Monday, 18 March 2019

How to Make it Look that the 'Partners' Are Reporting Stuff

Just added to the PAS website:
Ceramics (including the Pottery Guide) Created on 15th March 2019 by Helen Geake
So perhaps now the Artefact Erosion Counter (currently focussed on metal items) should now estimate how many ceramic sherds and Ceramic Building Material fragments are being walked over on the many medieval and Roman sites exploited by artefact hunters in England and Wales and not picked up and reported. Many excavation archives of this sort of material can be measured in the hundreds of kilos. And how many kilos are represented by the nationwide-twenty-year public pickup that the PAS database represents?

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Cadbury's Heritage-Destroying Chocolate Frog

Behold the new enemy of the heritage/environment professional.

the wrapper and packaging are plastic, too.

and a comment from the #Batrachomyomachia twitter feed *

Sentient archaeological mammals fighting greed-driven corporate metal detecting reptile fantasies.

Sotheby's Advert

I hate those pop-up antiquities sale adverts I keep getting while trying to keep up with the latest celebrity chat or whippet-racing news. This one annoyed me, and should annoy you too, more knocked off 'Face from the Past' Buddha Heads.... and now look closely. 

The quality of teaching in public schools in the UK must be even worse than we thought.

What do they Put on the Soil in Washington DC?

Acid fertilisers here? 
One born every minute. How many times do we have to hear this "Rescue" argument from collectors? If they are not "rescuing" looted artefacts from ISIL, its modern farming and its chemicals:
Peter Tompa @Aurelius161180 14h14 hours ago Acidic fertilizers are slowly destroying coins buried in the ground so perhaps metal detecting should be viewed as salvage archaeology.
Do they have biology in US schools? The optimal pH range for the growth of most modern crop plants in the temperate zone is between 5.5 and 7.0. I am not sure what crop yield Mr Tompa thinks any farmers would expect irresponsibly placing their soil parameters much beyond that by deliberately adding acid to the soil to reduce their pH lower than they naturally are. In fact the pH of rainfall in Washington DC is currently around 4.8 to 4.9 so deliberately adding extra acid to the soil, especially in the region where he lives, would not really help feed America. 

Perhaps Mr Tompa needs to do some reading on soil science (and corrosion mechanisms) and get out and talk to local farmers about the costs of those artificial fertilisers, how they are applied to get maximum effect and lead to beneficial, rather than damaging consequences. If copper (a toxic metal) is getting into the soil water through 'acidity', that means other metals will be too, if that is the case, then that alone is cause for much more concern than whether a few coins are still in collectable condition when dug up by artefact hunters. Heavy metals in US kids' hamburgers are no laughing matter.

The Bedale Hoard Animation Project

"What ho chaps, I wonder how this lot got there?"
As part of York Museums Trust’s Genesis project a group of young people aged from 14-16 created an animated video on the story of the Bedale Hoard at the Yorkshire Museum. 

 Published on You Tube by YorkMuseumsTrust Published on 9 Jun 2015

 A very good example of the type of empty speculative narrativisation that accompanies a metal detectorist's isolated find of a hoard. "Advancing understanding" or storytelling? How can we go beyond typology to context in situations like this?  I do not think we can. What is significant is that the archaeologists are not going to be able to come up with a story any more reliable than the speculations of these kids.

Seven years on, the Hoard has still not been properly published.

Norfolk: Finding those "Productive sites"

Anglo-Saxon gold pendant found in Norfolk declared treasure
An Anglo-Saxon gold pendant, found near a site where a similar item worth £145,000 was dug up, probably belonged to a woman of "high social status". The Winfarthing Pendant was found in 2014 near Diss in Norfolk. The latest pendant, with a central cross motif, was found in 2017 and it has been declared treasure. [...]  In 2014, a student found Anglo-Saxon jewellery, including a pendant, at Winfarthing, later valued by the governement's Portable Antiquities Scheme at £145,000. The more recently discovered pendant, which features gold bead work and measures 17mm (0.67in) by 13mm (0.5in), is believed to date from the late-6th Century to the mid-7th. [...]   The Winfarthing Pendant, discovered by student-turned-archaeologist Tom Lucking, has recently been on show at The British Library in London. Treasure experts described it as having "national significance" shortly after it was discovered.
How "near"?

Saturday, 16 March 2019

What' in a Name? Knowledge Theft and Destruction by any Other Name is still Knowledge Theft and Destruction

UK's theft epidemic
In the wake of me saying on social media (in the wake of the  Cadbury's Freddos marketing campaign) that I am of the opinion that 6800 UK archaeologists should take a harder stand on artefact hunting and collecting, I am being cajoled by a fellow archaeologist on Twitter: 
[...] Can we agree that some metal detecting is not as destructive as other types? Promote that and go from there. [...]
This is a good example of the issue-dodging weasel-wordery used by the supporters of collectors. If by 'metal detecting' we mean the use of these tools to find hidden objects in airports and schools or in food products leaving a factory production line, or by archaeologists in a properly-designed archaeological survey with a specified research agenda and methodology, then the "metal detecting" is not damaging the archaeological record as much as when the tool is used to accumulate random but selected collectables from a site. I do not think the author of those words could legitimately ask me "Can we agree that some Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record is not as destructive as other types?". Yet that is exactly how a metal detector is used by the majority of (perhaps) 27000 active metal detector users in the UK.

If you think about the effects of collecting on the remaining parts of the archaeological record of that site, and is aware just how selective the pickup always is in artefact hunting and collecting and therefore the comparative worthlessness of any "x-marks the spot" 'documentation' compiled in the collecting process, then that is an evident nonsense. Which is why, I guess, the lazier archaeologists will employ the vaguer terminology in favour of naming the process as what it is.

