Friday 31 July 2015

Green Waste and the Magnetometer

Archaeological ProspectionJames Gerrard, Liz Caldwell and Alisa Kennedy (two of them from University of Newcastle Classics Dept, one from a commercial geophys firm) have published a short three-page text to gladden the heart of many a detectorist: 'Green Waste and Archaeological Geophysics' Archaeological Prospection Volume 22 Issue 2 April/June 2015, pp 139-42. Here's the abstract:
Environmental concerns, supported by regulatory frameworks, have encouraged the conversion of organic and biological waste into fertilizers and soil conditioners (so-called green waste) that are being increasingly used on arable fields. Recent work has shown that the level of ferrous contaminants within this waste can have a detrimental impact on shallow geophysical prospection methods that use the principles of magnetism. This paper highlights the negative impact of this new agricultural practice on the historic environment and calls for tighter regulation of green waste.
The geophysical techniques are metal detecting and magnetometry. Of course in the UK until now, geophysicists had had it easy, there never was at any time in recent history any process whatsoever that would put modern ferrous material into the ploughsoil over ancient sites. The beer cans, bottle tops, tractor parts, trouser buttons, dropped tools, crashed aeroplane parts etc were always deposited by some magical process well away from any site that would ever be investigated by geophysical means. So there was no need to develop statistical 'levelling' techniques in magnetometry for example to deal with this effect. Now there is.

PAS says goodbye to Roger Bland

Roger Bland putting coins in rows for counting
Michael Lewis wrote the first text on the subject of PAS meltdown on the PAS website: 'Thank You and Good Luck Roger'
Upon the retirement of Roger Bland from the British Museum, all in PAS would like to express a massive debt of gratitude to him for all he has done for British archaeology. His work bringing about the PAS and the reform of Treasure has not only ensured that the most important archaeological finds have been acquired by museums up and down the country for local people to learn about and enjoy, but has also led to a great advancement in knowledge through the recording and further study of these finds, and the identification of new sites that have come to light because of them. Best of luck for the future Roger...

Van Crabben Introduces Confusion to Middle East Narrative

Christopher Jones, 'Assessing the Destruction at Hatra' Ancient history et cetera July 27, 2015 discusses the destruction of Hatra  in terms of a video which surfaced "last Saturday" but in fact this is confusion created by a blog aggregator (called "Ancient History Encyclopedia") run by which mixes original content with republication in full of material found elsewhere on the internet.  I am really unclear what this form of "churnalism" is for, but clearly this can lead to confusion.  Events in the Middle East are so fast moving that re-publication of out of date articles with false dates on can only mislead rather than inform. The post published by van der Crabben was in fact written at the beginning of April, and the "last saturday" referred to there was relative to that, and not a new video appearing in July. With ISIL websites constantly being taken down it is difficult enough for those trying to use them to follow destruction of heritage to keep up without false trails being introduced by blog-copiers.

HSI Press Release Stupidity in Ohio

Proof positive that there is something very wrong with the US education system (at least in Ohio). I think an investigation is called for - is the anonymous individual who wrote a recent press release simply cognitively challenged, or working for the coin dealers ('ICE, CBP seize illegally imported ancient Roman coins 24th July 2015)? A declaration of interest seems to be in order here.

The guardians of US border propriety  (ICE and HSI) apparently miss a lot crossing US borders, but earlier this month they spotted some suspicious round things and seized them. They turned out to be "ancient Roman coins [...] [of] an estimated value of approximately $1,000". All well and good. The bit of the text as written that will have the coineys jumping up and down excitedly is the justification given in the press release: 
One hundred and ninety ancient Roman coins that were illegally imported into the United States from the United Arab Emirates were seized [...] The ancient coins were originally detained in early July during a routine inspection at the Port of Cincinnati cargo facility by CBP officers before the investigation was turned over to HSI. The intended recipient told investigators the coins were of Middle Eastern origin based on information received from an overseas seller. CBP officers contacted a coin expert to authenticate the coin’s origins and learned they were actually late 2nd or 3rd century Roman coins. Authorities subsequently issued a seizure notice to the intended recipient alleging entry of goods by means of false statements. The intended recipient abandoned the claim to the coins, which will now be repatriated to Italian authorities at a later date
What? What is the matter with America?  A few weeks ago the rest of us were laughing at the coineys who were sending comments to the CPAC because some cynical manipulator had convinced the hard-of-thinking among them that the Italian government "might claim all imperial coins minted and found everywhere as their national property". The idea was absurd, but gullible xenophobic coineys unreflexively swallowed it, provoking Schadenfreud among the rest of us. Ha ha, stoopid coin fondlers.

Then this. It really does look written to order, doesn't it? This is why I think its author needs investigating. The coins were imported from the United Arab Emirates. They were reportedly seized because falsely declared. The buyer says he was told they were from "the Middle East". So according to this report they were seized. There is something missing in this story. What were they declared as, the dodgy 'metal stampings' for example?

Middle East (green) and Roman Empire (red) overlap
clearly visible even to dunces on readily available resources (wikipedia)
For all of my European prejudices concerning the US, the behaviour of some of its citizens, its administration and judiciary, I refuse to believe that the forfeiture documents really do state that the coins were "falsely declared" because "Roman coins cannot be found in the Middle East". Not even in Ohio. Those of us who went to proper schools (and those who can use wikipedia too) know that the area considered the Middle East in American usage overlaps quite considerably with the eastern part of the Roman Empire in the second and third centuries. There is no reason why "ancient Roman coins" cannot have been found on sites in the western parts of the region known as 'the Middle East'.

Yet this is how the ICE reporter is presenting it. Does nobody proofread these press releases?

Then we have the crucial next bit. "The intended recipient abandoned the claim to the coins, which will now be repatriated to Italian authorities at a later date". Wait a second, what "recipient"? The correct technical term is "buyer" and "importer". Mr 'Ohiocoinbuyer' bought coins from a UAE source and the latter shipped them to him making a false declaration, in other words smuggled the coins out of UAE (so, see below). But Ohiocoinbuyer should be investigated as a potential accessory to the offence.

