Thursday 26 April 2012

Tess Davis on Cambodia's looted treasures

Tess Davis who once worked for Heritage Watch in Cambodia and is now executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation in Washington has written an interesting op-ed piece ('Cambodias looted treasures', New York Times April 27, 2012)  which discusses the trade in portableised art looted from Cambodian temples and other monuments:
During the Cambodian civil war from 1970 to 1998, the Khmer Rouge and other paramilitary groups began decimating that country's ancient sites in search of treasures to sell on the international art market. Along with arms dealing and drug smuggling, the looting and trafficking of artifacts became organized industries, which helped finance one of the 20th century's most notorious regimes. My colleagues and I have documented the painful scars from this plunder — desecrated tombs, beheaded statues and ransacked temples — at archaeological sites throughout Cambodia. We've spoken with looters, middlemen and dealers, and have even posed as collectors. The exact path of pillaged objects is admittedly difficult to trace. But when they do surface, more often than not, it is in the legitimate art world.
She then discusses the Sotheby's and Norton Simon statues from the temple of Prasat Chen in the ancient capital of Koh Ker in Cambodia ("on opposite coasts of the United States with only their pedestals — and feet — left behind"). In the current state of law, it remains difficult for countries such as Cambodia to "recover their pillaged heritage in legal actions because of a high burden of proof, the statute of limitations and other bars to claims. It's easier to make a moral claim for repatriation". The trouble is of course that we see that such arguments cut little ice with many in the trade of such items.

Most of us will never purchase an illicit antiquity from Cambodia or elsewhere, but we are complicit in these crimes. Our inaction allows them to continue. When we see an artifact for sale or on display, we must ask where it came from, and how. The answers should not be hard to provide, as valuable objects usually have a paper trail, from import declarations to insurance forms. But if there is no such provenance — or if it points to the artwork being a victim of war, civil unrest or criminal looting — such a piece should not be on the market or in a museum. When archaeological sites are looted, the history of many is lost for the pleasure of a few. Buying, selling, displaying and even viewing such antiquities means condoning the destruction of art we love, and perhaps even encouraging it. At best, we may be funding criminals; at worst radicals, like the Khmer Rouge (Al Qaeda and the Taliban have also been linked to the illicit art trade). Is that a legacy that Sotheby's, the Norton Simon Museum or anyone would want?
Actually I think most people buying this stuff do not really care. that is the whole point, it is why they 'ask-no-questions-get-told-no-lies' in the first place.

Vignette: Stealing their past (Andy Brouwer)

US Lawyer backs the Khmer Rouge?

The op-ed piece by Tess Davis ('Cambodias looted treasures', New York Times April 27, 2012) discussing the trade in portableised art looted from Cambodian temples and other monuments has atrtracted the attention of a lawyer working on behalf of dugup antiquity dealers. He asks  (April 26th 2012) Could the Khmer Rouge Pass Good Title? :
Tess Davis' recent opinion piece for the LA Times begs the question whether the Khmer Rouge could have passed along good title to the Khmer Statue that the US Government now maintains is stolen. However despicable the Khmer Rouge were, they were internationally recognized as the legitimate government of Cambodia around the time the statue was thought to have disappeared, and held Cambodia's UN seat in a coalition government until the early 1990's with Western support. Under the circumstances, should the US Government really take sides in this dispute between Sotheby's and the successor Cambodian government?
So a bit like the Nazis then, but the US is supporting efforts to get 'Holocaust art' returned to the heirs of previous owners (though paradoxically, US galleries are also full of art seized by the Bolsheviks in a similar situation just over two decades earlier).

Detecting Under the Microscope: "Find UK archaeological sites near to..."

There has been a revamp of the ARCHI "find an archaeological site to take things from" website (a fully-searchable database of the positions of more than 145,000 UK archaeological sites). Among other things, an online gallery has been added to their search pages.
Each particular search is now associated with 'carousels' of images depicting particular Roman Mosaic themes. Developments such as this are very important to us because they help us in our aim to help our users build upon their existing knowledge and provide a platform to transfer knowledge and appreciation of Ancient History [...] we hope the images in the new galleries on the ARCHI search pages will provide a 'portal to the past' for all. Please be aware that the images associated with our 'Site Name' search are of an erotic nature, however, bear in mind that the galleries have been built with a view to challenging our modern worldview and help us see the world from a Roman perspective.
A thing also to be borne in mind is that many of these images are not from mosaics at all, but mural paintings. It seems that UK metal detectorists consider it somehow "challenging our modern worldview" to see fuzzy pictures of couples bonking in various positions. How do metal-detectorists procreate?

 It is interesting that the current galleries concentrate on "the Romans" (some of the stuff they show is Greek in fact). Many surveys show that what metal detectorists most frequently go after are Roman sites with their easy pickings of pretty and easily understood geegaws. We know so much about Roman civilization from the written records and a shapely piece of metal picked up in a field by Terry Thugwit the detectorist can easily be related - without the need for any other information (by by using what Polish scholar Felix Topolski called 'extra-source knowledge') - to the "history". The collectables are used here merely to "illustrate", not investigate and write, history. Of course when the artefact hunter has taken it out of the ground and added it to his own personal collection, the evidence attached to that object in the ground can never be used to its full potential, it is and will ever remain a decontextualised geegaw.

Future ARCHI galleries apparently include "cropmarks" which are narrativised thus:
Over the next few months we will be adding images of interesting cropmarks to the ARCHI search pages. The purpose of this is to help users understand and interpret cropmarks with a view to gaining a deeper appreciation of the ability of our ancient ancestors to see the landscape features necessary for their survival which, in most cases, are completely invisible to the modern eye.
So not then their ability to dig big holes which get filled with earth?

ACCG Still at It

Dorothy King, 'Once More Unto the ACCG ...', April 25, 2012.
I will point out that I repeatedly asked that people from the ACCG not contact me. I received two more such emails this evening. [...] People with genuine espionage backgrounds tend not to write to strangers about it - there are support groups for that sort of thing ;-) 
Not the first, nor I suspect the last, that this pernicious little group of misfits insists on having the last word. Dealer Dave has cut and pasted an entire post from Dr King's blog and then states
It seems to me that Dorothy King has her moral standards and judgement very badly scrambled if she believes that Arthur Brand, Paul Barford and Michel van Rijn should be regarded as having equal standing as to moral probity and credibility with Wayne Sayles, Peter Tompa and other ACCG Board members -- myself for instance.
Personally I would be very disturbed if Dr King or anyone else considered I had equal credibility as the three persons named, two coin dealers and a lawyer.

