Wednesday 30 September 2015

Clearstory Statement on "Nazi War Diggers"

Screenshot: Metal detectorist getting
in the role, donning ground dug
Nazi hlmet
This is an undated statement by the production company of "Nazi War Diggers" now apparently retitled "Battlefield Recovery" (Hat tip Andy Brockman for the link):
Battlefield Recovery is a 4 x 1hr history series that throws light on less well-known and well-documented battlefields of World War Two’s bloody Eastern Front. Unfortunately, following the marketing launch of the series by the commissioning network, misinformed speculation was spread about the series on the web. The production team, cast and the local organizations they worked with made these films for a positive purpose – to recover battlefield artifacts, hand over excavated items to authorities for safe keeping and bury the dead with honour. The series contains a strong editorial line AGAINST unlicensed battlefield looting and gives the fallen of World War Two proper and due respect. The series was signed off by the original network’s Standards and Practices and the network has stated that it is not aware of any shortcomings in the production’s performance or compliance. The network has apologized to the production team and cast for what happened. We hope you enjoy the series when it is eventually broadcast.
There was no "uniformed speculation", the comments that were made were on the basis of fragments of the filmed material that were released as trailers, and the content of the promotional website - both of which were withdrawn within days of the comments made referring to them. They depicted the diggers as doing quite the opposite of 'showing proper and due respect' to the remains hoiked from their burial site. In addition material on collectors forums submitted by members of the 'cast' suggested that artefacts were brought home, like a ground dug helmet from Latvia. One of the cast members falsely accuses me of making death threats to him ('"Nazi war Digger": Statement').

I have been watching the broadcast of episodes of this series which have been dubbed into Polish and put out here under the title "Searchers for Treasures (sic) of the War" and will be sharing my views on what I see just as soon as they get to the episode filmed in Poland. Basically what I see changes nothing at all in my assessment of the programme, indeed, it is worse than I expected.  It also has attracted some derision of these 'Angols' on their forums from Polish artefact hunters. There are added subtitles claiming that what the films show is not what in fact happened, which rather begs the question why it was filmed in a way which (negatively) distorts reality - and suggests that the 'purpose' of the programme is not to depict the responsible recovery of battlefield evidence and locate any remains so they could be 'buried with honour' but to make television and nothing else. It is a shame it was made in that format, and a great pity that it was broadcast with only a few cosmetic changes (the sequence with waving the bone around which we saw in the first trailer was edited slightly - but not enough).

UPDATE 1st October 2015
 I see that Andy Brockman has a sharply-worded post on the topic of a possible British broadcast of this dreadful stuff with its damaging depiction of irresponsible battlefield artefact hunting:  "Nazi War Diggers" in Zombie Resurrection', The pipeline October 1, 2015. The production company and people connected with this project need to address the questions he raises.

He's found a few clips in a promotional film on You Tube, including metal detectorist Kris Rodgers guffawing as he shoots a Maschinenpistole 40 (where?), another Steve Taylor wearing an M1942 Nazi helmet with boys' toy explosive trophy display and big bangs interspersed with wildlife clips and British 'Peasant TV'. That's the level of entertainment the programme exhibits.

"New York private collection" is no legitimating collection history

ChasingAphrodite, vexed by a dealer's questions from the floor at the Conflict Antiquities meeting  tweeted:
Check out provenance on Syrian object sold by skeptical antiquities dealer: "New York private collection"
[a Syro-Hittite Terracotta Ram with a plasticine foot]. See my text on his incantation bowls. Founder member of ACDAEA.

Speak Up Peter

Bearded, he almost looks
like he could be an archaeologist
Chasing Aphrodite ‏at the "Conflict Antiquities" conference tweeted
Dying to read retort to today's evidence from skeptics like coin dealer lobbyist Peter Tompa 
I must admit to being curious too, but the paid lobbyist with friends in metaldetectory places is remaining stubbornly silent. Perhaps he has problems in dealing with real arguments instead of just sniping. Peter Tompa seems to me less a sceptic than a snidely sniping stirrer. I envisage a 'two wrongs' argument or a conspiracy theory (with dealers and collectors the innocent victims) coming up. IAPN members' money well spent?

True to form, sniping at paper tigers,, no discussion - and it's a conspiracy victimising dealers. Tompa accuses distortion of facts "in order to help justify proposed legislation in Germany and the US that would create intrusive new bureaucracies to regulate the longstanding trade in cultural goods".