There are a host of reasons why archaeologists, and archaeological bodies, in Britain should not  'promote' ANY kind of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record, whether with metal detectors or unaided spades, whether it is called "responsible" or not. I doubt that there is a  way to "responsibly rob" somebody, and likewise I do not think there is any truly responsible way to loot the archaeological record for mere collectables.

Cadbury's Campaign Spawn of PAS Back-patting

Freddo, the lootier sweet from Cadbury
An energy-snack for metal detectorists out in the fields maybe?
"A mix between a McDonalds Happy Meal and the original Freddo, the exciting new addition to the Cadbury* product range comes in a unique purple treasure chest that you need to crack open. Times are changing Inside the chest you’ll find an assortment of treasure alongside a fun toy "to inspire many adventures and a world of play".
Hmm.  Apparently "Freddo's Treasures" are some kind of low-brow plastic collectables sold with milk chocolate buttons in a garish plastic box, so tooth-rotting boxed with brain-rot.

And the distribution of this product is supported by a marketing campaign that really raises eyebrows (though apparently NOT so far in Bloomsbury). All that promoting of Treasure Hunting by the PAS in partnership with artefact hunters was bound to lead to this:

and, incitement to loot:

"grab your metal detector and go hunting for Roman riches"

This is just so outrageous....

Is that the point? Get everybody talking about tooth-rotting plastic toys by provoking scandal?

What I find symptomatic is that over the past few hours I have received a veritable storm of notifications of this by email and social media asking whether I am aware of it, what can we do to stop this (sorry, cannot reply individually), but not a single one of them copied in the PAS. I'd be interested to know how many such mails they received over the whole day from concerned colleagues and members of the public. More to the point, I am equally interested to see how PAS and the BM Press Department will react.

Meanwhile all who value the past and think historical monuments deserve respect should be urging friends and family members to boycott Cadbury's products.

*Cadbury, formerly Cadbury's and Cadbury Schweppes, is a British multinational confectionery company wholly owned by Mondelez International (originally Kraft Foods) since 2010.

TEFAF Wrenched Apart Sarcophagus Fragment

A tiny so-called "mummy mask" on sale at TEFAF ("TEFAF champions the finest art through the ages and from around the world. A section dedicated to ancient art was created in 1993 at TEFAF Maastricht. The section is a veritable treasure trove for collectors".)
@sycomore_ancient_art, stand 438
Sarcophagus mask
Wood, traces of stucco with yellow and blue polychromy
Height 11.7 cm (4.6 in.)
Egyptian - Third intermediate Period, 1085-715 BC
No collecting history at all is given here up-front. Of course, it's not a "mask" at all, but a fragment of anthropomorphic coffin lid (from a grave) that has been portableised by wrenching it off to put it onto the market. Nobody gives a second thought for the inhumation that was desecrated and violated to put this trophy item in a collector's hands. It has got several thumbs ups from other dealers on the website.

Go on, show us some proper views. Show the back.

This dealer/collector fetish for "Faces from the Past" is really rather pathetic and immature. 

Friday, 15 March 2019

The UK Archaeological Market Survey Report has just been Published

There are more archaeologists working in 2018 in the UK than ever before. The archaeological market survey report has just been published
6,812 people were employed as professional archaeologists in 2017-18; more than have ever been before, with 13% of them being non-UK EU nationals [...] • The overwhelming majority of income came from private sector clients (83%, a slight increase from 81% in 2016-17) with residential housing as the biggest sector, but infrastructure projects were also important. • Much of this investment is dependent on the planning process having access to expert archaeological advice • Despite this, the sector’s confidence in the future of the market was declining, and had been since 2015 • Brexit and the under-resourcing of local government planning advice were still considered to be major concerns for the sector
Artefact hunters and collectors often claim that archaeologists would not have any work if it were not for them. The logic of that statement is pretty weak. Are 6800 archaeologists all fervent admirers and supporters of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record?  

The Leominster Haul Court Case II. Pre-Trial Review

At the end of November  last year,  four metal detectorists denied illegally dealing in tainted cultural objects after reportedly uncovering a haul (sic) of Anglo-Saxon and Viking treasure in a village to the north of Leominster (Anon, 'Four in court accused of dealing "tainted cultural objects'' Hereford Times 28th November 2018). The case is due to be discussed in court again today. Previously,
[Three of them] pleaded not guilty to dealing in tainted cultural objects [while a detectorist from] Rumney, Cardiff, was not asked to enter a plea after requesting the prosecution to review his case on the basis he handed the coins to police before he was charged. If found guilty they could face a maximum prison sentence of seven years as well as a fine under the Dealing in Cultural Objects Offences Act 2003. [...]  Judge Jim Tindal told the quartet that their trial will last for four weeks and begin on September 30 next year. [...] The group were given unconditional bail and a pre-trial review will take place on March 15 at Worcester Crown Court.  
According to Judge Jim Tindal, trying ít, 'clearly this is a complicated case' and he suggests that the ten months between now and the end of September is a time the four men should 'spend with your lawyers to discuss the case' (I rather think that is what one does with lawyers in such circumstances). West Mercia Police are also stressing the complexity of their investigation. Information released so far does not go much further than what was in the Police press release of 31st October  and so we learn nothing of the background and what is actually alleged to have happened.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

