Tuesday, 22 June 2021

UK Farmer fined £30k for Deep-Ploughing Prehistoric Site.

 

How do you assess archaeological damage financially? BBC, 'Devon farmer fined for ploughing historical land', 21st June 2021.
A farmer has been fined for ploughing over a site thought to contain protected Iron Age remains. Andrew Cooper admitted defying a stop order after experts found evidence of important archaeological remains. He used heavy ploughing equipment on fields at Baggy Point in north Devon, near other known Iron Age sites. The judge at Exeter Crown Court said it was a "deliberate, flagrant breaching of the law" and ordered him to pay more than £30,000 in a fine and costs [...]. He ordered Cooper to serve five months in prison in default if he did not pay the fine by 21 October.


Who Vets the Dealers?

 Incunabula @incunabula 6h

I've defended dealers in the past when they were unjustly attacked, but Pax Romana's new auction is disgraceful - multiple lots of unprovenanced papyri and comically poor descriptions - this "Egyptian codex with Coptic text" is an Ethiopian Ge'ez psalter.
Lot 161: EGYPTIAN CODEX WITH COPTIC TEXT

I am not sure what "unjustly attacked" would mean in the case of antiquities dealers, but Pax Romana is one I've had my eye on some time...
 
This auction is on the invaluable.com aggregator ("The world's leading online marketplace for fine art, antiques and collectibles"). Leading, in what way? Certainly not reputability: 
NONE OF INVALUABLE, THIRD-PARTY CONTENT PROVIDERS, AND THEIR RESPECTIVE AGENTS MAKE ANY WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS, IMPLIED OR STATUTORY, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, WARRANTIES OF TITLE OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR NON-INFRINGEMENT, WITH RESPECT TO THE SITES, SERVICES, ANY CONTENT OR ANY PRODUCTS OR SERVICES SOLD THROUGH THE SERVICES. [...] Invaluable makes no claims, representations or warranties with regard to the authenticity of any goods sold on its websites. Accordingly, to the extent permitted by applicable law, we exclude all express or implied warranties, terms and conditions including, but not limited to, implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. In addition, to the extent permitted by applicable law, Invaluable (including our affiliates, officers, directors, agents and employees) is not liable, and you agree not to hold Invaluable responsible, for any damages or losses (including, but not limited to, loss of money, goodwill or reputation, profits, or other intangible losses or any special, indirect, or consequential damages) resulting directly or indirectly from the items posted for sale on our websites.
So, basically Wild West. Very Caveat emptor.



Who are the Real Looters?

  ATHAR Project @ATHARProject 8 g.

one Belgian collector= 800 stolen antiquities, worth estimated 11 million euros.

one American collector (Steve Green/Hobby Lobby)= 15,000+ stolen antiquities

one Indian dealer (Kapoor)= $100mil+ in stolen antiquities

See a pattern?

A small wealthy few drive a demand that fund conflict and devastates countries.
This Belgian collector, do they have a name? Why don't we hear it? When's the case coming to court? 


Monday, 21 June 2021

Detecting Ruckus in Yorkshire

 

It is being alleged that one of the largest of Britain's commercial metal-detecting-rally organizers ("Looters Grab Artefacts") refused to pay a Yorkshire farmer for access to his land so they could walk off with his artefacts. Apparently this is because they claimed it had been detected before and therefore they were looting a site that was not pristine. The farmer on the other hand, reportedly claimed that gates were left open by the artefact hunters and his cattle escaped. Legal action has been threatened by both sides.

This "escaped cattle" story sounds a bit fishy, no? Can't be true, all RESPONSIBLE metal detectorists "fill there 'oles and shut the gates" don't they? NCMD sez so.

But, like many of my colleagues I expect, if this is true, I hope the legal costs on top of the lost earnings in lockdown mean that the commercial looting business goes to the wall.


Sunday, 20 June 2021

Ampleforth Tales: Clearing out the Desk


 
The rain was belting down outside as Dale enter the pub. He turned down his collar as he searched for his colleagues through the fine mist that instantaneously formed on his glasses. Looking over the top of the fogged frames, he spotted them in the corner clustered around Martin's large bulky figure and laughing raucously. Simon spotted him and waved him over. 