Dealer Swope Puts the World to Rights

Mari looting - Swope says the international antiquities trade
is in no way connected with these holes. Tell us how.

Tom Swope, ACDAEA "Dealer of Ancient art from around the world" Hudson, NY, United States has a gallery: and he has a blog. The ACDAEA is promoting his latest blog post: "Civilization Under Attack, what can we do?" Monday, September 28, 2015. It is another example of the cardboard cutout thinking that defies rationality. He is disappointed that the reaction to the looting is meetings "bashing the antiquities trade, as if the dealers were responsible for the destruction of the archaeological sites in the Near East" ummm, duh!   The problem is this numpty sees statue/monument smashing and museum trashing as the only form of destruction, and simply shuts his eyes to the  burrowing into the stratigraphy of sites to produce the artefacts like the ones he has in his own gallery (which obviously fell from the skies) as in any way a destructive activity. This is the problem with antiquity dealers (the ACDAEA in particular - a notably underinformed group of people). His blog post also presents the market as entirely a 'high end' affair. "Rich people are not stupid" he says, but not only rich people buy antiquities, and looking at what some of them do, indeed, buy, yes, there are obviously very many completely stupid, ignorant, people out there buying antiquities (or crappy fakes and misdescribed objects masquerading as antiquities). Then he plays the victim. They all do that. Instead of postulating and putting into action steps to clean up the antiquities market, dealers present themselves as helpless victims of an unfair academia who expects more of them. He sees dealers and collectors as saviours of "civilisation":
However the situation is different now, we are dealing with a new force of evil beyond our comprehension. We need a different approach. I would suggest that in this situation where objects and sites are being actively destroyed that perhaps the moral and right position to take is to purchase everything we can, and hope to encourage looting. There is little doubt in my mind that what is left in the Middle East will not be preserved, rather it is all at risk of destruction. [...] The great museums and collections we have are the repository for our common human history.
Mr Swope, there are many kinds of evil in the world, and different concepts of what evil is, but two wrongs do not make a right. I'll wager that paying armed militant groups to loot sites so you can have the pleasure of supplying your rich customers with goodies is not exactly high on most peoples' personal list of good deeds. The fact that much of the destruction which he decries was actually facilitated by the artefacts concerned being concentrated in museums escapes him (unless we assume that by "great museums" he means those of the United States of America).

Note the special pleading in his argument. 
The destruction of Nimrud was complete, ISIS used high explosives which sent shock waves through the ground, and would have destroyed everything both above ground and underneath. The archaeological site has been effectively and utterly destroyed with nothing left for future generations to discover.  Now the only remnants are what was taken out by the West and currently in our great museums. 
First of all, just one complex of buildings (formerly a popular tourist site) was destroyed. Secondly, no "high explosives" were used, it was an IED of ammonium nitrate fertiliser used here. The short sequence at the end of the ISIL snuff video showed a site where the top had been blown off, but my own personal opinion is that there was not much (corrugated tin roofing on a light wooden framework) to deflect the force of the explosion down, and that contained in the excavation, it mostly went up and we will find the base of those walls intact - the archaeology of bombed sites in London after the 'Blitz' was still there to be excavated by Grimes and others after the War. Here Mr Swope is heading off the argument that what is not looted is safer in the ground than it would be in a museum. But then ISIL is not blanket bombing very single archaeological site in Iraq and Syria, but dozens of them are being riddled with holes to feed a voracious "ancient art" market one of the motors of which is now idiot texts like that of Mr "purchase everything we can, and hope to encourage looting" Swope. Can we put a stop to this nonsense from dealers and their supporters and have some proper discussions about stopping the illicit trade in smuggled and looted artefacts. I note that not a single one of the antiquities which I looked at in Mr Swope's gallery has a stated collecting history.

US Department of State Engage in, or Caught out by, Misinformation?

I am a bit bogged down with work at the moment, so for the moment will not be sharing my thoughts on the bulk of the Twitter and video takeaways from the session yesterday at New York's Metropolitan Museum on "Conflict Antiquities". It was obviously an interesting session which produced some nice quotable quotes but, more importantly,  fudged a whole lot of issues. It looks as if the whole thing was another attempt by the US authorities to whip up public opinion against ISIL as the sole culture-smashing barbarians and play down all the rest - a fact not lost on some of the tweeting audience which maintained some healthy scepticism to what they were being told. More of that later.