Vignette: ACCG should get an ASBO

ICE returns stolen and looted art and antiquities to Italy

UPDATE 28th April 2012: On the Greek pot see David Gill's "Looting Matters": Aegisthus painter pelike returned to Italy

ICE Press release: 'ICE returns stolen and looted art and antiquities to Italy'  26th Apr. 2012.

Its not just Heritage Conservation Sen. Gillibrand Opposes

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand recently sided with the detractors of the department of State's Cultural Property Preservation programme and refused to answer any correspondence on the matter. Now it seems she's wanting to slaughter wildlife in a nature reserve.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday proposed making it easier to round up geese from a federal refuge near Kennedy Airport and kill them [...] Gillibrand's bill would empower the U.S. Department of Agriculture to remove Canada geese from the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge during June and July when they are molting and can't fly.[...] the idea of a goose roundup at a wildlife refuge that is part of the National Park Service has its detractors. "It's the only bird refuge that we have in New York City," said Edita Birnkrant, New York director of Friends of Animals. "If they can't be protected in a wildlife refuge, then where can they be protected?"

Preserving Ancient Artefacts at Home: the Sad Fate of a Nok Terracotta in a Manhattan Collection

One of the justifications offered for no-questions-asked collecting is that collectors "preserve cultural heritage" by "cherishing them" in their homes rather than a museum showcase or storeroom. In the latter however they are looked after by people who are trained in their care. In people's homes, artefacts are exposed to all sorts of hazards. Take a Nok sculpture in a Manhattan woman's home. Corice Arman, the widow of deconstructionist artist Arman says she has had it "25 years", meaning it was bought c. 1986/7. Leaving for the moment aside the question of how it left the ground and then left the source country to arrive in the TriBeCa district of Lower Manhattan, photos show the Arman personal collection of artefacts with this statue displayed out in the open, standing on the floor next to shelves with other  displayed artefacts. 

On May 12th a photographer  Eric Guillemain left unattended taking photos of this collection for a monthly art magazine Art+Auction, allegedly destroyed the statue when it fell on the floor as he was moving it to a location with better lighting.  The owner said this 2,630-year-old sculpture ("estimated to date back to the year 618 B.C.") was worth at least $300,000 and this “unique and irreplaceable artwork” was destined "to go on display at the Museum for African Art on Fifth Ave., set to open this year". 

“I was totally devastated,” she said Wednesday, explaining that the nearly 48-inch-tall bejeweled female figurine was shattered beyond repair. [...] “I heard this enormous crash and saw it was broken into smithereens,” Arman said. “It was all over the carpet.” [...] “It meant a lot to me because it was something I collected with my late husband and it can never be replaced.”
She is now seeking compensation from the magazine's publisher. Iin a suit filed on Monday at the Manhattan Supreme Court, she is asking a judge to order Louis Blouin Media Inc., parent company of the magazine to pay for the damage caused by its photographer.

Arman’s lawyer, Charles Rosenzweig, called the accident “a loss of world heritage. It’s a terrible, terrible thing.” Arman, whose husband was a legendary sculptor who routinely used smashed and broken items in his works, had planned on eventually donating the piece to a museum. “It was a wonderful, extraordinary specimen — very large and complete,” Arman said. [...] Ben Hartley, the president of Louise Blouin, said he had not seen the suit, but that “we have the position that we have no liability in this incident.”
Well, obviously somebody's living room is not a suitable place for the curation of "a piece of [dugup] world heritage".


Barbara Ross and Bill Hutchinson, 'Widow of artist Arman is suing after her Nigerian Nok statue was destroyed', NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, April 25, 2012.

Dareh Gregorian, 'Art-breaking! Fotog shatters ancient statue', New Yoprk Post, April 26, 2012 Read more: Read more:

Photos: New York Daily News

Wednesday 25 April 2012

One Million Hits Today

If anyone would like to look at David Gill's Looting Matters blog right now, they will find that he has just a minute or so ago had his 500 000th visit. It is gratifying to be able to report that the counter indicates that I also have had about the same number of hits in recent days. This means that just these two related blogs have had between them just a little over one million hits since they started up a few years ago, while (with the exception of the much-hit PAS database and website) the pro-collecting blogs are lagging way behind in viewer numbers.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

ACCG Uses Chinese Fortune Telling to Predict Success

It seems the coineys have just discovered a 2011 report of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) which estimates the profits made by various types of trafficking and other transnational crime ('Estimating illicit financial flows resulting from drug trafficking and other transnational organized crimes' see here). It is being claimed on the Moneta-L discussion list that the profits of this activity are of very little importance on a global scale.  According to them, it is only "disreputable archaeobloggers and those swayed by them" who have been misleading people about the magnitude of this trade. Let us remind ourselves of the figures we are talking about, the trade in illicit cultural property is estimated in the report as generating in the period 2000-2009 between 3.4 billion US dollars and 6.3 billion US dollars annually. Let's have a look at that minimum number written in full.
USD 3,400,000,000
Now I do not know how it is possible to exaggerate  the size of that number, it looks a pretty big one to me. Claiming that this (estimated) figure has any significance is, according to one contributor on the moneta-L list "attacks [...] based on lies and bad scholarship". The coin dealers' lobbyists and their fellows would apparently prefer us to consider such a scale of the illicit antiquities trade as a mere trifle. Indeed it seems they are intending to use the UNDOC report to convince the public that an illegal trade worth 3.4 billion US dollars is not worth bothering about. Will they succeed?

The coiney lobbyist group ACCG employs John Hooker as their spokesman. He has decided that the way forward is to use "Yi Jing" to predict the future of the struggle for the free import of unlawfully exported ancient artefacts into the US markets. He has drawn some magic hexagrammes and announces that the results are coineyly-favourable:
Let's look at the UN report as the well in this case. it should give us all some relief -- we have finally got some reliable data -- the water seems fine and the bucket and the rope are also fine -- let's drink from it!  [...] This is hexagram 7 Shi, The Army "Shi indicates persevering. Led by the elder man, it will be auspicious and blameless" 
Goodness, Wayne Sayles fortold by a Chinese hexagram! ACCG members' money well spent then.
The lone yang at the second position symbolizes the commander in the midst of soldiers of his army. The outcome is going to be favorable and it will be right and just. [...] So if we use the data properly we can expect to win, and the enemy will rue the day. [...]  Let's kick some butt!
Yes, you do that Mr Hooker. Tell the public that smuggling 3.4 billion US dollars' worth of artworks from one country to the next is not such a bad thing after all, the ACCG hexagrams say so.

