Sunday, 26 March 2023

Academics Represent Artefact Hunting as "Citizen Science" and Looting as "Citizen Participation"

Arguments for the Finlandisation of archaeological heritage exploitation continue to be presented:

Anna Wessman, Suzie Thomas, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres S. Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis (2023): Hobby Metal-detecting as Citizen Science. Background, Challenges and Opportunities of Collaborative Archeological Finds Recording Schemes, Heritage and Society, DOI: 10.1080/2159032X.2022.2098654

This paper discusses five digital archeological finds recording schemes from England and Wales, Denmark, Finland, Flanders (Belgium), and the Netherlands; countries and areas where members of the public can search for archeological material, usually by metal-detecting. These schemes are a part of the European Public Finds Recording Network. The authors argue that citizen science approaches to recording discoveries made by the public present important opportunities for enriching both research and possibilities for widening participation with archeological heritage. These schemes work within specific legal and social frameworks, and the paper scrutinizes each scheme in the context of citizen participation. The paper also discusses the challenges concerning sharing open data connected to crowdsourced archeological information, and the limitations and prospects offered by the different national and regional frameworks within which the schemes operate. 

Representing: University of Helsinki, Finland; University of Bergen, Norway; Aarhus Universitet, Denmark; Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands; British Museum, London, UK. 

Note the repeated spelling of the word archaeology here. 

There is nothing much new here, the authors are largely just regurgitating information already published by them elsewhere, with a few shallow buzzwords thrown in ("Caring means sharing").

When it comes to the specifics, much is made for example of the verification of PAS records, but anyone who's actually gone through a large number of their records (I have) will know that this is in reality by now dead in the water, and a lot of descriptions and inconsistencies that should have been picked up by those 'verifiers' have slipped through and form part of the public record, thus reducing their value as 'data' - still less 'scientific data'.

Also with regard to the article's title and subject matter, the PAS is no longer as "collaborative" as it was, a lot of it is being compiled by (anonymous) karaoke recorders and the PAS FLO staff are also now anonymised in the public record to obscure who is responsible for what.

The record instead exploits artefact hunters who bring in material to bulk it out, and get no individual public recognition of their contribution. This is a colonial model of science where 'natives' are exploited to serve an academic elite who in turn then act as gatekeepers (see the content and mood of the social media output of PAS staff members). [see also - PACHI 16 July 2022, ' Fish-in-Barrel "Archaeology", Metal Detecting as Imagined "Citizen Science" in the Czech Republic' - a 'collaborative' European recording scheme that funnily enough is not mentioned here].

Allegedly: "the paper scrutinizes each scheme in the context of citizen participation". This promise however is not met. In the UK there are an estimated (by PAS) 40 000 artefact hunting metal detectorists actively stripping the archaeological record of collectable artefacts and therefore information. In this paper however there is not only no mention of this figure, but no mention of the degree of participation of these heritage strippers to the academics' pet "citizen science" project. That aspect - of mitigating the damage done to science by artefact hunting with metal detectorists under the noses of these academics - is completely ignored. In fact, participation is very low in the metal detecting communities of England and Wales (despite the definition in the Code of Best Practice of "responsible detecting" that is automatically, but falsely,  applied to "the majority" of them). 

Anyway, the authors have their grant money extended, their nice offices and conference fees paid, and as long as they can spin a nice story with the right buzzwords about "participation" of a pars-pro-toto minority (and attack colleagues like Sam Hardy that raise some issues they'd rather not talk about), the stripping goes on unchecked - and indeed unrecorded.

Artefact hunting and artefact collecting are not "citizen science", they are knowledge theft, they are erosion of the archaeological record. Academics who, regardless, write about it as anything else are just living parasitically on the results of this destruction.

Vignette: Not "citizen science", just the tip of the iceberg of selfish exploitation, note undeclared "silver" finds right under the PAS noses while their staff write such academic verbiage.

Collector With Attitude: No Database, No Bother

 Ancient Coin collector on a public forum: " [...] so long as the coin is genuine and has not been stolen (ie on a stolen property database), I couldn't care less about the provenance".