 Charles Jones has summarised some of the main points here: " Roundup: Conflict Antiquities: Forging a Public/Private Response to Save Iraq and Syria's Endangered Cultural Heritage" with links to Morag Kersel's storify of the twitter stream on the conference, and to documents mentioned.

I want to put on record however my own opinion at the moment - for which I will give the reasons later - about the documents produced by Deputy Assistant Secretary Andrew Kelly which in the    words of one observer "pretty much settles any debate over whether ISIS is making money off looting". This was the verdict of the CBN news report ISIS' records show millions raised by antiquities smuggling September 29, 2015 (with again its nonsensical link of mosaics dug up in Apamea as supporting ISIL funding - Apamea is not and has not yet been in ISIL hands). I am wholly sceptical, I think there are good reasons to believe that these documents have been faked. When analysing documents as evidence, the historian looks at what the author wants us to know. These documents serve well to "show us that ISIL is getting tax from antiquity sales", but as actual "working" tax receipts they fail dismally to convince me.  More later.

Where are the original documents? In the US (why?) or in Iraq (why?). If the latter, was that translation perhaps provided to the Americans by the Iraqi intelligence service, who have been caught out before giving out information about ISIL antiquities dealings of doubtful (and doubted) veracity? Can we see high resolution and unredacted scans of the originals please? And all of them, with a proper report describing the origins, associations and interpretation of these documents as evidence (you can use some of that "5 million dollars reward" to create it).

"Stolen antiquities on the Daily Show"

"Along with other buyers, US art collectors
provide ISIS with 100 million dollars a year" 

"It's a steal"
The Daily Show September 29, 2015 - "President Obama and Vladimir Putin meet for an uncomfortable dinner, ISIS fills the black market with ancient relics". I have mixed feelings about this, and it is not just because this is on a topic I feel strongly about. I thought many of the standup acts of Trevor Noah we saw before he took over TDS from John Stewart were good. Here he is rubbish. The audience is not much better (03:03). The sketch at the end with Desi Lydik posing as the Daily Show "senior antiquities correspondent" is unfathomably puerile. Metal detectorist level. Are they using different writers, or what?

Tuesday 29 September 2015

New clay tablet adds 20 lines to Epic of Gilgamesh

The History Blog has a nice article on the new Gilgamesh fragment which has been causing some interest lately ('New clay tablet adds 20 lines to Epic of Gilgamesh' September 28th, 2015):
A newly discovered clay tablet in the Sulaymaniah Museum in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has corrected the order of chapters, filled in blanks and added 20 lines to the Epic of Gilgamesh. Since the invasion of Iraq and subsequent orgy of looting, the museum has a matter of policy paid smugglers to keep artifacts from leaving the country, no questions asked. The tablet was acquired by the museum in late 2011 as part of a collection of 80-90 tablets sold by an unnamed shady character. Professor Farouk Al-Rawi examined the collection while the seller haggled with museum official Abdullah Hashim. When Al-Rawi he saw this tablet, he told Hashim to pay whatever the seller wanted: $800. Even caked in mud the tablet’s importance was instantly recognizable to the expert. Once it was clean, Al-Rawi identified it as a fragment of Tablet V of the Standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. The tablet is the left half of a six-column tablet written in Neo-Babylonian. It’s composed of three fragments that have been glued together, oddly enough, probably either by the original excavators or the seller. It is 11 centimeters (4.3 inches) high, 9.5 cm (3.7 inchs) wide and three cm (1.2 inches) thick.
The text again arouses the debate about the ethics of handling looted material. What else was in the ground at the site of discovery (commercial digging) that was destroyed or not collected? Where did this fragment come from, and were there other tablets there with it? More to the point, where did the money go that was paid out n late 2011? Did some of it go to financing the activities of armed groups?

The comments are interesting:

Bort 2015-09-30 21:12:40 FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD IN THE WORLD DON’T READ THE NEW PASSAGES OUT LOUD. That’s how the Old Ones are summoned. :eek: Or so I’ve heard. :shifty: Well, at least don’t try to read them in the native tongue okay. I don’t know if That Which Shan’t Be Named understands English. :chicken:

[oh well, too late - among others online: 'Hear The Epic of Gilgamesh Read in the Original Akkadian'].