Next week, perhaps ACCG petty cash will be used to purchase two kilos of chicken livers, maybe Hooker can have a go at being a haruspex too. The entrails never lie.

Vignette: Protective 'i Ching' coin

Detecting under the Microscope: Can We Have Those Coins Off You Please?

Readers may remember the inordinate amount of press attention a group called "Amber's Digs" was getting at the beginning of the month. They may also remember my exhortations to readers to register with their detecting forum. Anyone following that advice would hear the complaints that the group had been (as they call it) "Barfordised" ie mentioned critically on his personal blog by one of the few British archaeologists who does not fall prostrate at the feet of artefact hunters [see here too].

Heritage Action ("Shambolic and inappropriate stewardship of potential Treasure") draws attention to something else the attentive reader of the literary productions of this Northern artefact hunting club might reveal. They equate it with the situation at the Twinstead Detecting Rally a while back where - in flagrant disregard of the law - an unknown number of artefact hunters pocketed a group of gold coins and took them home without a word to the Landowner, apparently some appeared on ebay the same evening. It seems an analogous thing has happened again within a few weeks of the latter being hushed up by a pro-detecting police force.  The day after their recent event near Thirsk, Amber’s Digs posted on their website (closed to the public):
“I have just told the farmer that a hoard of twenty two coins were found on his field and that when the field is ploughed again there will probably be more. He was happy to have been told and I told him I will show him these coins next week as we are going back on the pasture around the farm and stubble further away. So please get them in to us ... your name will be attached to your coin/coins.” 
As Heritage Action note:

  • On the day of the event the farmer wasn’t given the coins or even told they’d been found.
  • They were gathered together (well 22 were anyway) but then various detectorists were allowed to take them home. (Why?!)
  • How many took them home is unclear as elsewhere the organiser said “About ten” implying they’re not sure.
  • Now they’re appealing to the finders (“about ten” plus any others not known) to bring back twenty two coins (plus any others not known) to show to (not give to) the farmer at a further event next week!
  • Good luck with that! Surely that will strike anyone that isn’t a metal detectorists as no way to treat someone else’s property or potential national Treasure or ensure it is delivered in full to either the current owner or the Coroner? As we have said ad nauseam, if a potential hoard is found, it shouldn’t be taken away (particularly in ten or more pieces to ten or more locations by ten or more people none of whom owns it!). Common sense and logic dictate it should be delivered as a whole for safekeeping to the one person that currently owns it and who can be easily contacted by the authorities.
    Alternatively as soon as the third associated coin turned up, and it is clear a potential Treasure is involved, further uncontrolled searching should have been suspended and the authorities informed, and the site secured properly in the meanwhile until they can come and deal with it.

    Detecting Under the Microscope: Duff's the Name: Tekking's my Game

    Metal detecting artefact hunter from the north of England Graham D would like to inform us all he loves what he does. He has left a new comment on this blog's post "The Archaeological Record of the North East Provides Rich Pickings"...":
    I love this hobby, I can actually say I've been Barfo[r]dised now like the rest of the the gang (All hail Mr Richard Lincoln) Please note I paid 1000 silver pennies(Cnut) for my new Porsche...

    Graham Duff (a non finder of the Sutton Bank hoard)

    Sue gets her new 4x4 next week, more room for the detectors and booty. Feel free to join our forum Mr B[,] for a small fee of 2 guinea's (sic) you'll have access to all of our finds.
    Noted. So have they reported those coins of Cnut and paid taxes on the proceeds of selling them? How much does the PAS have to pay to get access to the information about all the "finds" these people are taking away? And all the other members of the public whose heritage these items (and the sites damaged in getting them) actually are? Why should anyone have to pay to get access to information about what this group of individuals is selfishly helping themselves to for their own personal entertainment and profit?

    Somehow I think the point I made about what archaeology consists of went right over Mr Duff's head.   

    Vignette: Duff beer

    Detecting Under the Microscope: Try Before You Buy

    EBay Item number: 261003740571


     KEEP WHAT YOU FIND (50 / 50 agreement with the landowner on Tresure)


    I have over 40 years experance of Metal Detecing, so dont get ripped of with the some of the Detectors for sale, let us point you in the right direction.
    Insurance? PAS-approved? I note that person from Braintree offering this (aab55) has a 21% rating of 'private' deals as a seller. He also has some nice pine gates for sale.

    Monday 23 April 2012

    ACCP Rediva

    It would seem from a conference that they organized in March, that the American Committee for Cultural Policy (ACCP) has been awakened from its post-Iraq slumber. The ACCP website ( has been down for quite a while now and there was a general impression that the group had disbanded. It seems this is not the case, it has a new website, called "". The group's aims are summarised in the banner heading: "Preserving world art heritage for future generations" and the front page of the website gives them in more detail:
    The American Committee for Cultural Policy is a non-profit organization recently formed by concerned legal and arts specialists. It solicits support and input from art collectors, museum professionals, art historians, archaeologists, and art dealers. The ACCP encourages debate on important cultural policy issues.

    Our Goals
    Preserving artistic heritage [in the US?]
    Providing Universal access to art through cultural exchange and education [in the US?]
    Advancing public understanding of legal and ethical issues affecting the art world [in the US?]
    Finding workable solutions to questions regarding acquisition, donation, exhibition, and publication of ancient art [in the US?]
    Advocating a principled legal international art market [in the US?]

    It seems apparent that this organization equates "preservation" only with collecting objects. Rather like one might "preserve" animals by locking them in zoo cages so people can gawp at them ("Universal access to wildlife through edutainment...").

