure hunters have damaged part of Hadrian's Wall, experts claim. BBC 20th Jumne 2018
[..] metal detectorists are blamed for more than 50 holes found around the 1,900-year-old Brunton Turret section, near Hexham, Northumberland. Historic England said those responsible were searching for loot such as Roman coins and military regalia. Other areas of the ancient wall, a World Heritage site, have been targeted. Historic England said it was working with police to try and find those responsible. But it added it was not practical to install security measures like CCTV along the stretch of the wall. The 73-mile (117km) wall stretches between Wallsend in North Tyneside and Bowness on Solway in Cumbria and has about 160 scheduled monuments, which include Roman camps, forts and signal stations. Anyone using a metal detector without authorisation on these sites is committing a criminal offence.
Mike Collins, Inspector of Ancient Monuments, is the one roped in to do the usual bit of fluff-talk "We know that the majority of the metal detecting community complies with the laws and regulations regarding discovery and recovery of objects from the land. "But the small number of people who steal artefacts and damage ancient sites [...]" Mr Collins might like to tell us how we know that. Can he? Or is this just waffle? How does he 'know' how many people do things they are hardly going to be bragging about?
He said the majority of items taken were sold on, some via online auction sites, with others being bought by individual collectors.
Again, how do we know that? No artefact hunter acting illegally in the UK has a collection of their own? That would be going against what we know of illegal artefact hunting in other countries. The upshot of what Mr Collins is saying is if we block those sales, we'll stop the majority of what he calls 'nighthawking'. Is that true? Dealers, what do you say about this?

PAS, You got an Answer for This?

From the BBC's 'metal detectorists damage Hadrian's Wall' article of 20 June 2018 a quote from Mark Harrison, head of heritage crime and policing advice for Historic England:
"We may never see or fully understand the objects taken or damaged because they have been removed from their original sites with no care or record as to their history or context."
If we see them, can we 'fully understand' them? How can PAS recording 'magically restore' the information missing because it was not observed and recorded during the extraction of a collectable archaeological artefact (part of the evidence) from the context of deposition? Surely the answer is, it cannot. So, it makes no difference whether the object is removed by a trespassing artefact hunter or an artefact hunter given the nod by the owner of land on which archaeological sites lie, and whether the object ever surfaces in the PAS database, the information is still lost. No? No, PAS? Tell us more the public about it. Do some outreaching about this. It was one of your 2003 'aims' wasn't it? What you were funded to do. Yes.

UK Artefact Hunter Explains Away Artefact Hunting on Hadrian's Wall Protected Site

In response to the BBC report 'Metal Detectorists Damage Hadrian's Wall', a troll with a metal detector who hangs around the RESCUE Facebook page to cause disruption every time artefact hunting comes up suggests it is a conspiracy:
John Maloney Somewhat amazing that "hole + nothing else = detectorist". Especially in a time where everyone carries a camera.....[...] What's to stop an irate archaeologist with a spade setting something up? Like I said... everyone carries a camera these days. Equally amazing the headlines this grabs almost as though it was pre arranged....
But when he is answered, immediately Mr Malony drags ythings down to the usual personal level and football-hooligan taunting that tekkies apparently love.

Surge in illegal metal detecting at Hadrian's Wall

'There has been a spate of ‘nighthawking’ incidents at Roman Wall sites at Corbridge, Housesteads and Steel Rigg over the past three years'. (Historic England)
This is quite interesting as a drop in numbers of incidents at precisely Corbridge was not so long ago used as 'evidence' that the PAS was (somehow, it was not explained how)  responsible for an alleged 'drop' in illegal artefact hunting.

The N-word: British Archaeology's Sheep Chorus

"metal detectorists good, nighthawks bad"
I think British archaeology has rather serious terminological difficulties when discussing artefact hunting and collecting. For example, RESCUE is, I think, in general opposed to at least some aspects of the commerce in archaeological objects and the looting of sites as a source of collectables. Yet even they when tweeting about a news item of damage done to a scheduled site by Collection-Driven exploitation of the archaeological record use the N-word:
'Nighthawk' metal detectorists damage Hadrian's Wall - BBC News
To be fair, they are (I assume) unthinkingly parroting the BBC headline to which they link, but it should be archaeologists informing the media about how to talk about archaeological matters, not taking the line from uninformed journalism. So for both RESCUE and the BBC, it is not some people who use metal detectors to exploit the archaeological record merely as a source of collectables doing something wrong and illegal, but a specific group of people who use metal detectors to exploit the archaeological record merely as a source of collectables. I do not follow the logic of this form of labelling for two reasons.

The first is that if an archaeologist was convicted, for example, of sexual abuse of an employee on an excavation, would it be reported only after adding an adjective ('law breaking archaeologist') to stress that not all archaeologists are sexual predators? Because this is what is happening here.

Secondly, the assumption behind such people-labelling is that 'metal detectorists' never 'nighthawk' and all 'nighthawks' only 'nighthawk' and never 'metal detect'. But a 'nighthawk' could equally well have 'permissions' for several productive sites. Not only does this give them more opportunity to actually practice their hobby of 'metal detecting', but also to find collectable (or saleable) stuff. It also acts as a 'cover'. He can produce papers to show that he has permission to be on several sites, any one of which he could claim is the 'source' of an item the ownership of which has been challenged. Until nobody asks to see a finds release protocol from that specific landowner for that specific item, nobody would be any the wiser. Surely, is that not in fact the safest way to get away with nighthawking? In reality, the guys who dug holes in Hadrian's Wall, may well have also reported items to the PAS in several counties, they may have taken part in legal rallies and queued up at the PAS finds desk, or gone to one of the dealers' tables while there.

The term, used as a differentiator (ie as used by Rescue News) is meaningless as a category, but its function is clear, to separate the 'bad guys' from the mass of 'metal detectorists'. But as I have pointed out, such an attempt may be producing a false and over-simplified picture from a much more nuanced reality. Can RESCUE contemplate that and changing the way they talk about collection-driven artefact hunting which erode the evidential value of archaeological sites and assemblages whether it is done legally or not?

