Monday, 24 November 2014

The Dealer's Response to the 'Syrian Conflict Antiquity Crisis'

Over the past couple of months British archaeologists Sam Hardy and I have been busily trying to deconstruct the journalistic hyperbole emerging (mostly from the USA) about the looting in Syria ('ISIL Looting: In war, the first casualty...?' PACHI Wednesday, 3 September 2014). Coin collectors may be loathe to read our blogs (and dismiss our scepticism and questioning as merely 'anti-American'), but then they should be wary of showing their ignorance of the issues by coming out with claims that US investigative journalist Jason Felch was the first to question these 'factoids' on this looting. He was not.

Veteran coin dealer Wayne Sayles tries this gambit in his latest effort to appear relevant ('Media rush to judgement challenged', Sunday, November 23, 2014). He considers:
While the evidence of ISIS looting and/or intentional destruction of cultural property is undeniable, the connection to ISIS funding through the sale of antiquities is far more spurious. That evidence is conspicuously lacking and the trade is essentially devoid of material that could conceivably have come through the hands of ISIS. Are these calls for embargo then strictly for show? I fear they are not. They are part of a deliberate long term program of disinformation.
Mr Sayles of course sees here a conspiracy, one that is "less obvious to the general public" but the coiney insiders can at once spot that it is part of "a not-so-subtle underlying crusade that threatens the very underpinnings of law, order and justice". In short, the same intellectually-bankrupt arguments that we've heard before, time and time again from the dealers and collectors of the ACCG who are once again bringing nothing new to the discussion.

That the evidence is lacking between the end of the market Mr Sayles inhabits and the truckloads of antiquities headed for Syria's borders is a leitmotif we are hearing time and time again from dealers. It came up in the comments supplied by dealers to CPAC in the Egyptian MOU process, it's what dealers like Sayles were saying when America went into Afghanistan, into Iraq. I expect they were saying the same thing when Cyprus was invaded in 1974 by Turkey too. It's an utterly meaningless mantra, an assertion entirely unsupported for the simple reason that these dealers demonstrate their total lack of incisive investigations into where the goods they sell entered the market, when and how. We may only take Mr Sayles' own website as a particularly egregious example (PACHI Thursday, 30 October 2014, 'More Careless Syrian Coin Listings in America').  There is a "lack of evidence" because no-questions-asked dealing is the means by which that evidence is erased.

Mr Sayles has treated us all to his comments about what he does not want to see happen as a response to the current Syrian Conflict Antiquity Crisis. I think we'd all be much more interested in hearing what he personally and all his members (collectors passionately interested in the past and all to a man opposed to looting and smuggling no doubt), intend doing about this crisis. Apart from posture, rant and moan that is. Or are they content just to suggest that "somebody else" should do something while they stand on the sidelines and watch and tell them what to do?

[Cue: John Howland and Peter Tompa, "yap-yap-yap"]

See also: This is All Made up by the Archaeologists
Dealer: No Signs of the Artefacts


Paul Barford said...

Jessica Dietzler ‏@JessicaDietzler has a go:

You accuse journos of hyperbole and proceed to call dealers "fluffbrains", "dugups" "illuminati" & "intellectual bankrupts"?

Well, all I can say is if she's read as much of Sayles' literary output as I have, and does not find ACCG conspiracy theories utterly ridiculous, their arguments totally bankrupt and fluffbrain and their attitudes towards others disturbing, then she'd be better off not reading my blog, and go over to consorting with the dealers.

Paul Barford said...

And another one who seems to think ancient coins fall from trees (or out of Petrarch's pocket) and are not dug out of archaeological assemblages. Discuss.

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