Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Eyes-only is Fairer to the Environment

Eyes-only gives the environment a chance:


London Auction Houses to be Under Pressure Because of Brexit

A new draft of the EU’s mandate for talks with the U.K. inserts a clause about “unlawfully removed cultural objects.” This new text was been added on request from Greece, Cyprus, and Italy. It's because London dealers and auction houses play a big role in trade in historical goods. A lot of stuff entered the UK when there were open borders within the EU. Now its ownership can be challenged. Collectors, get your paperwork ready to show.

Monday, 17 February 2020

"The Oxford Collection Partnership"

"The Oxford Collection Partnership"
Jerome Berman, appearing before United States District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper in Los Angeles, entered his guilty plea to one count of subscribing to a false income tax return and to one count of aiding and abetting in the preparation of a false tax return. Berman’s scheme fraudulently claimed increased income tax deductions for charitable contributions on his own individual tax returns as well as aiding others in claiming fraudulently increased charitable contribution deductions on their own tax returns for having made art donations to the California Museum of Ancient Art. The plea agreement, filed in January, 2007, sets forth that Berman was a 50% partner in the Oxford Collection Partnership and was the Executive Director of the California Museum of Ancient Art.
Who was/were the other partner in this shadowy entity? Is it still functioning? Where is it based?

Tom and Gabriel Get It Wrong... What Two Dealers "Knew".

Ancient Resources (Gabriel Vandervort) claims he knows what he's selling because his identifications are "backed by years of research". Like these "demotic papyri" from "the Holy Land" that were previously in the stock of dead dealer Tom Cederlind. They are being sold for about 300$ apiece. Mr Cederlind is not with us to explain where he got these papyri from, and why they are in such small pieces... Neither is he here with us to explain why small fragments of what seem to be South East Asian palm-leaf manuscripts in at least two different alphabets have been given a provenance right at the opposite corner of the continent. But no fear, there are at least three suckers who've been taken in by the seller's assurances and bought these little bits. If they'd looked on eBay (and actually knew something about what they were buying), they'd have found they can buy a whole intact manuscript for about the same (or less). But they did not, because they had not the foggiest idea what a papyrus fragment or demotic look like and because they were misled by this by someone who claims he does:
Ancient papyrus scroll fragment. Holy Land, c. 2nd-3rd century AD. Written in Demotic script. Ex-Tom Cederlind Estate, Portland, OR.
Now, actually almost every word of this is wrong:

Ancient - not really,
papyrus - not at all,
scroll - nope, they were read flat,
fragment - yes!
Holy Land - kidding? Israeli Buddhists?
c. 2nd-3rd century AD - Hmmm?
Written - yes!
in Demotic script - No!
Ex-Tom Cederlind Estate, Portland, OR. - who knows?

So what we are left with, what the dealer(s) actually knows is "written fragments" and that probably the late Tom Cederlind bought them somewhere, sometime and did not manage to flog them (as "ancient papyrus bits"?) before he died in December 2015.  The totally false "provenance" is thought-provoking.

Here's a whole one (240$)

Mr Vandervort needs immediately to update his website with the true information about what these fragments are to avoid accusations of cheating his customers through misrepresentation (both of the objects and his own 'expertise'). He does not need to thank me for pointing out his mistake. [This was published on 17th February 2020]

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Roman Cobras in Norfolk, Buckinghamshire and Essex?

A Roman silver ring found in March 2018 at Upper Winchendon near Aylesbury by a detectorist from Essex. It has just been declared Treasure at Buckinghamshire Coroner's Court (BBC Roman snake ring found in Buckinghamshire declared treasure 16 February 2020). The Essex FLO said how exciting it was. Its got two snake heads "with frills"on it, you see.
Items with the same "distinctive cobra heads with a kind of frill" were part of the Snettisham Jeweller's Hoard, found in Norfolk in 1985. Essex finds officer Sophie Flynn, said it was a "pretty exciting" discovery. [...] The newly-found ring [...] has been bent so experts "can't be 100% sure about its original design", Ms Flynn said. She added that because the Snettisham hoard had pieces in it with these type of snake heads "it's possible it came from that workshop" but, as it was found in a field with "no [archaeological] context", experts could not be certain.
Well, maybe ms Flynn could explain as part of her outreach that if you had the archaeological context, a pit under a rubble layer containing pottery and coins of the 360s for example, she could tell which "workshop"it had come from. Bonkers.
Ms Flynn said it "isn't your everyday ring".[...] She said the silver ring would have "belonged to someone with access to a fair amount of money", whereas less valuable versions would have been made of copper.
Cutting edge archaeological theory there. Snakes of the genus Naja are found only in regions throughout Africa, Southwest Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Not in Norfolk.
Hat tip: Hougenai

Vignette: You can't use Colchester Museum photos for discussing artefact hunting, they'll send you a stroppy letter. So here's Boris Johnson warning you about it, and he's put 20 000 new policemen on the streets, keeping some Brits happy. 

"Looks Like" Iulia or Julie? Ungrounded Stone Head on Sale, by a Dealer who "Knows"

Looking through the same dealer that has an incantation bowl with no decent collecting history given upfront, I found this, about which the same can be said:
Hixenbaugh 'Ancient art'
Roman Marble Portrait Head of a WomanAn ancient Roman marble portrait bust of a woman. The oval face is framed by a voluminous, shoulder-length coiffure, styled in even waves loose around the ears and formed into two plaits which were loosely coiled to form a flat spiral at the nape of the neck. Ca. early 3rd century AD. Height: 13 1/2 in. (33 cm). This hairstyle of the individual is typical of the Severan period. The coiffures of the empresses Julia Domna and Plautilla served as models. Cf. Fittschen-Zanker 1983, no. 144, pls. 171-172.
Formerly in a New York private collection; previously in a Swiss private collection, acquired between 1960-1980.
Inv#: 7402
Price on Request
Guaranteed Authentic

Hmm, so Randall Hixenbaugh bought from a New York Collector who'd bought it (some time before 1980?) from a dealer who told him that is was from "an Old Swiss Collection" - ahem... What a shame that an object that looks like this is not better grounded.

Right first of all, "Fittschen-Zanker 1983" may sound awfully "professional-I-know-what-I'm-talking-about", I tend to think that vagueness is a suggestion of quite the opposite. I imagine that if he gave the full reference it would have been:
Fittschen, Klaus, Paul Zanker, and Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. Katalog der römischen Porträts in den Capitolinischen Museen und den anderen kommunalen Sammlungen der Stadt Rom. Mainz am Rhein: Von Zabern, 1983 [ja?].
And I imagine (because I've not got the book) that this, in the Esquiline is the sort of thing he's Cf-ing it with. Perhaps more from this angle (mouth).