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

"But they fill in there 'oles, so wassthe problem M8?"

For so many artefact hunters 'filling in your holes' is the hallmark of responsible detecting. So for them perhaps detecting on a site on Hardian's Wall is OK, the holes were filled in more-or-less tidily (and in the dark!)

Damage done by greedy artefact hunters at
Brunton Turret, passionately interested
in history (Photo copyright English Heritage)

In the case of Unpapered Artefacts Without Documented Collecting History, 'Who Knows?' Caveat Emptor.

 Last month I discussed a seizure by the Italian Carabinieri of antiquities from a Roman property developer who now faces prosecution for possessing illegally excavated works. But the Art Museum is, interestingly, taking this further perhaps on behalf of the beleaguered collector (?) (Cristina Ruiz, 'Top experts dispute Italian police claims about seized ‘antiquities’...' Art Newspaper 19th June 2018):
When we sent this picture to five independent experts, all of them questioned the objects’ authenticity. Although the specialists said they could not offer a definitive opinion based on a photograph, all of them expressed grave doubts. 
Four of these six (not five) specialists are unnamed, so it is not clear in what their specialism lies, one says he 'cannot imagine where a terracotta life-size horse head could come from in antiquity', a second decided the horse and a bull head were 'crude copies' and a third questions the value assigned to the seized artefacts, and in the case of the vase on the far right, 'The background colour is suspicious as well as the shape of the vessel. There are subtleties in where the handles are placed, the shape of the vessel as well as the foot, which are giving me pause for thought'. A fourth also  had suspicions about the two vases shown as well as the larger terracottas ('but they are good quality. As I understand it, the Italian forgers [are] some of the best'). 
The London-based dealer Rupert Wace concurred. “The bull and horse heads do look dubious,” he said, adding that “the value suggested for the pieces in the photograph is preposterous, even if the objects are genuine”. [...] John Boardman, emeritus professor of classical archaeology at the University of Oxford, said: “The vases look more plausible than the rest, but who knows?”
One thing they do not mention, to judge by the way they are propped up with grey boxes, neither the bull head nor the horsey one seem to have been mounted in the collector's original display. Why not?

I think the newspaper is trying to limit the damage done to public opinion about the antiquities market by this sort of seizure, but instead with that 'who knows?', they've done another kind of damage. How can you trust a dealer's opinion if six specialists differ so much in their opinion based on the same evidence? How much of what a dealer claims about an artefact they are trying to sell is substantive information, and how much just guesswork and humbug?


Turkish security forces seize two 'ancient gold-plated Torahs'

Apparently, one of the seized manuscripts

'According to reports, security forces stopped a vehicle arriving from Istanbul with five passengers upon receiving intelligence. After conducting a search, the gendarmerie found the Torahs hidden inside a loudspeaker in the trunk. The Torahs were reportedly written on gazelle skin and were embellished with emerald and ruby decorations. The suspects were planning to sell the ancient books and were headed to meet the buyers. Bilecik Museum Directorate officials noted that the exact date of the Torahs will be announced after examination'.
(source: Daily Sabah, 'Turkish security forces seize 2 ancient gold-plated Torahs', May 8, 2018)

One feels they'd be better advised checking whether the seized items are authentic and not tourist bazaar fakes before they report their 'success'.

Another One

'Any input to any of the vellum pages of our Codex by a reader would be most grateful (sic), please any useful comments or corrections can be send directly to me at We here at would appreciate all the help we can get, to decipher this unique Codex'.

 Well, Mr Owen Felix, where did you get this and did you get it with the valid export papers for it? Similar things have been appearing on the market in some numbers in the past five years (only), the same texture and colour of the pages, the same raggedy edges, random damage, the same manner of binding, they have similar faded uneven (unpracticed) script, the nonsensical insertion of random images. In yours one (43 seconds) looks 'Classical Greek' (or Minoanish) doesn't it, just before a Hodegetria Theotokas modelled on the Iwerska image maybe (look at the Christchild's halo) ...

The problem is all the other ones quite clearly are fakes, they seem to originate in the Turkish/Syrian border area (that's where most of them turn up), is that where you got this? In which case who did you buy it from, and what was it represented as?  If you agree you've been duped, take it back and ask for your money to be returned because you 'made a mistake buying it' and see what the seller says. I'd suggest care in how you phrase that, we suspect the some involved in the trade in such items have guns...

Good luck getting your money back!

UPDATED 20th June 2018
Mr Felix disappeared his video. And what did he do with the 'rare book' and where did it come from? We can only guess. Also having asked people who know more about these things than he seems to know to give up their time and give an opinion, a 'thank you' might be appropriate. It seems rare book dealers can exhibit the same level of behaviour as some antiquities dealers.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Controversy over Thai Buddha in London's SOAS

There is a 13th-century broken off Buddha torso of Thai origin standing in front of the Brunei Gallery in London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).  On its website, the SOAS describes the statue as “a delightful 13th-century Lopburi Buddha torso of Thai origin”. The manner in which it got there is under discussion (Phatarawadee Phataranawik, Thai Buddha statue not smuggled: SOAS', The Nation June 16, 2018)
The SOAS has denied claims the prestigious institution possesses a 13th-century sculpture likely smuggled from Thailand “We strongly reject any suggestion that SOAS University of London has handled this donation improperly. The allegations made in the blog post by this student are without foundation,” SOAS spokesperson Vesna Siljanovska told The Nation by email. Siljanovska was referring to allegations made by SOAS scholar Angela Chiu, who had accused her school of accepting the one-metre-tall Buddha statue that stands at the entrance to its Brunei Gallery. It was gifted to the SOAS by American alumni Mary and Paul Slawson who reportedly bought it minus documents attesting to its provenance some 30 years ago.
Paul Slawson
(thus around 1988, Paul Slawson here, on the list of benefactors here). SOAS has denied any wrongdoing in accepting the sculpture. In doing so they bring out the art trade's hoary old ALR excuse:
Siljanovska added due diligence was carried out by SOAS in accordance with SOAS’s Collections Management Policy and Due Diligence Procedure for the acceptance of Philanthropic Gifts [...] Siljanovska said: “[...] before accepting the gift, checks were carried out by our experienced Galleries and Exhibitions Manager and included placing the details of the object on the Art Loss Register” [...] John Hollingworth, head of Galleries and Exhibitions at the SOAS [says]. “[...] his team had checked with the International Council of Museums and found that the artefact is not on the ICOM [International Council of Museums] Red Lists of lost or vulnerable artworks.”
That rather misinterprets the nature and function of ICOMOS Red Lists (as I am sure the academics at SOAS know - or jolly well should know). Their student does:
However, Chiu commented that checking the ICOM Red List was not sufficient to identify provenance. There are no Thai objects on the Red List. “ICOM does not say that checking its Red List is a substitute for documented provenance.”
But in any case, there is no ICOMOS Red List for Thailand (!).