There are two points here. This matter was triumphantly gottcha-announced by ACCG attorney Peter Tompa, when - if the story he reports is an accurate reflection of the extra-legal case presented by ICE/HSI - the Ohio buyer should have been offered by the ACCG ("preserving our right to collect")  support  in fighting this forfeiture case through the US courts as a test case.  This would be a damn sight more useful than the Baltimore illegal coin import stunt on which the ACCG has wasted so much time and money on. Yet the idea never came to them, it seems. Or perhaps they know something about this case which differs from the way it is presented here.

Of course, as usual, in order to avoid transparency, no names are named. 'Ohiocoinbuyer' has not been convicted, so is innocent. Why can the innocent victim of an innocent ICE/HSI misunderstanding not be named so we may all sympathise with his plight? He's lost a thousand dollars at least from this.

Which seller in the United Arab Emirates (Dubai again?) is selling Roman coins in job lots? Which coin collector or dealer in the Ohio region is buying them?

As for the claim that "the coins [...] will now be repatriated to Italian authorities at a later date", if this is true, it reveals not only the US fixation with merely gracefully gifting foreign nations their own cultural property at the expense of investigating and prosecuting the culture crimes which brought it to the US. It also reveals a total disregard for the law, and that US authorities really are as stupid as the coin dealers claim. Unbelievable. The Roman Empire was a big place, modern Italy is only a small part of it.

The obligation of the US is to assure the products of crime are restituted to where the crime was committed. They have the name of the UAE seller who allegedly smuggled the coins to the US, the coins should go to the UAE authorities as evidence and the alleged seller and smuggler should be investigated and, if found to have committed an offence, prosecuted. When completed, the UAE investigation should lead to the repatriation of the artefacts to where they originally came from (for they were not dug up in Dubai). This is the job of the Saudi authorities, not the US acting as world policeman and generous benefactor. The coins are not in the remit of the US authorities to give away to anyone. They are evidence of transnational crime, and it seems pretty obvious to everybody except, it seems HSI, that we need to get tough on transnational crime.

36 coins artistically photographed on a blue background (HSI)
In any case, as a comment on Peter Tompa's blog makes clear, the "experts" which HSI employed appear not to have done a very thorough job of reporting on the seized items. As coiney Duncan Finch points out:
if you look at the terrible photo and at the second row of six legible photos from the top, you will see a very small coin. It is of the so-called Persecution Issue and shows the Tyche of Antioch, and was only struck in Antioch [on the Orontes PMB]. Thus, not Italian, Turkish because while Antioch was the capital of Roman Syria, it is now in Turkey. Maybe that is why they don't have legible photos...
[here is another example of the coin to which he refers, a civic issue of the time of Maximinus II. AD 310-313]. Tompa missed a stroke when suggesting Finch forwards that observation "to the numismatic press" - without realising that his comment reveals the hollowness of the ACCG's "first found argument". Certainly though, a coin of Antioch on the Orontes bought in UAE is far more likely to have been dug up in the eastern parts of the former Roman empire than in its western or central provinces. So why the HSI officers in Ohio want to send it to Italy is a mystery to us all, and certainly open to challenge. Why do the ACCG not institute at least an FOI on this case?

How Many are Friends, How Many Foes?

At least three recent articles ask the same question:
Jef van der Schriek and Max van der Schriek 2014, 'Metal Detecting: Friend or Foe of Conflict Archaeology?', Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage, vol. 1 No. 3, 228-244.

Henriksen, M.B. 2006, 'The Metal Detector – Friend or Foe for the archaeologist? - aspects of Metal Detector Archaeology in Denmark', pp. 217-226 [in:] I: K.M. Hansen and K. B. Pedersen (eds) Across the Western Baltic, Vordingborg.

Wilson, P. 2015 'Metal detectors: friends or foes' in P. Everill and P. Irving (eds) Rescue Archaeology 40 Years On.

To what extent do the benefits outweigh the problems, how many can be counted friends of the archaeological record, how many foes and in what ways? The latter article cites both me and Nigel Swift, though I've not read it yet. Given who the author is, I suspect I'll find it gets bogged down on the nighthawking issue.  



From Mosul to Munich?

It is precisely from Munich
that many of the petition's
signatories come
Public debate on the antiquities trade is getting rather heated in Germany:
Fears that Germany has become a trade hub for looted antiquities from the Middle East has prompted the government to put forward a draft law on artistic imports. Critics argue it does not go far enough to prevent illicit trade. The headlines sent shockwaves through the German art world. "Looted art: A race against time," weekly newspaper Die Zeit proclaimed, while the conservative daily Die Welt declared Germany "a trade hub for illegal art." An in-depth documentary produced by public broadcaster ARD even claimed to have traced the financing of terrorist organizations including the Islamic State to high-profile auction houses in Munich. "It's pretty simple: exporting looted art from conflict-ridden countries such as Syria and Iraq would not be possible if it wasn't for the solid infrastructure that the European art market provides," says Ulli Seegers, an art historian at the University of Dusseldorf. As a result, Culture Minister Monika Gruetters has put forward legislation to better regulate the import of ancient artefacts from conflict-ridden countries, and she plans to present the draft law to Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet next month. "In the future anyone wishing to import historical artefacts into Germany will need a valid export permit for every individual item from the country of origin, and this permit will have to be presented," said Gruetters at a recent conference on illicit excavations. "It is ridiculous that we in Germany spare no costs and effort to designate the provenance of every egg before it makes it to the breakfast table, while a complete lack of transparency reigns in the way we deal with cultural assets worth millions," she added.
Germany ratified the 1970 UNESCO Convention in 2007 but the country's laws were not able to cope with combating  trade in illicit cultural artefacts, and the legislation created to support implementation of the Convention is widely perceived to have failed. Hence the need for a new draft. The proposed form of the new legislation has drawn the ire of art dealers, who argue that the new requirements are not aligned with the realities of the market and place what they call "an unreasonable burden on art dealers". 
The controversy has particular relevance in light of Germany's complicated and highly fraught relationship with looted artworks. The discovery in 2012 of a cache of 1,200 works amassed by a Nazi-era art dealer under dubious circumstances exposed an underlit chapter of German history. "As Germans we have a special responsibility considering the looting of art between 1933 and 1945," says Mueller-Karpe, referring to the theft of what was referred to as "degenerate art" in Nazi Germany. "The outcome of this [law] is of the utmost importance as future generations will have to bear the consequences."
Source: 'Looted in Mosul, sold in Munich? Germany's clampdown on illicit trade' July 30th 2015.

