Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Artefacts from Isin in clearance sale in Jerusalem?

We are exporters and dealers of bulk ancient coins and other fine ancient art & antiquities from the Holy Land. We are located in Jerusalem, Israel. We are "antiquities dealers to antiquities dealers". We supply bulk antiquities to distributors, as well as individual high-end pieces to VIP collectors, connoiseurs, distributors, dealers, and museums worldwide.
Says the website of ZZAncient Art (Mr B. Leon, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, 91241 Israel). [I am not posting a link to the website itself, it apparently has a virus on it - here is the Google cache page]

At the moment this dealer is offering (cut-price): Very Rare Cuneiform (Akkadian) Inscribed Foundation Cones a snip at 1600 USD each, or five for 7,000 USD:

Here is sample from the cones you see in pictures in link below:
king Ishme-Dagan of Isin, telling about the building of the wall of Isin.

The dealer assures potential buyers:

These inscribed foundation cones were used as a means of communication (i.e. as a portable "letter" or document that would not be easily damaged in transit), found together in one hoard here in the HolyLand, probably left by the armies or officials of one of these two [Akkadian or Assyrian PMB] Near-Eastern Empires.[...] For serious collectors only. "

No. "Serious collectors" know that foundation cones were not "letters" carried by armies. Ones referring to the building of a wall at Isin by the 'Akkadian' ruler Ishme-Dagan will have been found in a wall at Isin.

Isin is in southern Iraq, not "the Holy Land". A long way away.

Isin is one of the sites which we all know has been extensively looted in recent years, and artefacts from which are being peddled by dodgy dealers with or without fake provenances (see for example here SAFE, here, here, here [NYT], here [Guardian]).

IF these cones really are authentic ancient artefacts (as ZZAncient Art unconditionally guarantees), this looks incredibly suspicious. Presumably since the dealer wants potential buyers to believe they were found in "the Holy Land" and not Mesopotamia, it means he has no documentation of legal export from Iraq. So one would presume that he would be able to produce evidence that supports his story of a findspot in "the Holy Land". I think we'd all very much like to see that.

Israel has not ratified the UNESCO convention has it? This dealer claims to have 20 000 other antiquities which he can ship to anywhere in the world, and with an export licence too. I wonder where they came from?

Map. Isin is south of Babylon, 943 km from Jerusalem.

1 comment:

Paul Barford said...

Some weeks later I finally obtained an answer (sort of) from the seller:

Dear Mr. Barford,
All of our antiquities are purchased from licensed dealers, and there is nothing illicit/ illegal about our business operations. All of our antiquities are guaranteed genuine, and all come with necessary Export Approval documents from the antiquities authority.

How these cones got to the HolyLand and when exactly they were left here, we do not know. It could have been thousands or even hundreds of years ago. What matters is that our antiquities are all legal and come with all necessary EA documentation from the authorities, and we don't appreciate the implication and suggestion in your blog to the
kindest regards,
B. Leon

Hmmm. Well, we did not learn anything about the 'hoard' they are supposed to have been discovered in. I wonder what exactly these export licences mean? Under what grounds would these items be refused an Israeli export licence?

On the other hand, if they form a group which actually WAS found in Israel, they would be a pretty unique discovery - so on what grounds are the Israeli authorities authorising their selling off and export to foreign buyers? Is this not precisely the sort of thing that should be kept in the national collections? All very odd.

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