See also:  SOAS Watch 'SOAS Accepts Gift of Potentially-Looted Southeast Asian Sculpture, Begins Offering Antiquities Laundering Service' 08/06/2018
On 12 March, Mr. Slawson sent Mr. Hollingworth a letter which states that the sculpture was purchased in 1985 at the “Ormond Gallery on Portobello Road,” the staff of which was “not aware of the exact origin” of the sculpture. (p. 1) [...] On 12 March, one working day after his meeting with the Slawsons, Mr. Hollingworth informed SOAS Development staff about the donation so that they could begin the process of due diligence and documentation. (p. 23) Thirteen minutes later, Mr. Hollingworth emailed the Slawsons that he was in touch with art moving companies about the transport of the sculpture; by the end of the day, he had scheduled it for 3 days’ hence. (pp. 8, 9, 36) Thus, even as the due diligence process had hardly begun, Mr. Hollingworth was already proceeding to take possession of the sculpture.
UPDATE 17th June 2018
More startling details here: SOAS Watch 'SOAS Administration’s Misunderstanding of Museum Standards ' 16/06/2018
Thailand is a notoriously looted country. This heightens concerns about the antiquity in question having no documented provenance. Also, stone Buddhist sculpture of the Lopburi era (13thcentury) of this size is rare. This is an artefact that should have been treated with great cautiousness and sensitivity.

Thai Artefacts Gone Missing

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Its good that Eggs are not Sold like Antiquities

Just think what would happen if something as common and cheap as eggs were sold in the no-questions-asked way antiquities dealers handle their goods: 'More than four million eggs recalled in Poland'. There would be no way of telling where any of the eggs in any of the shops had come from.  But of course, in the case of antiquities, that is the very idea...

Illegal trade in antiquities: a scourge that has gone on for too long

Greek vases are popular with collectors so are looted
Owning a piece of antiquity [i]s seen as demonstrating wealth, a love of ancient culture and, ultimately, one’s own distinction: having things that nobody else could have. At least this is what the looters th[ink]. We should now all know the most apt way to describe this dubious form of collection – and it’s a word that has historical resonance: vandalism. [...] the antiquities trade is still going strong – not only depriving countries of their heritage, but, which is worse, depriving the world of the information that could be extracted with appropriate systematic excavation and reducing the artefacts into mere art pieces [...] Meanwhile, there is evidence that revenue from the sale of stolen antiquities looted in Syria and Iraq has been used to fund Islamic State and other terrorist groups – so one illegal activity has been connected to many others. Fighting the trade How are we to stop this trade, which is a scourge of historical knowledge, local pride and international sovereignty[?] The illicit trade in antiquities – and almost all trade of antiquities is illegal in some sense, as it almost always breaks the law of the source countries – is considered to be a common crime.
(source: Evangelos Kyriakidis, 'The Illegal trade in antiquities: a scourge that has gone on for millennia too long', The Conversation June 15, 2018)

Collectors' Corner: Alien Bronze Age Mongolian/Babylonian Jade on EBay

EBay seller ancart (location: 'ANCIENT and AUTHENTIC**GUARANTEED!, United States ) has a lot of 'antiquities' for sale, and has 5576 positive feedback points from satisfied collectors. That is a bit odd, looking at what they sell. As they say:
Artifacts and Treasures from around the World. We offer ancient artifacts from a number of cultures such as Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek, Judean, Persian, Phoenician,and Roman along with African and Tribal artifacts and weapons. We wholesale to the public. All pieces guaranteed authentic and come with a Certificate of Authenticity (unless otherwise stated) which is our guarantee of your satisfaction
There is the usual stock assurance of legitimacy (but note how here they probably intended to delete one version before publishing). Also the old 'archaeological institute' claim:
We have just had the great pleasure of acquiring a large collection of artifacts and we off[er] this unique treasure to you! We have bought from various auctions and collections from around the world and now we offer these rare items to you. NOTE TO EBAY: This item is NOT NATIVE AMERICAN and has been in a collection for over 75 years We are members of an Archaeological Institute We are members of an Archaeological Institute and studied in Israel and the US. So CHECK OUT OUR OTHER ITEMS. [...] Buy ancient artifacts from Egypt, Rome, Judea, Greece and other Tribal artifacts and weapons from around the world. All our items were collected prior to 1970 and come from private collections. All are acquired legally. Buyer pays shipping AND handling as noted in the ad unless otherwise stated, and international rates will vary and be determined at the close of the auction. We cannot insure outside of the US. Any insurance claim will be initiated and completed by the buyer. [...] COA: This fantastic artifact comes with a Certificate of Authenticity (unless otherwise stated) which is our guarantee GUARANTEE: Our items are guaranteed, and with us, you can buy with confidence. Collecting is a great hobby, and we want your experience to be a joyful one. Our buyers can count on a 100% money back guarantee. We pride ourselves in selling the best product available.
An example of their wares is this object sold together with a surfeit of exclamation marks: WOW! STONE AMULET! ALIEN? ANGEL? GOD? DEMON? 5000 YEARS OLD! (401547691752) sold for US $36.00 [ 11 bids ].
A GREAT ONE! [...]  WE OFFER THIS EXQUISITE TREASURE TO YOU! [...] Looks to be Asian.... I have also heard Babylonian. It appears to be made of jade or some other hard stone. I have seen similar on TV Ancient Aliens show! I have done some research and similar to those found in Inner Mongolia...mysterious ancient culture with a history connected to ancient alien theories DATING: Early Bronze Age, 3000-2000 BC! This one measures about 2 1/2" tall and 1" wide BEAUTIFUL WOW! This artifact would be a wonderful center piece to any collection. DON'T MISS IT!! 
The Mongolian Bronze Age in fact extends from  ca. 2500–1500 BCE.  All the 'Holy Land' objects (3) on sale at the moment are dated to the 'time of Moses' , the 'Indus valley' (3)  bowls from Pakistan are not ascribed to any culture, there are a few generic 'Egtptian beads' amnd a 'coptic cross' a US side-notched spear point (not assigned any country or culture of origin), and this 'alien' thing. What kind of collectors are buying these objects and what do they do with them? Where will they end up and in what form? 