Disrupt Antiquities Trade and get a US Cash Reward

The US Rewards for Justice program is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the significant disruption of the sale and/or trade of oil and antiquities by, for, on behalf of, or to benefit the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known by its Arabic acronym as DAESH.
Terrorist groups such as ISIL rely on financing and support networks to sustain operations and launch attacks. ISIL’s illicit oil operations and trafficking in looted archaeological material from Syria and Iraq are key sources of revenue, helping the terrorist organization to generate millions of dollars in hard currency and enabling ISIL to carry out its brutal tactics and oppress innocent civilians. ISIL’s damage to and looting of cultural and historical sites in Iraq and Syria have destroyed irreplaceable evidence of ancient life and society. Ancient and historical coins, jewelry and carved gems, plaques, sculptures, containers, and cuneiform tablets are among the types of Syrian and Iraqi cultural objects that ISIL is seeking. The Emergency Red Lists of Cultural Objects at Risk, developed by the International Council of Museums with support from the U.S. Department of State, provide a comprehensive list of the types of items looted and trafficked from Syria and Iraq and are linked here and here. With the goal to counter ISIL’s financing, the U.S. Department of State hopes this reward generates information regarding individuals or entities engaged in the production, facilitation, processing, smuggling, distribution, sale, and trade of oil and antiquities that benefit ISIL, as well as information regarding smuggling networks, methods, and routes underlying these activities.
But how much are they offering for stopping trade and smuggling from and by the anti-government rebels (some US-supported)  in the north and west of the country to buy their bombs and bullets? Conflict antiquities are conflict antiquities, no matter what side you are on.  Just because the US for their own reasons defines one group of men with guns "terrorists" and refrains from labelling another does not legitimise the prolongation of an armed struggle which is causing so much human misery and loss of life and livelihood.

More Becchina material Surfaces in Christie's

Tsirogiannis: Christies' upcoming sale in London 
 It appears that Christie's has not conducted a sufficiently rigorous due diligence process to identify material from the Becchina archive. Will the auction house be withdrawing the lots prior to the sale?
Vignette: slippery business, antiquities

'Is looting-to-order of cultural property“just a myth”?

Samuel Andrew Hardy, 'Is looting-to-order “just a myth”? Open-source analysis of theft-to-order of cultural property' Co gent Social Sciences, 2015, 1: 1087110 (14 Sep 2015)
Looting-to-order or theft-to-order of cultural assets has been widely dismissed as a myth. To test that, an open-source analysis of cases and testimony from law enforcement agents, perpetrators of cultural property crime and cultural heritage professionals was conducted. Web searches were conducted for reports that addressed looting, stealing or theft of cultural property on commission or to order; for material that discussed looters, robbers or thieves who had been contracted, employed, hired or paid to extract antiquities; and for academic publications that discussed “looting to order”, “theft to order” or any commodity “stolen to order”. Source-end employment/contracting that did not demonstrate a direct connection to market-end purchase and other cases that might have constituted “stealing to offer” were excluded, as were implicit and complicit orders that did not establish a contractual relationship. The analysis found historic and global evidence of commissioned theft of cultural property. It also found evidence that theft-to-order was a significant problem in some places and had served as a structure for conflict antiquities trading in Argentina, Cambodia and Syria. Since it is an exceptionally challenging form of an already difficult-to-police crime, the evidence of theft-to-order reinforces demands for increased market regulation through export and import licensing.

PAS sees another 'milestone'

The PAS is celebrating yet again, Daniel Pett‏@DEJPett 29.09.2015
The recorders have broken 700,000 record barrier on @findsorguk. Pleased with the performance!
Not so long ago they were trumpeting "a million finds" and I was pointing out that by lumping thousand-coin (Treasure) hoards into the record alongside non-Treasure finds they were artificially creating a false impression of how many records they have achieved. Let's see how long it takes them to get a million "records" and then take a look at the Artefact Erosion Counter to see a suggestion of what the shortfall ("take" versus "recorded") actually is.

