Friday, 15 October 2021

Dealer's Custody Damages Artefacts

Lawrence H. Schiffman and Andrew Gross, 2021; The Temple Scroll 11Q19, 11Q20, 11Q21, 4Q524, 5Q21 with 4Q365a (Brill, Dead Sea Scrolls Editions, Volume: 1) e-publication available now, hardback later.
In this volume, Schiffman and Gross present a new edition of all of the manuscript evidence for the Temple Scroll from Qumran. It includes innumerable new readings and restorations of all of the manuscripts as well as a detailed critical apparatus comparing the manuscripts of the Temple Scroll as well as Qumran biblical manuscripts and the ancient versions. Each manuscript is provided with a new translation, and a commentary is presented for the main text. Also included are a general introduction, bibliography of published works on the text, catalog of photographic evidence, and concordance including all vocables in all the manuscripts and their restorations. This work promises to move research on the Temple Scroll to a new level.
Årstein Justnes​ draws attention to one detail about its collecting history:
The authors discuss some newly surfaced fragments said to be part of manuscript fragment  11Q21, including several in the Schøyen Collection (trophy items because "they preserve almost no legible text") and consider that they all belong in the group of "post-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls fakes".

Berlin Breakthrough on Benin Bronzes

 Germany and Nigeria have signed an agreement setting out a timetable for the restitution of artefacts looted from the royal palace of Benin in a British military raid in 1897.

Yahoo Group Vindictively Wants to Influence US Court Decision

 In a sentencing memorandum filed
with the court the district attorney’s office
asked that Mr. Sadigh, who has no previous record
of arrests, be sentenced to five years’ probation
and banned from ever again being involved
in the sale of antiquities, “both genuine and fake.”

 The UK based moderator of the ancient artifacts.groups forum, "Tuppenny Tim"  who I cannot answer there since threw me off the group for explaining why some unpapered artefacts they were discussing there were fakes comments on the Sadigh trial: 

tuppennyblueOct 14 #95825
That's an absurdly low sentence considering his two decade long reign as king of the antiquities fraudsters, taking the piss out of collectors all over the world. I think we should all write to the court, demanding that nothing less than a sentence of immediate and lengthy imprisonment is appropriate - in particular, it would be appropriate for out US members to do this. Does anyone know of an address we can write to to make our case?
I wonder what part of the phrase 'plea deal' he does not understand? Taking the piss out of collectors however is a fully justifiable activity while they as a group continue to behave in their traditional holier-than-thou manner. None of Sadigh's customers saw verifiable documentation of legal excavation or legal export. Most of them were caught-out by the layers of varnish and dirt and the generally 'clunky-nasty-tatty-gawky' aesthetic of many of the items he handled. Tuppenny Tim does not see that. And no, Sadigh is far from the "king of fraudsters" - there are other antiquities on the market as we write that would make their producers and marketers more eligable for that title. The no-questions-asked market in unpapered antiquities from-goodness-knows-where is FULL of them. Some of them have been sold by dealers on Tuppenny Tim's own list.
Of course the dealers' pretence that Sadigh is in some way worse than any other dealer that sells unpapered and misdescribed artefacts is behind this vindictive posing.  This is an application of the "two wrongs make a right" pseudo-argument. In this context, note what the Times article adds at the end:
Mr. Sadigh came to the attention of investigators, Mr. Bogdanos has said, when dealers being pursued for trafficking plundered antiquities complained about “the guy selling all the fakes.”

["yeah, OK, I admit I could have looked more carefully at the lack of paperwork, officer, but at least MY artefacts are real, not like that other guy over  there who sells the fakes, you REALLY should be going after him, not me"] 


Thursday, 14 October 2021

Some UK Metal Detectorist Really Are as Fik As Planks

Some metal detectorists in the UK really do seem to be thicker than the average punter. An unnamed man has been arrested after he allegedly damaged Stonehenge - by removing historical artefacts he found using a metal detector (Grace Hammond, 'Yorkshire man arrested for damaging Stonehenge - by removing artefacts he found with his metal detector' Yorkshire Post 14th October 2021)
The 30-year-old Yorkshire man was arrested after he posted photographs of his discoveries on social media in August and September this year. Wiltshire Police launched an investigation and soon identified the suspect, tasking West Yorkshire Police with apprehending him. On locating him at his home in Bradford, he was arrested for five offences: damaging a protected monument, using a metal detector in a protected place without the written consent of the Secretary of State, removing an archaeological or historical interest which is discovered by the use of a metal detector in a protected place without the written consent and possession of explosives without a valid permit. During his arrest, officers found cannabis in his possession - an offence which landed him a caution.
Explosives, narcotics and looted artefacts. And decides to draw attention to his activities on social media. And he was no doubt mightily surprised he got caught, UK metal detectorists and collectors being above the law as they generally seem to feel they are. 
 Hat tip: Chris Cumberpatch, Dave Coward plus angry
archaeologist who wants to remain anonymous.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Commercial Archaeological Despoilers' Van Spotted in UK in Broad Daylight


Photo: Alan Simkins

A reader in Truro was shocked when this van pulled up alongside him. As a conservationist, he was disturbed "The past in the ground is there to be found" - not conserved, not protected but hoiked out by a greedy White Van Man.  He checked their website and found that this CIC metal detecting company offers a range of "services", from £100/person/day.

