Wednesday 17 April 2013

Antiquities Exporter's Unsolicited Testimonial

Kyle and Suzanne left a comment on my blog post "'ZZ' Dealer Brandon Leon Lets his Feelings get the...". It is signed "K[yle] Duncan" and addressed to "Hello all"... Anyway Kyle claims he was "looking up Brandon's info again so I could refer someone to him", and he just happened to stumble across this post - of which he opines "it seems like a mountain is being made out of a mole hill, or else someone has another agenda going". Well, yes - it is clear I have an agenda, which is questioning the no-questions-asked trading of freshly surfaced dugup antiquities and those who engage in and benefit from this trade. That is what this blog is about Mr Duncan. Then comes the "unsolicited testimonial":
All I have to say is that when I was a beginning collector 10 years ago, Brandon was the most honest, reputable seller I found. And the ONLY one to offer free advice to me, with no strings attached. I bought 1,000 Greek and Roman uncleaned coins from him, and approximately 90% of them were attributable. Unlike many other bulk uncleaned coin dealers I've dealt with, Brandon was honest and transparent, and was a pleasure to work with.
Aha. So he will not mind being honest then about where his antiquities have been coming from ... but then, the trouble is that when I asked him about this, he was not too keen on "transparency" (ie whether they were dug up within Israel, or in the countries around the modern state). Anyhow, ten years ago, Kyle Duncan says he bought 1000 coins from ZZAntiquities and about 900 of them were "attributable". What do you do with 900 attributed dugup coins?

But what is really odd is that on 01-04-2008, 04:35 PM a "Kyle" from "chilly Minneapolis" took a moment in another place to "share my story of how I came to purchase high-quality uncleaned coins from ZZ Ancient Art".
At first, I was planning to just buy 150 "test" coins to see if the merchandise was worth the money, but due to Brandon's gentle (but skilled!) convincing, I ended up purchasing a lot of 500 premium high-quality uncleaned coins[...] I would say that of the 502 coins I purchased, 85% (or slightly more) will be attributable. 
Is this a different version of the same event? How many "Kyles" does ZZAntiquities sell coins to who are willing to write such glowing testimonials? This earlier Kyle gives an address:, so is a fellow dealer. Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours?

In the post to which this comment was sent, I commented on the way ZZAntiquities was advertising some dug-up pottery, jumbled into apparently unlabelled supermarket (washing powder) boxes in which they were accompanied by discarded black plastic bags and blue plastic string (the photos are still visible on the forum). Very few  of the individual complete vessels (from a cemetery?) seem to be labelled in any way I can see to differentiate one from another - allowing them to be associated with a particular findspot and context. Kyle Duncan does not see the problem with a dealer displaying goods in such a way:
I looked at the box of pottery mentioned above, and truly don't understand all the fuss. It's not as if he is going to ship them off somewhere stacked as such; and if placed carefully on a shelf in a back room or office, what harm is it to the pottery? They look carefully handled an in good shape to me. 
Where are these vessels from? How did they arrive on the market in an office in Jerusalem?  What were their archaeological context and associations?

Kyle and Suzanne's profile links to a blog of theirs, primarily about the process of adopting a little boy from Ukraine and taking him to the USA. It is interesting to see the attention paid to getting the paperwork sorted out to make the transfer properly. What paperwork did Mr Duncan consider was enough to make the transfer of cultural property dug up "somewhere" (where?) to a litter-strewn backroom in Jerusalem and from there to Minnesota, or wherever these coins ended up for "cleaning", attribution and (I would guess) resale? ZZAntiquities describes them as a "hoard" but the stated composition of the decontextualised heap of bronzes bought ("approximately 50% are Roman provincials, 40% are Greek and Seleucid, and the other 10% a mix of Ptolemys, Byzantine and I-don't-know-what-the-heck-those-are coins") rather argues against that actually being true. Are these not then metal detecting finds from a number of sites, and if so are those sites in Israel, or areas outside the borders of the country which issued an export licence? In what way, precisely, are these actually licit antiquities as opposed to "they-can't-touch-you-for-it-legal" antiquities? Or does Mr " truly don't understand all the fuss" Duncan - apparently a US publisher of Christian literature - not see the difference?

[It should be noted that no answer was ever received from the Jerusalem dealer to the questions posed a year ago at the bottom of the post Mr Duncan attempts to dismiss. I assume the jumpy dealer has by now worked out how to remove the animal (rodent maybe) hairs from the tracking mechanism of his jumpy computer mouse and would be able to type the answers, if he had them.]

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