Monday 28 September 2015

UK Metal Detectorist Targets Known Site: Finds Treasure, Gets Reward

A hoard of silver coins dating back to Roman times has been found in a village near Norwich, it has been revealed. A metal detector enthusiast unearthed the 26 silver coins, which were issued between 154BC and AD37. The precise location of the discovery is not being revealed in a bid to deter illegal treasure hunters. Norwich Castle Museum expert Adrian Marsden said more coins could still be hidden at the site, where two previous hoards have been found.
So the site of two groups of finds of national importance is not protected and we find it being targeted by more artefact hunters out to get their rewards? Why are not sites from which Treasure is reported not automatically protected by law?

Saturday 26 September 2015

On Trial for Destruction of Historical Monuments

An alleged Islamic extremist who is  accused of destroying Timbuktu monuments during unrest in 2012 in Mali has been sent to the :
Ahmad Al Mahdi Al Faqi, known as Abu Tourab, is the first suspect in the court’s custody charged with the war crime of destroying religious or historical monuments. Al Faqi was surrendered to the court by Niger based on an arrest warrant issued a week ago and transferred to the Hague early on Saturday. No date was immediately set for his arraignment. The court said in a statement he was a member of Ansar Dine, an Islamic extremist group with links to al-Qaida that ruled across northern Mali in 2012. He is charged in the destruction of 10 historic buildings including mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu. The entire city of Timbuktu is listed as a world heritage Site by Unesco.

Friday 25 September 2015

Lex Dura, Sed Lex

The two treasure hunters who claim they have found Nazi gold train buried eight metres beneath a hill near Walbrzych, Poland were hunting for it without permission and will be arrested
The two treasure hunters who triggered gold fever in Poland with claims of finding a Nazi train laden with WW2 loot may end up behind bars before they hit the jackpot. The head of the regional conservation authority for Walbzrych, Barbara Nowak-Obelinda, has filed a complaint with prosecutors, claiming the German and the Polish man who allegedly found the train buried eight metres below ground did not have the necessary permits to go looking for it. Mrs Nowak-Obelinda, from the Lower Silesian Conservator of Monuments, filed a complaint with the District prosecutor's office saying that the pair had searched for the train 'without permission'
Searching for historical artefacts without a specific permit to do so and setting out the conditions under which the search is to be undertaken is an offence in Poland punishable by a fine, community service or detention for 30 days.

Ed Wight 'Could the Nazi gold train treasure hunters be JAILED before getting their hands on the loot? Two men who 'found' mystery train face arrest in Poland for 'illegal' search', Mailonline 25 September 2015 49 shares 38 View comments

Looted Mexican Carving Found in France

Nobody wants to say how and where it was found....
A nearly 3,000-year-old carving stolen more than four decades ago from a remote area of southern Mexico has been recovered in France. The Olmec carving dating to around 900 B.C. had been chipped off the rock face sometime between the arrival of an archaeological team in 1968 and 1972, when the team returned to the area. It resurfaced recently in France under unclear circumstances.[...] scholars first learned about the stone carving from Germans traveling through the region in the early 20th century. Then the archaeological team arrived in 1968 to document it and search the area for more artifacts. The next time they returned, there was a gash in the rock face.[...] Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History said in a statement the carving was "secretly extracted from the rock face in the early 1970s and illegally taken out of the country."[...] It will be returned to Mexico for restoration and public display.
Associated Press, 'Ancient carving stolen more than 40 years ago in Mexico found in France' Fox News September 25, 2015

PAS Moved Out of Offices

In the reshuffle of LAVa PAS and a new director coming, the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure Unit have now been moved out of Russell Square to a new location in the southwest wing of the BM.

New BM Director Appointed

German art historian, Hartwig Fischer, to become . Like Martin Roth director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, he comes to the London post from Dresden. Let is see what his approach to metal detecting will be (it is illegal around Dresden). Also should be fun to get him to say a few words about the "Leutwitz (near Dresden) Apollo" now in Cleveland, USA.

Vignette: Dr Fischer

Thursday 24 September 2015

Stolen wooden statuette to be repatriated to Egypt from France

France will repatriate a stolen statuette that dates back to the Pharaonic sixth Dynasty to Egypt in October, announced Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities Mamdouh al-Damati in a statement Thursday. The wooden statuette was stolen from the store of The Imhotep Museum at Saqqara, 35 kilometers away from Cairo, announced Damati. “The repatriation process was achieved through cooperation with the Egyptian Cultural Office in Paris; the statuette possessor has shown a will to repatriate the archaeological object to the Ministry of Antiquities when he made sure that it had been stolen from Egypt,” the minister added.
The wooden statuette is about 33 centimeters in length and was part of a cosmetic set.