'Ideal' Job offer for Non-idealist: Treasure Enforcer Work in Lancashire

Footprints all over Lancashire's
 Past (Photo Russell
Holden Aug 2013
Job offer in Lancashire:
Are you:
- a great communicator
- able to work accurately and to deadlines
- confident and proficient in creating and using digital resources
- keen to capture data that adds (sic) to our knowledge of the past
- ready and able to be flexible in your work pattern
- committed to extending access to the historical record
- experienced in archaeology?
If so we have an ideal opportunity for you!
You have also not to see anything wrong with Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record and have nothing against meeting and working with metal-detectorists and other finders engaged in this activity and additionally (if you are to do the job properly) need an ability to explain basic concepts of decency to the likes of Baz Thugwit and Sheddy. The advert goes on:
The Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) role is key to the effective running of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) which ensures that the Treasure Act is adhered to and fully observed. The FLO's primary objectives are to educate and inform people regarding the Treasure Act; encourage the recognition of the archaeological importance of finds and reponsible (sic) metal detector use; acitvely (sic) collect and upload finds data as part of the national PAS, so adding to our knowledge of the past and making this knowledge readily accessible to the public.
Who wrote this?  The role of the PAS never was primarily  to educate and inform people regarding the Treasure Act, nor was it ensures that the Treasure Act is adhered to and fully observed. The Treasure Act is a legal article and its enforcement is the remit of the police.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Asked for 'Search and Take Permission', Farmer Said No

Charlie Flindt © Kathy Horniblow
A Hampshire farmer was intrigued why so many metal detectorists suddenly became interested in searching his land and requesting he issue them a 'Permission to Search and Take' document (Charlie Flindt, 'Flindt on Friday: Why metal detectorists keep bugging me', Farmers' Weekly 16 March 2018).:
The caller explained that I didn’t know him and he hoped that I didn’t mind the cold call but he was a metal detectorist and was on the hunt for new area to practise his hobby. I had trouble stopping him – he was in full flow reading from his script all about the million billion pound insurance he had and how all finds were shared 50/50 – but finally I managed to get a word in. “Sorry, no can do,” I explained. “This farm is National Trust land and metal detectors aren’t allowed.” He sounded disappointed, hung up [...] A couple of days later, there was hammering on the front door [...] Big lad, he was, with the demeanour of one of our friends from the white van community. “Hello, mate,” he said. Call me old-fashioned, but that’s never a good start. I was expecting a request for scrap or an astonishing deal on Tarmac but instead he too went off on a metal-detecting speech.  Once again, I had to stop him with my National Trust line. He didn’t seem to believe me and had real trouble accepting “no” as an answer. [...]  He then went back to his noisy van, which had been parked round the back, and that had another surly “mate” in it. These two were dodgy enough to warrant a text to our local PC. 
There was a spate of other attempts at the same time (on Facebook, 'and up popped a request from a metal detectorist. There it was again – all the same spiel'). Mr Flindt started to think something was going on 'when a nicely typed letter arrived with the same request, and a stamped addressed envelope ready for my reply'. It was all apparently prompted by an article in the Hampshire Chronicle.
A detectorist had made a significant and valuable find in a “secret” mid-Hants location: a very rare coin from the reign of Emperor Carausius, worth thousands. It all made sense. The calls have stopped now but it wouldn’t surprise me to find a field full of little holes one morning. 

Babylonian stele seized at Heathrow. was claimed to be ‘for home decoration’"

' Stone dating from second millennium
 BC was claimed to be ‘for home decoration"

A fragment of a Babylonian stele will be handed back to Iraq later this month after UK border officers foiled an attempt to smuggle it through Heathrow airport (Smuggled Babylonian relic to be handed back to Iraq The National March 10, 2019 ).
The 30cm-high inscribed stone, dating back more than 3,000 years, was one section of a larger antiquity that is believed to have been looted from southern Iraq. The stone is a rare kudurru, an official document with cuneiform writing drawn up on the instructions of the king to record lands handed to individuals, according to UK newspaper The Guardian. It is believed to date from the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar I (1126-1103 BC). The newspaper reported that a border official became suspicious after the cargo was described as a “carved stone for home decoration” that was made in Turkey. The stone was believed to have been once located at a temple. “Importantly, this kudurru has been neither previously recorded nor published and must therefore come from illicit digging at a site in southern Iraq,” Dr St John Simpson, a senior curator at the British Museum, told the Guardian.
It dates from the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar I (about 1126-1103BC), not to be confused with his famous later namesake Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562BC).
Simpson said: “Importantly, this kudurru has been neither previously recorded nor published and must therefore come from illicit digging at a site in southern Iraq. The text mentions the god Enlil and the goddess Gula and refers several times to the city of Nippur, in southern Iraq, where Enlil was the chief god. This makes it quite likely that this kudurru originates from Nippur or its close vicinity.” He noted that many archaeological sites in southern Iraq were badly looted between 1994 and 2004, during which time he suspects this kudurru was removed. The whereabouts of its lower half are unknown. “Hopefully, it is still in the ground somewhere in Iraq and may one day be found by archaeologists.” The object has been declared crown property after the British importer failed to demonstrate legal title. Investigations are continuing.
No details of the seller or buyer were released, those 'investigations' are presumably fictional, How the buyer got the object and where it has been kept in the fifteen years since it left the ground and how it came onto the market (through whose hands) will not emerge.

Dalya Alberge, 'Babylonian treasure seized at Heathrow to be returned to Iraq’ Guardian Sun 10 Mar 2019

Thursday, 7 March 2019

The Partition of Syria 2018-9

Where did you say that antiquity came from?