Now, I am an archaeologist. If I were writing this up, I'd get it in a box, and there would be a label that it came from layer 1143. A quick look on the excavation database would tell me that this was a dump of sand on the floor of Severan Building number 11 with nothing much in it except a little pottery and a coin of Severus Alexander. That, the matrix says, was under several discontinuous layers (probably representing truncation of the sequence), but the whole stack of layers was sealed by 765, a thick dump of rubble containing many artefacts covering most of the west half of the excavation trench (including the place the excavation plan shows the head was found) and it contained a large series of late Roman pottery and a coin series that ends in the 320s. I'd be happy that the head was lopped off the (pre-existing) statue before the 320s, and probably about a century earlier than that, in late Severan times. I reckon I could say that all that shows it is Guaranteed Authentic, and if somebody asks me why, I can show them the plans and photos of layer 765 and it can be seen nothing is dug through it into the layers underneath. They can go through all the documentation, finds sheets, photos... Difficult to argue with that, and then the precise dating would rest on that haircut and the artefacts in 1143. OK.

Mr Hixenbaugh however only has that "an Old Swiss Collector" was once persuaded that this is Roman ("Guaranteed Authentic sir"), because... it looks like it is. But, like Mr Dershowitz, the Old Swiss Collector seems to have decided to exclude it from their collection and it ended up with a New York Collector, who also was persuaded (by whom?) that "it looks like" it is Roman ("Guaranteed Authentic sir"). Then Mr Hixenbaugh thought the same and now he's trying to persuade us of that ("Guaranteed Authentic sir").

But "it looks like" is a very subjective judgement, and it is only that. Dress it up and call it connoisseurship all you want (Marlowe 2013), that is all it is. Randall Hixenbaugh says "it looks like" an authentic Roman portrait bust of a Severan lady (why? "because I say it does, and I know"). The rest of us can agree or not. Personally, I think it looks a bit like a portrait of the German-born Slovak operatic soprano Patricia Janečková (b. June 1988). Anyway, cute, but this portrait has crooked eyes. She looks a bit of a sociopath to me.

Elizabeth Marlowe 2013, 'Shaky Ground: Context, Connoisseurship and the History of Roman Art' (Bloomsbury Academic Press)

Loot Busters Broken

Over on the Association for Collectors of Ancient and Ethnographic Art website in the Links page, Sue McGovern-Huffmann (presumably) gives a claim for and makes a claim about an organisation they promote:
Loot Busters The concept is simple: post photos of items reported stolen by governments and their representatives after 1970, to help locate them. And it works.
Click on the link and see how well.

Sadly, this was a private initiative run by a UK-based colleague and I hope that it manages to be revived. But this highlights the problem of teh totally ad hoc manner in which we as a society, deal with looting, and commercial and criminal exploitation of our archaeological heritage. This should not be up to individuals to take the initiative and try to do something and get information out there (in the UK: Looting Matters, Heritage Action, Conflict Antiquities, Elginism, PACHI and the now-gone Loot Busters). When is the UK - on its overcrowded island off the coast of Europe - going to treat this issue properly?

Current agricultural land use in the UK

This is interesting: Current agricultural land use in the UK savills.co 17 January 2019
The total agricultural area in the UK is around 17.6 million hectares, with an additional 3.2 million hectares covered by woodland and forests. The agricultural area, excluding woodland, accounts for 72% of the total area of land. The agricultural area has declined by around 26,000 hectares per year over the past 20 years. Reasons for this include transport infrastructure, building, woodland expansion (which has more than doubled over the past 20 years), nonagricultural use (golf courses, minerals, etc.) and some has been lost to the sea. [...] The current structure of agriculture in the UK is diverse, but it has changed significantly over the past 30 years. UK agriculture is on the cusp of an era of significant reform – what changes will the next 30 years bring? We also look at how land use might look in 2050 here.
("By 2050, 0.3 million hectares might be required for housing and infrastructure. This equates to 2.7% of UK land use and increases the current ‘built–on’ area by 21%").

So, at the moment, if responsible metal detectorists are staying off permanent grassland, 40% of the land surface is in fact out of bounds, only another 6% of the grassland is temporary.  Really, most of all those millions of finds should be coming out of just the 20% that is arable. Are they?

ACDAEA'S Hixenbaugh and a 'Private Collection' Incantation bowl and a Cunie

Hixenbaugh Ancient Art don't seem very precise about the collecting history here, among his Recent Acquisitions:
Aramaic Incantation Bowl
At some time in some American
private collection (he says)
An ancient Aramaic incantation bowl with an outward spiraling text inscription. The text consists mainly of a long enumeration of magic names including the names of angels. Ca. 6th - 8th century AD. Diameter: 7 in. (17.8 cm).
TRANSLATION 1 Sealed and double sealed is this Berikh-Yahveh son of Mamay in the name of tbwr tysb bn tytr yzrym smrt y w Yaho El Yaho pry yyy w Abraxas 2 lqw nyssth yyy w yyy w yw y yw y yy yy yy yy Yah Yah Yah smw h qnt qynwty yhwmy ss swlm tw 3 tysw pl w mpl w y w Lord d w yqw pry blh nw th hwmy hy y yy ylmn br 4 thwt w wrm Shaddai, my God, Hazael, God lives, Q(ados) Q(ados), st w bl tw Lord, the Lord, 5 I am Ehyeh, I am El, He that one, this is He, Michael and Gabriel, 6 Sabaoth, Sabaoth, Sabaoth, Sabaoth, Sabaoth 7 Sabaoth, Sabaoth, Sabaoth, 8 Sabaoth.
Formerly in an American private collection, translated by Dr. James Nathan Ford, Bar-Ilan University, Tel-Aviv. Inv#: 7600 $2,750
Guaranteed Authentic  
Prof. Ford has been working on the Schoyen incantation bowls...
Then there is this
Sumerian Cuneiform Tablet
An ancient Mesopotamian clay tablet inscribed on both sides with a total of twelve lines of Sumerian cuneiform text. Ur III Period. Ca. 2144 2124 BC. Height: 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm). Intact.
Formerly in the M. S. collection, New York; previously with Tom Cederlind, Portand, OR. Inv#: 7423 $1,000
Guaranteed Authentic
So, Tom Cederlind sold it to "MS" (when?) and....? Well, unfortunately for us, Mr Cederlind died in 2015 so we cannot find out more about the collecting history from him. So where did the late Tom Cederland get it from, and when?