    Meanwhile the handout advertising the (then) upcoming meeting on collecting Asian art is informative. It tells us the aims of the meeting are:
    Exploring the common ground between art collecting and cultural diplomacy (sic), the panel will try to explain how current policies, in both the United States and internationally, will affect private and public collections in the future. More specifically, the panel will examine:

    - How new museum (sic) policies leave hundreds of thousands of orphaned (sic) works of art with an uncertain future (sic)
    - The consequences of US import restrictions on Chinese art
    - The difficulties museums face in organizing exhibitions
    - How policies are affected when art source countries (sis) such as India and China, develop an indigenous collectors' market.
    That last one is a real killer isn't it, imagine the foreigners starting to collect examples of their own cultural patrimony, preventing them getting onto the US market? The very idea! Those so-called "orphan" objects (ie items with no collecting history to speak of) have been caused not by "museum" (it's always "somebody else's fault" in the collecting world) but by collectors and dealers deliberately [or carelessly] obscuring where items have come from - or to put it another way, allowing items of unknown origins to enter the market, when the responsible dealer and collector would say 'no' to their acquisition. Nothing else.

    It is worth noting the name, this private group claims to be the American Committee for Cultural Policy. Committee of what? Why "American" committee? Of American cultural property (arrowheads, native baskets, shaker chairs and quilts and suchlike)?  Or is this a committee for American cultural policy? Also, "American" culture or just US cultural property (American continent or country)? The 1970 UNESCO Convention obliges member states to set up such national advisory bodies, the US has not done so - does the American Committee for Cultural Policy imagine this is what they are doing? (Art 14 indicates that this body should be state-funded). The United States however already has a Cultural Property Advisory Committee (members appointed by the President CCPIA section 2605), so why does this group mirror its name, and does it not recommend the President's advisory committee as "American"? Finally do this group really imagine it can deal with the whole of US "cultural policy" (so music and film, book subsidies, performers' rights and copyright etc.) when it really seems to be concerned mainly with the visual arts and antiquities?

    Interestingly there is no "About Us" page (yet) telling us who is in this new ACCP. We learn from the programme of its "first meeting" that William Perlstein is in it.

    Perlstein describes the mission of the new ACCP as “to get US policy back to the reasonable middle ground”. Time will tell what this might be, but I think we can guess. "Preserving world art heritage for future generations [in the US]?" It seems to me that the ACCP is going to be just another version of the ACCG, with the CPRI overlapping both.

    "The Future of the Past – Collecting Ancient Art in the 21st Century"

    There is a transcript of the March 18, 2012 panel discussion "The Future of the Past – Collecting Ancient Art in the 21st Century" organized by The Asia Society, New York and sponsored by The Asia Society and the American Committee for Cultural Policy. Some of us were under the impression from its lack of website until now
    and lack of activity that the ACCP was a dead organization. It seems not, they've organized this meeting involving several well-known names which was made available as a video (highlight-version for those of  short attention span ) on the Internet earlier, and received some comments on the blogs. Now the Cultural Property Research Institute has made a transcript available.

    I will comment on it further later. Here I want to draw attention to the effect of British policy hampers the effort to protect the heritage:
    Ahuja: Either we should be savvy like how Britain promulgated the portable antiquities scheme and say that the purpose of collecting is not antithetical to preservation, and archeologists and art historians and museum personnel find a way to progressively move forward, or we end up in a situation where we are more and more retentive and meanwhile the archeological record is being destroyed in any case. 
    "Artefact hunting is not antithetical to protection"? Eh? Is that really the message of the Portable Antiquities Scheme? That looting is fine, because it is preservation? Where in the official statements of the Scheme is their position on this clarified? Of course the PAS in no way prevents the archaeological record from being destroyed as a result of collectors' greed.
    Raby: [...] We have a major problem here: how can we replicate encyclopedic museums with a limited amount of stuff? How can it happen in an increasingly retentionist environment? [...] I think there are a number of strategies we might want to adopt to escape this sense of an impossibility of dialogue. The first is advocacy around the creation of legal markets, whether it's the Japanese model or the British model. Naman, I think you mentioned a very important aspect here. The extraordinary success of the Portable Antiquities scheme in Britain has provided not only an unparalleled amount of new information on Dark Age and Anglo-Saxon sites, but it's been a coming together of the archeologists and the metal detectorists. If you knew how bitter the opposition was 15 years ago, we have something here that's been a remarkable success. There is a possibility of private and public coming together. We have a model in front of us. So, we need to look at advocacy.
    Raby here measures the "success" of the Scheme by the amount of stuff that has come out of the archaeological record, been summarily examined and is now available on the collectors' market. In the face of the Scheme's failure to deal adequately with the erosion of the archaeological record through artefact hunting the Scheme's only success has been to lead to a stifling of the discussion on looting in Britain and the need to take effective action against it. The "opposition" to which Raby refers is opposition to looting the archaeological record as a source of collectables, the curator thinks it is a "success" that there is no longer much opposition from British archaeologists to this process ongoing before their noses. Needless to say, I do not share his assessment of that situation. 

    Vignette: Dr Melissa Chiu, one of the panel's moderators.

    Sunday 22 April 2012

    The Return of the Lost Numismatist

    Poor Mr Sayles, he really does not understand ('A Foul Wind').
    Eight years ago, when I founded the ACCG as an altruistic defense of private collectors rights under law, I had not an enemy in the world that I knew of [since then], the attacks against private collecting have escalated significantly and the vilification of private collecting advocates has become overbearing.  
    And there is, of course (for Mr Sayles) absolutely no connection between the two ["altruistic"?]. I think the old man's memory is fading claiming he had "not an enemy in the world" when he started. Just look at the belligerent expression he adopts towards the archaeological profession and their preservationist moves BEFORE setting up the ACCG. He clearly had by this time identified who his "enemies" were and were going to be. Here's just a few of note:
    July 01, 2004: 'A Call to Action' (a phrase he seems to like),
    December 01, 2003: 'A Clear and Present Danger'
    September 01, 2003 : 'Collecting = Looting?'
    August 01, 2004; 'Hijacked by Zealots' and so on.
    Who here is behaving like the archtypical troll? Note also the vehemence of his denial that no-questions-asked collectors and dealers have anything to answer for. The problems all stem - he says - from the position of the 'Other'.