"Yours is here, he said, same as usual, OK?" pushing a seat out for him and indicating a tall glass on the table.

"Thanks" said Dale, sitting down on the offered seat and wiping his glasses. "It's good to be back. Bonkers down in London, you would not believe. So, what's been happening on site?" 

"What hasn't been happening on...", guffawed Martin, glancing in the direction of Joanna, the only woman present, but she just gave him a filthy look and he stopped.  

Steven cut in: "On Rob's area there's this really interesting feature...". Rob looked up from his pint and grinned. "About half the trench",  Steve continued, "...was producing this big blob of brown loam with a lot of eighteenth century brick fragments and plaster, and other stuff. At first we wondered if it was garden soil containing midden material, but as we cleaned over it, it seemed to be filling in some kind of a feature, so we sectioned it, decided to take out a segment on the south, weird it was". 

"Why weird?" asked Dale, suspicious that the others were intently watching him, waiting to see what he'd say as Steve continued his tale of what he'd missed.
 
"Tuesday, Terry found this big bit of bronze, hollow thing, one side broken off. We did not think that much of it, but when it'd been photographed and we took it out, and turned it over, it was a head, a hollow bust with goggly eyes. Roman! A Roman bust". 

Dale looked at him intently to ascertain whether they were pulling his leg. The pre-project survey had not shown there'd be anything Roman anywhere near there. 
 
"Here", Rob said, pushing some photos across the table towards him. 

Dale picked them up and winced. "Christ, he's ugly. Bigger nose than Harry's"!

Harry made a face as if scowling and then broke into a broad grin, "my imperial nose? What's there not to like, Dale'? Harry's nose was a running joke among the diggers. 

Dale looked again, "Are you sure it's ancient?" 

He looked at the next photo, it was a horse protome, cast in the round. "Cripes, what's that, some kind of vessel mount"? 

"We think it was a key", offered Rob.  

The third photo was horse and rider figure with the hands and feet snapped off. "Did you find the feet? Asked Dale. 

"Nah, we got the metal detector out, but there were huge numbers of nails in there, and other small bits of metal, lots of tiny melted droplets of lead, really difficult to search. Anyway, the feature was modern, you can tell by the other stuff. Blue and white porcelain, modern stoneware, post-medieval window glass and fragments of roofing slate, nineteenth century clay pipe stem fragments. And oddly, a whole lot of badly decayed horn 'lace tags', at least that's what they look like, masses of them". Rob paused.

"Weird," said Dale sipping his pint. Waving his hand at the photos: "what's all this then? Why are we finding it in a nineteenth century deposit"? 

Roman objects from Ampleforth (Findsorguk)

It was then that Nigel chipped in. "Actually Dale, if it's what I think it is, it's quite fascinating, though I don't know if we can use it in the report. While you were away, I was in York arranging the paperwork for the... you know... uh pumps... And when I'd done that, I popped into the archives to see what I could learn. We knew from the pre-project survey that this part of the road passes through the edge of the estate of Wassthorpe Hall. I took a closer look at the estate maps and that 1843 Hobbes' survey that you and I were looking at last year in fact has a bit of shading here that seems to suggest a hollow, or some kid of borrow pit. I think that's what we've found. I was thinking about all the rubble in the infill and what looks like the debris from plaster-and-lathe partition walls and decided to look at the records on the Hall".

He looked around the table, the others nodded him on; they had already heard this story. He continued:  

"It turns out when the old owner, Maurice Byland died in the 1880s, the Hall was in a bit of a state and when his granddaughter inherited the property she did not live there and it was perhaps empty for a while. But her second husband decided to take the old place in hand. So the workmen moved in, they ripped out a lot of the rotten woodwork, did the place up. Redid the gardens, must've got a bit overgrown.  And I think that they dumped some of the debris in features around the estate- including the hollow on our site. That's what I think this rubble and earth is".

"Intriguing", replied Dale. He frowned at the photos lying on the table.