The division of Syria in December 2018 (Alia Chughtai, 'Syria's war: Who controls what?A map of the Syrian war showing who controls what after seven years of fighting'. Al Jazeera 19 Dec 2018 )

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Syrian Smugglers with Manuscripts and Coins

This is interesting: 'Police seize ancient handwritten Hebrew manuscripts in anti-smuggling op in southern Turkey' Daily Sabah 26.02.2019. Three Hebrew manuscripts, nine coins and a statue  were seized from smugglers in Osmaniye province in southern Turkey.
Acting upon a tip-off, the provincial security directorate units carried out a raid on a minibus and seized three handwritten Hebrew manuscripts, nine coins and a small statue of a woman holding a water jug. The six suspects, who were later identified as Syrian nationals, have been detained and the artifacts have been delivered to the museum's directorate for further examination, according to police.
Seized from smugglers in Osmaniye.(IHA Photo)
Seized  in Osmaniye.(IHA Photo)
Although we cannot see the codices in detail (and the covers do differ from the manner in which the 'Golden Brownie fakes' are usually embellished), I would not mind betting that when we see the insides they are going to fall in among the others. In the photo the coins are fuzzy, but even so look to have the  'soapyishness' of cast tourist fakes and that statue is 100% cavet-emptor tourist-junk looking. What interests me is that they come from the southern group on my map (here updated) and the purveyors are identified as 'Syrians'.


Friday, 1 March 2019

"Responsibility" Seen Through a Skewed Mirror

On a metal detecting forum near you (Re: local/county councils that assist with our hobby Post by geoman » Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:16 pm)
Perhaps there could be a case for withholding finds data obtained from private land and willingly given to the PAS, from those councils and local authorities who ban metal detecting access to the land they administer. Just a thought ,but it might focus minds a little. Perhaps it would be worth mentioning to some of the FLO's.
What he means is the use of these data by bodies to provide protection of sensitive sites through the planning process. So much for tekkies wanting to help 'protect the archaeological record', these grabby bastards just want to take, take take.

Yes, yes, let's mention this to the FLOs, maybe they can explain conservation to the grabby oiks.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Gabor Wants you to Give Money so He Can Loot Britain's PASt

As we come up to Brexit month, Gabor Orban, apparently fresh from Szombathely in Hungary wants you to fork out some cash so he can go a-looting in the UK ('Weʼre raising £6,000 to Help me buy my first top metal-detector,to uncover relics, historical objects of old cultures' Just Giving Crowdfunding 26th Feb 2019)
Since I was a little kid, I have been walking the fields and rambling in the nature uncovering stones and rocks, various forms of nummulites. I have been lucky enough to have found several cultures artifacts and relics from past ages, which I gladly donated to museums. Technology has advanced tremendously in the meantime, pushing prices of devices down, still investing in a metal-detector that would make my job more successful is something I can't yet afford. I'm not making money by finding these items, I'd like to see myself as someone who contributes to realistic portrayal of past decades...  sort of like an Indiana Jones...but without the hat. :-) My searches will be conducted throughout the United Kingdom for the moment, I am researching documentations and publications and carefully choosing my locations before set out to explore. I hope many people will find value in what I do (besides my regular job) and help me invest in a device that could help me progress with my findings and shortens the time I am spending by walking and rambling around. Thank you all!
Researching documentations and publications means the intent is to target known sites. It is not looters that contribute to realistic portrayal of past decades (sic), is it?

RESCUE on Proposed Changes to ‘Treasure’ Rules

The long anticipated new review of the Treasure Act is out for consultation until the end of April 2019 (Anon 'RESCUE says: Proposed changes to ‘Treasure’ rules include some of our policy proposals', RESCUE 25 February, 2019|).
The most interesting part of the consultation is headed ‘The long term future of the treasure process and its sustainability’. RESCUE is pleased to see that this includes suggestions for discussion similar to our own policies (see RESCUE policy document sections 10 and 11), that there should be a permit system for all archaeological work and that all archaeological objects found should be the property of the state – very different to the current emphasis on the outdated notion of ‘Treasure’. Given the potentially controversial aspects of some of the consultation we would encourage ALL our members to consider putting in a response. We would also welcome any constructive comment on this piece, which is our first thoughts about our own response.
Cue: metal detectorists....

Friday, 22 February 2019

Fourth Fragment of Stolen Relief Recovered

The last of four pieces of an ancient relief that had been smuggled out of Egypt in the 1990s has been recovered. It was a fragment of a stele belonging to a top official called Seshen Nefertum. (Nevine El-Aref , 'Last piece of stolen ancient Egyptian relief recovered from Australia: Ministry' Al Ahram Thursday 21 Feb 2019)
The relief was initially discovered in four parts during excavations carried out by an Italian mission in El-Assasif necropolis on Luxor’s West Bank between 1976 and 1988. In 1995 [...] the ministry discovered its disappearance while carrying out an inventory at Al-Gorna’s antiquities storehouse. Three of the relief's pieces were repatriated from Switzerland in 2017, and the fourth was found at Macquarie Museum in Australia.
The tomb is TT27 (Porter and Moss, Topographical Bibliography: The Theban Necropolis, pg 43-45)  It is rather interesting to note that the earlier repatriation of the other three fragments (and who was in their possession in Switzerland) seems to have received little, or no, publicity. And which dealer did the McQuarrie Museum get the item from?

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Git yer Gen'ine Anchint Artefacts 'ere. Going Cheap for a Quick Sale!

Tourism and Antiquities police managed to seize 15 Pharaonic figurines and 111 ancient Greek coins inside a house in Asyut, inhabited by a 33-year old man who, according to the investigations, attempted to sell and smuggle them abroad (Egypt Today 'Police halts attempt of smuggling 15 Pharaonic figurines in Asyut' Wed, Feb. 20, 2019)
Investigations revealed that the defendant excavated a four-meter deep trench inside his house in the Upper Egyptian governorate to search for antiquities. The 15 seized figurines include 10 limestone sculptures, with lengths ranging between 10-20 centimeters, the investigation revealed. A specialized committee confirmed that the seized antiquities are authentic and ancient. The defendant admitted the allegations.
 I can see a jolly good business opportunity here - putting certain dealers selling this kind of 'antiquities' in touch with the members of this specialised committee who (no doubt for a small payment) will certify their garish goods "authentick" too, despite how they look on the photos.