But this MS Collection is the stated origin of other material from Mesopotamia that is currently "surfacing" on the market.   Bob Darge of Artemis Galleries has other items being sold with the same stated previous owner, including a Gudea of Lagash foundation cone.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Calling out the Lobbyists

Three days ago I made a mention here of the "surfacing" from underground of hundreds of stucco Buddhas allegedly acquired in the "1990s" that were now on open sale and called out several US lobbyists for the antiquities market to comment. I asked the American Committee for Cultural Policy, The Association of Collectors of Ancient and Ethnographic Art (Sue MGovern-Huffmann of 'Sands of Time') and Peter Tompa whether they would comment on their repeated assertions that the global antiquities market is adequately self-policing... as somebody since noted
"Guess there is only crickets chirping.... "  
'Odd that...', I said, '@Aurelius161180, @CCPArtCulture and @DC_Ancient_Art are only to happy loudly to announce "there's no problem the antiquities market is sufficiently self-policed, thank you", but clam up when asked to comment when it once again becomes clear that it is not at all'. Katie Paul categorised them perfectly:
Katie A. Paul @AnthroPaulicy · 9 g.
This is not a crowd that is very good at dealing with things like facts, statistics, and evidence - which is understandable for those who make grand claims about countries they have never been and criticize research findings when they’ve never conducted research

Friday, 14 February 2020

The Issue of Unverified Findspot Reports in the UK

Am I the only one that did
 not earlier see the funny face in
this archaeologists' plan
 Is this a coded message?  Is
the final report out now?
Over on Looting Matters David Gill comments on a new book about metal detector finds from the UK:
A parade helmet among 50 Roman finds
John Pearce and Sally Worrell have presented 50 largely decontextualised Roman finds from England. Among them (no. 4) is the so-called 'Crosby Garrett helmet' that some claim comes from Cumbria, though there remains a possibility that it was recovered near Catterick on the other side of the Pennines. How reliable are these reported find-spots? Why is there no discussion of the loss of archaeological context?
For some of the issues related to this helmet are discussed here.
Sally Worrell was of course the author of the article 'The Crosby Garrett Helmet' in the discussion of David Gill's polemic text in Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 20 (2010): One really wonders what the logic of that was.... She unquestioningly accepts the reported findspot and was shown a hole that it was said to have been from. Excavation of that site later raised questions about those reports.

Now I too have heard these rumours, and it would be very interesting to know whether the unnamed finder(s) had any connection with the Catterick area (we do know that they lived at the time of the discovery at Peterlee, 77km from Crosby Garrett). Possibly there are a number of detectorists that live in this place (see here for example).

David's remark however prompts me to raise an issue of professional ethics that I have raised a number of times before.

PAS handles (and sometimes stores on their office premises) artefacts that finders bring them that they assert that they have title to. I have determined by questioning FLOs that in very few (if any?) cases, the FLO receives (or is even shown) an affadavit or protocol signed by the landowner assigning title of that object to the finder. This should be a best practice requirement. Anybody can go to any FLO and show any old artefact that they claim were found at 'X-marks the spot' without providing any documentary proof of that. We know there have been cases where (a) items known or suspected to have been found at another site have been represented as being found elsewhere, (b) items bought on eBay (etc.) have been represented as  having been 'found' elsewhere, and (c) at least one case of an item that had been stolen from a showcase was presented to a FLO as having been found elsewhere.

Getting a landowner to put his name to a document asserting that the object was found on their land and assigning title (or rights to represent the landowner to the PAS/Treasure Registrars) does three things:
- it makes it more difficult for a finder to lie about where something came from,
- it protects the PAS and the host institutions from charges of handling and storing stolen property should the objects turn out to be stolen,
- producing a document with a false provenance is an offence (fraud) and prosecutions can thus be brought for misrepresenting provenances (whereas as UK law today stands, they cannot).

Instituting such a policy is (as the PAS are irritatingly fond of saying) a "win-win situation", indubitably a step towards instituting best practice and pretty crucial for the enhancing the reputation of the PAS and its database. So why are they not doing it?

Hoiking at Catterick, Ten Years Ago

From the BAJR Fed" forum, ten years ago:
Dinosaur Junior Member #925th August 2010, 08:35 PM
A bit more reporting of finds from detectorists would help clear the air a bit - as an example, speaking as someone who does a lot of work around the area, I'd really, REALLY like to know where all the Anglian finds on sale on the net recently from "Catterick, North Yorkshire" are coming from - so would EH - someone's plundering a cemetery there (the range of material makes that obvious) and selling all the stuff on the net, and it ain't legit metal-detecting, glass and amber beads in quantity are not normal metal-detector finds, thats fully digging out burials........Sad!
and where are those finds now, ten years on? What was done in the intervening ten years?

Thursday, 13 February 2020

The "Self-Policing" of the Antiquities Market

Nineteen individuals on just one group, openly discussing buying looted 'art'...  (Lynda Albertson, 'Nineteen profiles, posting to just one thread, within one private group, on one social media site. How many more are out there just like this one?' ARCABlog Thursday, February 13, 2020). They were being sold in Hong Kong and had earlier arrived "on the same day" in two or three dealers' shops (there?) "in three batches of about 150 to 200 pieces each", allegedly from a single place in Shanxi. There is a lot of self-righteous discussion from members. The seller admits:
They came in batches of hundreds.... some poor temples raided. I had first pick, perks being good friend of dealer and selected the best ones. They were all gone within 2 weeks, a Korean bought the whole lot and shipped them to Korea. Any thoughts most welcomed!
My thought is to ask trade lobby groups (such as the American 'Committee for Cultural Policy, the Association for Collectiors and Dealers of Ancient and Ethnographic Art, Peter Tompa etc etc) to comment. This dealer, since the 1990s has contacts with a dealer that has many, many more, they held the items in storage over 20 years so the trail would go cold (a common practice), and are now releasing them in 'batches of hundreds' onto the international market. Group Member 1 is not a small scale one-off dealer operating from the back room of a suburban bungalow in Hollwood. Despite trade denials, this is the true public face of the collecting of portable antiquities today, and the state of its alleged "self policing", and they surely cannot deny it. This market needs better regulation, NOW.

Sussex Police Talk Fluff

Sussex Police, 'Rogue metal detectorist hits Winchelsea, near Rye', 13th Feb 2010.
Police are investigating criminal damage in medieval Winchelsea, thought to have been caused by a rogue metal detectorist. The illegal activity on what is a protected site within the Ancient Town was reported to Sussex Police on Tuesday (11 February) [...] The site is protected by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and disturbing it is illegal.
Jolly good, 'investigate' away, hope you catch them. But don't give us the crap:
Heritage crime officer and police community support officer Daryl Holter said: [...] "The majority of detectorists adhere to the law and the code of practice for responsible metal detecting, reporting their finds to both the landowner and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS).
 What is the basis for that statement? The majority adhere to the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting, yes? Actually there is a huge number, I'd not like to guess whether its a majority or not (but neither should PC Holter) that jolly well do not. 'The majority' are reporting their finds to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS)? What? A bit of simple mathematics will show that's not true either. They simply are not. The PC has made a mistake (or is telling lies). As for 'the majority' are reporting their finds to the landowner, are they? What evidence is there for that? Who is right here, PC Holter or Farmer Silas Brown? I'm going with Silas.