"Ah, but that's not the end," added Nigel. "In one of the folders that the archivist drew my attention to, I found some documents from a court case in the 1830s involving some woman and this Maurice. He seems to have been a bit of a bastard. It turns out that had been sent on the Grand Tour by his dad (that was in 1819 - his dad had died by the time of this court business), but from what we can gather, he did not get much further than Geneva-Lausanne, where he seems to have been more interested in sampling the local hospitality and... uh... female companionship.. you know....  than making the effort to cross over into Italy. It turns out he'd been cheating his old man, and was lying about what he was up to with his dad's money. And to cover up for it, was sending back small consignments of "antiquities" and especially prints he'd bought in locally, so his dad would think he was engaging in more cultural pursuits than getting plastered and... er... bonking the time away".
Terry and Harry sniggered.
Nigel ignored them and carried on: "Maurice's double life and deceit were eventually found out and he was forced to return home, or he'd be disowned. He brought back this lady with him, and now she was suing him for breach of promise or something. Anyway, after that, it seems he lived the rest of his life as a bit of a recluse at Wassthorpe Hall".

"So that's what we found? Part of his old collection?" Dale asked.

"Yes", Rob added, "and those 'lace tags', they are the clue. They were probably from the fastenings of the folders in which he kept those prints of his".

Terry and Harry sniggered again. 

"The court documents from when the lady sued him tell us he had a huge collection of explicit prints, showing all sorts of "acts" - they don't go into any details, but I..." Rob stopped himself as he caught a glance of the expression on Joanna's face.

"...Anyway, it looks like the granddaughter was not very appreciative of the old man's "art collection" ,and she seems to have just dumped the lot, they went out onto the heaps of rubbish and the bonfires as they burnt the old roofing timber in the courtyard and then loaded up with the rubble from the renovations and dumped in the fields".

"I bet the carters had a good look!" chipped in Harry. Rob looked across the table.

"I suspect that, once they'd been on a bonfire and the rest out in the rain a few days, there'd not be much to look at...." he said scornfully.

"No, I suppose not", Harry smiled ruefully, "still...".

"I think the workmen must have tidied up in a hurry when they finished the work" Rob turned to Dale. "Perhaps it was pissing down then in the 1890s like it has been these past three days". He showed Dale the fourth photo, Dale peered at it intently. 

"See?" Rob said proudly. "Joanna cleaned this up nicely, and we got this photo...", nodding appreciatively to Joanna and then Harry the site photographer, "...just before it started pissing down. Otherwise we'd have had to clean it again, and I'm not sure it would come out so well a second time. See?" 

With his finger, Rob traced out on the photo for Dale the faint edges of a rectangular dark stain in the freshly-cleaned surface of the excavation. 

"See? It looks like it's a workman's bag that somehow got on the cart with the rubble and earth, dumped here, I think you can see here, and here, these long dark patched - they look like skeins of string. They'd have been used on site for making a string line. And right in the middle, you can see a Victorian workman lost his brass plumb bob! It's still in good nick. I bet he was annoyed, he could probably never have thought that it would stay buried in the soil untouched all these years and that archaeologists would come along and 'read' the evidence to tell part of his story". Dale's eyes widened appreciatively.  

After a smug grin, Rob suggested, "anyway, Dale, I think it's your round now!"

On the other side of the pub Baz Thugwit the metal detectorist who'd heard the whole thing, scowled, got up, put his cap on and went out into the rain, muttering.


Saturday, 19 June 2021

Fraud and Secrecy in the Art Market



Graham Bowley, 'As Money Launderers Buy Dalís, U.S. Looks at Lifting the Veil on Art Sales', New York Times June 19th 2021.
“The variety of frauds in the art world is almost infinite and is facilitated by the fact that the art world operates with a secrecy that no other investor would dream…”
an antiquities buyers are stupid enough to go along with it and vain enough to imagine it does not affect them.

Who is at Fault?


This probably refers also to looting, smuggling and collecting of loose bits of the world's archaeological resources too:

The United States is responsible for 40% of the climate breakdown the world is experiencing today, and the EU is responsible for 29%, according to new research. In total, the Global North is responsible for 92% of excess global carbon emissions 


 
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