PAS Database: how many lies?

"there’s an unknown but probably
 very large degree of error in PAS based PhDs"

This week, Heritage Action ask about the reliability of the second-hand 'data' supplied to FLOs which make up the PAS database. Despite this question being raised many times before, no attempt is still being made by the PAS for verifying the reported findspot of the finds they record (such as by demanding to see a finds release protocol signed by the landowner for any reported item to show the legitimacy of the finder handling the find in the first place  - and thus the legality of their own use of these data). Why not? Is the farmer aware of what he has let leave his property?

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

PAS a copout replacing real public engagement?

Token brown skinned people in imaginary
group of British detectorists
Is reconciling society and museums really just a matter of encouraging members of the public to buy a metal detector and create their own collections as the British Museum seems to think? Or is there a lot more to this question to debate (British Museum too) asks Erin L. Thompson ('Museums Should Consider Why They’ve Become Targets of Attack and Protest', Hyperallergic 11th June 2018). Most UK metal detectorists are white, aren't they?

MOB So what does the inscription say?

And this has 'what' connection with 'the Bible'?
"bricks stamped with an inscription so it would always be".... possible to see where it had been illegally taken from.

That mount is appalling.

Oxford University Course: 'The use of Metal Detectors in Archaeological Projects' [UPDATED]

There's a new course being run at  Rewley House, Oxford: 'Metal Detecting for Archaeological Projects: An Introduction' run by the so-called 'The Association of Detectorists', (but the runic logo used is of a non-existent so-called 'Institute of Detectorists'). The main tutor is Keith Westcott (artefact hunter - see here  [HMS Ramillees is a protected site [UPDATE Mr Westcott insists that this site is not protected, so its OK to go diving there and poking around]) and the Director of Studies (sic) is Dr Alison MacDonald (Lecturer in Archaeology at the Department for Continuing Education University of Oxford).

The course's title seems to me to be suffering from the usual British problem of not being able to name a spade a spade when it comes to artefact hunting and collecting. What is 'metal detecting'? The name is used in the UK euphemistically and non-euphemistically to mean several things, not all of which have a place in an archaeological project. One wonders why the course was not named in a more explicit manner (see below for one probable reason).

We learn from the website that 5.75 hours of 'tuition' on Sat 24 Nov 2018 will set each participant back 'from' £67. Mmmm. Here's what the website says:
Of interest to the detectorist and archaeologist, this course looks to explore how the metal detector and detectorist practitioner, can become an important element in the processes of archaeological mitigation. We will evaluate how ‘stratigraphy’ and ‘context’ relates  (sic) the ‘Code of Practice’ through to an understanding of archaeological investigation and recording in the planning process. We look at typical documents such as method statements and the Written Scheme of Investigation, to what will be required and expected of the detectorist when on site and further preparation and reporting for pre and post site attendance. This introductory course will cover specific survey methodologies such as PDAS: Partial and Detailed Artefact Surveys and will be the precursor to further courses that focus on the embedding of metal detector use into professional practice. With the intention of becoming a Research and Educational Institute, the Association of Detectorists have been establishing the body over 18 months with overwhelming support from archaeological and heritage bodies and institutes. Our aim and mission is in developing a nationwide educational program based on archaeological and conservational principles, we look to encourage detectorists whose motivations are based in the research and preservation (sic) our National Heritage. With courses to enhance the ‘hobbyists’ awareness of ‘contextual landscape’ to the highest level of ‘consultant practitioner', which focuses on embedding metal detecting into professional practice and creating a UK ‘Bank’ of consultant detectorists, to assist on archaeological projects. 
The last sentence is a bit wonky. and what about: '11.30am   Archaeological methods: the detectorists' prospective', eh? Come on University of Oxford, in proper English please.

It may well be a surprise to the organizers that in many European countries, 'metal detector use' has long been 'embedded in professional practice' in both surveys as well as mitigation projects. I wrote on it here in Poland in the mid 1990s. But this session is not really about the use of the tool itself (which is not dealt with at all in the session's programme) but getting recognition for 'detecting practitioners'. I'd like to ask Dr MacDonald to specify what, more precisely, is meant by that term, in what activity have these particular people become such expert practitioners, and in what way does that relate to the aims and ethics of archaeological practice (ethical issues are not in the programme either).

Note the juxtaposition 'The ‘Code of Practice’ and ‘Treasure Act’' (why is that here anyway?) and 'What do detectorists want in return?' (ie for complying with them maybe?). Will archaeologist participants be encouraged to go onto a detectorist forum or two to find out for themselves? I think if they did, they'd find that more enlightening than Mr Westcott banging on about 'bridge building'. To have a bridge you need foundations. What is the actual evidence from the social media of the existence of anything at all that could serve as a real foundation? Go and look.

With reference to [and omitting the scare quotes] the proposed evaluation of 'how stratigraphy and context relate to the Code of Practice’, they do not. The current 'Code of Practice for Responsible (there's that phrase again) Metal Detecting in England and Wales' discuss neither, except to say leave them alone. On an archaeological project the stratigraphy and context need to be documented in the same way as for non-metallic information and certainly cannot be put in the hands of amateurs who've done a five hour 'course' run by a guy who cannot handle writing proper sentences.