I wonder whether we'd see the same from Sussex Police in other cases:
Police are investigating theft of a bicycle from a supermarket carpark in medieval Winchelsea, thought to have been taken by a man in a denim jacket filmed taking it on the CCTV. Police community support officer Daryl Holter said: [...] "The majority of men who choose to wear denim in the UK adhere to the law and abide by the regulations in supermarket carparks...".
Unlikely, isn't it. So what's so blooming special about "metal detectorists"? PC  Holter?

If I were you, gentle reader, I'd not believe a word of what Sussex Police say here. And frankly, I think all collection-driven exploitation that destroys the archaeological record is done by rogues and knowledge thieves.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

In UK, CBA and CIfA Secure Future Advocacy Relationship

In the UK, the CBA and CIfA secure future advocacy relationship (Ed Ardill, Wednesday 12 February 2020)
The Council for British Archaeology and the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) are pleased to announce a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which sets out the basis for coordination and cooperation on advocacy between the two organisations. Together, CIfA and CBA represent a strong voice for the sector, bringing sufficient resources, remit and record to provide a partnership for archaeological advocacy. Together, CIfA and CBA act as leading opinion formers and independent advisors to government, heritage sector partners and other decision-makers. CIfA and CBA have mutually supportive but different sector-leading roles. CIfA’s focus is on promoting archaeological practice to professional standards. CBA’s focus is on the public interest in archaeology and its promotion. Together, through these distinct approaches, CIfA and CBA seek to add value to society and improve the recognition of the value of archaeology by society. Each organisation supports the role, remit and focus of the other, with significant areas of overlap on priority issues and strategic approaches to advocacy issues. This agreement will ensure strong, joined-up, advocacy for archaeology in years to come.
Hmm. The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) is the leading professional body representing archaeologists working in the UK and overseas. It "promotes high professional standards and strong ethics in archaeological practice, to maximise the benefits that archaeologists bring to society. It is the authoritative and effective voice for archaeologists, bringing recognition and respect to the profession". That's what they say. They also say "CIfA’s principal advocacy objectives are to maintain or improve the protection and management of the historic environment [...] and to ensure that work is done by competent professionals and to professional standards". In which case we might all wonder just why they are so reluctant to speak out when the public are told by another advocacy group that the public can "do archaeology" ("citizen archaeology") by simply buying a metal detector and a spade. ". CIfA does not often publicly react to any media items about Collection-Driven exploitation of the archaeological record by bodies like PAS that talk of artefact hunting and collecting as "citizen archaeology" (sic), which it is not. So what "recognition" does that promote? Maybe need to sign MOU with the PAS too and establish a common message in advocacy for archaeology, the archaeological record and standards in its investigation and management?

There is no point in these two working together to promote one set of messages, while another body blunders on promoting a whole set of other ones that contradict theirs.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Native burial sites blown up for US border wall

MAGA über alles
In the US, reportedly, Native American burial sites in Arizona have been blown up by construction crews building the US-Mexico border wall, according to lawmakers and tribal leaders.
Over there, lobby groups like the "American Committee for Cultural Policy" try to pressurise the Federal government not to place restrictions on the movement of unpapered and illegally obtained artefacts into the US antiquities market on the grounds that the source nations allegedly don't do enough to protect their own cultural heritage from pillage (not enough to satisfy MAGAist 'World Policeman USA'). Perhaps to avoid accusations of extreme hypocrisy, they should first campaign to get the same standards applied at home that they would wish to impose on other sovereign nations. Or just keep discretely quiet.

Another Bit of Bonkers British Churnalism About Trashing Archaeology

Serious puzzles: What is the
matter with British journalists? 
This one is paywalled to save you from having to read all of its its breathlessly enthusiastic fluffiness: Laura Freeman, 'Hurrah for the heroic detectorists digging up our heritage' Telegraph, 7th Feb 2020.
Ring pull, Coke can, house keys… jackpot! All over Britain, in bogs and back gardens, from Hadrian’s Wall to Rochester Castle, amateur archaeologists are unearthing our island’s ancient Roman past. For every damp squib of a KitKat wrapper there’s always the chance that the insistent beep-beep-beep of the metal detector will reveal the whereabouts of a lost Carausian hoard. Best of all, you get to hang on to the loot. According to the Treasure Act of 1996, it’s (mostly) finders keepers. Which would be Gollum-ish and miserly if detectorists weren’t such a sharing bunch. Since 1997, more than 1.48million artefacts have been voluntarily declared to the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. A new book, 50 Roman Finds from the Portable Antiquities Scheme collects some of the best, from a bearded bronze bust of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius to the [so-called PMB] Crosby Garrett cavalry helmet found by an unnamed man – or woman – in [he said, PMB] Cumbria. I like that “unnamed.” No fuss, no glory, just a cool £2.3million from the Christie’s auction house sale....
Right, Ms Freeman, bogs are not places the Code of Practice says looters should be looting the archaeological record for collectables. Hadrian's Wall and Rochester Castle are protected sites, that means your "heroes" are going to be doing something illegal digging holes in them, Treasure or no Treasure. Most of them have detectors with discrimination function so they'll not be finding KitKat foil, but targeting real archaeological artefacts,  on real "productive sites". They are not "amateur archaeologists" - archaeology is something very different from what this lot do. You DO understand the Treasure Act do you?  You may like that "unnamed" helmet-finder, the rest of us think there should be more transparency, there are a few questions some of us would like to ask the duo (nota bene) that took this thing to an auction house. I understand a journalist of the calibre of the author of this fluff piece might not really want to bother....

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Dealer Loses "Tribal" Artefacts

Large Collection of Tribal Art Items - London, England February 10, 2020
A large number of Tribal art pieces have been reported stolen from a locked storage facility in Queensway, West London. It is believed that the items were taken on or about January 17, 2020.
If you have any information as to the whereabouts of any of these items, please contact
Bryan Reeves, Tribal Gathering London [...]
What do they mean by calling these items "tribal"? What does it even mean? And from whom or what are these items (only?) now "stolen"?

Ironically, the dealer has a 'storage clearance sale':
All these old friends below in some cases where [sic] collected as far back as the 1990′s and have been in storage mostly ever since. All now reduced by 50 per cent or more, Click on images to enlarge and if anything grads [sic] your eye just get in contact [...] Note – these pieces will only remain on the site for a limited period
*** This page has just been updated with new findings from the storage ***
So, actually he's got so much stuff stashed away he's no idea what he's got... and the stock inventory?

