Friday 12 March 2010

Some "American Culture" on Sale in London

"Dr Alston Weaver was a dentist and ethusiastic collector of native American artefacts, especially those found locally in his home state of Alabama". So reads the sales spiel of a group of items coming up for auction in London:

North America
Lot No. 617 - Spearhead of Quinn River shape/style with nocthed base Obsidian ("Ex Stiegerwalt collection (c. 1890); ex Ira S. Reed Sale 25th July 1936; ex Dr Alston Weaver collection (Alabama, USA). Offered with old annotated collector envelope").
Lot 620
80 Black & White 'Rattlesnake' Trade Beads , 'Montgomery', Alabama
Lot No. 621
Dark and Pale Blue 'Padre' and 'Pony' Trade Beads, 'Pensicola, Fla'
Lot No. 622
Black Trade Beads, 'Ft Conde, Mobile'
Lot No. 623 -
Tubular, Round and Facetted Trade Beads , 'Leedstown, Va'
Lot No. 624
Multicoloured Trade Beads, 'Tuplo, Miss'
Lot No. 625
Small 'Seed' Trade Beads, 'Pontotoc, Miss'
Lot No. 626
Five Copper Trade Bracelets
So what else did the Alston Weaver collection hold?

How considerate of the Injuns to scatter so many beads of the same strings in small localised areas of their settlements so they can be picked up by ploughboys and strung together like this. I looked very hard, but could see no antiquities taken from the graves of any members of the Alabama branch of the Weaver family, I guess they must have gone in another estate sale.

Well, of course, the US NAGPRA only applies to objects found after November 16, 1990 on Federal or tribal lands and held by institutions. The ARPA is similarly limited in scope. Private collections of objects dug up on private land can be treated with impunity.

The same "Timeline" auctions also include (in the rather heterogeneous section "Bronze Age Eastern") cylinder seals "bought in London in the 1960s" and other suchlike stuff from all over the world. Most of it advertised as totally unprovenanced. We may remember the discussion on the sale of the "Cambridge Rider", well they've got another British one, ("Cf. Bennet") mounted by a metal detectorist on a piece of scrap wood stained with boot polish and stuck on a nail.


Nicholas Merkelson said...


I'm not sure your use of "Injuns" in this context is very appropriate, especially for an educated scholar such as yourself. Perhaps you were trying to defend the Native Americans' (yes, the proper term is Native American) legal right to their own cultural property, but I think your point is entirely lost with such inconsiderate use of antiquated slang. I think it's about time you got your head out of the dirt.

And why the need for "American Culture" in quotations? Your bias is appalling.

Nicholas Merkelson

Paul Barford said...

I think you misunderstand.

The term is being used by your countrymen in reference to the Four Corners artefacts trials which I have been following. I intended precisely to convey the lack of respect that the digging up of Native American graves by white rednecks in fact entails. Antiquity collectors say they do it out of "respect", but there is the other side to collecting, trophy hunting and an expression of dominance. I am sorry you missed the irony.

Marcus Preen said...

I must say the irony was pretty obvious to me and I therefore saw the use of the phrase as entirely appropriate to its context.

Are we to believe that those who dig up Native American graves and those who proudly put the results into their walnut display cabinets are awfully PC and use the appropriate terms? I think not. PC is actions not words. Their actions are those of redneck ignorami and Paul has every right to represent them as that. If we are to pretend they would never verbally disrespect Native Americans we have rather lost touch with reality. After all, what they actually DO is far worse than what they may or may not say so let us direct a searing spotlight on that. That part of American culture (much of which is admirable) deserves putting in quotation marks AND italics!

Paul Barford said...

Yes, I do not think the Americans "do irony" very well compared to the Brits. One of those cultural things.

I think the young chap is mainly miffed because I said a while back when discussing his new blog that I did not agree with his fluffy bunny definition of who looters are and why they do it...

He has pointedly taken me off his "blogs I follow" list, but apparently still visits from time to time.

Marcus Preen said...

If you mean this bit of fluffybunnyism
....then yes, I saw it. Totally daft. Rebranding looters as subsistence diggers - as if that makes a smidgin of difference to the worldwide destruction....
And of course, it plays right into the hands of certain coin dealers who say "we buy from poor people who need to support their families, not looters".

I wonder.... in Mr Merkelson's view are the middlemen from whom the Western dealers buy the objects "dealers in subsistence diggings" or "common criminals trading in looted antiquities"? I think he should tell us. Is there some sort of transmutation of objects along the chain or is everybody on it equally blameless and worthy of our understanding? After all, a man has to earn a crust does he not? How many crusts before it becomes unacceptable?

Also, considering the country he is based in, he ought to tells us exactly how many "subsistence diggers" are operating in Britain. Should the Nighthawking Report be re-named?


Paul Barford said...

yes that's it.

I reckon yer avridge British nite'awk'd be right insulted by being labelled a "subsistence digger" by young Mr Merkelson!

Ronnie Gold said...

Only the British could offer such duplicity. England has
been responsible for the whole-sale removal of artifacts
for centuries. Will your museums return tribal artifacts?
Egyptian relics, including the Rosetta Stone? Weaver
collected in the 1930’s any field information which was
collected has long since disappeared. Sadly these artifacts
are more novelties than useful tools for investigation.

Paul Barford said...

and the relevance of this to what I wrote?

I'd put the emphasis on "grave-robbing" rather than "tribal" (such a demeaning term don't ya think?)

Ronnie Gold said...

No, I don't think Tribal is demeaning. Only your tone...

Paul Barford said...

My blog, my thoughts, my tone.

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