    My own attention was first drawn to Wayne Sayles and what he stands for through reading one particular, admittedly later, article but certainly not exactly suggesting that he was in any way or form ready for any kind of "productive dialogue" with our milieu:
    January 01, 2005: 'Archaeology: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?' ["While hiding behind a mask of altruistic innocence, the archaeological community threatens to devour a venerable hobby and pillage the rights of private collectors with impunity."] 
    It is worth noting that I came across this text being used by British metal detectorists as anti-archaeological propaganda, but where? The answer to that is notable, it was on the PAS forum. Sayles' text was being used there by those opposed to collaboration between archaeologists (in the form of the PAS) and "metal detectorists". I answered the text there. That is when I first started taking note of Sayles and his ACCG. Soon after that came the wholly negative, dismissive and unwelcoming tone of his first reply to one of my perfectly civil and innocuous comments on one of their forums which probably can still be seen in the list's archives. Sayles was not reacting to what was said, merely that it had been said by an archaeologist, and therefore "the Enemy".

    Now, frankly, it beats me how anyone who churns out comparatively large quantities of this sort of stuff year-in, year-out from 2003/4 onwards can complain that archaeologists don't really want to talk to him as an equal, and complains when some of them answer back. Sayles sees it entirely as the archaeologists' fault that:
    It has become clear that engaging the archaeological community in any productive dialogue is not an option and any attempt at a logical debate is futile.
    I think to put that remark into context one only has to look at the website of the ACCG. One will seek in vain among its objectives for any mention of establishing good connections with the archaeological community and drawing them into dialogue, let alone logical debate. Certainly none of the ACCG activities over the years has had anything like this character. When Wayne Sayles went to a British conference on metal detecting with archaeologists present it was to assert "internationalist" collectors' "rights" - a message which must have been lost on many of the participants. In setting up his organization, Sayles established right from the beginning that he was fighting against archaeological preservationists, not wanting to engage them in discussion, and that is the way that he has been running the ACCG since it was set up in July 2004. It is not surprising that with him and his camp-followers bad-mouthing archaeology and archaeologists at every possible opportunity, the latter are not exactly falling over themselves in haste to invite them to sit down at any table with them for any kind of discussion. Instead the AIA sits down and discusses things with other collectors, ones who are willing to help. But then we see time and time again how coin collectors like to play the victim, any problems are always "somebody else's fault", never a consequence of their own activities.

    As Sayles says:
    There has been a foul wind blowing in cultural property circles for several years now 
    Fortunately he proposes a remedy: 
    Consequently, I will not be posting anything further on this blog about cultural property issues or the ACCG.
    I am sure there are many people who will find it less confusing to come to a blog called "Ancient Coin Collecting" and find it actually discussing collecting ancient coins rather than trolls and warlocks or some other such rambling non-nomismatic nonsense. Now at last the readers of his blog will be able to see his professionalism as a numismatist rather than judging his abilities by the ineptness of his arguments as an activist.

    It is Another Conspiracy!!

    In a couple of extraordinary posts, first Peter Tompa, then Wayne Sayles come out with a set of accusations  ('Mischief Making' and 'Cyber Sabotage') though it is not at all clear who they are accusing of what and why. It's really difficult to work out from the recent exchanges just what is going on. What however is notable is the conspiracy theory the ACCG invented to account for it.

    I am really not at all interested in the petty excuses and in-fighting. All I feel I need to say on the matter is to assure anyone who might be entertaining doubts on the basis of Sayles' ramblings,  I am of course not in any way in any kind of direct "association" with Michel van Rijn or any of several Arthur Brands mentioned. Despite what individuals like Mr Sayles think, neither do I have any need to organize any kind of complicated conspiracy to compromise the ACCG. The ACCG leaders manage to do that all by themselves with the greatest of alacrity, as here.

    The Archaeological Record of the North East Providing Rich Pickings for Treasure Hunters

    Alastair Craig, of the Sunday Sun seems to have been provided with a list (by whom and why?): 'North East providing rich pickings for metal detector treasure hunters', Sunday Sun, Apr 22 2012.Note the frequency with which the list mentions how much cash many of these items are worth to the finder. They say they "are not in it for the money", of course.
    TREASURE hunter Terry Vickers this month struck gold [...] a hoard of silver coins which date back to the 13th Century was unearthed by a group of treasure hunters [...] Now these nuggets of history, worth thousands of pounds, look set to be officially classed as treasure and put on public display. 
    But only when the public has bought them off the people responsible for them being dug out of the archaeological record, which is the common heritage, a precious record not to be squandered.
    NHS receptionist Susan Jewitt, 57 of Willington, County Durham, who runs Amber’s Digs with partner Graham Duff [...] says the North is a prime hunting ground for metal detectors because of its rich history. “We have more castles than anywhere else which I think gives us a good chance of finding interesting things,” she said.[...] “I research possible finds sites on Google.
    Apart from the fact that the "castle" sites and often part of the area around are scheduled, what does she mean "research possible finds sites"? What search terms would you have to punch into "Google" for it to come up with a "you should go to this spot" type answer? The only thing I can think of is the location of known sites published in the internet' like online HERs.
    Cumbria is one of the “Golden grounds” highlighted by treasure and history hunters.[...] CUMBRIA
    [...] cavalry parade helmet [...] Sold for £2.3m at Christie’s auction in London [...] A haul of Roman coins found on an historic site near Wigton [...] close to an old Roman fort near Red Dial. ["Research on Google" no doubt - PMB][...] ancient jewellery described as a “momentous” discovery [...] . DURHAM
    [...] Medals, goblets, and crucifixes once owned by the Queen, the Pope and other state and church leaders [...] Two Bronze Age axe heads, aged over 3,000 year [...] Prehistoric items from 1,000BC [...]
    [...] Two dozen King Edward I silver pennies [...]  Roman relics were found in Selby by history enthusiasts from the Blaydon Search and Recovery Association [...] hundreds of silver coins stamped with the face of the Emperor Hadrian [...]  13th Century medieval silver seal [...] and valued at more than £10,000 [...] A 14th-Century bronze seal[...] Valued at £3,000.
    [...]  Over 100 12th Century silver coins found by treasure hunters [...] gold and bronze rings[...] Valued at £2,000.[...] Over 70 copper alloy Saxon coins found just under soil level at Bamburgh by a group of metal detector enthusiasts [...] ...
    So I guess is we would be stupid not all to join "Ambers' Digs" and get our metal detectors out, we too can have a chance of turning a bit of the rich archaeological record into cash and a few glittering geegaws to put in yet another museum showcase and call it "doing archaeology".