Metal Detectorists Caught After Late Night Helicopter Chase

 Ariel view of Beit Shemesh archeological site  (photo IAA)
The The Hovav Ruins is an archaeological site dating back to the beginning of the Bronze Age and containing later structurs and finds. A week ago there was extensive vegetation fire which  removed surface vegetation and thorns which made it easier for metal detectorists to search for artefacts in the exposed ground. Sadly metal detector owning thieves in the area could not resist the temptation (Hayah Goldlist-Eichler 'Antiquities theft thwarted near Beit Shemesh in late night helicopter chase ', Jerusalem Post 30th July 2015). 
The theft of a trove of ancient coins was thwarted by a joint force of the Antiquities Authority and Yehuda Region Border Police late Tuesday evening in the Beit Shemesh area. The team of thieves was discovered by Antiquities Authority inspectors observing the area on Tuesday evening, digging and using a metal detector at the archeological site next to Taoz. The inspectors alerted the police who brought in a helicopter to apprehend the suspects. One was arrested while a second managed to flee the scene, though police know his identity. [...] According to the Antiquities Authority, the suspects were found to be in possession of an off-road vehicle, digging tools and an advanced metal detector. The suspect who was caught, a resident of Ramle in his 50s, was found in possession of 63 coins from the Second Temple and Roman periods, some 2,000 years old, that were stolen from the site. The suspect was brought in for questioning at the Yehuda Region police station and admitted to illegally digging at the site.

“Unfortunately, the activities of the suspects caused considerable damage to the site,” said Rotstein. “They dug dozens of shallow pits from which the ancient coins were looted, while disturbing the archeological strata, detaching the archeological findings from their context and leading to a loss of valuable archeological, historical and cultural knowledge to the country’s cultural heritage.”   [...] The case against the suspects will be handed over in the coming days to the state prosecution to prepare indictments.

Petition: Extradite Minnesotan Walter James Palmer to face justice in Zimbabwe.

Petition: "Extradite Minnesotan Walter James Palmer to face justice in Zimbabwe".

On Thursday, the White House said it would review a public petition to extradite nocturnal protected lion-killer Walter Palmer if it receives over 100,000 signatures. If animal-slayer Walter Palmer had a shred of decency in him, he'd return to Africa voluntarily and answer the charges.

Roger Bland Leaves BM

The Russell Square HQ of PAS
Today is Roger Bland's last day at the British Museum, where he has worked more than 35 years. He was appointed a curator in the Department of Coins and Medals in 1979 but was seconded to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport from 1994 to 2003 in connection with his work on the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities. Roger became responsible for thePortable Antiquities Scheme (a project to record all archaeological objects found by the public in England and Wales), which he had been to a large degree instrumental in setting up. In addition, he was responsible for the Museum’s operation of the Treasure Act. In July 2012 he was appointed Keeper of the Department of Prehistory and Europe (now Britain, Europe and Prehistory, succeeding in that post Jonathan Williams (who had himself been curator of Iron Age and Roman coins at the Museum who went on 'to coordinate the Museum’s international strategy'). Williams became the Museum's Deputy Director ('with overall responsibility for the Museum’s collection and research') and it is he whose reorganization led to the dissolution of the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure in May this year and Bland's resignation.

Roger Bland is currently still listed on the BM website as keeper, while on the PAS website his position as Head of Scheme and Treasure  has long been occupied by Michael Lewis.

The fate of the Leverhulme Trust funded project 'ThePortable Antiquities Scheme Database as a tool for archaeological research' in which he was principal investigator remains unknown. It was due to finish this year.

Thursday 30 July 2015

The Geldermalsen Wreck Site /"Nanking Cargo".

The Geldermalsen was a Dutch East India Trading Company (Verenigde Oost Indische Compagnie, VOC) cargo vessel that sank after it struck the Admiral Stellingwerf reef in the Lingga archipelago, off Bintan Island, near Indonesia, in January 1752. The ship was carrying nearly 150,000 ceramic pieces, 687,000 pounds of tea and 147 Chinese gold ingots from Canton (Guangzhou) to the Netherlands. The wreck was discovered by British salvage operator Michael Hatcher in 1986 in international waters, a location confirmed by Dutch abd Indonesian officials. Initially, the precise identity of the ship was not clarified, the raising of the ship's bell which is inscribed 'Amsterdam 1747' and two bronze cannon similarly marked indicated it was a Dutch ship, and the Geldermalsen that sank in this area was built in 1747. Hatcher was strongly criticised because removal of the ship’s saleable cargo took precedence over serious archaeological investigation of the site. The wreck was destroyed during the salvage and over 150,000 pieces of porcelain were auctioned off by Christie’s Amsterdam in 1986, under the sale moniker of "The Nanking Cargo". Among the porcelains were full dinner sets, tea sets with teapots and cups, vases and butter tubs, all made in Jingdezhen, the main porcelain centre of China. The sale achieved prices well beyond pre-sale estimates, totalling more than £10 million. 

The whole affair is discussed here:
George L. Miller (1992) 'The Second Destruction of the Geldermalsen' Historical Archaeology Vol. 26, No. 4, Advances in Underwater Archaeology (1992), pp. 124-131.
This review of C. J. A. Jörg's book on the Chinese porcelain from the Dutch East India Company ship Geldermalsen, which sank in 1752, addresses some broader questions involved in the destruction of shipwreck sites for commercial profit. These questions grew out of the issue of what relationship scholars should have with those who destroy sites and acquire objects from them. The first part of the article is a review of Jörg's book, followed by a commentary on the problems that collecting from looted sites raise.
I think the discussion of these issues has a more general application.