'Stolen wooden statuette to be repatriated to Egypt from France' Cairo Post Sep. 24, 2015 

That was Quick

Włodzimierz Antkowiak has written a number of books on treasure/artefact/military vehicle wreck  hunting in Poland. Here is his latest - about the "Gold Train" - beginning from the news of 18th August 2015 that two guys had found something, then in the first thirty pages is pretty sceptical about it - for much the same reasons as I am. But what a quick turnaround, about four weeks to get the book out.  As a bonus the author gives a whole lot of information about where other treasures might be found, or have been found in Poland - most of them of WW2 vintage.

Yemen - Unhappy Arabia

Damaged buildings
In Yemen, the Economist [N.P. and Erasmus] suggests ('The religious and cultural heritage being ruined by Yemen's war' Sep 9th 2015) that although monuments and antiquities are being destroyed in Yemen in the ongoing sectarian civil war, nobody cares because it's done by Saudis/West, not ISIS.
[in] Yemen a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab states has been waging war by air and land against the Houthis, a Shia rebel group who control the capital, Sana'a, and are denounced by their foes as a proxy for Iran.  The roster of antiquities damaged in the war in Yemen runs long. Missiles fired from the coalition's planes have obliterated a museum (where the fruits of an American-Yemeni archaeological dig were stored), historic caked-mud high-rise dwellings, 12th century citadels and minarets and other places whose importance to humanity's heritage has been recognised by the UN. The Great Dam of Marib, a feat of engineering that was undertaken 2,800 years ago, has been struck four times, most recently on August 18th. Antiquities experts fear for the oldest surviving fragment of the Koran, in a six-month war which has killed over 4,000 and injured 20,000.  But apparently out of deference to their Saudi and Gulf friends, Western powers have yet to make much comment on the destruction in Yemen, whether humanitarian or cultural.

Although we are loud about the need to respect the general principle of protecting religious and cultural objects from war:

In the ancient city of Sana'a, a UNESCO World Heritage site, there is a bitter feeling that the West is applying lenient standards to a coalition whose members are strategic allies and defence customers. Mohannad al-Sayani, director of Yemen's General Organisation of Antiquities and Museums, laments that his country is suffering cultural vandalism whose ideological purpose resembles the campaign against Syrian and Iraqi antiquities. In all cases, people are bent on wiping out what they consider to be "idolatry"—in other words, any object that in their view signals deviation from the strict path laid down by the Prophet Muhammad and his immediate successors. In addition to the strikes from the air, he says, ruthless local branches of Islamic State and al-Qaeda are making ground attacks on Yemen's cultural sites. [...] While the relationship between intentions and results in aerial warfare can be foggy, other damage is being done by al-Qaeda forces, fighting along Yemen’s southern coast, who make no secret of their purpose. They have threatened to destroy the "idols" in the museum of Mukallah port, and destroyed two Sufi shrines, including a 700-year-old mosque in Lahj, a short way inland.  In Aden, the main southern port, Sunni fighters who were under bombardment by the Houthis responded by destroying a Shia mosque. Other traces of non-Sunni culture were wrecked too, including the gravestones of Chinese workers who built the coastal road in the 1960s. Perhaps the latter were deemed to be relics of atheism, dating from the 1970s when Yemen was a socialist republic, says Thanos Petouris, a Yemen expert who released footage of their destruction. As with any belligerent in any war, the Houthis have an agenda too; they naturally want to draw attention to cultural vandalism in the hope that the West will snap out of its indifference and rein in the Saudi-led coalition.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Zimbabwe gets Tough with Illicit Antiquities Trade

Zimbabwe announces it is going to get tough with the illicit antiquities trade. The international cultural property market has too long taken advantage of the vulnerability of African cultural properties.