Git yer Own Affens Owl Tet 'ere, Good Investment, First Come, First Served: "The Parliament Collection"

"Located in the heart of Hong Kong's Central Financial District (Des Voeux Road Central, Central, Hong Kong), LPM is one of Asia's largest and most trusted Precious Metal Retailers. Now celebrating 10 years in business LPM understands the needs of Gold and Silver investors". Some of the collectors' items they sell are a real eye-opener. People buy this stuff? But there are no prizes for guessing where these coins are probably from (Concealed 2018 Konya Hoard)....
Athenian Owl Silver Tetradrachm
Athenian Owls
Struck sometime between 440 and 404 B.C., this Greek Silver Tetradrachm was minted in Athens, the capital city of Attica, a region of the Greek empire. It features perhaps the most iconic and instantly recognizable designs found on ancient coinage: the Athenian Owl, flanked by the crescent moon, olive branch, and monogram of its city of origin. The obverse features the goddess Athena herself, protected by her beautifully designed helmet.

Part of what makes these coins so iconic is that they are the first mass-circulated coin ever produced! In fact, many of the skilled laborers and soldiers who were paid with these coins simply had no idea what a coin was,* resulting in many coins being marked with knives or other instruments used to cut into their surface and confirm their contents.

These coins were minted in large quantities in order to restore the Acropolis and build the Parthenon in Athens. Because of our connections in the numismatic world, we were able to get our pick of the nicest looking coins from this hoard. These selected pieces make up the Parliament Collection - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire such high-quality Athena Owl coins.

It's the largest hoard of its kind we've ever seen, with coins in this offering graded by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). These coins have received the extra designation of being a part of The Parliament Collection. Don’t let these historic, museum-quality coins disappear!

Ancient History You Can Hold in Your Hands
Each coin is approximately 2,400 years old from a time when Athens was a cultural center of the world and the heart of ancient Greece. Athens was a key city-state that laid the foundations for Western civilization. When one thinks of ancient Athens, images of the Acropolis, the Parthenon and the Temple of Zeus come to mind. Now you can hold an actual piece of that history in your hands!

Each Coin Struck by Hand
Your Athenian Owl Silver Tetradrachm was carefully struck by ancient artisans more than two millennia ago. Because of this, no two coins are exactly alike!

Athenian Owls
Comes with Special Pedigreed Label and FREE Book. Each coin will come sonically sealed in an acrylic coin holder and encapsulated with a special Parliament Collection label. A parliament refers to a gathering of owls and a fitting label for a coin from this important coin discovery.

Historic Designs that Influenced Modern Coinage
These Owls proved very wise. Athena was the goddess of wisdom and warfare and the patron goddess of Athens. In Greek mythology, she was the daughter of Zeus. The owl is Athena’s familiar and, according to legend, she sometimes took the form of her owl. President Teddy Roosevelt was said to have carried an Athenian Owl coin in his pocket, which in turn inspired him to order the redesign of U.S. coins in the early 1900s.

We only have a small cache of these coins, so you'd be wise to order your Athenian Owl Tetradrachm while we still have some available!
Somebody called "®" Corporate Center Curve, Eagan, MN 55121 ("a brand of Asset Marketing Services, LLC (AMS). AMS is a retail distributor of coin and currency issues and is not affiliated with the U.S. government") also has had some of this "Parliament Collection" with exactly the same sales spiel. It looks like they give away a copy of a Wayne sayles book with it (whooppee!). There is a similar sounding offer from, Afford the Extraordinary', 440-404 B.C. Ancient Attica Athens Silver Athena Owl Tetradrachm NGC MS Item#: 50019 Now Only $2,250. 'The Coin Vault', East Union City Pike Winchester, IN 47394 still has them in stock c. 440-404 BC Attica, Athens Owl Silver Tetradrachm NGC Ancients Choice Extra Fine Item# 273754 at $1,199.98 but "The coin will arrive in The Coin Vault's custom certified presentation box and will be accompanied by the 3rd edition 'Money of the Bible' book" (Ha! Athena in the Bible, eh? Novel). Apmex, "Investments you can hold" has had at least one coin from this collection (says it was discovered in 2015).

You could even get them from Walmart: "Athens Ag Tetradrachm Owl (440-404 BC) Ch XF NGC (Parliament Col) $1,040.21" but the one they figure has no nose. Here's one for 1025 USD on VAuctions (you know, the one with a "Code of Ethics" that...). Mynt Collector - Coins Gold Loose Diamonds + New York, NY, USA has one on auction right now - starting price ten dollars. Ask them if they have export paperwork before you bid.

Funnily enough absolutely none of the sales offers includes even basic information abut who put together this "Parliament Collection", where and when and from what. Still less is there any mention of any paperwork related to legal export. Odd that, if the coin was found recently. 


