Tuesday 29 October 2013

Analysing the Leutwitz Apollo (7): Dr Northover's Second Samples

Another set of samples were submitted to Dr Northover in Oxford 'after acquisition' and the report was received on 1st November 2006. Again, the report is locked away in a filing cabinet instead of being published as part of the documentation of this object.

Three of the samples were taken from more or less where Northover's earlier samples had been taken from:
1)left hand and forearm
2) right upper arm,
3) the base,
4-5) the lizard
Again the report itself (in CMA curatorial files) is not reproduced in the CMA's publication. The two ends of the lizard were cast from the same material (and Dr Northover notes here segregation of the lead in globules - see below). Again the various bits of the statue were shown to have the same composition (which was....?)   and the left arm had a similar composition of the corrosion products to the rest of the figure (which was....?). The base plate had a different composition to the rest (which was...?). He also detected solder on the underside of the lizard "which was ancient" (why is not stated by Bennett). Bennett specifically notes (p. 57) one phrase from Northover's report:
 The composition and state of corrosion are consistent with a statue from the classical period which has spent many centuries in a burial environment, and has been re-exposed to atmospheric corrosion and precipitation.
What that composition and state of corrosion are is not stated in Bennett's report. The reader will at once notice that what is not said is

1) ...spent many centuries in a burial environment, and has been re-exposed to atmospheric corrosion and precipitation and then cleaned, or:
2) ... many centuries in a burial environment, and has been cleaned and then re-exposed to atmospheric corrosion and precipitation, or:
3) ... many centuries in a burial environment, and has been cleaned and re-exposed to atmospheric corrosion and precipitation and then cleaned again.

Which is it, because at some stage the object was cleaned. Was Dr Northover informed of that, and asked whether the exposure took place before or after the cleaning?

Suppose the dugup statue had stood for twelve years under a leaky tarp round the back of a shed in a coastal  town in Northern Italy, for example? Condensation at night, salt in the sea-breeze? What is there in the corrosion that negates such a scenario? Bennett's account does not say.

Te point is of course that Northover's analyses cannot support the CMA's reconstructed collecting history if that history was an assumption at the basis of Northover's own interpretation of the results.  We are not told precisely how these interpretations were arrived at. That is not documentation.  CMA should let Dr Northover speak for himself and publish the full reports they commissioned.

Dr Bennett however is absolutely sure how to interpret the results (p. 57):
This is just what one would expect for an ancient bronze that had been outside of its archaeological context for about one hundred years, remounted on a bronze plate that served as its base and exposed to decades of annual seasonal freeze and thaw cycles on an isolated East German estate. 
Except the analyses done by Northover can never prove that it was on an East German estate. Neither has the case for it being out of its archaeological context for "about one hundred years" actually been demonstrated by Northover's analyses (nor any other, see above). This is not a scientific proven fact, it is wishful thinking based on a superficial interpretation of a handful of conflicting textual evidence. That is not scholarship, it is story-building.  

There was an addendum to Northover's report too (pp 57-8). This was submitted in January 2007 - note that Greece only a month later accused the Cleveland Museum of having bought an object looted from the sea off Greece. Northover was asked to confirm on the basis of the same samples that the object had not been recovered from the sea, which he did (actually the word he used were "strong circumstantial evidence"). The fact that the report dates to a month before the accusation surfaced is worthy of note. It is not stated on what grounds Dr Northover established from eight small samples "the condition of the interior of the figure".

 It was in this addendum that Dr Northover also suggests that the fracturing of the object took place when it was exposed to heat and then struck by something (note the way Bennett on p. 54 for no real reason I can think of introduces Red Army "incendiary bombs" - not something infantry units generally carry). Of course this could equally refer to the burning of a building in which the object was housed in antiquity - the dents and breaks all have corrosion suggesting burial after the damage. He also reiterates (p. 58) that the corrosion of the base and statue are different (cf what Lie said earlier) and "examination of the area where the figure is in contact with the base will further illuminate this aspect". He therefore seems not to have been informed of the results of Lie's analyses, nor - indeed - of the fact that the base and feet were no longer attached to each other by the old joins.

Most tellingly Dr Northover himself is quoted as saying (and - despite the problems with chronology - I think this is in the specific context of the Greek claims):
The conclusion of the two previous reports was that the condition of the figure was consistent with the reported history of the figure. Any proposal of an alternative history has to be equally consistent with the observed external and internal condition of the figure [...] It is this writer's view that the state of the Apollo Sauroktonos is best correlated with the originally reported (sic) history, together with the additional suggestions as to how this statue was broken and buried based on his examination of the samples.
Bennett himself repeats this idea, taken out of the 2007 context (p. 58). The problem is that in the documentation under consideration here, absolutely no detailed information is provided of the external condition of the object and not even a smidgen of a hint about what it looks like on the inside.  Obviously if CMA wants to throw out such a challenge they should first publish the evidence properly.

Among other things, in the extract of the 2007 report Bennett cites, we do not find any indication of how Northover correlates his "suggestions as to how this statue was broken and buried based on his examination of the samples" with the "stood in the garden at Leutwitz" story. Does Northover conclude that the arms were blown off by the Red Army, or does he conclude that an armless statue stood in the garden with the loose hand and loose lizard on a stone bench nearby?

Come on Cleveland, publish the documentation, publish the report before you even think of organizing a seminar. Scrounge some more money off a rich businessman (p. vii) and do a proper job of publishing this object.

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