My feeling is that a four-metre deep hole that takes up even a quarter of the ground floor of a typical Upper Egyptian house is extremely unlikely to have produced the shown artefacts, one shudders to think why the house owner 'admitted' to them coming from under his living room.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

SCOTUS says 'No' to US dealers

Oh, isn't life so "unfair"? The US Supreme Court  denies a petition for writ of certiorari to the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild's petition, which challenged the US Government over civil forfeitures under the Cultural Property Implementation Act. (18-767). Bad luck chaps, maybe now you'll just accept that you should be collecting antiquities with attention paid to getting the paperwork to show they really are kosher.

Museums Carelessly Buying Stolen Artefacts - 'No Victims', you say?

No victims?
"Purchase, 2017 Benefit Fund
Lila Acheson Wallace Gift;
Louis V. Bell,
Harris Brisbane Dick, 
Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest;
Leona Sobel  Education and
The Camille M. Lownds Funds;
and 2016 Benefit Fund"

Sunday, 17 February 2019

The 'Golden Brownies' Turkish Fake Manuscripts

There has been a whole series of codices and scrolls turning up in Turkey in police seizures from 'smugglers' that are being proclaimed as Syrian loot. They are characterised by being
1) nonsense texts and garish pictures loosely imitating Muslim, Jewish and Christian manuscripts
2) Often written using gold ink (or gold leaf?)
3) rough tatty edges
4) crumbly dark brown or brown-orange leather (I bet it's acid-treated). Sometimes written on heavily stained 'papyrus' (or is it banana leaves?)
5) pages - usually 20-30 - roughly bound with thongs of lightish or greyish leather 
They seem all to have turned up in recent years (mostly post 2016). When they first appeared, Sam Hardy and I considered they were fakes, a verdict that many have accepted, though Turkish policemen and eager journalists writing about crime in the Middle East do not seem yet to have got the message, and possibly buyers too, as the more recent ones are getting sloppier.

Where are they from? I pulled out the most accessible information and quickly plotted them, the codices are being seized in south west Anatolia, codices and ('torah' and other) scrolls in Northwest Anatolia while only two have in fact come from nearer Syria (Adana province - here and here). they seem part of the same series as the rest. A group of six came from Usak and another four recently seized at Denizli - is this perhaps near the centre of their production? But the map does tend to suggest that these items are not 'surfacing' on the Syrian-Turkish border.

Blogger: " I fell for a “Swiss Private Collection” lie, dammit"

Blogger: " I fell for a “Swiss Private Collection” lie, dammit" It's about that Nedjemankh coffin:
My only excuse [...] is that the Metropolitan Museum of Art fell for it too. Had they accepted a fraudulent ownership record starring a Swiss private collector a few years back I would have laughed mirthlessly at the very idea of it, but the sensitivity to potentially looted artifacts is so much higher now that museums and auction houses have been dragged kicking and screaming into giving a damn by source countries creating legal and PR nightmares for them. That such a recent, high-profile, much-publicized sale could be a looted artifact with phony papers is an ugly testament to how deep the rot runs in the antiquities market. [...] I don’t know exactly which day, but the coffin was taken off display this week [...] because the Manhattan’s DA Office had found evidence that the Swiss private collection and legal export document from 1971 were nothing but happy horseshit conjured up by traffickers in looted antiquities. Not only was it not legally exported in 1971, it didn’t leave Egypt until 2011 and I don’t need to tell you the circumstances were very, very far from legal. [...] Here’s one revision to any museum or collector’s acquisition policy that needs to be carved in stone from now on: buy nothing purporting to come from Swiss private collections. It’s a scam every damn time.
Interesting thread joining some dots by the indefatigable and well-informed Dorothy King here.

Bogeyman "Marxism" and the Tory Department of Media, Culture and Sport

Metal detectorist comment on the discussion document of the proposed changes to the Treasure Act:
 Thanks to the myopic and compliant Department of Media Culture and Sport, unsurprisingly, this Marxist nightmare is about to come true 
So perhaps we now have a clue as to the identity of the vandals who, the night before last damaged the Grade I-listed  Karl Marx memorial in Highgate Cemetery (Lucy Middleton, 'Karl Marx memorial vandalised for second time in two weeks' Metro Saturday 16 Feb 2019).

Heritage-hating metal detectorists or eastern European immigrants?

PS, it is worth following that 66 million figure back to see where it comes from, and who is using it most frequently and in what context.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

"How do Remains Convey the Destructiveness of Antiquities Collecting?

Lynda Albertson links to a copy of the Met video about the Nedjemankh coffin that has not yet been removed. Curator Janice Kamrin and Conservator Anna Serotta "How do remains convey what's no longer present?" What is striking is the way (eg 03:34) so nonchalantly mention the damage done to the coffin 'portableising' it for the trade - removing and disposing of the human remains by the artefat hunters. At 4:43 they talk of the "individual" still being "present" through the imprint of the discarded body in the resins. The black goo suggests that the body laid horizontally a while and gums and waxes seeped out of the mummy bundle before the coffin was stood on end to allow other family members to be placed in the tomb - which means there will be other items on the trade from the same burial and which also entered in 2011.