Lessons the Brits Fail to Learn: The Ransacking of Boxted

Fluffbrains with metal detectors keep insisting that artefact hunting is producing lots of information about the sites exploited. This week, Heritage Action addresses the reality behind the rhetorical puff ('Metal detecting: the ransacking of Boxted' Heritage Journal 09/02/2020), using the example of ten massive commercial metal detecting rallies on the same farm near my sister's place in the decade since 2010. Despite the numbers of artefacts being found (because otherwise, why serially loot the same patch of land?)
and yet … by 2018 only 23 artefacts from there had appeared in the PAS database! Is that OK with you dear Reader? Ten years of industrial-scale exploitation for commercial gain and oodles of knowledge theft?
If one searches the PAS 'database' ("1,481,236 objects within 945,342 records"), you can tick the "rally finds" box and discover that the listing includes just "25,733 objects within 16,834 records"... 

Maybe unconcerned archaeological supporters of collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record will tell you how many rallies have been held in England and Wales since the nationwide PAS started in 2003. They will not, but we may note that since 2005, the PAS 'knows of' 543 rallies. That's 36 a year, but the probably actual number is quite a bit higher (especially including commercial 'club digs' and 'metal detecting holidays').

 In 2019, the  PAS saw artefacts from just five rallies they knew about:
Detectival 2019 Saturday 14th -15th September 2019  View all 313 records from this rally  Medway History Finders, Sheppey 2019 Friday 30th August 2019 Sunday 1st September 2019 View all 1 records from this rally CTTS High Melton Thursday 22nd August 2019 Sunday 25th August 2019  No records of any artefacts have been entered yet on the database.  Joan Allen Lenham August 2019 Saturday 3rd - Sunday 4th August 2019 View all 9 records from this rally. Spring Detectival 2019. Saturday 6th April 2019 Sunday 7th April 2019  View all 608 records from this rally.
This is an average of 186 finds per rally, but note the difference between 'Detectival' figures and the others, these rallies have had 6-700 attendees in 2018-9). All the rest of the artefacts ripped from these fields were simply pocketed.  Ask the unconcerned archaeological supporters of collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record how many that might be. I doubt they will deign to tell you.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Portable Antiquities Outreach for the 99.5% Who Pay For It Too?

If they answered this question about the advert for a post as FLO for Somerset, Devon and Dorset honestly, it would be quite revealing:
Paul Barford @PortantIssues ·24 min W odpowiedzi do @JonaEFC @TRegistrars i @findsorguk
There are 2.53 million members of the public in those three counties, can the job of outreach on portable antiquities issues to them be done by avoiding contact with the c. 0.5% who are metal detectorists engaged in Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record?
of course nobody who knows Bloomsbury believes that the question stands a snowball in Hell's chance of getting any kind of a proper answer. The answer is of course 'yes', if we take the stated aims of the PAS to be what is written. The point is that what the PAS says it does, and what the PAS actually mainly does are two different things entirely. And current estimates are that it really is 0.5% of the population* that are despoiling the archaeological heritage of the other 99.5% for personal entertainment and gain.

*(pop. EandW = 56mln, 1% would be 560k, 0.1% is 5600 people, and current estimates are that there are 27k of the blighters - make it a smaller estimate and the percentage drops further).

Friday, 7 February 2020

Graffiti Finds Subject to Court Case

In Spain, a criminal trial has begun of three men accused of forging finds of Roman artefacts that allegedly show a third-century depiction of Jesus' crucifixion, Egyptian hieroglyphics and the early use of the Basque language (Tom Metcalfe, Trial begins for archaeologist accused of forging earliest portrayal of Jesus' crucifixion' Live Science 7th Feb 2020).  Archaeologist Eliseo Gil, geologist Óscar Escribano and materials analyst Rubén Cerdán, appeared this week in a criminal court in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of Spain's Basque Country accused of creating forgeries of ancient graffiti on hundreds of pieces of pottery, glass and brick that they claim were found in the Roman ruins at Iruña-Veleia, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) west of Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Gil claimed the graffiti on the artifacts showed very early links between the Roman settlement in Spain and the Basque language; he also claimed that a drawing of three crosses scratched on a piece of ancient pottery was the earliest known portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But other archaeologists have disputed the finds. Among other major discrepancies, they pointed out that some of the language of the graffiti shows that it was made in modern times. Gil and his former colleagues [...] say they are not guilty of any deception. Gil and Escribano are facing five and a half years in prison if they are found guilty of fraud and damaging heritage items, while Cerdán faces two and a half years in prison if he is found guilty of making fraudulent documents vouching for the authenticity of the artifacts.
A scientific commission convened by the provincial government in 2008 concluded that 476 of the artefacts were manipulated or outright fakes and that Gil and his colleagues had perpetrated an elaborate fraud. In response, the provincial government stopped Gil and his company from working at Iruña-Veleia and pressed charges, which have now come to court. Gil maintains that he is innocent and that there is no scientific evidence that the artefacts are fake.

See also the paywalled and misspelled Telegraph article:
James Badcock, 'Academic accused of re-writing history with 'fake finds', Telegraph 2 February 2020

British Fallacies from a Brexiteer

Evertonian nationalist Jona
I wrote a post on a question one might ask the PAS, and this got a reply from a flag-waving Brexiter:
Jona 🇬🇧 @Jona EFC · 28 min W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues @TRegistrars i @findsorguk
Morning Paul, do you have an issue with Metal Detectorists? Whom I may add are one of the largest contributors to the PAS and who 99% are in the hobby to collect and preserve the history of this nation and treat all land and finds with the upmost respect!
oh dear... I see it's not just a "Make Britain Great Again" bubble some islanders live in...  Anyway, such superficial fluff deserves challenging (and it is a shame that its a blogger in Poland that has to do it and not the public-funded outreach organisation PAS or the equally public-funded Treasure registrars in Bloomsbury that prefer maintaining dumbdown to making the effort to inform the British public about the fuller story). So in answer to Jona:

Artefact hunters are "one of the largest contributors to the PAS" only because they get the lion's share of the attention of the PAS, to the utter detriment of the 99.5% of citizens that pay for it and yet are neither artefact hunters or collectors - of course precisely the point I was making. The PAS is not just about making lists of stuff collectors have taken out of the archaeological record and pocketed. As should need no emphasis (but apparently does in today's Boris Britain) Digging archaeological evidence out of their context, be it deep or surface, just to collect it is NOT "preserv[ing] the history of this nation" or any other. Which is what the PAS really should be pointing out to the 99%. It is not the "finds and land" that need to be treated "with the utmost respect" but the contexts and associations that metal detectorists rip them from to add them to their personal collections, trashing the archaeological record by doing so. As the PAS should explain to ALL. Do I "have an issue with that"? Yes. I do. Don't you? Should not the people employed in the PAS? Hence my question to @findsorguk.