    Somehow from this list seem to be missing the more mundane finds, such as the flint tool assemblage from a beaker period fire-pit, the medieval kiln that supplied a local market , the environmental evidence from a twelfth century well pit, the grape pip from thirteenth century cess pits and all the other stuff or real archaeology. Yes, even "fish bones". Or don't the public need to know about any of that - just feed them with the dumbed-down shiny-stuff-news, just fob them off with easy stories about Britain's Secret Treasures?

    David Gill Crime Buster

    . .

    This Sunday, The Independent on Sunday publishes its fifth annual Happy List, naming 100 outstanding people whose volunteering, caring, fund-raising, mentoring, charity founding, or selflessness makes Britain a more contented, better-adjusted, supportive, and happier place [...] The Happy List began five years ago as an antidote to all those rich lists, which genuflect before the super-wealthy, the sharp-elbowed, inheritors of millions and the over-bonused. This list celebrates a different set of values, honouring those who give back, rather than take, those who help others without thought of enriching themselves, and, in many cases, at considerable personal cost.[...] The 100 people here are the result of weeks of research, appeals across social media, and scores of nominations from individuals and organisations. If you know of someone you think should have been included, then please let us know, and we will consider them next year. David Gill is number 37 on the alphabetical list. A search reveals there are no antiquity dealers, artefact hunters or coin collectors celebrated as such on the list. Congratulations David, well deserved.

    Saturday 21 April 2012

    PAS Blames the Squirrels

    The fourteen-million pound Scheme in the British Museum has a somewhat juvenile means of telling members of the public that they cannot find some data in their database.

    Well, actually I used a drop-down menu on the database's search to try and find a correlation between two rather simple search terms. Still I am glad to know the BM is not wasting public money on IT professionals and will get some scruffy 11-year olds on the problem just as soon as they get back from school.

    This is the Scheme which will be spending hundreds of thousands over the coming months in an effort to convince professionals that this is a serious data source. Maybe they could start by presenting a more professional face to its users, and not stoop to the lowest common denominator just because in reality  most people using it will be tekkies trying to look up each others' geegaws. 

    Meanwhile the non-computer savvy member of the public getting this message could well concluded that they have been rebuked for having "fat fingers" and making an error with a task the name of which looks like "squirrel". If this is their first visit to the PAS geegaw showcase, it may well be their last and they may want to know where all the money has gone. Perhaps there is a case for more professionalism in the face the PAS presents to its funders and less attempts to be dumb-down cutesy. 

    Detecting Under the Microscope: "Unofficial" Hoards


    BlisstoolUK Forum member "daimole" says that his interest in the Blisstool LTCX64 was kindled while watching the promotional videos for this "depth advantage" machine on youtube. This guy claims to have found "one hoard previously OFFICALLY and two others unoffically", he announces that he will soon be revisiting these sites "pronto" to utilise the machine's "capabilitys" to see what was left in the ground at all three sites. The "official" hoard "was comprised of twelve hammered silver of lizzie 1st/ James 1st/Charles1st". the second "unofficial" (presumably he means undeclared) "was a scattering of William the 111 shillings five in total" and the third "unofficial" hoard "four very small silver maybe celtic". Let it be noted that further discussion in the thread concerned, not that the guy was apparently blithely admitting to have infringed the law by not making his hoard discoveries "official", but whether he was correct in referring to the machine as "LTCX64 V3I", or whether he should have used the term ""LTCX64 V3". That's tekkie nerdery in action, masking a total lack of moral fibre.   

    One detectorist added:
    "I think we are all wanting to get over those previous sites we have done alone or with clubs and see what we have been leaving behind...".
    Obviously he belongs to a club which has no code of ethics forbidding members to go back to farmers who have allowed club digs to do the site over again privately. 

    So, is PAS willing and able with the aid of the Forum administrators to identify a (Welsh, maybe - "Dai"?) metal detectorist who  reported
    "twelve hammered silver coins of Elizabeth I/ James I/ and CharlesI" and ask him what happened to the Celtic hoard?

    Mine is Bigger than Yours

    The archaeological collections at the Museum of London have been named the largest in the world by the judges from Guinness World Records. “The city’s water-logged environment is perfect for preserving organic objects,” said Roy Stephenson, head of the Archaeological Collection and Archives. 

    Friday 20 April 2012

    Swiss Archaeological Service Tries New Weapon Against Illegal Excavations.

    Treasure hunters (SF/ February 24, 2011 Archaeological service finds new weapon against illegal excavations. Illegal treasure hunters are a growing threat to archaeology. Finds end up in private homes and important historic information is lost to science. The canton of Zug is trying new ways to fight illegal excavations and has persuaded a former treasure hunter to change sides. Note the way the report links what some would have us believe is "just metal detecting" to the more general issues of artefact hunting and looting.

    Obviously there are those who will argue that Zug should simply allow artefact hunting and try to persuade the men with metal detectors to report everything they find. The British experience however shows this is totally impractical, as artefact hunters are not going to collect the shapeless scraps we see being recorded and analysed here, neither does it seem that there is any way (even fifteen years outreach costing upwards of 14 million quid) that these artefact hunters can be persuaded to report everything they find. Even in England (as I have argued here), it seems the shortfall is of staggering proportions. Thirdly getting any precision of recording from all of them seems an unrealistic dream.

    (Hat tip to Kyri for this link, Swiss Guards)

    Detecting Under the Microscope: Noctadetecting Deeper now

    Google thought it appropriate to shove an advert to Turkish metal detector manufacturer "Noktadetectors" onto the blog-management page of this blog. So, since they seem so concerned to share information about their new range with Google-users, here's an excerpt from their website (much of the emphasis in the original):
    With the Golden Sense, specifically developed for gold nuggets, coins and other small metals, you will easily detect targets at depths that other detectors cannot reach. Golden Sense not only finds shallow gold nuggets, coins and other metals detectable by other detectors, but it also does not miss smaller metals at incredible depths that other detectors cannot reach. Especially in areas that are rich in gold nuggets, coins and deep metals, the surface of the ground has been searched for years and most of the shallow and smaller metals have been dug out. Searchers in such areas need to reach the gold nuggets, coins and other metals buried deeper underground. Golden Sense is now offering this opportunity with its detection at incredible depths provided by its electronic design, software and special search coil. Consequently, it is becoming the ideal choice for gold, coin and treasure hunters.
    They have a silent model, ideal for Noktatection:
    SILENT SEARCH A lot of detectors in the market produce a constant background tone called 'threshold' for deeper detection. The user must follow the pitch changes in this tone to identify a target. Listening to this tone constantly disturbs the user as well as making metal detection harder. Golden Sense with its groundbreaking technology has no threshold and it gives out a warning tone only when it detects metal while offering more depth than other devices. Therefore, it allows for a silent, comfortable and deeper searching experience.
    So, if you want a metal detector for looking for gold, and you'd like one that will not give your presence away by squawking all the time when you are out doing a bit of noktatection, and you want to penetrate down to artefacts deep in the undisturbed soil, then obviously you need to get in touch with your local Noktadetector dealer. These site-wrecker depth advantage detectors are getting around everywhere recently, and still no official statement from the PAS.