It figures that it is in Britain that we see (allegedly) 'overwhelming support from archaeological and heritage bodies and institutes' for the idea of establishing a so-called 'research and educational institute' for Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record (the proper name for the mealy-mouthed euphemism 'metal detecting'. Such an entity (run by Mr Westcott no doubt)  would  act as yet another smokescreen to obscure the real nature of the exploitative hobby that so many British archaeologists seem to support. I think it is they who are being exploited by the artefact collectors.

UPDATE 17th June 2018

Keith Westcott seems to have more than one problem with this text. He writes to a colleague (I quote verbatim):
[...] Nigel, I wonder if you can help me? I have dedicated my last 10 years to voluntary and charity causes and received praise for my work. I have now worked for 18 months trying to find a way to create a new direction for detectorists who are not 'in it for personal gain'. My person opinion on metal detecting is that, information that can be gained from the discovery of an artefact in most cases, is more valuable than the market value for the item devoid of its context. Obviously, some finds are very much random losses however, I have been working to demonstrate how finds in the plough soil can be hugely significant to identifying archaeological features. (please see below) Whilst archaeologists have supported my efforts, Paul Barford has viciously attacked me, the course and the principles agreed by the heads of all major archaeological bodies involved in the initiative. Its knocked me back as I expected that it would be the detectorists against the proposal would be vocal in their concerns. Of greatest concern is I have been unable to post my reply to his blog to defend myself. My response to Paul is below, and I wonder if you could help me in this issue? Many thanks for your consideration. Best regards, Keith Westcott 
Hmm, not being able to post a comment here is nothing to do with me or anything I have done. Try again Mr Westcott, many of your metal detecting mates seem to have no such problems, especially the abusive, foulmouthed ones. Can't keep these 'ambassadors for the hobby' away.

I think there are a few things to cover in his intro.

1) I note the usual emphasis on the connection between Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record (CDEAR) and 'voluntary and charity' work done by its practitioners. It's like saying a mass murderer is not really a 'bad' guy, as he helps old ladies cross the road and loves animals. The two, Mr Westcott, are totally unconnected.

2) Some people will praise the mass murderer who helps old ladies, it does not mean that they are right to do so. Just because some archies praise some tekkies, it does not mean that all archies must think that all tekkies are doing the right thing, even when they are within the law. As an archaeologist with a conservation background, I do not think (and have the right and reason to think) that Collection Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record is in any way a 'good' way to treat that record. Furthermore I believe that archaeologists who say it is in some way a 'good thing' are wrong, whether they qualify that or not. I am prepared to argue that (and do here) that it is a huge problem, are they going to show me where I am wrong? They may 'praise' Mr Westcott (who's obviously eager for it), but they are not so eager to come up here and produce reasoned and substantiated arguments, which stand up in the wider context of archaeological practice, to say why what I say is wrong.  The heads of all major archaeological bodies involved in the initiative will talk to Mr Westcott in private. They don't really seem all that keen to shout out in public, still less in an archaeological forum, that looting (CDEAR) is OK. 

3) This idea of
detectorists who are not 'in it for personal gain'
The scare quotes are Mr Westcott's. Why are they there? First of all I have been going on for many years about that label 'detectorists'. What does Mr Westcott mean by it? Because I think he means 'artefact hunters' , and the ones I am bothered about here are 'artefact hunters engaged in collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record'. And what are they exploiting it for? Well, as anyone can see, most of them to build personal ephemeral collections of historical artefacts (especially coins). Now, I'd be interested to hear Mr Westcott explain to us all how somebody hoiking out and pocketing archaeological evidence which is merely treated as collectables/hedge fodder (depending on who collects what) is not doing it for personal gain. They are doing it to gain a personal collection of artefacts. And I do not care how many old ladies they help across the road, how much money they raised for disabled donkeys by their charity rally, or how many times they've used their machines on an archaeological survey in the meantime, it is the erosive collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record they do in between times that is the problem. Getting that idea into a tekkie head should not require too much effort, I would have thought. I could be wrong.

4) Its a platitude to say that through 'metal detecting', valuable information 'can be gained from the discovery of an artefact'. We all know that, the PAS bangs on about it daily and has been doing so for twenty long years. But in many cases (and sadly the metal detectorist hoiking it out blind from above in a spade-size hole) is not in any position to judge when it is the case and when it is not , valuable evidence would be preserved if a select collectable artefact which fits a detector's 'settings' were left in its burial context. In other words, equally valuable information is destroyed when an artefact hunter detects it and then digs it up and puts it in his pocket. Archaeology and archaeological inference building is not just about 'digging old things up' (that may come as a surprise to some PAS-supporting archaeologists).

Here is Mr Westcott's reply:
Response to some of the points raised by Paul Barford:

As the person behind the proposal to form an educational and research institute, I have looked to approach the initiative from the archaeologists prospective. I have discussed and shaped the proposal through meetings and in communication with CIfA, CBA, Historic England, PAS, ALGAO and other prominent archaeologists. The support I have received from the archaeological community has been overwhelming.

I do need to emphasise though just in case there is a suggestion I have done something illegal, in response to your claim that HMS Ramilies is a protected site, I have specifically enquired with HER Devon and Historic England who confirm that it is not protected.

In regard to the 'how stratigraphy and context relate to the Code of Practice’ the 2017 Code of Practice' states: If detecting takes place on pasture, be careful to ensure that no damage is done to the archaeological value of the land, including earthworks. Avoid damaging stratified archaeological deposits (that is to say, finds that seem to be in the place where they were deposited in antiquity)… My reference to a 'detectorist prospective' is to investigate how we can adhere to the code (I have asked a number of Heads of archaeological bodies their thoughts as its not straight forward).

You mention the cost of the course. I have attended a number of courses at Oxford such as 'Stratigraphic Analysis in Archaeology' which cost of 3 times that of Metal Detecting for Archaeological Sites: An Introduction.

The course is an 'introduction' as it will followed by other courses written by our Education Committee. (Prof. Chris Gosden has agreed to Chair). I have been motivated to propose the initiative due to my own concerns in how the interest has developed. However, I am confident that there are many detectorists who are passionate about conservation and preservation, I hope I can help by developing an educational program which is deemed useful to assist archaeologists.