Saturday, 25 March 2023

A Greek Coin Case to Watch? A Munich-Zurich Link

       Coin surfaced on antiquities trade  

In the fallout from the ongoing Beale/Roma Numismatics case a Greek newspaper has printed some details of an old case that appears not to have been abandoned after all (Giannis Papadopoulos Αρχαιοκαπηλία: Το θρίλερ με το χρυσό νόμισμα του Βρούτου [Archaeocapilia: Brutus' Golden Coin Thriller] 23.03.2023). In Google translation it alledges:

The case file in Patras
The auction house involved in this case has also concerned the Greek authorities in the past. In October 2016, his name was mentioned in a security document of Patras, without naming its owner, in the context of the dismantling of a multi-member ring of antiquities. Two years later, the Appellate Council of Patras issued a 2,546-page resolution to refer 47 defendants to trial. The relevant documents analyse the route of ancient objects (mainly coins) from their illegal excavation to their sale, the suspicious role of foreign auction houses in laundering antiquities, as well as techniques for manipulating electronic auctions with virtual "hits". However, no relevant prosecution was brought against representatives of the international houses at the time, as it was judged that there were insufficient indications of guilt. [...] [the documents detail] auction process of an ancient Corinthian cut silver stater by the British house. The specific coin, dated 500-480 BC, weighing 8.65 grams and 19 millimeters in diameter, depicts Pegasus on one side and was allegedly taken from Greek territory by illegal digging. It sold for between €1,500 and appeared at auction in September 2016 with a starting price of £8,000. In the description of the catalogue it was mentioned that the coin comes from a collection before 1920. According to the case file, there is also a reference to the specific coin and its auction in a telephone conversation with a Greek defendant which has been recorded. The case was set to be tried in first instance in October 2020, but after a series of postponements it is unexpectedly expected to start in June 2023.
Uh-oh. Sounds familiar. Those "techniques for manipulating electronic auctions with virtual [bids]" are known as shill bidding, this is illegal, but very commonly applied in the online collectables market, including antiquities, and is just one of the deceptive and lawless practices this unsustainable and exploitative industry functions on.

The case referred to may be found in articles from 2020 (for example 'GCT', 'Five rare ancient silver coins returned to Greece' Greek City News October 6 2020):
The Ministry of Culture and Sports on Monday announced that five rare silver coins dating to the 5th and 4th centuries BC were returned to Greece, before being auctioned off in Munich and Zurich.
Three of them were repatriated on September 30 from Munich: a stater from Lindos (Rhodes) of the first half of the 5th century BC, an octadrachm of Getas, the king of Edonians in Thrace, dated to around 480-460 BC and a stater from Elis dated to around 328 BC. The coins were handed over to the Consulate General of Greece in Munich by Bavarian police, and are now in the care of the Numismatics Museum of Athens, which helped identify them.

Another two silver coins were returned from Zurich to Athens on September 27. They were an Athenian tetradrachm (of the so-called new style), dated to 136 BC, and a tetradrachm of Ptolemy IV Philopator cut in Sidon around the end of the 3rd century BC.

Both coins which are now at the Archaeological Museum of Patras, were confiscated when a criminal ring was dismantled by Patras police in October 2016. The criminals were based in Greece but had an extensive network abroad, where they transferred looted antiquities. "A total of 126 ancient objects and 2,024 coins were confiscated in Greece, while in March 2017 Germany returned 33 Mycenaean vessels, 600 ancient coins and other antiquities of various periods, which were illegally exported by the looters," the Ministry of Culture and Sports added in the statement.
 I also discussed the Patras Bust in earlier posts on this blog: PACHI Wednesday, 5 October 2016, ' More on the Patras Bust - They Have Buyers' Names' and PACHI Wednesday, 5 October 2016, ' Dealers, where - precisely - do those artefacts come from?'. 
"Greek police have busted what they say is a criminal organisation that has been looting antiquities from ancient sites in the country for the past 10 years and smuggling them out to auction houses and private buyers in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the UK. A spokesman for the Patras police department in western Greece, which led the 14-month investigation, said on Wednesday that more than 50 people were involved in the ring and 26 arrests have been made. [...] Police said the works were sold using fake provenance documents attributing them to private collections in Europe, but that the auction houses involved (which have not been named) knew the coins were illicit property and often helped inflate the final prices paid for them. Officials added that extensive paperwork will help them track down many of the objects that have already been sold. “For very many of the coins we have full documentation, starting from when they were discovered in the earth to the auction at which they were sold,” the police spokesman Haralambos Sfetsos told The Associated Press.