Another Probably Looted Thai Antiquity Discovered in SOAS’s Collection

A FOIA request reveals that in 2013, SOAS, University of London, accepted the gift of a 2,000-yr old Thai ceramic from Ban Chiang, Southeast Asia's most important - and famously looted - prehistoric site, without doing any due diligence (SOAS Watch, 'Another Probably Looted Thai Antiquity Discovered in SOAS’s Collection'  15th Feb 2019):
In October 2013, Elizabeth H. Moore, then Professor of South East Asian Art and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London, donated to SOAS a ceramic vessel about 2,000 years old from Ban Chiang, Southeast Asia’s most important prehistoric site. The Ban Chiang archaeological site was rampantly looted, particularly during the early 1970s, which is when Prof. Moore said her former husband bought the vessel in Bangkok or Singapore. The vessel, if indeed a Ban Chiang antiquity as Prof. Moore stated, is very likely grave goods looted and illegally exported from Thailand. SOAS officials accepted the vessel without conducting any due diligence. This is the second example exposed so far of SOAS accepting a Thai antiquity without proper due diligence. [...] The role of SOAS art historians in both cases highlights the engagement of academic staff in the art market – and the lack of SOAS ethical guidelines for such activity.
The first example occurred in March 2018, when SOAS art historians encouraged and facilitated the university’s acceptance of an unprovenanced 13th-century Thai Buddha sculpture valued at 60,000 euros from a pair of Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art alumni. These cases raise the question of whether SOAS owns more illicit artefacts from other countries around the world. Very little information about SOAS’s collection, mostly held in storage, is publically available.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Surely Some Mistake, Antiquities Trade Figure Named

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York bought a late Ptolemaic/Hellenistic gilt cartonnage coffin from the 1st century B.C. that was inscribed for Nedjemankh, a high-ranking priest of the ram-headed god Heryshef of Heracleopolis Magna. It went on exhibition in July last year. But this week the Met agreed to return the object to Egypt, after investigators determined it had been recently plundered from that country (Colin Moynihan, 'Met Museum to Return Prize Artifact Because It Was Stolen', New York Times Feb. 15, 2019).
 Museum officials said that they bought the object from an art dealer in Paris in 2017 and were fooled by a phony provenance that made it seem as if the coffin had been legitimately exported decades ago. But prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office presented the museum with evidence that suggested it had been looted from Egypt in 2011. This was the latest of several incidents that have raised questions about the thoroughness of the museum’s vetting procedures when acquiring antiquities [...] Museum officials said that the district attorney’s investigation showed that the Met had received a false ownership history, fraudulent statements and fake documentation, including a forged 1971 Egyptian export license for the coffin. The Met paid 3.5 million euros (about $3.95 million) for the coffin in July 2017, said Kenneth Weine, a spokesman for the museum. He added that it had been purchased from an art dealer in Paris [...] and that the Met planned to consider “all means” for the recovery of the money it had paid.
How awkward, there was a lot of publicity associated with this new acquisition and a whole exhibition was put on to celebrate it. The exhibition 'Nedjemankh and His Gilded Coffin' was supposed to continue to April 21, 2019 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Quite a lot of the web-related material on it seems to have disappeared from the Internet.

Unusually in such cases, the news item names the dealer that sold the item, as 'Christophe Kunicki', giving a link to a website for a fellow operating under that name at a posh Paris address (and the title “Mediterranean Antiquities”). The website says that Mr. Kunicki specializes in the valuation of “Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near East antiquities.” as Dorothy Lobel King notes. This  makes the naming of the guy in the article as the seller, contrary to normal practice, rather problematic. It is a shame that the man named as seller was not contacted before the article went to press.  There was no response to an email message requesting comment sent to an address listed on the site.

I have discussed this object before on this blog, being one of te first to note issues with the stated collecting history before Cyrus Vance and his folk swung belatedly into action (PACHI 13th Sept 2017: 'Why the Secrecy? No Shame in Collecting Antiquities, Surely?').

UPDATE 16th Feb 2019

There are more details in Lynda Albertson's post on the ARCA blog: 'Restitution: Met Museum agrees to return its 1st century B.C.E mummiform coffin, inscribed in the name of Nedjemankh, to Egypt':
The spartan collecting history information listed for the artifact on the Metropolitan Museum's website states that the antiquity was "officially exported from Egypt in 1971, the coffin has since resided in a private collection." A second page on the museum's website, which has since been removed, listed the artifact's provenance as follows:
"The coffin was exported in 1971 from Egypt with an export license granted by the Antiquities Organization / Egyptian Museum, Cairo. It belonged to the stock of Habib Tawadrus, a dealer active since at least 1936, with a shop Habib and Company in Cairo opposite Shepheard’s Hotel, and was exported by the representative of the Tawadrus’ heirs to Switzerland. An official translation of the export license was provided by the German embassy in Cairo in February 1977 for the use of the representative and now owner in Europe. The coffin has remained in the family of that owner until its acquisition by the Metropolitan Museum in 2017."
 Albertson also details two other items where C. Kunicki acted as expert in the acquisition of other items by the Met with 1970s collecting histories, in one of which Tawadrus also figures. It would be interesting to compare the three sets of supplied documentation. One of them is a battered granodiorite head of Apries, the other a 13th dynasty chapel-stele in the form of a naos.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

The 'Curse of Sekhemka' Strikes Again?

Words not to be taken lightly
Andy Brockman notes 'sometimes it is hard not to believe in the #CurseofSekhemka. Four pump fire at Northampton Museum which is undergoing renovations, which Northampton Borough Council says, are paid for by the controversial sale of #Sekhemka. Council Leader states artifacts had been removed'. For the Curse itself, see here - and the possible consequences of ignoring it here.

I put this down to coincidence, but readers may remember the post I wrote on the 'Curse of Ka Nefer Nefer' (note the date), the writing and publication of which coincided with freak weather conditions at St Louis (the region of the airport to be precise) in which lives were lost - so when I found out about it, I did not publicise it at the time). Though not superstitious, I am not going to be doing any more 'ancient Egyptian curse' stunts on this blog.