I apologise that my use of the English language is not always up to 'Oxford' levels, I know it’s a failing of mine and I will continue to try harder.
The course programme says that some time will be spent in discussing 'how stratigraphy and context relate to the Code of Practice’. I suggested this was chalk and cheese and Mr Westcott confirms that. The 2017 Code is not in any way applicable to work on and with an archaeological project. My concern about the cost was why private individuals would fork out this money to get (just an) introduction to something that they'd learn for free (without the fluff) by taking part in an archaeological project and working alongside archies. We will see what comes of the idea of  'an educational program which is deemed useful to assist archaeologists' ....

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Balmy pseudo-preservation

An eBay seller calling themselves 'Metal Protectors' is selling this: Treborius artifact preservation and enhancement balm for metal detecting find (let me guess, the guy's name is 'Trevor'):
A specific blend of paraffin waxes and oils that work together to help preserve, protect, and enhance any surviving details. It has been designed by [a?] detectorist for detectorists and archaeologists. To apply simply rub your finger tip onto the balm back and forth, this will slowly melt the balm onto your finger. Once warm[,] carefully massage the balm onto your artefact or coin. Treborius Balm will not only enhance what details are there but will also preserve the artefact by encapsulating with a micron thin layer of balm that will set.
So, low viscosity candle wax mixed with oil. Mmmm. Lovely.... it does organic remains preserved in corrosion layers a real treat. Also the seller fails to mention the issue with dust. And what kind of 'oils' are involved and what are their long-term properties in air? But of course as the picture shows it makes a piece of dugup archaeological evidence much more saleable on eBay if you smear it with something to make it go all soapy-greeny (a pseudo-'patina').

When this sort of material has been used before, problems have appeared with reversibility at a later stage see here for example. See here too.

Archaeologists (and real 'citizen archaeologists') will not use this sort of crap - detectorists however are another story. The responsible approach would however be to ask somebody who knows about conservation before putting anything like this on ancient metal objects freshly removed from burial conditions.

Priscan Pathos: 'Our Expert World Class Archaeological Team'

A while ago, readers may remember I commented on a group of artefact hunters slyly calling themselves 'Priscan Archaeology'. I put a comment under the video to which I referred:
PortAntissues 1 week ago
In what way is what the three guys are shown doing here "archaeology"? In what way is this a "survey"? When will we see the preliminary results of this survey done by this "archaeology" group - for example a presentation of the documented extent and density of the scatters of tesserae and ceramic building material that they use to claim they have a "villa"?
I would have thought that this was pretty clear. It refers to the claims that what is shown is 'archaeology' and a 'survey' (an 'archaeological survey' presumably). Given what we can all see them doing in that video, and what we can all hear them saying as they do it, I asked in what way that claim can be justified. I also said that to qualify as a video of a group of archaeologists conducting a survey, we might expect to see them actually creating some documentation. Look what happened:
Paul King 1 week ago
Hi PortAntissues,
As you can see, I don't assume any false names or pseudonym's (sic) so that whatever I write is fully accountable and fully transparent. Someone using a pseudonym can always slope off to lurk under some lichen stricken (sic) rock and fester for the rest of eternity.
Or you can be like me and openly display who you are without any fear of attack and ready to defend what you believe in or stand by your morals. [...]
He then goes on to criticize my grammar (oblivious to the fact that there is nothing wrong with the grammar of that comment). So, instead of addressing the actual question, we immediately see the usual tekkie tactic of dragging each and every discussion down to a personal level. PortAntissues is hardly, however. a pseudonym. It's the account name from which I am writing and I would say it's pretty transparent who I am if you click a bit. But of course Mr King can play the fool as much as he likes, but in reality we can all see that he knows very well whom he is attacking. So he continues:
Firstly, excusing your grammar, the three guys you refer to have contributed masses of vital information to several archaeological institutions that are world renowned. Please can you offer evidence of just one of your contributions per say (sic)?
Secondly, if you are well-read enough, you will recognise that "archaeology" applies to all that are interested in the subject matter such as; children, students, scholars, archaeologists, universities, World Class Museums, Priscan Archaeology, historians,..... the list is exhaustive! (sic)
Thirdly, if you research the word "survey" you will quickly understand exactly what that word entails. The results of all our surveys are published in the public domain and records are recorded as and when we see fit in accordance with protecting landowner privacy.
The documented extent and density of the tesserae scatter and, indeed, the metallic findings have been forwarded to our expert World Class archaeological team for assessment via a spreadsheet with all finds recorded by GPS to 10 decimal places. It would be lovely to see what you have done for archaeology?............... (sic)
Anyone even with a base (sic) knowledge of archaeology can easily recognise that tesserae equals a RB building more substantial that an (sic) wattle and daub structure or indeed a roundhouse.
Have you ever found anything? Best regards Paul

So, according to 'Priscan Archaeology's' Paul King, Collection-Driven Exploitation of a Roman villa site is 'archaeology' because "it" 'applies to all that are interested in the subject matter such as; children, students, scholars, archaeologists, universities, World Class Museums, Priscan Archaeology, historians,..... the list is exhaustive! . Now, that makes no grammatical sense. A 'child' is not 'archaeology' and neither is a historian.

Quite obviously my original question refers to how to define the discipline of archaeology, the one the name of the group says they are engaged in doing. Paul King is apparently unable to muster the priscan intellect he'd need to give us his group's definition of archaeology. I'll give mine. It would be  pretty simple, but would go something like this 'archaeology is the study of the past through a study of material traces and remains by an archaeological methodology'. Leaving aside the issue of the precise definition of the latter, it is the mention of  methodology that is missing from most definitions (including the BM's 'citizen archaeology' crap), but makes all the world of difference. Archaeology is not 'just digging up old things' (that's what looters do). Archaeology is archaeology, pheasant shooting is neither biology or ornithology. Watch the video and show me where there is consistent use of any methodology in this alleged 'archaeological project'.