    Vignette: Noktadetector certainly seem to want us to think that their machines can allow Treasure hunters to hoik gold from well below plough level.

    Lootwatch: "Freshly Surfaced" Hecatomnid Material, Twenty Months On

    Some time ago Dorothy King ('Coins and The Looting of Hecatomnus' Tomb', PhDiva blog Saturday, September 18, 2010 - Post scriptum 20/4/12: This link now goes to an updated version of the original article, which can still be found with a bit of effort in Google cache) published some highly interesting reflections following up from her discussion of the  Tomb of Hecatomnus discovered being looted in the middle of 2010 (click on the tag Hecatomnus to see her posts on this, several other bloggers also mentioned it). In May 2012 Dr King is speaking at a conference in Copenhagen about the tombs of kings and ruler cult before Alexander the Great with emphasis on finds in Caria and at Vergina and the approach of that event invites reflection on what has been happening since she drew attention to these issues twenty months ago.

    Dr King reports that in preparing for her talk she ran a search for Hecatomnus' coins. She was surprised to find quite how many Hecatomnid ( Hecatomnus, Mausolus, Idrieus, Pixodarus) coins had come up at auction in 2010. In particular she was "surprised how many coins of Hecatomnus have been showing up in auctions, many of them centred around Munich".  Numismatik Lanz München and CNG were  auctioning these coins. In Dr King's original post there are links to a number of coins which attracted her attention. She cautiously notes:
    I wouldn't want to be libellous and claim that these coins were looted or that that they have anything to do with the complex built around Hecatomnus' Tomb at Mylasa. It just seems rather coincidental that the Turkish police catch a bunch of looters working in the area, and that a number of coins now seem to be trickling onto the market. And the same names in Munich and Turkey keep coming up. [...] The sudden appearance of so many coins linked to Hecatomnus and his family may well be a coincidence [but] Everything I've heard suggests a hoard. We'll probably never know when it was found, let alone where, but it's been slowly coming onto the market.
    She notes several phase of the "surfacing" of these coins on the international market, one group started appearing about 2008, while another (with a lion head and a rosette) had been trickling through since about 2003. Another type starts to emerge on the market with a few in 2005 and 2006 and then a break and then again starting in 2010. She concludes:
    To me the patterns would suggest two hoards. One in the early 2000s, and in 2008. The dealers will, I am sure, assure us that they were legally acquired from old collections. Coins travelled in the ancient world, but Carian coins with find spots come from Caria. A so-called "Hecatomnus Hoard" is given as the provenance of some much earlier sales. This hoard, not unearthed by archaeologists, and not legally exported from Turkey, was sold by Bruce McNall's Numismatic Fine Arts in the 1980s. He worked a lot with Robert Hecht. And he admitted smuggling coins to Vanity Fair. He formed the Hunt collections, then sold his own. That hoard was apparently found in 1977 at Söke (between Miletus and Ephesus), and published as having been burried 390-385 BC - though frankly I don't know how curators could publish a looted hoard, let alone be so certain about it (Ashton, Richard H.J., Philip Kinns, Koray Konuk, and Andrew R. Meadows. 2002a. The Hecatomnus Hoard (CH 5.17, 8.96, 9.387). A “Pixodarus Hoard” of around 340 BC was found in 1978 by the theatre in Halicarnassus, which is why so many of his coins are 'available' for sale. Because of the people whose names come up, the sellers involved, and the way so many of the coins are centering around Munich - where material looted from Turkey tends to end up - I think there is another hoard coming onto the market.
    Certainly the evidence she presents makes that an entirely plausible conclusion. So, what has happened in the intervening twenty months? Have collectors stopped buying this type of material, concerned about potentially being involved in handling dodgy goods? Are dealers selling such material only accompanied by full collecting history showing they do not come from freshly-looted material? Or has it been "business as usual" in coiney circles?

    If so, if I were a collector, I'd be worried by the news, which I have from a reliable source, that Turkey has very recently been taking a very keen interest in certain volumes of the "Coin Hoards" series which contain very full publications of certain groups of coins which passed through the hands of Bruce "Proud to be a loot-dealer" McNall. In fact, I have heard that the Turkish authorities have bought several copies of each. Could they be now planning to go after collectors who have these items which are actually published as having been looted from Turkey? Oh, I really hope so. Really I do. Because no-questions-asked collecting is bad enough, but to buy coins which a little research would show are actually published as coming from looted and smuggled finds is an entirely different thing. 

    The "Mom and Pop Small Businesses" of the US Antiquities Trade

    According to the PNG and IAPN's lobbyist Peter Tompa, the  US versus Morris Khouli case involves a "small businessman" who could not quite manage the task of getting customs declarations filled in properly. The term "small businesses" is nowadays frequently bandied about in the coiney rhetoric (as in "President Obama should be helping small businesses, not stopping them trading in smuggled goods"). It is therefore pretty interesting to see an example of what the principal lobbyist of the IPN and IAPN want us to understand by this term. It turns out that:  
    HSI special agents seized almost $80,000 and more than 200 [...] antiquities from Khouli worth approximately $2.5 million. Other seizures from Khouli's store included a variety of antiquities and thousands of ancient coins valued at $1 million.
    So he had stock and loose cash worth together 4.3 million dollars seized, and yet he is still trading. This is apparently the IPN and IAPN's definition of a "small business". The whole stock of V-coins is worth only five times the stated value of Mr Khouli's stock. Tompa suggests Khouli himself  " might not own the stock ", a bit ambiguous in the circumstances. So who does Mr Tompa suspect stands behind Mr Khouli and his imports? Nevertheless, the precise ownership of the items Mr Khouli sells is not the question, but the scale of a business characterised as one of the "mom and pop small businesses" for which the ACCG claims to be fighting.