Coates will be there to advise Ted Cruz

Art historian Victoria Coates has published a number of essays and books on antiquity and used to work in Cleveland Museum of Art (2010-13: Consulting Curator on the exhibition "The Last Days of Pompeii: Decadence, Apocalypse, and Resurrection"). Now she is National Security Advisor for Ted Cruz. Claire Voon ('Ted Cruz’s National Security Adviser Probably Knows More About Raphael than Russia', July 29, 2015) discusses the relationship between her academic and political work.

What Kind of "private Collecting"?

The petition "Für den Erhalt des privaten Sammelns" reached 9000 signatures today, with the German and foreign contributions almost equal. With 33 days to go to the end, there are 9309 supporters, 4769 in Germany. The initial impetus is flagging now.

I came across a link to the petition on a stamp-collectors' webpage, which raises the question who actually is signing. It is easy to assume these are all antiquity collectors, but The-Sky-is-Falling Ursula Kampmann assures other collectors that they will be affected: Betroffen sind alle, die sich auf traditionelle Sammelgebiete wie zum Beispiel Bücher, Briefmarken, Möbel, Keramik, Münzen, Oldtimer oder Bilder spezialisiert haben. Well, that is not actually true, because in some of these categories, it reportedly will only affect certain classes of material - so for example in the case of paintings only of a certain age and price range. But it seems by these means various groups of collectors are being tricked into signing the petition. Not ll of the signatures though are those of dugup antiquities collectors.

Also the draft which Ms Kampmann reported seeing was one that contained the  proposal that "the supreme state authority and authorized experts [will] have access to flats and buildings where the cultural goods are held" (which mirrors current law in at least one neighbouring country). This however was one of the measures removed from the draft a few days after Ms Kampmann wrote about it (Statement zur Pressekonferenz Novellierung des Kulturgutschutzrechts Jul 15th 2015), but it seems to be one of the things the petition she wrote protests about. If so, the petition in effect concerns an out-of-date draft of the proposed law. So once again, collectors are not properly informed what it is they are signing and why.

Museum Director Criticises Opponents of Germany's New Heritage Law

"Martin Roth, the German art historian and director of London's Victoria and Albert Museum, has defended the German government's highly controversial planned cultural protection legislation amendment. In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel Roth said that it was crucial that Germany conforms to the standard of international law by incorporating the changes into its laws. “In Germany one makes it too easy for dishonest or uninformed dealers, because in truth, so far nothing is regulated, anyone can sell anything," he criticized. 
German antiquities dealers maintain their silence.

Henri Neuendorf, 'V and A Director Martin Roth Attacks Artists and Opponents of Germany's New Heritage Law' Art News Wednesday, July 29, 2015

PAS Judges Metal Detecting Competition

Presumably discoveries made by non metal detectorists are not eligible?
2 godz.2 godziny temu
We will be judging 'the nations' greatest find' at today. Includes important finds recorded with  

Licit Antiquities and the German "der gewissenhafteste Händler nicht leisten kann"

There are two views developing at the moment in the discussion of the antiquities trade. There are those (like myself) who believe there are licit and illicit artefacts. Then there is the Archaeological Institute of America which now (Cf here) argues that all antiquity sales lead to the looting of sites and therefore their official policy trends today towards declaring the trade in antiquities as a whole to be anathema. The vacant airheads of the US antiquities trade lobby fail to recognize such a distinction, and assume that the whole world thinks like the AIA, and labels anyone who raises question about illicit antiquities "anti-collecting extremists". Leaving such arrant sillyness behind, what is a licit antiquity? Or what is an illicit antiquity? There is no simple answer to that question. This is my take on the definition, which I assume will not be too controversial to most normal people:

1) A licit antiquity cannot have come onto the market by theft (an object taken from a museum, public collection or private owner) or dug up in a place where the digger had no permission to dig and take.

2) It cannot have come onto the market through the finder/excavator/artefact procurer failing to report an item which by law should have been reported (the criteria become complicated in UK law where it depends on the material and object type concerned, how many were found together and other factors)

3) It cannot have come onto the market if, after the commencement of certain relevant legislation, it is removed from a site or monument and the removal or excavation constitutes an offence (which is how the UK's Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003, puts it).

4) A licit antiquity cannot have come onto the market by leaving the source region or country after a certain date without following the relevant export procedure. That date would correspond to that of the establishment of an export licensing requirement for that class of object in the source country (or import requirements in the destination /transit country).

It might be thought that there was a decent definition of licit/illicit artefacts in the 1970 UNESCO 'Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property'. Sadly that document is deficient in a number of respects (and needs rewriting) and this is one of them. While in the preamble it is stated that cultural property existing within a state's territory is threatened with "theft, clandestine excavation, and illicit export", the Convention itself does not address looting (clandestine excavation) and it is not clear whether the latter is covered by Art 3 ("The import, export or transfer of ownership of cultural property effected contrary to the provisions adopted under this Convention by the States Parties thereto, shall be illicit"). It seems that criteria 2 and 3 above are not really catered for in the document. Yet that does not mean that a piece of Anglo-Saxon gold metal detected in England and not reported within 14 days is NOT an illicit artefact when sold by a New York based dealer. Quite obviously, it is. Likewise an item removed at night from a scheduled archaeological monument in Kent is not a licit artefact when it comes on eBay.

The problem is any Tom, Dick or Hamid can (and do) say "a British find, this artefact is legal and 100% authentic", or "an old collection forgotten by time, the packing material crumbling at a touch". The buyer it appears never asks for any other 'corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative', so dealers rarely supply them, even if they have them

So, taking the example of a ripped off mummy mask from Egypt, what would make it a licit antiquity is not "old New York collection [sometime, don't bother asking, I lost the papers]", but that it had been acquired and taken out of the extent of Egyptian antiquities legislation before it made such private possession and export illegal. The situation in Egypt is a bit complicated, but it is "generally accepted" that the cut off date is 1983 with some new antiquities laws. If we resist the temptation to be purists and accept this, then obviously any seller who claims to have a legal, licit artefact from Egypt to sell, must be sure that it WAS exported before 1983. He has to be sure, otherwise the claim that it is "licit" is guesswork (and wishful thinking guesswork at that), invention and (if he claims he is sure but is not) deceit. That may be self-deceit if - on the principle ask no questions; get told no lies - he was careful not to enquire the details too carefully of his supplier. It is therefore logical that in order to be able to affirm honestly that a given artefact is licit, the seller has to have the information when and how it came out of Egypt. 