But cliche follows cliche. The reply was unsurprising:
Would you rather all these funds be left to rot in the ground never to be discovered as without us data base would be a lot lighter. There are bad eggs but I can reassure you that most Detectorists have preservation and correct recording of histroy and artefacts in mind.
Readers of this blog will know that there are substantive arguments to counter self-serving rhetorical "rotting" arguments. Yes I would rather that elephants and Wildebeest stay protected in the wild and not in a cage or stuffed on a wall or as loose bits in some museum's "database" (and yes Jona, it IS the same thing). The number of "bad eggs" not recording is considerably more than the rhetorical "1%" and it is unclear how digging holes in archaeological sites and assemblages to hoik items for private collection is any more "preservation' than shooting rhinos and elephants to 'preserve' their valuable horns and teeth.

Metal Detectorist's House Raided

coins from home of suspected
antiquities thief (Yaron Bibas/IAA)
Israel Antiquities Authority’s Theft Prevention Unit inspector says there are a growing number of antiquities thieves using metal detectors who are destroying unexcavated archaeological sites. A cache of 232 ancient coins was recovered from the house of a known detectorist in Kfar Kana, Galilee.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

PASing About in Taunton [UPDATE]

Local Dot-collector for the Kossinnist
 Dot-Distribution maps (Byzantium)
So, it seems Laura Bennett is off:
"Interested in joining the @findsorguk team? Now's your chance to apply - see details here for a full-time vacancy as Finds Liaison Officer for beautiful Somerset:
The job advert is for as Finds Liaison Officer Somerset (37 hours per week Salary: £24,412 per annum) based in Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton ("There will be travel across Somerset, Devon and Dorset as part of the role"). Note that it is a "fixed term contract until 31 March 2021" and "the post may continue after this date subject to funding". Or may not. Apparently it involves "delivering" the Portable Antiquities Scheme across Somerset, Devon and Dorset ("five days a week [...] carrying out agreed recording tasks and providing cover as required"... [...] You must have a flexible approach and be willing to work outside normal office hours").
The successful candidate will have a degree in archaeology or a related discipline, or considerable relevant experience and specialist knowledge of finds recording. [...] As Finds Liaison Officer you will make contact with members of the public such as metal-detector users, explain the aims of the Scheme and the Treasure Act to the public and heritage professionals and identify, research and record finds on the Portable Antiquities Scheme's database.
So, basically, you do not actually need to be an archaeologist any more, just be able to chat to metal detectorists and fill in the fields on the database date entry pro-forma. So, it's really about "delivering" and promoting the Scheme, rather than addressing issues such as the way portable antiquities are handled in collecting and the trade?

Certainly one might question how much FLOs are in fact in contact with and explaining the PAS to other heritage professionals, and are in fact actually ABLE to explain their precious "Scheme" to the rest of us. My own experience is if you ask relevant (preservation and archaeology-focused) questions, you get blocked, ignored, snubbed [and, reportedly, insulted] by them (one even reported me to the police). They are not really very good at that at all. Anyway, good luck to the hapless applicant. Perhaps they will be able to get a full monographic publication of the Chew Valley Hoard out "subject to funding" of course, most of the money goes on Treasure Ransoms.

Mostly, they will be collecting dots to put onto the dot-distribution maps that pass for archaeology in Boris Johnson's dumbdown Britain.

Update 7th Jan 2010
and there is already one applicant:
Jona 🇬🇧@Jona EFC· 11 g. W odpowiedzi do @TRegistrars i @findsorguk
I’ll do it! Don’t have a degree in archaeology and the salary has to be negotiable but great job!
His Twitter account shows us that Jona is very 'patriotic'. Loves his little flaggies, his country and Queen. Perhaps that's all that counts in GB these days? (I'd like to think this account is a spoof, but have a nagging feeling that it is not)

Laughing off the Looting in the UK

According to a UK newspaper, the British have never taken archaeological looting seriously ('The Times view on metal detectorists: [...] Once mocked, detectorists are helping unearth our rich past' The Times Wednesday December 12 2018). In most other countries, looters taking spades to deposits of archaeological material and walking off with items to add to their personal collections or sell would be punished by law. In Britain they risk only being 'mocked' by shoulder-shrugging archaeologists. They even made a comedy programme about Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record.

The problem is this attitude that Britain has inexhaustably "rich" deposits of remains of the past, and indications that it might be running out soon are simply ignored by the guffawing and cackling airheads. 

Meanwhile, the Times seemed adamant in 2019 on promoting this destruction with fluff articles (Sathnam Sanghera, 'I thought I’d hate being a detectorist. But actually I dig it' The Times Monday April 15 2019; Ben Macintyre, 'Detectorists: A peculiarly British band of time-travellers. Inspired by recent finds, I’ve been drawn back to the eccentric but valuable pastime of metal-detecting', The Times Saturday August 31 2019,). What's this about? Who is sleeping with whom to get all this attention in one of the serious papers? Because real balanced investigative reporting this is not.

The Times View on the Destruction of the Archaeological Record

Times 'leading article', "The Times View on Metal Detecting", begins, apparently, like the vignette shows, but the rest of the bla-bla is hidden behind a paywall, but from the way it begins, I doubt that the rest of it is cutting edge British investigative journalism, it is even anonymous it seems. I'm not paying for that.

First of all, it is not "metal detecting", that's what airport metal detectors do. What The Times is talking about is Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record.

Using the proper name means the question is raised not about the loose "objects" hoiked, but the record they come from. Half a million "Roman objects" translated into at least half a million holes dug blindly into the archaeological record. What is the Times view on that when it happens in Iraq or Palmyra? Holes dug by brown-skinned folk do the same damage as holes dug by Baz, Skiver and Tattooed-Harry in Surrey.

"Treasure Island"? Is that the Times view too? Britain's "abundance of finds" has very little to do with any Treasure legislation, but the work of an entirely different body of people.

Has Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record actually added so much to our "understanding of ancient Britain" that the irreparable damage done to the context from which these collectables and "Treasures" are hoiked can just be shrugged off? It seems that the Times view very probably is yes.

Anyone who did pay to support what looks like its just going to be PAS-puff care to send me the rest?

There is a similar one here: "Once mocked, detectorists are helping unearth our rich past"...

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Oxford University's "invisible_east" Project goes... Invisible

Academic masturbation? Remind us please, Oxford University,   https://krc.web.ox.ac.uk/article/go.local-going-local-in-the-perso-islamic-lands
was where you were going to do that public resource on the Afghan Geniza documents, yes?

Afghan Geniza Texts to be Handled in Oxford?PACHI Saturday, 1 February 2020.

That's a weird way to be going about it, hiding what you are doing from the general public... Is that why you called your project invisible_east @EastInvisible ?