But the point raised - about the deliberate appropriation and use for decoration and entertainment of loose objects taken from mortuary deposits is a moral and ethical issue that needs confronting by archaeologists and collectors.
I think we tend to forget that, in the case of Ancient Egypt, many of the eagerly collected trophies (portable antiquities) which find themselves in foreign hands had for their original users deep religious significance, not to mention were intimately connected in their minds with their future fate. Sekhemka's 'shadow' (stature in his likeness) was (is) the house for his ka-soul. Only the maintenance of offering to this statue according to the prescribed rite (hardly likely to have been continuing in Castle Ashby or Northampton) prevented the akh-soul (a combination of the ba and ka) from experiencing a second death. By removing him from his tomb, looters killed Sekhemka, who, in the eyes of his culture, now wanders the earth as a homeless living dead. Perhaps some of my less culturally-sensitive readers are scoffing at such notions, but in what way does this tomb-statue differ from a Hopi mask, Native American kachinas, sacred artefacts, African fetishes, Jewish Torah scrolls, Australian tjuringa stones or the sacred objects of any other culture (including our own)?

Once upon a time some artefact collectors, wanting to create a good impression, wrote a "Code of Ethics"  (most of which they pinched from me) which said they'd not touch such items. Let us see tomorrow afternoon how "ethical" collectors will be faced with a trophy item as unprecedented as Sekhemka's soul. How many millions is a dead man's soul worth?

Google+ Notes to Commenters

Google+ is being phased out, but from what I gather, this affects this blog mainly in the area of comments:
If you’ve used Google+ for comments on your own or other sites, this feature will be removed from Blogger by 4 February and from other sites by 7 March. All your Google+ comments on all sites will be deleted starting on 2 April 2019. Learn more
I think there have been quite a few of these. If anyone has comments up here and said anything that you want to remain part of this resource, you can repost them but PLEASE mark them as such and attach the original date and time of publication to the text, as the new comment will appear out of sequence.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Doubts About ISIL Organized Antiquities Trade

Re:United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 etc
Interesting details in latest UN 1267 Monitoring Team report querying that ‘ISIL ever generated significant funds from human slavery or sexual violence’ or fully exploited ‘the funding potential of looting and trading in antiquities and cultural goods’.  

I cannot find the full reference online at the moment (1267 refers to Afghanistan).

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Prof. Archaeodeath and the Skeleton in the Closet of British Portable Antiquities 'Policy'

Anglo-Saxon treasure including jewellery, scissors
after being first discovered by a history teacher in 1962

Prof. Howard M. R. Williams ( Researcher and teacher in early medieval archaeology, contemporary archaeology, mortuary archaeology, the archaeology of memory and the history of archaeology. MA Archaeology of Death and Memory) Prof. Archaeodeath ‏ @howardmrw has a lengthy blog post on the Welbeck Hill Flog-off Fiasco hosted by Hanson's auctions ('Selling dead bodies and mortuary artefacts in the UK today: Welbeck Hill'):
Taylor was not a trained archaeologist and clearly was unable to publish his finds in a coherent and professional manner. Upon Taylor’s death, the collection has been inherited by his family. Two years subsequently, it is being sold off by auction, rather than donated to a museum, by Taylor’s widow and four children.
These are two of my concerns about private collecting in a nutshell. The first is that many artefact hunters we meet online are barely literate, totally incapable of framing their thoughts (such as they are in many cases) in words. I am often criticised as non-'pc' for emphasising that incontrovertible fact. Yet, note who is involved in the barford-bashing, the very same people that want us to believe that artefact hunters are "citizen archaeologists' who are "rescuing (sic) the archaeological record (sic)". You cannot rescue a record by demolishing it into component fragments and not making a record of what you've done. That is simply destruction and knowledge theft.

The second point is that

Prof. Archaeodeath, the Hard Liners versus Archaeo-Jobsworths

I get a mention in the blog post of Howard Williams / Prof. Archaeodeath about the Muriel Taylor Sale of her late husband's artefact collection ('Selling dead bodies and mortuary artefacts in the UK today: Welbeck Hill'): 
Paul Barford’s blog unsurprisingly regards it as a ‘disgrace’ that money is being made from the sale of artefacts and human remains. He poses a succinct series of questions unanswered by this scenario as it has accrued over six decades to this depressing situation [...] While not everyone takes the hard-line of Barford regarding these situations
He seems to regard it as obvious that not every archaeologist (for example) would take the same line. in reply, I have one more question: 'why not?'

MDAs and the Ethics of Portable Antiquities Collecting

There is an interesting thought in the blog post by Prof. Howard M. R. Williams [Prof. Archaeodeath] on the Welbeck Hill Flog-off Fiasco hosted by Hanson's auctions ('Selling dead bodies and mortuary artefacts in the UK today: Welbeck Hill'):
 while human remains are the most emotive and particularly contentious sale items that prompted the ire of archaeologists, the integrity of collections of mortuary-derived artefacts are equally deserving of our attention. Indeed, I would suggest that the sale of mortuary-derived artefacts without human remains should be considered no less controversial and unethical. I’m looking forward to a forthcoming paper by Adam Daubney reflecting on the ethics of the sale of artefacts unquestionably from mortuary contexts, since splitting bones from artefacts doesn’t make the latter any more ethical as sale items!
Indeed, sounds interesting, especially as coming from an FLO (FLOs generally keep out of discussions of the ethics of antiquities collecting - which is a shame as the perspective on it will necessarily be of a specific character). I am not sure about the idea that Prof. Archaeodeath seems to be pondering about not splitting grave goods from human remains, so if a collector collects the grave goods, he would have to curate the body too - for example in collector's wife's bedroom wardrobe.