So how come we find German antiquities dealers stating openly that it is "impossible" to ascertain this information in the case of the items they sell? That they cannot trace the collecting histories back even 20 years. If they cannot trace it back to 1995 even, how can they state that they know where it was in 1983? 

Are there any German dealers who can read English who can answer that? Where are you guys? Why hide behind "collectors" like the other lot?  

Out of Place Antiquities on the British Market

Any Tom, Dick or Hamid can (and do) say "a British find, this artefact is legal and 100% authentic". Yeah, they can SAY that, but where is the proof? Let's take this seller - Benjamin Stocks -  for example. Where is the documentation that something is from a particular place where it is legal for it to be dug up? This artefact for example:
British Found Tudor Period Bronze and White Enamel Cross Pendant British found - Complete ( inc fastening loupe ) For your consideration is a scarce, British found, English Tudor period of circa.1500 A.D date, Ae bronze composition, pendant type cross. This scarce and finest religious devotional implement displays nearly all of its original detail and  form. This scarce artefact is presented in a VF ( very fine ) state of preservation, it is complete and retains its original fastening / suspension loupe. It displays a finest, even and smooth patina. specifications. Ae bronze composition 30.0 mm length 15.0 mm width VF state British found 
The correct archaeological term for such a description is 'poppycock'. There is zero white enamel on it, if there were any it would make it nineteenth century in the region from which I think it is clear this object really comes from, a thousand miles or so to the east of "British found".  [If Saxby's coins wishes to provide documentation for the actual findspot in the UK, I will take back that statement]. The suppedaneum and IC and XC in Cyrillic are dead giveaways. Now why would anyone want to represent something dug up in eastern Europe as "British found"? Work it out for yourselves.

Saxby's has several others:
English Early Medieval Period Ae Bronze Crusades Cross Pendant.circa.1200 A.D (more poppycock, post-medieval Orthodox pendant cross)
British Found Tudor Period Bronze Cross Pendant.VF state (ditto)
English Early Medieval Period Ae Bronze Crusades Cross Pendant.VF (ditto)
British Found Tudor Period Bronze Cross Pendant.VF state circa.1500 A.D (ditto, the description is poppycock, but the object is quite interesting stylistically - a shame that the dealer has obscured where it really came from, showing the damage the no-questions-asked market does even to artefact-centred knowledge).

That lamp is not a British find either, is it? And what about the "British Found Roman Republican Bronze AES Grave Coin. JANVS circa. 188 - 179 B.C?". The more you look into this guy's "British finds", the more your credibility is stretched. And isn't there something missing from the description of the 'Rare circa.1200 A.D British Found Medieval Period Au Gold Annular Ring Brooch'? I thought PAS were supposed to be "monitoring" eBay? Are they any more?

Where did these objects come from, and how did they get to a seller in the UK? What business contacts do they reflect? Why do antiquities dealers consider they can get away with this kind of thing?

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Museums Journal: Roger Bland quits BM

The 'official' version:
Bland handed in his three months’ notice on 30 April, and will work his last day this week. He said his resignation was a direct result of the museum passing on a 6% cut to the PAS' £1m grant in April. Funding for the PAS is no longer ringfenced, and Bland said that he fears without adequate funding it could collapse: “It came very close to that at the beginning of the year and will be under great pressure after the November spending review.”
Rebecca Atkinson, 'Roger Bland quits BM over cuts to the PAS' Museums Journal 28.07.2015

Vignette: Roger Bland receives medal

Tuesday 28 July 2015

The Real Threat to Collecting: Collectors' Attitudes

Focusing on reactions to the proposed German regulations and the opposition of certain sectors of the antiquities trade to change:
"in a world where public image is so vital, the blinkered, arrogant, hideously uninformed, rabidly anti-academic and recklessly intransigent attitudes of that lobby group pose as great, if not greater, a threat to the future of collecting than most of the "anticollecting ideologues" put together".
David Knell, 'The subtle art of passing the buck: it's always someone else's fault' Ancient Heritage Saturday, 25 July 2015.

Vignette: Coin dealers act like petulant kids at times.

UK Metal Detectorists and the Heritage Debate

Money 'out of a taxpayer'
Reminder, this was an academic seminar in March 2013, when the UK had a proper PAS. It seems metal detectorists cannot get over the fact that somebody talked about their hobby in less than glowing terms. Pathetic and puerile. Liam Nolan commented July 27, 2015 - 9:54 am on Heritage Seminar: Unsustainable damage to East Anglian heritage.
Who paid for [Mr] Barford to travel from Warsaw for this lecture? In a time of the ever shrinking public purse, I hope the money did not come out [sic] of the taxpayer, Liam

The British taxpayer, as stakeholder in the archaeological heritage, is fully entitled to have the fate of that heritage at the hands of an exploitive minority publicly debated. The event was attended also by metal detectorists who were able to express their views, though their presence was somewhat sullied by one disrespectful individual who used the opportunity to take illegal photographs and record the event without the proper permits. This "Photohawk" has not been condemned in the UK detecting community and any future such debate in which I take part will accordingly be blocked to metal detectorists. 

Just look at those comments under the blog post, all by metal detectorists (many by a single one posing as several sock puppets), and you can see why there is no point trying to include them in any serious discussion of heritage policy.  