Monday, 3 February 2020

Coffin-Trashing Grave Robbers and an Alien (?) Basalt Head

A few of our US colleagues are having a look on Twitter at some items from the collection of one of Trump's lawyers. Seems fair game.

Anyway, in a sale (2565 Antiquities New York 8th June 2012) there are some of his items being resold. There is the improbably-postured 'erotic South Arabian statue' I commented on earlier from his collection. I do not know why I did not jump on the other two that I spotted now.

Because there, as bold as brass, is a totally sawn-up Egyptian sarcophagus 'fragment' (5000 dollars, Provenance 'Art Market, Europe, circa 1980'). Pretty nausea-inducing. Who would do something like that? Who would buy it, knowing what it has had done to it and why? ('why' is that a complete coffin is harder to hide when taking it abroad than a bit of one the size of a suitcase, that's why). Shame on ANY collector that would buy such a thing and have it in their house, just making a space on the market for someone to supply another one. Collectors often claim they are "preserving art" (sic), but that is clearly not what has happened to this object, which was made to preserve a dead person's body - not as any kind of "art" at all. And where, pray, is that body now? Also sawn up for collectors to gawp at? Somebody has remarked that this fragment is 'over-restored', certainly this part of a coffin would be constructed of just three or more boards joined with a few flimsy pegs and mud-plaster, I bet a lot of that came loose in the sawing. I am not going to try and judge whether it's authentic or not, Christie's say it is... Sadly, it probably is.

Hirsute and Angry, Christies
A basalt Roman head Lot 241 also caught my eye. It is labelled by Prof Erin Thompson "ancient Roman head of the God of Unibrows" which she notes "has no pre-1988 info". That's pretty important because it is said to be from 'Hauran' (حوران‎, modern southern Syria and northern Jordan). So, how and when did it leave? As is usually the case with these auction houses, all you get is a sketchy description, a vague attempt at saying where it was a few years ago, and a few dramatically-lit piccies of the front. Leaving aside the stylistic aspects of what those photos show (or do not)... If you want to see the back or underneath, you'd have had to go to New York to see it in the flesh... 

I'd be curious to see the other sides. I'd like to look at it and understand how it was made and how it got to be in the state it's in. Starting with that, I'd like to see the break underneath. Some ancient vandal lopped it off neatly, just in the right way that a modern collector can easily and aesthetically mount it. It's amazing how often this happened. Perhaps Goths, Huns and Vandals before they were let loose on the ancient world attended "Aesthetic statue breaking" courses.

So this is 'basalt' they say. Odd. Why has it got that pitting, for example on the cheeks? What kind of post-depositional change is that? Or was it the finish left by a certain manufacturing (or finishing) technique? In the photos, over the pitting, it's got a rather waxy-looking (that's how the photographer has made it look) brown coat on the highlights. Almost like somebody has lightly brushed it over with a stiff shoebrush with dried polish on it. That would make me suspicious as a buyer. It resembles the appearance of a sculpture that's stood in the open in a market square and been fondled by lots of people who've just been been selling grubby potatoes and carrots after eating greasy chips. Doesn't it?

Chiselled eyebrows, but
what's this? Christie's
Then all those chiselled locks, why are the lines white? In a stone that has been shaped by percussion, the white is where crystals (in the case of basalt really small ones) have been shattered by the blows of the tool. So... when that object is later buried, its precisely those fractured areas that get most stained and gunked-up. So why not in this case? That's really puzzling and I am absolutely sure that the Christie's 'condition report' (you have to ask for one at the time of sale) gives a full explanation of how this happened. Because obviously, they'd have spotted this and asked the same questions.

I'd also like to know what that condition report said about the 'other' toolmarks on it. We can only see the front, but if I was contemplating buying this thing (and actually it's not something I think Mrs B. would have in the house) I'd like to get a good look at those toolmarks. Certainly a lot of it is chiselled. There's drill marks up in the locks above the forehead, but that's what the Romans did. But all that chiselling is hard on the wrists. It's jolly hard work. So sculptors down the ages have tended to use methods like sawing to block out the rough shape before they get to the wrist-jarring bits.

Sawing, with a saw. Now we all know what a saw looks like and what they looked like in the past, yes? Having that picture in our heads, we can imagine what kind of shapes they could block out and what kind of shape they could not. Yes? And where the projecting bits of the stature-to-be would prevent you getting (for example) a bow-saw in there.

Traces of rotary saw marks? Christie's
So, if the lines on the lower face that I've picked out here in yellow are what they look like, what kind of saw made them? I am really 'interested' in that round-bottomed grove to the right (proper) of the lower lip. Was that mentioned in the condition report? What about the sharp straight edge of the central lock of the beard? Or the, apparently abraded, round-bottomed groove in the middle of the monobrow in the second picture. There is a cut mark on the left (proper) cheek that has almost been erased by later working (or finishing). How was that made? After all, in the second century AD, they did not have rotary tungsten carbide discs... or DID they? Is this the proof the 'Ancient Visitors' devotees need of the use of advanced alien technology in antiquity? What did that condition report say about these puzzling toolmarks? They are, after all, very much part of this object's current condition. Especially in an object that cannot (we are told) currently be documented as in existence much before 1988.

And if both the 'description' and the 'condition report' failed to make mention and discuss such puzzling features, clearly seen on the auction house's own photographs, that says a lot about the 'condition' of the modern antiquities market.


Saturday, 1 February 2020

Peter Tompa and American Exceptionalism

Ronald Reagan
and friend
Peter Tompa, paid lobbyist for the US and global antiquities dealers' associations uses social media like his blog, Facebook and Twitter to produce a whole load of stuff for his audience (dealers and collectors who pay him to protect the interests of the no-questions -asked market in antiquities) but refuses properly to discuss them with other stakeholders. In fact he blocks some  of them from even seeing what he writes there for public consumption - which rather suggests that he doubts in the unassailability of his arguments.

A few days ago, I was alerted by a colleague to something he was writing about artefacts surfacing on the US and European market that seem to have left the Gaza strip by means that are unclear. I answered him and (since I'd not see any response if he put it on Twitter because I'm one of those he blocks), I invited him to respond if he wished as a comment under my post. I do not think anyone familiar with the guy expected him not to be a coward and to take the bull by the horns and try to justify what he'd splurted out. But sure enough he feels safe enough among his own to dig deeper in a tweet.

Let's unpick this. The jargon 'CPAC' and 'MOU' relate to the The Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act H.R. 4566, a local US Act of Congress that became law in 1983  in the times of Ronald Reagan's presidency. This pretends to be (but in fact is not) an 'implementation' of the principles outlined in the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

So what's that Convention about? Tompa and his mates see it as something that is directed at some of them, those that would profit from taking desirable stuff from one country and making profits by flogging it off in another. And in a way it of course is, if you are a dodgy dealer.