Cambridge academic jailed for stealing £238k in lottery fraud

A fellow of Cambridge University was found guilty of stealing £238,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) over a period of seven years and has been jailed for six years.
David Barrowclough, 48, used the money, which he claimed by applying for bogus archaeological projects, to fund mortgage payments and premium bonds – and even a new Alfa Romeo car. The Wolfson College don, of Broad Street, Ely [...] made false representations to the HLF between 2006 and 2013, as well as forging letters, issuing false invoices and using fake names and addresses.[...] A spokesman for Wolfson College said: "Dr Barrowclough was suspended from his duties as soon as the college was made aware of the charges against him pending the outcome of the trial." 
'Cambridge academic David Barrowclough jailed for six years after stealing £238k in lottery fraud', Cambridge News, September 23, 2015

Dr Barrowclough has published a number of texts on a variety of topics. He edited and wrote the introduction to the book 'Our Precious Past Sharing Responsibility for Our Archaeological Heritage', which contains an article on her research on metal detecting by Mary Chester Kadwell. He is a great advocate of bringing archaeology to the man in the street, and it is a shame that he could not restrict his activities to more honest efforts in this field.

Christie's and marbled Warm-and-Fuzzies

Just tucked away at the very end of their rather patronising "beginners' guide to collecting Classical Marbles", Christie's have this to say:
The collection history of a piece is very important to consider. [...] A savvy collector will always ask for all available information, and responsible dealers and auction houses will endeavour to provide as much as they can.[...] If you feel that there are some unanswered questions, or you don’t feel 100 percent comfortable with the information you’ve been given, walk away.
Thus absolving the dealer of any responsibility, they've "done their best" and if you don't like what you see, buzz off.

They suggest: "With online archives becoming bigger and better, you can do a lot of research yourself on collection names, locations and specific objects", Yeah? But you cannot do any research on items that surfaced ("from underground") until after c. 1995 - which is about as far back as any online auctions will go. But of course retrospectively compiling (making up) a collecting history for an object with a discarded one is no substitute whatsoever for buying from a responsible dealer who only fills his or her stockroom with objects of firmly documented and not merely reconstructed collecting history. Note Christie's studiously telling the beginner WHY that collecting history is important - avoiding that "i-word". It's nice to know who famous had it before you is what they say. The warm fuzzy feeling you get from that has a "real added value which will not diminish" they suggest.

Monday 21 September 2015

Syrian War Enters new Phase

Thomas van Linge ‏@arabthomness notes that in Syria:
Russia says it'll deploy forces to Latakia, Tartous, Damascus, Hama and Homs but not  Daraa,  Aleppo or  Deir-ezzor.
Meanwhile "Russian military denies Syrian air base claims" The Pentagon had earlier claimed Russia was constructing a "forward air operating base" near the city of Latakia, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Russia has had a naval base on Syria’s coast at Tartus since the 1970s. Just a few days later, Kathrin Hille and John Reed report in the Financial Times on the basis of new satellite photos of the area: "Russia to deploy 2,000 in Syria air base mission’s ‘first phase’...". Russia’s direct military involvement in Syria can only escalate the country’s bloody civil war and increases the risk incidents between Russian and other forces active in the country.  Speaking on Russian television, Mr Putin said the Syrian government "is trying to maintain its own statehood".“Our main goal is to defend the Syrian state,” Mr Putin said.

In answer, a shell landed in the grounds of the Russian embassy in Damascus  on Sunday but caused no casualties. The Russian foreign ministry said it came from Jobar, which is held by anti-Assad fighters who were not allied with Isis and had “external sponsors” who were responsible for using their influence on “illegal armed formations”.

Perhaps we will need in the near future to keep an eye on Middle Eastern artefacts entering the Russian antiquities market?

Getty Gets to Keep Detached Zeyt’un Gospel Pages

M.H. Miller, 'Getty and Armenian Church Settle Ownership Dispute Over 13th-Century Manuscript Pages' 21st September 2015
The J. Paul Getty Museum and the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America have resolved a dispute over the rightful ownership of eight 13th-century manuscript pages, which were separated from the Zeyt’un Gospels and have been in the Getty’s collection since 1994. Under the settlement, according to a release sent out by the museum this afternoon, the Getty has acknowledged that the Armenian Apostolic Church is the rightful owner of the pages. In exchange, the Prelacy has donated the pages to the Getty “in order to ensure their preservation and widespread exhibition.” The Getty originally purchased the pages for $1 million, according to the New York Times.
The church contended they had been illegally separated from the rest of the book amid the Armenian genocide during World War I.