Vignette: misericord (1480) in the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam

The Antiquities Trade: The Virus of Denial

For the first time I can remember ACCG dealer Wayne Sayles writes (here RE: New German Legislation) more pompously than ex-ACCG Dealer Dave (Welsh). Most of what he wrote can be ignored as the usual hot air, but let us just highlight another case of dealer weaselwording:
"The ideological position that private collecting is inappropriate and anathema to the preservation of culture is both recent and (I believe) misguided. It's the most extreme form of Cultural Property Nationalism and the underlying basis for this new legislative attempt."
No. What is at the basis of this regulation is that the continued failure of the antiquities trade to do anything to exclude illicit artefacts is leading to the destruction of archaeological sites by clandestine and illegal commercial exploitation. This has nothing to do with "cultural property nationalism" (a term Sayles barely understands anyway) and everything to do with sustainable use and preservation of a fragile and finite resource. Dealers like Sayles refusing to admit that, and constantly trying to misrepresent it to their audiences as something else is the root of the problem. This is why many feel that in order to stop the haemorrhage of illicit artefacts, legislation is the only option rather than waiting any longer for the atavistic antiquities trade to develop some effective good business practices that will lead to the same end. They obviously are not going to, are fighting against the notion that they have to, pretend like twelve-year olds that the whole problem is not their fault, everyone else is to blame but them. If they feel that the measures being taken to stop their businesscauseing any more damage is "repressive", then they can only blame their own passivity as a profession (I use the term loosely) since the writing of the UNESCO 1970 Convention. Forty five years they've been ignoring it. That's 45 years too many.

German Draft Legislation: Where's the Scan?

While US and German dealers, faced with the prospect of actually doing the due diligence they all claim to do if they sell dugup artefacts in the heart of Old Europe, are managing to get kneejerk reactions from a lot of unthinking Disneybred US coin collectors, not all are following the Pied Piper under the mountain. It seems that the British are showing more discretion.

The mysterious group urging "Support the Responsible Hobby" originates in England and it will be a test of the extent of the influence of the Portable Antiquities Scheme there (with its emphasis on responsibly recording finds) how man (IF any) collectors sign up from the British Isles, otherwise the PAS will turn out to have been a massive waste of public money on doing public outreach which was wholly ineffectual when it comes to achieving best practice.

A British collector joined the growing kneejerky discussion on Tim Haines' Yahoo Ancient Artifacts discussion list among a select few who are actually breaking away from the flock mentality of the rest, and makes a very important point:
List members, The current German law of 2007  concerns  objects imported into Germany from another EU nation after 31 December 1992 or imported into Germany from any other UNESCO Convention signatory after 26 April 2007. So 1992 and 2007 are the current thresholds. Read through that law for other current conditions. I have absolutely no intention of signing any petition or commenting on this new draft proposal one way or the other until I see an actual copy of the draft proposal and know what it actually SAYS - rather than relying on a frantic campaign by a trade lobby and blindly accepting what THEY say it says. Show me the REAL ACTUAL draft proposal and I'll comment. Until then, it's all just hot air based on second-hand interpretations by groups with an agenda. As an historian, I insist on PRIMARY sources.  
It will be noted that nobody in any of the trade associations opposing this draft of the proposed law in the case of dugup artefacts has a copy of the text and a scanner. Otherwise surely they'd have put a copy of the entire text on the internet for collectors (and dealers) to discuss. Why, for example has the ACCG, firmly opposed to the document (so one would has assume has obtained a copy) not done this for the benefit of its members? Ms Kampmann, have you got a scanner?

Oh yes, there's one....
Red house slippers and a scanner - so where's the text?


Monday 27 July 2015

Egyptian Artefact Smuggling and Transnational Organized Crime

Antiquities dealers buying ancient Egyptian artefacts without ascertaining that they are of legal origins are putting money into the pockets of participants of transnational organized crime warned Interpol: 'Egyptian authorities seize guns, drugs and stolen art in operation targeting illicit goods', 13th July 2015)
A 60-day operation conducted across Egypt targeting illicit and fake goods has resulted in the seizure of genuine guns, drugs and stolen works of art. More than 233 weapons, including shot guns, machine guns and rifles, 30 kg of heroin, nearly five kg of opium and almost three kg of cocaine, in addition to 23 pieces of elephant ivory weighing 43 kg were among the illegal goods seized during Operation Monitor Eye. At Damietta port, inside a 40-feet container allegedly containing wooden furniture to be shipped to the US, Egyptian authorities discovered 135 porcelain and wooden artefacts from the Muhammad Ali Dynasty which had been stolen from museums and a warehouse belonging to the Ministry of Culture. The operation, supported by INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods and Counterfeiting unit, was run by the Ministry of the Interior and saw interventions at land, air and sea ports, markets, shops and warehouses across the country between 1 May and 30 June. [...] INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services Tim Morris said the range of items seized clearly demonstrated the links between various types of crime, requiring a coordinated and cross-sector approach. “Criminals will take advantage of any and every opportunity open to them, whether this is through smuggling stolen works of art or guns or drugs, or trafficking in fake and illicit goods [...] which generate millions in profits for the organized crime networks behind them,” said Mr Morris.
Operation Monitor Eye followed a three-day training course in April and demonstrates the increased efforts across North Africa and the Middle East to identify and dismantle the transnational organized criminal networks behind illicit markets. And still thousands of collectors refuse to help clean up the antiquities market.

Vignette: Damietta

Jackboot-fantasists in the Mall

This is a threat to collectors
everywhere:"Today Germany, tomorrow the world". 

Nazis on Dave Welsh's mind
Over on Moneta-L there is of course a lively discussion of Germany's proposed due diligence regulations. You know, that thing every coin dealer cheerfully tells you they 'did already' when they bought something for their stock. Now when it seems that to sell them to somebody in Germany, they'd have to prove that, it's a problem ("ooops-I-lost-all-the-papers-again"). This is what "Classical Coins" Dave Welsh has to say (RE: New German Legislation).   
In my opinion it is vitally important not only to develop enough opposition to defeat this attempt to legislate "political correctness" but enough outrage to politically discredit the cultural fascism that has brazenly attempted it. These extremists are not only against collecting, they are against freedom, and against the right of intelligent individuals to make their own informed decisions. We have here an attempt to institutionalize, in the government of Germany and thereafter Europe, archaeology as an official cultural ideology -- and that is every bit as wrong and ill advised as it would be to institutionalize an official religion. It is a form of totalitarianism, and I believe that the world has had enough of that, particularly in Germany.
Of course there is no question in a market where illicitly obtained material is in free circulation of due diligence being merely "political correctness" or "extremism". It is a matter of keeping tainted material off the market. Neither is the attempt to clean up the market any kind of "fascism" (comic-book cardboard cutout or otherwise) or assault on freedom any more than speed limits and red lights at road junctions are.