Sadly, very little was released from the ongoing investigations, if it comes to trial in the next few weeks, all that may change, quite dramatically.   Beale may be just the beginning. 

Silence and Self-Deception in the Dodgy Ancient Coin Market

 As part of the fallout from the Roma Numismatics case, collectors on their forums are beginning to ruminate about other rather dodgy-looking cases they know about:

Tetradogma (Newbie Member) Friday 24/3/23 at 11:37 PM
In regards to Roma selling coins of dubious origin and extraction, I've been thinking quite a bit about the 2018 hoard of 30,000 Owl Tets, from Turkey (we think). Given that pretty much every E-Sale Roma did would usually have about 60 of these coins in, is it fair to say its probably quite likely this constant volume of Tets are from that hoard? Feels like an open secret they were doing this stuff for a while, no?
'Velarfricative' (interesting to see antiquities collecting linked to linguistics in that name) added:
I mean, not just Roma E-Sales, those owls hit every major auction house for years (and continue to do so, I presume)
It is worth noting Tetradogma's reply (Friday 19 hours ago):
Absolutely true - sorry, was just because this thread was about Roma. That seems to correlate with the reporting in those Greek newspapers about a syndicate of dealers and looters working together that have established a multi national network of illegal extraction, falsifying provenance and market manipulation. I feel like this is a huge story but we are only seeing the tip of the icebergs, whispered asides at coin fairs, its from a Swiss Collection wink, wink etc. All very difficult to prove but given we are in a boom period of over inflated prices this story is really pertinent as it underpins how those mega prices we've been seeing have (and sorry to use this Reganite term) trickled down across all fields of the market. ie have we all been massively over paying for coins for the last ten years?! Ok, I'll take my tin foil hat off now, but still, this all has a very bad whiff coming of it
But most shocking of all is the self-centred reply to that by one 'Kaleun96' [aka 'flipperwaldt' and pssibly other names] that hits the nail on the head and is worth placing on the record where it can be searched and seen:
On the whole, I don't think we've been overpaying for coins even if the alleged practices of bidding-up of coins and "washing" them through auction houses is true and widespread. I say that because the number of coins coming to auction from illegal finds is probably so substantial, it's keeping down the prices more than the dodgy bidding practices might be increasing them.

The hoard of Owl tets is probably the best example of this. While prices haven't bottomed out as much as you might expect for a type with hundreds being sold every week, they're still much cheaper now than they were a decade or so ago. If auction houses only sold coins that were 100% legitimate according to all applicable laws (hypothetically let's pretend this is possible for them to know), I imagine the number of coins coming up for auction each week would be drastically reduced and the current levels of demand for them would send prices even higher than they are currently.

So in that sense I think we probably benefit from lower prices even if these looters/middle-men are bidding up their own coins. Just guessing about this all of course, but that's my impression.
The "even if the alleged practices of bidding-up of coins and "washing" them through auction houses is true and widespread" is just self-delusion, typical of antiquities collectors as a whole. They miss totally the interac tion between "the number of coins coming to auction from illegal finds is probably so substantial, it's keeping down the prices" that actually not only facilitate the expansion of the market that thrives on "the dodgy bidding practices" but actually requires them so that dealers can make the enormous profits that they do. "There's none so blind....". Also with regard some earlier remarks of this same collector (dealer??) the remark "if auction houses only sold coins that were 100% legitimate according to all applicable laws (hypothetically let's pretend this is possible for them to know)" stupidly misses the point. Auction houses should only be handling artefacts not only where they "know" that they are in some way "OK", but where the person they got them from can document it and pass that documentatiopn on to them so the buyers get it. That's not "imp[ossible' its what happens with used cars, animals and plants protected by CITES, pedigree race horses, diamonds and a lot else. Your supermarket sells potatoes that can be traced back to a specific supplier who buys from certain source. If contamination of one of those sources (heavy metals, sewage, nuclear waste spill) is detected, all the potatoes produced on that land can be withdrawn from the market through the cdocuments showing chain of transfer of ownership. At least that's how it works in Poland, and one assumes the EU.