Grim Sweepers Metal Detecting C.I.C. will introduce and guide you through the art of history finding with a metal detector. Whether you are looking for a new hobby, a day out with your family or you have lost something, the Grim Sweeper is here to help.

and in the LinkdIn page they plug the "mental health benefits of taking the past" aspects:

Grim Sweepers Metal Detecting was initially set up to bring the much-loved hobby to more people, having identified that many "would love to try it, but don't know where, or how, to start". We realised how much metal detecting helps people "escape" and deal with the world; they spend time outside, on their own but also making new friends and enjoying support from those new friends.

The company is run anonymously: contact (but it is run by Christopher Horner from Hertfordshire, a long way from Truro). There's some merch here, and a facebook page- with one of the most naff advertising videos with cheery-text-reader soundtrack (and showing detecting on grass) that you'll see for a good while. There is a "donate" button on the company's website!. Of course to make it look good, there are links to two codes of conduct, but EXCEPT one (as can be seen in the voideo they pay no heed to that), and of course they say they do not condone 'night-hawking':
GRIM SWEEPERS DOES NOT CONDONE THE ILLEGAL ACTIVITY KNOWN AS NIGHT-HAWKING! This is gaining access to land without the landowner’s permission.
But looting with the involvement of the landowner is presumably so OK, that they feel quite comfortable plastering it all over the side of their van. Why is the van so big, what have they got in there, and in the roofrack?

New York Antiquities Dealer Admits Mass-Producing Fakes He Sold for Years

The value of a COA with no other paperwork

In the USA, nobody involved in archaeology and artefact collecting was much surprised by today's news: Antiquities Dealer Admits Mass-Producing Fakes He Sold for Years (New York Times 13th October 2021). What is surprising was how long it took US authorities to actually look into the many complaints that had been made down the years. 

Mehrdad Sadigh, the owner of a longtime Manhattan gallery admitted in court that while some customers thought they were buying ancient items, they were actually modern knockoffs, just made to look old. He admitted that over the years he'd "aged" thousands of antiquities in an assembly line-like operation, but he got "others to post glowing, but false, reviews of his gallery, inventing dozens of appreciative customers". 

 Sadigh pleaded guilty to seven felony charges, including forgery and theft. In a memorandum of understanding filed with the court, the district attorney’s office asked for Mr. Sadigh, who had no previous arrest record, to be sentenced to five years of probation and be banned from being involved in the sale of antiquities again. 

Sadigh had begun his business in 1978 as a small mail-order company, but moved to a gallery on to the upper floors of the 5th and 31st East buildings in 1982. There he sold artefacts that were said to be ancient Anatolian, Babylonian, Byzantine, Greco-Roman, Mesopotamian, and Sumerian. Many of them shared a significant style, and may perhaps one day become collectors' pieces in their own right. Some of the low-value artefacts in his catalogue however were genuine. During a sting operation, an undercover federal investigator had purchased a gold pendant and a marble portrait of an ancient Roman woman from Sadigh’s gallery. They and the representations made of them were then the basis for visits to the gallery by members of the District Attorney’s and Department of Homeland Security investigations. Officials said hundreds of fake relics were on display at various stages of preparation, and thousands more were found in the back room where various means were being used to make items look older than they were. These included the use of varnish, spray paint and belt sander.

What is annoying is now the uninformed people that would formerly have bought a Sadigh artefact and been quite happy with it as they know no better, will now increasingly be buying other artefacts from other sellers, which will include looted items that the same ignorance prevents them from asking the proper questions of the dealers offering them with the same warm assurances as Mr Sadigh was employing. 

Fake Ceramic Bullae Doing the Rounds


Bulla, photo Bron Lipkin

A group of ceramic objects have been marketed as "Roman bullae" and have circulating in the collectors' market for quite a while. Members of the collecting community were unconvinced by the undocumented "nod's-as-good-as-a-wink" assurances of the dealers handling them. So they clubbed together, crowd-funded a TL date. The results came back. Nobody was surprised. As one member (kyrikmkOct 13 #95822) trenchantly notes: "Now we know this one is fake in my opinion they are probably all fake unless it can be proven that they were actually excavated. Personally I wouldn’t buy any on the market kyri " - which is what people like me have saying all along. That goes for any "antiquity" sold by any dealer anywhere. If they have not got the paperwork, it should never have entered their stock.

(photo Bron Lipkin)

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