As for the idiotic notion of "archaeology as a totalitarian state ideology", what we are talking about is collecting histories and export licences. What it is proposing as a ruling ideology is not "archaeology" but following the law and avoiding criminal activity.

In the case of the suggestion that measures instituted to ensure the addition of illicit antiquities to a dealer's stock is "against the right of intelligent individuals to make their own informed decisions", it is amply demonstrated on every forum, discussion list and webpage on cultural property issues, that the coin collecting community (and that of the USA in particular) is not exactly overflowing with individuals even of average intellect and literacy skills. Funnily enough when it comes to following the law (driving a motor vehicle, selling weapons, age of consent for sex, taking other people's property, selling fireworks, employment etc) the German constitution does not enshrine a right "for intelligent individuals to make their own decisions", it is called there "breaking the law" and the German constitution (like most of those in Europe) is rather there to protect other innocent people from law breakers. 

But here we at last see what I suspect is the problem. Dave Welsh thinks "due diligence is for others", other dealers. He obviously considers himself to be an "intelligent individual" who can "make his own informed decisions". Thus we have it him selling Parthian coins as of kosher provenance because he bought them from a Spanish dealer and he's never heard of any looted stuff comiung from Spain.* Now obviously standards of what is considered "intelligent" will vary across the world. What may be considered an "intelligent opinion" in a Jesuit school in California would be considered a sign of utter idiocy in a grammar school in England.  Anyone who's gone to the latter and mercifully avoided the former will see that Mr Welsh's idea of "individuals making their own decisions" is no longer the sort of basis on which the antiquities trade of the twenty-first century should be based. Instead of subjective decisions based on what is made available at any time by foreign middlemen, we need the institution of well-documented good business practice, just as when eggs and potatoes are sold in German supermarkets. This is not "totalitarianism" or "fascism" (sic), but good business practice and consumer protection.

Vignette: Pennsylvania bill would require schools to post ‘In God We Trust’ motto

PS pointing out the mechanism by which he introduced those coins onto the market is what dealer Dave Welsh deletes in quoting that fragment of my text on his blog, labelling it "turgid anticollecting verbiage omitted". Apparently, in the eyes of those over-sensitive individuals involved in it, anything which raises any issue at all about the manner in which the commerce in archaeological artefacts is carried out is by its very nature "anti-collecting" - even though in fact what I was talking about was about buying and selling by a dealer and not collecting at all. 

Who Will "Support Responsible Antiquity Collecting"?

This afternoon I was asked by somebody calling themselves "Ethical Collectors" sic to stop tarring all collectors with the same brush (which in fact, I do not think I do) and take a look at the petition he/she/they had started addressed to "UNESCO, UK government, US government, government of Federal Republic of Germany and others" and called "Support Responsible Antiquity Collecting". The  blurb is interesting:
We, the undersigned, call on UNESCO and Governments to institute legal and other measures to clean up the international antiquities market, to eliminate the risk for collectors of buying anonymous artefacts resulting from criminal activity (looting, theft, smuggling, fraud) and to prevent collectors' money being put to nefarious purposes (financing organized crime, terrorism, militant activity etc).
I am unsure how to treat this, there are absolutely no signatures on this petition, and I am unsure where else it is being promoted. The creators (the email originated in a server in the southwest of England) seem to want to create the impression that there is a groundswell of responsible collectors out there who are opposed to the philistine tactics of their fellows. The effort falls a bit flat though when they cannot get a single collector to sign up to it and given the numbers that are signing up in droves to aa rival petition to prevent due diligence being mandated in the German market and thus support the criminals. That rather puts the notion of "responsible collecting" into perspective.

I am unclear whether the petition is open to signing by archaeologists and heritage professionals (such as the staff of the PAS) who "support responsible collecting", or whether the creators intended it to be signed only by ethical collectors (and are dealers eligible?). Anyway, one to watch, let us see what happens.

Are there any ethical collectors out there anywhere in the English (or even German) speaking world that would like to declare themselves in favour of artefacts accompanied by documentation of proper due diligence? Or are they afraid to put their head up over the parapet?

German Collectors Guilty

The petition "Für den Erhalt des privaten Sammelns" (sic) has now 3,723 supporters in Germany. This is the country where the media have been stressing that illicit artefacts from southern Europe and the Middle East may be responsible for financing organized crime and civil war. Nearly four thousand German collectors show they do not give a tinkers for any of that, they just want the continued ability to buy paperless antiquities and shut their eyes to where they come from. This is who collectors are.

The site where the petition was organized has some interesting features which allow the information to be analysed from a number of points of view. Here is the graph of progress of the petition (I have a feeling that in the next few days we will see some more populist alarmist anti-due-diligence material from the dealers to chivvy collectors along), and the map of where these collectors are. The black spots are festering wounds on the face of Germany's image, but in fact highlight the main population centres. It would seem that in Germany coin collecting is primarily the preserve of urban dwellers rather than the population as a whole. Is there perhaps some kind of psychological reason for this?


Antiquities Smuggling is ....

Coin dealer Scott Semans makes a rather amazing announcement on a forum connected with fake ancient coins (Re: Petition vs new German legislation restricting collecting of cultural artefacts incl coins Sun Jul 26, 2015 8:30 am PDT) .
I signed the petition, citing the numerous core principles of western law which this would violate. As a practical matter for someone with customers all over the world, I am concerned about theft by postal, customs, and even private transport employees lately used by European postal systems. I hope that my usual declaration of "metal stampings" will not be too unclear to the dutiful German customs official who may now concerned with some small class of this product. Of course for the Roman Aes and old Chinese, metal castings is correct.
Despite the coiney claptrap, the proposed regulation of the German art market does not in fact violate any "core principles of western law", but I am sure German lawmakers will give due attention to the American's exegesis of what he assumes they do not know. Posting something that to comply with customs regulations requires a declaration (ancient coins)  as "metal stampings" to avoid scrutiny is what the rest of us call "smuggling". It's like marking ancient statues as "garden furniture" and dismantled Egyptian sarcophagi as "potatoes". Shame on you.

Vignettes: Coin dealers are coin dealers and ever will be thus, other sellers of stamped metal goods value the truth.