As for "So in that sense I think we probably benefit from lower prices even if these looters/middle-men are bidding up their own coins" me, me, me. Total diregard there for the fact that if the colonialist me-me-me collectors of wherever the pseudonymous Kaleun96 comes from, it is actually at the expense of the cultural heritage (and the archaeological sites telling the story of the territory) of a 'them-them-not-one-of-us' community that these coins were stolen from, by those very looters and middlemen that Kaleun96 is apparently so indulgent as to allow them to make an even bigger profit by doing so. Nice of him/her. All in the name of... what, how would we call it?

I talked about the 2018 Konya hoard here: PACHI Friday, 1 November 2019, 'Concealed 2018 Konya Hoard' and the need for a crackdown on those involved.

Numismatists Confused. Dugup Coins "as a class do, in fact, stand apart"

AmazedAncient ('Rookie Member') of a numismo-forum near you, March 14 [hyperlink added by PMB]:
"I think we all need to step back from the moral judgments about coins and take a minute to read the ANS Cultural Property Statement:
"It is unreasonable to assume that a coin is stolen, illegally exported, or illegally imported merely because the holder cannot establish a chain of custody beyond receipt from a reputable source. Taken together, such considerations argue that within the world of artifacts, coins as a class do, in fact, stand apart"."
Actually, if collectors are responsible and concerned about the hygiene of their collection, they would not be buying artefacts where there is no documented chain of custody going back to legal excavation and legal export. This is for the very simple reason that NO dealer who cannot document the legality of both (and transfer of ownership) can claim that what they have in their stockroom actually is legally-sourced. And if they cannot document that, the artefact has no right to be in their stockroom, because there is no way the dealer can claim all their stock are 100% licit if they have not focused n acquiring only items where this can be established and documented.

This is rather like the Ruritanian Used Car Dealers' Consortium Trading Standards Guarantee:
"It is unreasonable to assume that a used car is stolen, illegally exported, or illegally imported merely because the engine and chassis numbers have been filed off or otherwise obscured and there is absolutely none of the original documentation associated with it, beyond a statement asserting previous purchase from a "reputable used car dealer". Taken together, such considerations argue that in the commercial world, used cars as a class do, in fact, stand apart"
Quite simply, the ANS has got this wrong. As an artefact, as an element of the archaeological heritage, coin is no different from a Roman brooch, an Anglo-Saxon strap-end or a Viking sword and (what ever collectors may think) is subject to the same regulations and safeguards.

A Coiney's Claim About another Roma Numismatics Sale

"Our commitment to ethical and responsible provenance: the
consignor affirms that this auction lot is their lawful property to sell,
and where cultural property restrictions may exist, that it meets the
requirements to be legally imported into the United States and Germany
unless specifically stated otherwise".

 Roma Numismatics Ltd
    Metal detector find from Limburg (Roma Numismatics)   

E-Live Auction 6 25 Mar 2023
Lot 176

Estimate: 500 GBP 
Domitian, as Caesar, Æ Sestertius. Rome, AD 80-81. CAES DIVI AVG VESP F DOMITIAN COS VII, laureate head to right / Minerva advancing to right, holding spear and shield; S-C across fields. RIC II.1 295 (Titus); BMCRE 232 (Titus). 15.54g, 32mm, 6h.
Extremely Fine; featuring a expressive portrait and an attractive dark green patina.
From the collection of a Romanophile; Ex Roma Numismatics Ltd., E-Sale 93, 6 January 2022, lot 963 (hammer: £700).
On a coiney forum near you (and potential bidders) someone called " Roerbakmix" said March 13:
They have added this ‘provenance’ to a coin I sold via them last year, which is now for sale again:
curiously enough, they omitted the real provenance which I provided before: find location, year when it was found, and documents of the registration in the numismatic Dutch database…
Interestingly those details were added before the sale today:
From the collection of a Romanophile;
Ex Roma Numismatics Ltd., E-Sale 93, 6 January 2022, lot 963 (hammer: £700);
Ex Classical Numismatic Group, Electronic Auction 484, 27 January 2021, lot 769;
Found in Limburg, the Netherlands in 2010. Registered in NUMIS under ID# 1154746.
It sold for 400 GBP. The "description" failed to note the condition; under the compact patina (how produced? Chemistry?) seems to be a troublesome powdery layer that has led to flaking at the edges of the flan. The inscription looks odd to me in places. The outline of the obverse and reverse images do not match, what is that odd break in one edge?

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