Thursday 30 July 2015

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?


Ju said...

He has been selling lots of these so-called 'British' crosses over past year. One lot originally came from Eastern Europe being sold then as replicas! He has another buying name as well on ebay

Paul Barford said...

Now, isn't that just why ever single artefact sold to collectors must be accompanied by proper documentation of where it came from and how it got onto the market and nobody should accept having to buy these things 'blind'?

Are you such a collector "Ju"?

Unknown said...

I must admit that I am just such a "blind" collector -- an eBay hunter, if you like. But anyone who's spent any time shopping there and who has any common sense can see that Saxby Coins sells one fake after another. I ought also admit that I've taken a few moments pleasure in watching from time to time as idiot Saxby bidders send the prices of blatantly faked Knights of Templar rings, et al., through the proverbial roof. Such is life. Life is about learning, not just banning. This isn't an endorsement of fraud, you understand; just a broader look at the whole human process. And the authenticating burden need not fall entirely upon antiquities sellers -- to provide proper identification and provenance for ancient items -- instead present the items without these and leave the identifying to prospective buyers, as opposed to their making false or ignorant claims. But forget about establishing provenance for most eBay items: it's a practical impossibility, given that most items aren't "freshly dug", as some would have us believe, but instead are family heirlooms, or collector swaps, or chance old discoveries. Must every antiquity pass through the hands of an archaeologist before reaching eBay? And in two thousand years archaeologists will in turn closely examine Saxby's unsold wares to learn more about twenty-first century Man. It's almost comical when we take ourselves too seriously.

Paul Barford said...

"given that most items aren't "freshly dug", as some would have us believe, but instead are family heirlooms, or collector swaps, or chance old discoveries"
Why is that a "given" for you? Can you prove it? Why when there are so many things already are people still digging them up? And what about those that are NOT "chance old discoiveries" but deliberately sought out and looted? You suggest shrugging our shoulders and smiling with amusement because its another thing you think "need not be taken seriously". I know, let's not take the whales, tigers and rhinos "seriously" either. Their demise will "tell those who come after us a lot about 21st century people".

Unknown said...

You're mixing apples and orangutans. I take very seriously all the living things today -- almost to the complete exclusion of the long dead. I care not a whit about antiquities or looting: Our trash too is tomorrow's treasure. And so it goes. But for the brief time we're on this pretty planet we ought to focus upon how we treat one another and our fragile Earth, not wring our hands about the refuse of what were alternatively magnificent and brutal ancient cultures. People have always been people. We'll find no answers to saving the whales depicted upon any Roman mosaics. Can I prove this? Not yet. I suppose that's your job.

Paul Barford said...

The point is the archaeological record of our human past is a finite resource, like the whales, tigers, butterflies, clean water, fossil fuels and anything else which people are (or should be) concerned about. Once its gone it is gone. I do not see why there should be anything difficult to understand that some advocate discussing how to use them wisely.

"I must admit that I am just such a "blind" collector"
"I care not a whit about antiquities or looting"

Unknown said...

In principle I have no objection to preserving all antiquities. One must understand though(and I'm sure you do)that if we were in practice to preserve all ancient sites, we would have no place today to live for ourselves; since there have undoubtedly been settlements, or at least temporary camps, almost everywhere we currently call home. Ought we dig through coral reefs instead to uncover sunken cities, destroying marine ecosystems? Or do the living deserve their own time to reign, no matter the greater accomplishments of ancient civilizations? (And how magnificent must we ourselves prove to be to merit such deference from future generations?) In a finite world, if trade-offs must be made -- and mustn't they be? -- they ought to fall in favor of the living always. Whether this favors poor local looters trying to feed their families, landowners claiming what they've found on their own properties, dreamy kids of all ages seeking riches and glory, or even what are admittedly-detestable professional looting rings, this land is more theirs now than it is the ancients'. And no person, however conscientious, who lives outside of another country ought to have more say about the disposition of the latter's resources, ancient or otherwise, than a native citizen within that country.

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