Twenty answers from the LVA PAS (1) Starting as they Mean to go on?

I must admit I was surprised to see in my email box on 23rd July, three days after the return of Ms Raikes (the new manager of the PAS) from annual leave, the answers to the twenty questions I sent earlier. Accustomed to being among those almost totally ignored (my FOI revealed it was an official BM policy) by Roger Bland's PAS, I was somewhat taken aback to actually receive some reasonable answers to perfectly reasonable questions. Perhaps shifting the PAS to a department dedicated to 'education and interaction' with audiences rather than being an extension of the 'Department of Coins and other Round Things' bodes well. I sincerely hope that this fresh start means this is how the LVA PAS intends to go on. Thank you.

Here is what was written at the top:
Dear Mr Barford,
Thank you for your enquiry. We have responded to each of your questions below and have attached further information to this email. Kind regards,

Susan Raikes Head of Learning, Volunteers and Audiences
Michael Lewis Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure
Now that's how to do it. The "further information" is a duplicated statement about the changes to the PAS purporting to be from the end of April. This is intended to be an answer to my first question:
The Fate of the National Scheme
1) Why has no official announcement been made about the dissolution of the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure with which so many members of the public have hitherto had contact?
The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has been part of the British Museum since 2006 and  from 2012 operated as part of the British Museum Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory, at which point  Michael Lewis became Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure. The attached statement was made available in May 2015 following the decision to bring the Portable Antiquities and Treasure team into the same department (Learning, Volunteers and Audiences) as the rest of the British Museum’s activity across the UK.
Now, when I say there was no official announcement made, it means I have checked and found that no official announcement was made.  I am not a coin collector or metal detectorist. When I wrote - as far as I am aware - there really was was no such official statement anywhere in public, least of all on the PAS or British Museum website, which is the first place you'd expect to see it posted. So I am unclear what the PAS consider the phrase "made available" to mean. Certainly it seems the writer of the British Archaeology piece that first brought the information to most people ('The End of an Era: PAS Moves, Roger Bland Leaves' Sunday, 14 June 2015) had seen a document which contains information found in the 'full statement'. To whom and how had this information been 'made available'?

In answer to my question, the BM deny it to be the case that there had been no public announcement because a "statement was made available" - except it seems nobody saw it, nobody cites it, nobody discussed it. I reproduce both  versions of that statement for the benefit of those who, like me, never saw it:
The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has been part of the British Museum since 2006. In 2012 Michael Lewis was appointed as Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure when Roger Bland became Keeper of the Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory.

From 1 May 2015 the management of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act has transferred to the Department of Learning, Volunteers and Audiences. A review of where PAS and Treasure best fits within the Museum showed that this move best reflects the impact of PAS and Treasure across the UK.

Through a range of programmes coordinated by the Department of Learning, Volunteers and Audiences, the British Museum shares its collections and expertise with over 200 UK museums every year. PAS and Treasure are vitally important programmes of activity for the British Museum and link into this national programme of collaboration of loans and wider work with partner museums across the country. The British Museum lent 2,700 objects to 187 venues in the UK in 2013/14, including 1,200 long-term loans. As a result 3 million people saw British Museum objects in museums outside of London, compared to the 2 million UK visitors that travelled to the site in Bloomsbury. Increasingly finders and landowners have waived their right to a reward, enabling museums to acquire Treasure at reduced or no cost and contributing to the wider dissemination of knowledge across the UK.

Another core element of PAS and Treasure benefitting from this move is the Portable Antiquities Scheme's database that holds records of objects and coins found by the public. The two staff members responsible for this database will now sit in the new Digital and Publishing department at the British Museum. The database lies at the heart of the scheme and it can be even better supported by new expertise and extra resources in the Museum’s digital team, allowing it to flourish as technology advances.
Here is the "FULL STATEMENT", quite why two were felt needed is an interesting question since neither seem to have been widely distributed.
29 April 2015

From 1 May the management of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and the Treasure Act will transfer from the Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory to the Department of Learning, Volunteers and Audiences. Following a review of where PAS and Treasure best fits within the Museum, it was decided this move best reflects the impact of PAS and Treasure across the UK. There are no planned changes to staff as a result. Roger Bland, Keeper of Britain, Europe and Prehistory has today announced his retirement.

Funding for PAS and Treasure has been reduced by 6% in line with the grant-in-aid cuts to the British Museum and other non-governmental bodies.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act are administered by the British Museum and encourage the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of objects are discovered, many of these by metal-detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work. History is constantly re-written thanks to the scheme with over 1 million archaeological objects and coins found by the public being recorded.

This is a vitally important programme of activity for the British Museum, linking into its national programme of collaboration with partner museums across the country. Increasingly finders and landowners have waived their right to a reward, enabling museums to acquire Treasure at reduced or no cost. In 2012, 137 parties waived their right to a reward in 93 cases; more than double the number of cases five years ago. Museums have also benefited from funding being made available through the Art Fund, the Headley Trust, The Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and the V&A Purchase Grant fund, which all funded museum acquisitions of Treasure in 2012.

Through a range of programmes the BM shared its collections and expertise with over 200 UK museums in 2013/14. The British Museum has 7 long-term Partnership Galleries in museums in York, Newcastle, Birmingham, Truro, Carlisle, Glasgow and Manchester. The British Museum lent 2,700 objects to 187 venues in the UK in 2013/14, including 1,200 long-term loans. As a result 3 million people saw British Museum objects in museums outside of London, compared to the 2 million UK visitors that traveled to the site in Bloomsbury.
This text says less about the new arrangements than it does about what Bland's leadership achieved. Totally unexplained is why there is even a mention of "Roger Bland, Keeper of Britain, Europe and Prehistory has today announced his retirement", given the earlier information. Have they now no partnership gallery in Suffolk with the Sutton Hoo material? But then what on earth do "partnership galleries" have to do with a national scheme of recording finds in private collections? There is a great difference between the BM loaning 'objects and expertise' and using external museums to finance the gathering of information for a database being compiled in the British Museum.

I will present the other answers in the post below as written, and then below that I wish to comment on what we have (and have not) been told.

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