But if you read it, the whole document [not just article 9], including the preamble, you see that what it in fact constitutes is a call for nations to respect the rights of other nations, party to the convention, to declare as heritage what it is their sovereign right to do so, and go about protecting and safeguarding it in line with their own ideas about how that should look. The Convention obliges states party to aid each other in that regard (in the interests of building peace between them). There is, however, NOTHING in it that encourages one state party to attack another sovereign state party about the way they look after their heritage (which would only incite conflict). In other words, there is nothing in the Convention that provides a remit for any one nation to pretend to assume the status of a global policeman in the cultural sphere, dictating to other nations what they should and should not be doing.

Yet that is exactly the role that US dealers and collectors ascribe themselves, citing the CCPIA as their mandate (as we see above). Which totally distorts the meaning of the Convention. Utterly.

So the world, according to Peter Tompa:

1) A polity right at the other end of the Mediterranean is governed by a group of guys called Hamas, a name Tompa does not like. So there is no problem for him with European and US dealers flogging off what looks like illicitly obtained artefacts from the region, because... Hamas".
That is like saying that there is no reason to be concerned about any American tourists in (say) Mali getting robbed and beaten up, they deserve it, because ... "Trump".
That is as insupportable an argument as Tompa's. Which is probably why Tompa does not even try. He knows its a false argument.
2) It is a fact, he says, that Recip Erdogan personally ordered the bombing of a Hittite temple in the militarised zone of NW Syria (actually, twice). Since he personally ordered it, then the citizens of the territory he rules (Turkey) should be deprived of the right to get back any smuggled illicit artefacts that make it to the US border. 
That is like saying that there is no reason to be concerned by American tourists in (say) Egypt getting kidnapped and held hostage for ransom by militants in Sinai, they deserve it, because ... "Trump". That is as insupportable an argument as Tompa's. Which is probably why Tompa does not even try. He knows its a false argument.
3) It is a fact, he says that Recip Erdogan personally ordered the flooding of ancient sites...

Yes, I think we get the picture. The US drives steel border fences through and conducts fracking under protected landscapes, has flattened Native American earthworks, several major dam projects in the East have flooded enormous areas, regardless of the fact that there are many (Native American) archaeological sites in those flooded valleys now under water. Historical buildings in Detroit are being left to crumble, many sites in the South too, Savannah was in a dreadful state until recently.

Yet the US somehow sees itself as excused for flooding sites in hydroelectric schemes in the US but Turkey... well, Turks, they are a brown-skinned folk fit only for being bossed about by Uncle Sam. An imperialist Uncle Sam who will steal their stuff and call it his own and appoints himself to be the arbiter of right and wrong, overriding the provisions of the very Convention that he claims as bestowing upon him the mandate to do so.

It does not. The arguments of grabby US dealers and collectors are false ones.

Mr Tompa is once again cordially invited to debate this point with me here (down below). Prove to me and my readers that I am wrong, that you know what you are talking about, and that Uncle Sam should be tolerated by the rest of the world while disregarding the definition of "illicit artefacts" contained in art 3 of said convention. Because... "Trump"?

Afghan Geniza Texts to be Handled in Oxford?

Bamiyan, destroyed and
 looted by the Taliban
Oxford University has reportedly just started what it terms 'groundbreaking research on newly discovered Afghan documents ca 1100 AD'. This is being done with £2+million of public money awarded through the European Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council through the 'PersDoc'  (Persian in Documents) project and from May 2020, in the 'Go.Local' project (Going Local in the Perso-Islamic Lands) operating within the framework of the The Khalili (sic) Research Centre at Oxford. The latter project is:
looking for two researchers to join the project team for the ERC-funded ‘Going Local in the Perso-Islamic Lands (GO.LOCAL): Afghan Geniza, Islamisation and Language in the pre-Mongol Islamic East’ project. The project’s focus is medieval writing and material culture in the Islamicate East and its connections with the history of language and multicultural encounters [...] you will examine unstudied or understudied texts from the pre-Mongol Islamicate East, identifying and categorising texts, transcribing and translating documents of different genres, and entering and processing text in a specialist project database [...] as well as developing content for an online course for a wider public on the social history of the Islamicate East [...]  We are looking for someone who 
does not mind working with the controversial Afghan Geniza material and similar documents.

Oxford University has boxloads upon boxloads of Oxyrhynchus papyri fragments lying around on their premises, from where we understand a person or persons as yet unknown wandered off with a whole load of them that recently turned up on the market. Maybe the University would do better to use any money raised on the proper publication and securing of the material they are already in the process of studying before more of it slips onto the market, than branching out to take in more material coming from that market?

This Bonkers Britain online course (sic) 'for a wider public on the social history of the Islamicate East' based on material looted from Afghan caves and dispersed on the antiquities market sounds like a copycat of equally bonkers PAS database of artefacts deriving from collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record of England and Wales. Equally useless and damaging.

Academics handling anything coming from the looting of Afghanistan and illegally smuggled into the global antiquities market give those objects a value, and legitimate and validate the processes of their acquisition and dispersal. Clearly, no ethical scholar should take part in such a process.

In Varietate Concordia

As the Österreichische Post AG (Austrian Postal Service) sees it.... gone.

source FB

Thickoes 'Get There Way': They 'Got There Nashun' Back

The lowest common denominator won in Britain. Archaeology has been sacrificed to collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record and the islanders crash out of Europe. To the delight of a guffawing majority mob. Metal detectorists are among the latter. On their forums and websites you'll see the self-gratulatory messages proclaiming they belong to the 'winning' side and thumbing their noses at the 'losers' (so-called "Remoaners"). Like this one:
The UK becomes a self-governing independent nation once again; able to make its own laws, control its borders, and no longer subservient to the EU’s dictatorial commissioners. What is there not to like about leaving the EU which offers nothing but the loss of our nation and being subsumed into a federal European superstate with little democratic accountability?
Basically, it seems that whatever these fluff-for-brains folk had absorbed from what they were (poorly, apparently) taught in the Civic Awareness classes in British schools, was drowned out by dumbdown gutterpress guff. Here, Radek Sikorski (former Polish foreign minister, among other things) points out what a lot of Brits (still) do not know, metal detectorists among them.

I am criticised for questioning whether people who are at the level of cognitive and intellectual development displayed as the norm in their community by many metal detectorists can ever become 'citizen archaeologists', correctly observing, documenting, interpreting and presenting full contextual information for the loose items they hoik out of archaeological sites and soil assemblages. I suggest that readers might like to look at what these folk are writing about the reality around them over the next few days and consider whether I am not right about their reality to observe, analyse and assess information - and what that means about the "data" they produce by dismembering archaeological sites and soil assemblages in collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record.

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