My guess is that by 'contributed masses of vital information to several archaeological institutions that are world renowned' Mr King means the PAS and 'several' other object-centred recording schemes (BMC, CCI?) like that. But that, per se, is not 'archaeology', is it? If the results of Priscan Archaeology's archaeological research are indeed  'published in the public domain' then we will all be able to see them, but strangely no bibliography of these publications is given. But I suspect this is more fogginess, because what Mr King means by 'records are recorded as and when we see fit in accordance with protecting landowner privacy' is not any kind of archaeological survey methodology. It seems what he means is reporting collectables to the PAS (and the ethics of hoiking material from a site where the landowner does not allow reporting has been commented on here earlier).

I am intrigued by the reference to 'our expert World Class archaeological team' but suspect that we will not ever hear of anything that shows the reality behind this claim. Mr King might explain how, world class or not, Baz, Keith and Trev (or whoever) would make any sense of archaeological survey results presented as individual pieces of data laid out as a 'spreadsheet'. Bonkers.

Vignette: Not filling in the holes, a 'survey' in progress

Monday, 11 June 2018

Every Collector-Pocketed Find Matters, so Where are they Going?

If ',, what is the attitude of the PAS and British archaeological community (and public stakeholders) towards metal detector users engaging in active Collection Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record for collectables who report only a fraction of their finds? . How they assess the scale of the problem is set out here: Portable Antiquites Scheme A Guide for Researchers...  How widely appreciated is that estimate in the public sphere? Why is this scandalous figure not being shouted from the rooftops by the PAS?

Vignette: Black hole

PAS: Recording Finds is Good fer th' 'Obby Innit?

Apparently started today: #EveryFindMatters by the detectorists' friend the PAS, obviously meant to go along with the PAS banging on for the last couple of days on #ShareTheKnowledge (do have a look at some of the earlier tweet at what kind of 'knowledge' this was set up to promote)  and #RecordYourFinds set up 11 mar 2016.

Vignette: if 'every find matters', then why are we still losing so many to collectors?

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Judge Issues Ordinance on the Fate of the "Getty" Bronze

"Coming home soon, I hope"
Italian magistrate issues order for the seizure of the Getty bronze, aka Victorious Athlete (l’Atleta di Fano).  Getty lawyers had successfully appealed two prior orders on procedural grounds.

Lynda Albertson has a good writeup in the ARCA blog giving the legal background in detail:
Throughout the case, the J. Paul Getty Museum has stood by its original claim, that its purchase of the statue in 1977, for $3.95 million, was legitimate. The museum's legal team and its current director Timothy Potts have stoically maintained that there was no evidence that the statue belongs in any way to Italy, discounting the country's claim that the object was exported out of Italy in contravention of existing Italian law. This despite the fact that the bronze had been fished from the sea by Italian fishermen aboard the Ferruccio Ferri in 1964, who then brought the statue to the Italian city of Fano where they hid it from authorities, first, by burying it in a cabbage patch and later, by hiding it in a priest's bathtub rather than declare their cultural find as required to the Italian customs dogana. 
Derek Fincham also discusses it.

UPDATE June 11th 2018

The Getty issues a statement (on 11th June, Trumpishly backdated to the 8th):
"the statue is not part of Italy’s extraordinary cultural heritage [...]. We very much value our strong and fruitful relationship with the Italian Ministry of Culture and our museum colleagues in Italy. Resolution of this matter must rest on the facts and applicable law, under which we expect our ownership of the Victorious Youth to be upheld."
So, the question therefore arises, is it part of the heritage of the piece of land known as the USA?

Saturday, 9 June 2018

'Responsible Detecting', was is das?

There is a twitter hashtag '', but you will seek in vain there for a decent definition of what is and what is not 'responsible' Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record - or how it has been established that such a thing can actauly exist. If something is damaging a resource, then how can doing that thing be 'responsible'? The Twitter feed just contains finders and PAS gatekeepers showcasing more and more 'wotta-lotta-stuff-we-got' decontextualised artefacts in the ephemeral, scattered (and you can bet for the most part poorly documented) personal artefact collections of their finders. In what was is it 'responsible' to rip this stuff out of the ground in this manner and for the self-centred purpose of collecting it, and in what way is it 'responsible' of heritage professionals to support and aid it? Let the public see some real answers and accountability on social media accounts like '#responsibledetecting'

'Citizen archaeology in action' a Thousand pocketed pieces of Archaeological Evidence

And the 'archaeological discovery' of the week is.... a two is upside down. !
Tom Redmayne‏ @TomRedmayne1
Just recorded my 1,000th record of my own metal-detected finds onto the @findsorguk database. Can't thank the PAS enough, especially @ajdaubney for all the help and support over the years. Elizabeth I silver sixpence dated 1572 with unusual error of the 2 being upside down! [emoticon], [emoticon]
I bet archaeologist Daubney is not going to come on here to chat about why he's being so helpful and supportive (sic) of Collection Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record... I can see why, taken in its wider context, there really is no justification at all for that. I guess it's more comfy just to ignore that context and carry on the professional head-patting and collecting the salary.

I'd al;so like to hear from any of those muffin-heads who insist the numbers of artefacts ascribed to individual finders in the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter cannot be in any way realistic. If 24 000 finders each have even a half of Mr Redmayne's thousand (declared) artefacts in their personal collections,  that's an awful lot of holes in the archaeological record deliberately caused by artefact hunters with the help and support of archaeologists like Adam Daubney. Mr Redmayne started metal detecting in 2005, by the beginning of February 2014, PAS records show he'd taken 500 objects from the archaeological record. That's more than 62 finds a year. Since then he's accumulated at least another 500 - that's 111 finds a year. Imagine all of them filling their pockets at that rate - recording or no recording.