This while thread of thought raises an important issue about the 'portable antiquities' that are deemed collectable as 'ancient art'. Many of them come from graves. So ancient Egypt we think of shabtis, 'mummy beads' (not all from mummies), amulets (ditto), Fayum portraits, the front part of mummy cases ripped off and 'portableised' as "mummy masks", cartonnage frafments, including mummy masks, canopic jars and their lids, heart scarabs, tomb models etc. In South American archaeology we have all those West Mexican figurines made as accompaniment in the grave Colima, Jalisco, Nayarit. The textiles from mummy bundles, gold ornaments such as those from Sipan. In Asia, Han and Tang tomb figures. In Europe, complete red figure vases from Etruscan tombs, complete fragile Roman glass vessels and lamps from graves. Roman and Greek grave stelea. The list goes on. In fact, a very large proportion of the portable antiquities collectables on the market today come from graves. There's two reasons for that, firstly graves contain buried objects of - quite often high quality and complete, but also graves tend to occur in groups (family, community, group) - so if you find one and dig around there will often be more - and are often still marked on the surface or figure in local folklore. So if you want to find old objects to sell to some graspy middleman, these are good places to look for them. Metal detectorists find the 'partifacts' in open fields that feed the lower end of the market, tomb-robbers' finds tend to go more to the upper end of the market.

Perhaps it is worth taking a good look at the ethics of the portable antiquities trade as a whole with regard to mortuary-derived artefacts (MDAs).        ,

Thursday, 7 February 2019


ALIPH, a new international foundation headquartered in Switzerland, has announced grants to support initiatives that address the prevention, protection and rehabilitation of cultural heritage threatened or damaged by conflict.
ALIPH – an acronym which also designates the first letter of the Arabic alphabet – has been created to act in favour of cultural heritage in conflict areas via an aid programme which enables it to be flexible and to react quickly. ALIPH’s three areas of intervention are: preventive protection to limit the risks of destruction, emergency measures to ensure the security of heritage, and post-conflict actions to enable local populations to once again enjoy their cultural heritage. As a result of the widespread destruction of monuments, museums and heritage sites in conflict areas, the President-Director of the musée du Louvre Jean-Luc Martinez published in November 2015, at the request of the President of the French Republic, Fifty proposals to protect the cultural heritage of humanity. These included the creation of an international fund to protect heritage in situations of armed conflict. On the initiative of France and the United Arab Emirates, this idea became a reality after the international conference on heritage in danger held in Abu Dhabi in December 2016, with the creation of ALIPH in March 2017. Since then, the initiative has taken a number of other countries and private partners on board.

Profiting From Disturbing the Dead: UK Grave Robbers and a Skull Called "Charlie"

This blog does not show skellie-
porn unlike certain auctioneers
There are it seems no bounds to human indecency, UK artefact hunter's widow Muriel Taylor stored human remains in a wardrobe in her home for years and now is selling them off. She's expecting between fifty amnd eighty thousand quid for a group of objjects her husband dug up and kept at home. She says the skull is called "Charlie".

Habnson's has no qualms about shouting it from the rooftops, no doubt posting a full frontal picture of a naked human skull is intended to get people talking about the material and then somebody will set up a crowd-sourcing page so he can get his money and the objects get in a museum. Oh yes, let's talk about it then.

1) Who gave anyone the right to dig up these remains out of curiosity and put them in a cupbord at home? Where is the publication? Why were the objects not deposited in a museum right away instead of forming a private collection? Here is a very good argument for a permit system in the UK.

2) But if the body called by Mrs Taylor "Charlie" (why? Who gave anyone that right?) was buried with the Square headed brooch, it was a woman anyway,.

3) If the objects are sold off for fifth to eighty thousand, how much of a cut will the landowner get?

4) Has Muriel Taylor a document from the landowner confirming transfer of title (and under what conditions) that has been deposited with the collection being handled with such gay abandon by Hanson's ? 

5) What ethical code governs the treatment of human remains by the British antiquities trade? Is publishing disrespectful skellie-porn photos of naked ancestral human remains in accordance with that ethical code or a breach of it?

And actually, once the objects and their labels are mixed up by the collector or his wife when she decided to profit from the past by flogging off her dead husband's artefact collection, is the 'project archive of this amateur excavation not now just a few boxes of loose artefacts?

What a disgrace.

Julian Bird and the Tomb Robbers

Hansons auctioneers and valuers antiquities - 'the Julian Bird private collection acquired 1970-2012' Feb 11th, both the catalogue photos and some of the bids show there's one born every minute. ... Let's start by discussing what the word 'faience' means when applied to ancient Egyptian artefacts and souk-bought items. The vast majority of these objects would have come from looting of tombs. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Five People Arrested in Antiquities Bust in Spain [UPDATED]

It has been reported that three looted sculptures (VI century BC) have been seized in Spain and five people have been arrested by Spanish Police on suspicion of handling stolen items. Allegedly, among the detained are three antique dealers from Barcelona, and one of the other people reported to be involved is the daughter of the founder of a major national bank. The usual presumptions of innocence until proven guilty apply.

Last March, two dealers in Spain were arrested during an operation against terror financing. They are accused of were trading antiquities looted from Libyan regions controlled by ISIL, and it looks like there might be a connection between these two antiquities cases.

The online article announcing the arrests and naming the accused was taken down a few hours after being published. 

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Response to DCMD Treasure Consultation Dumbdown

The continuing Brexit farce clearly reveals, if there was any doubt earlier, that the UK is currently being governed by clowns, thus it will be no surprise that the DCMS could not announce the Treasure Act Consultation without dumbing it down ... as entertainment:
Dr Matt Pope has a suggestion:

And Raksha Dave is rather scathing:

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