    Thursday 19 April 2012

    Nefertiti's bust, time to go home?

    Wafaa El-Seddiq head of the International Union for the Preservation of Heritage and former director of the Egyptian Museum asks why the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti is still in Germany. This is by far one of the best written and persuasively argued accounts from the Egyptian side which I have seen in a long time.
    Nefertiti's bust, time to come home? Al-Ahram Weekly, Issue No. 1094, 19 - 25 April 2012

    Coincidentally, in a few days time the Barford family is headed off to Berlin, specifically to see the Nefertiti bust.

    The Sophisticated Rhetoric of Coiney Discussion

    In a comment under an article posted online from "World Coin news", On March 26, 2012 G.J. said:
    Hey Mr. Barford, how about taking your opinion and shoving it up your backside!
    I was commenting on David C. Harper's exhortations ('Uphill Ancients Battle Worth Waging' World Coin News, posted online March 14, 2012) which seemed to me an effort to drum up more support for the ACCG's foundering fight against measures intended to curb antiquity smuggling ("the Americans love an underdog, so why not join us?"). On March 14, 2012 in reply to the original somewhat one-sided text I wrote (I'll post it here as it would not surprise me if the whole "dialogue" got deleted):
    But Mr Harper, suppose the coins ARE looted and smuggled? You seem to assume that no scrutiny is needed because none of them are. If you read the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CCPIA 1983) you will learn that these "import bans" you write about actually apply ONLY to coins that do not fall into the US (note that) definition of "lawfully exported". [This is a US definition, broader than that of the Convention itself, not that of any "foreign governments"].

    "Once you become familiar with ACCG, perhaps you will be inclined to give this modern-day David a helping hand."

    Why not look at the CCPIA and what it regulates and decide whether you really want the US to be a hotbed of trade in unlawfully exported (that is smuggled) coins from other countries. Or whether US collectors should take a moral lead and say 'no' to supporting criminal activity.

    Or if you and your readers are willing to buy and sell and collect unlawfully exported ancient coins, would you advocate supporting the open trade in smuggled goods of other types too? Maybe you think Customs restrictions in general should be lifted? Where do you draw the line - do you think it is just coin collectors who should be the exception?
    So far the only answer from tens of thousands of coin collectors in the US is the invitation from the anonymous collector to post my comments somewhere else. Now, would that be Grand Junction Coins (a Heritage Auction-sponsored firm) or maybe the Gobrecht Journal? Or somebody else?

    Future of Suspended ACCG Member Uncertain

    On July 27th last year on the ACCG website it was noted by dealer Wayne Sayles ('ACCG members indicted on customs charges') that
    "two members of the ACCG have been indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in New York on criminal charges of customs violations involving the importation of Egyptian antiquities from Dubai. [...] The ACCG members, Salem Alshdaifat (Holyland Numismatics) and Morris Khouli (Windsor Antiquities) have pleaded not guilty and are free on bond pending trial.
    Sayles goes on to announce that in response to this indictment:
    the ACCG Board of Directors has temporarily suspended the memberships of Alshdaifat and Khouli pending resolution of these charges. This action was taken by vote of the board in concert with paragraph IIIA of the guild bylaws. The board is hopeful that Mr. Alshdaifat and Mr. Khouli will be found innocent of these charges.
    Now paragraph IIIA refers to criteria for ACCG membership:
    The Board of Directors, by affirmative vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the entire Board may suspend or terminate the membership of a Member or Member Organization for cause, including dishonorable conduct, or actions inimical to the best interests of the hobby, or such other cause which the Board deems good and sufficient, by setting forth in a written notice, with reasonable specificity, the reasons for such suspension or expulsion.
    I presume getting caught and then pleading guilty to smuggling antiquities is one very clear case of committing actions inimical to the best interests of the hobby. The question is whether in the case of Mr Khouli, the ACCG consider this grounds for immediate expulsion from the membership of the ACCG. Although the guilty plea was yesterday, today the "latest news" on the ACCG website concerns "End the Unilateral Trade Sanctions on Collectors", you know, the US legislation which defines what is an illicit import. It will be interesting to see if the ACCG exclude a member for admitting to getting caught circumventing the very legislation which the ACCG says the US should not have placed there in the first place in the case of antiquities and  in flagrant violation of which it has itself attempted to import Chinese and Cypriot coins in order to challenge it. Still, for Mr Khouli all is not lost, the ACCG may eject him from their ranks, but he still boasts he is a "life member of the American Numismatic Association"

    The Antiquities Trade and its Links with Organized Criminal Groups and

    Damien Huffer draws attention to the manuscript of Kimberly Alderman's talk from earlier on this year "Honor Among Thieves: Organized Crime and the Illicit antiquities Trade"suggesting it is deserving of wider dissemination, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. The text is an overview of the key elements of the global antiquities trade and the purported links between it and trans-national organized crime through middlemen (both local wholesalers and inter-regional traffickers). She defines the roles of final-destination retailers, private owners, and "museums/curators of diverse ethical stances" in completing the circle.  Huffer notes: 
     The key discussion of organized crime and the antiquities trade at the end of the document centers around the issue of "lateralization," i.e. the inter-connectivity of the various elements that sustain the trade (creatively termed a "biosphere," pp. 31). The claim that there is no such thing as a licit trade truly separate from the illicit one is something that I in my research have come to agree with. As discussed in the manuscript, the licit trade uses the infrastructure of the illicit trade to support itself, and all participants help support said trade, even those individuals who "insist on provenance and have never handled a tainted object" (pp. 32).  
    One thing missing of course is the argument offered by those dealers and collectors who insist that their activities can in no way be connected with the illicit trade, that is the coin fairies who continually take the stuff looters loot and the coin elves that supply the fresh artefacts that continually appear on the antiquities market. I am sure though that the antiquity dealers' lobbyists, such as the international coin dealers' Cultural Property Observer will see the importance of addressing this omission.

    Damien Huffer, 'Organized Crime and the Antiquities Trade?', It Surfaced down-Under, Friday, April 6, 2012.

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