Vignette: Dairy interesting

Collectors' Corner: 'Sensational' "Prehistoric" Animal-shaped lumps on sale on eBay

Has the PAS seen this? If they had, what would have happened? Emptor caveat, yours for GBP 2,500.00 from emilbal-y0jmlc4z (247 ) a 'finder' based in Clacton on Sea, Essex: 
Here is a sensational upper palaeolithic/mesolithic ironstone pottery lion.This sensational example has great form and some how lasted the test of time it sat on the north seabed for thousands of years in pretty harsh conditions considering the turbulent sea with frequent storms. sand and water is a natural abrasive yet this ironstone stoneage pottery relic some how survived. I do not believe this ironstone pottery lion would have lasted had it been on land as the earths acids would have more than likely broken it down.This was discovered within deep north seabed dredge material, the area of dredged material was roughly 8 metres deep and approximately 20 miles off the Essex coastline this area of the north seabed was once lush land where Hunter gatherers lived amongst woolly mammoths woolly rhinos, pygmy hippos walrus and cave lions.Within the dredge material I have also discovered many stone tools I have had some dated which coincide with the neandethals.The area of north seabed which was once land was flooded by the late mesolithic period that's why I date my objects between the palaeolithic to late mesolithic as this land was flooded by this time.
Ironstone pottery mark, note colour
As eBay insist: 'Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing'. Indeed. The guy's spelling would put me off as well as a date supplied by a bloke who reckons there were pygmy hippos and woolly mammoths living together in this submerged pre-Holocene land. The man obviously has not the slightest idea what the term 'ironstone pottery' actually denotes and why it was not being made by hunter gatherers.

This is one of several dozen weird shaped lumps of stone predominantly with shapes that mean if they are held and lit in a certain way, they vaguely resemble an animal of some kind. These are put on eBay by various 'finders' who represent them as (and maybe think they are) ancient 'pocket art'. Since these are natural stones, these people are either ignorant or charlatans.  Taking such objects to the PAS would disabuse the one and provide confirmation of the latter if the objects subsequently appear on sale as an artefact.

In fact any closer inspection of the lithics on eBay suggests there is a huge lack in knowledge about what constitutes a lithic artefact among eBay sellers who try to pass battered stones off as prehistoric tools, and equally clueless 'collectors' buy them. To what extent is fraud being committed here? So far I have not seen any pebbles represented as sculptures of ancient spaceships, I guess its a matter of time.

So this seller - whose other offerings suggest he has a remarkable eye for seeing the form of an animal in a pebble - describes  an object as 'jasper' (it looks like flint) as 'worked' (it is not), is he committing fraud by misrepresenting what he has or just talking bollocks? (he says: "I have tinted some of this pictures to make it easier for those who cannot see the key features clear enough.jasper was a key stone within stone age Europe, and has links with the neandethals, I can understand why they chose this imperial looking material...").

Essex FLO, where is your 'outreach'? Ms Flynn would be doing a finder apparently 'passinitley intristed in the past' a favour by helping him distinguish fact from anything-goes fantasie (the difference between the PAS 'citizen archaeology' and stupidity) and in the process help out duped and deluded fellow collector-partners who have bought this crap under false pretences get their money back. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Court Upholds Italian Art Dealer's Conviction Over Handling Stolen Church Murals

An Athens appeals court has upheld an 11-year sentence against a Sicilian art and antiquities dealer convicted over the theft four decades ago of four rare murals from an Early Christian rural church in Steni on Evia (Yiannis Papadopoulos, 'Court upholds Italian art dealer's conviction over rare church murals' EWS 05.06.2018)
Gianfranco Becchina, who is now 80 years old, was not present at Friday’s hearing in Athens, but his lawyer told the court that her client, being an expert in antiquities, was unaware of the murals’ importance and had no role in their theft. Judges rejected the appeal, upholding a conviction against Becchina on charges of receiving stolen goods.
'Was unaware of their importance' may perhaps reasonably be inferred to mean that he was not aware that they had come from a documented theft, rather than being chiselled of the wall of a historical building where there were no documents and 'they can't touch yer for it'. We have no information that he had ascertained that there was documentation in his possession that were evidence that he had bought items that were of verifiable licit provenance. The 16th century murals had been stolen in 1978 by a man from Pyrgos in the northwestern Peloponnese broke into the Church of Palaiopanaghias and chiseled them off the walls causing extensive damage to the interior of the listed monument. The man was sentenced to life in prison in 1984 over a string of unrelated thefts:
but the four murals remained missing for years until they were discovered in 2001 during an investigation into a gallery in Basel, Switzerland, run by Becchina and his wife, Ursula Juraschek. There, Swiss authorities discovered a trove of stolen Italian antiquities, as well as the four Greek paintings that [...] were repatriated to Greece in 2010 and are now on display the Byzantine Museum in Athens. Their total value has been estimated in the range of 160,000 euros.

Symes-handled object in NY Court

In a lawsuit filed in a New York court, the auction house Sotheby's together with the owners of an artwork withdrawn from a May sale are taking the Ministry of Culture of Greece to court in an antiquities test case after Athens demands the return of an 8th century BC Greek Geometric Period bronze horse  (James Pickford, 'Sotheby’s takes Greece to court in antiquities test case', The Financial Times 5th June 2018). The 14 cm high figure had been bought by Howard and Saretta Barnet in 1973 and was due to have been sold after their recent death in Sotheby’s New York salerooms on May 14 (with an estimate of between $150,000 to $250,000)  with other sculptures from their collection, and was featured on the sale's catalogue cover. The object was withdrawn after Greece’s culture ministry sent the auctioneer a letter on the day before the auction, demanding its withdrawal from the sale and return to Greece.
In the letter seen by the Financial Times, the ministry said there was nothing in its archives to indicate the object “had left the country in a legal way” and it reserved “the right to take the necessary legal action” to repatriate it. The horse had appeared in the records of Robin Symes, a British art dealer, who was later accused of trading in looted archaeological treasures, the Sotheby’s court filing noted. Sotheby’s rejected the Greek claims, pointing to the 1967 sale of the horse at a public Swiss auction before it passed into Symes’s hands and thence to the Barnets’ collection. Nonetheless, it pulled the statue from the May sale at the eleventh hour, since the existence of the claim damaged its marketability. Arguing that Greece had no right to interfere in the sale and could provide no information as to when or by whom it had been stolen or removed from the country, Sotheby’s said it was asking the court “to clarify the rights of legitimate owners of ancient works of art and protect clients against baseless claims”. 
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