Vignette: Getty Museum

UPDATE 22nd Sept. 2015
And look at the spin being put on it now,  instead of regretting that 'art' (ripped up artefacts) was bought under such circumstances: Julia Halperin, 'Getty becomes first museum to restitute Armenian art removed during genocide' The Art Newspaper 22 September 2015

Theft from Archaeological Museum in Colombia

Colombia: Massive amount of gold stolen from Archaeological Museum of Huila in 2008. Unsolved, keep your eyes open for these objects.  . And Edinburgh? Have they any photos like the Latin American museum had?

Hat tip (news item) Donna Yates

Sunday 20 September 2015

Stolen artefacts from IS-controlled zones surface in London

Charlotte Franks, 'Stolen artefacts from IS-controlled zones surface in London' BBC 18 September 2015

 Dr Mark Altaweel from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, claims shops in London are profiting from selling stolen artefacts from the so-called Islamic State-controlled conflict zones. "Scotland Yard says it is currently dealing with three three live investigations dealing with looted items in London....". (Bogdanos said the same about New York).

Saturday 19 September 2015

UK Detectorists "Dedication" Laid Bare for All to See

The Dirty Business of Antiquity

Das schmutzige Geschäft mit der Antike [The Dirty Business of Antiquity] By Günther Wessel Reviewed by Jens Notroff (Berlin) , Anonymous Swiss Collector, 19th September 2015:
"One thing is clear: there just are not two separated antiquities markets, a clean ‘white’ and a shady ‘black’ one operating independently of each other. There is just one big ‘grey’ market. Or, as Oscar White Muscarella (a strict critic of the antiquities trade and former staff member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) worded rather belligerently in Wessel’s book: “Each antiquity on the market is either looted or forged.” [...] We not only need a public discussion, but a public campaign even to ostracize the trade in antiquities. Michael Müller-Karpe from the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum (Romano-Germanic Central Museum) in Mainz found drastic words to illustrate the situation (Müller-Karpe was actually sued for this statement):
He who buys antiquities of unclear origin does not only support destruction of culture due to sponsoring illicit excavations. He also has to realize that a lot of those antiquities offered on the market have blood on them
Günther Wessel’s book is a good start to spread this word".
Jens is here and here

Egypt Cabinet Reshuffle

The Egyptian Cabinet has been reshuffled after previous administration resigned due to corruption scandal - but Mamdouh El-Damaty remains Minister of Antiquities.

Deep Digger Dan Threatens to Close the PACHI Blog...

The detectorists' approach to discussing
issues connected with artefact collecting
Artefact hunter Deep Digger Dan (Daniel Holdsworth) has many admirers in the metal detecting world, primarily in the UK. He is the author of (currently) 322 You Tube films which give a picture of this metal detectorist's approach to what he does. His You Tube account alone has 197 488 subscriptions and 22 943 251 views. I'd say that makes his productions quite a major representative of British metal detecting and an opinion-forming medium. The material also forms a resource for those wanting to use what artefact hunters do and say online as a resource for studying the hobby, its social context and attitudes within it. The tens of thousands of comments posted under his videos are an important indicator of the manner in which other ("responsible") metal detectorists perceive what he is doing. 

I have mentioned his videos and commented on what I see in them on this blog a few times. The first was in response to his 208th film of 1st April last year on the topic of "Metal Detectorists V Archaeologists". I disagreed with what he was telling his viewers, so discussed the points he made. Basically, I think he misunderstands a whole load of issues. Here is my reply: "Metal Detecting Complaint" (PACHI Thursday, 3 April 2014). You might like to look at the comments published under the blog text from his supporters to see their counter-arguments before I decided to close the comments (I will re-open them if Mr Holdsworth himself wishes to engage in  proper discussion with what I said - as it says in the 'notes for comment posters' over in the sidebar, any person specifically addressed by one of the case studies I use here has the right to reply). This behaviour is what we have learnt to accept as typical of English-speaking metal detectorists. Not only do I stand by every word I wrote a year and a half ago, not a single one of the points I made in reply to the rather stereotypical arguments offered has been addressed in any manner or form by UK metal detectorists, there is zero change in any of the areas I mentioned there. Zero, the text is as true to life now as it was then.

One metal detectorist decided also to disagree with what Mr Holdsworth said ("There is no versus' " The Responsible detectorist, Thursday, 3 April 2014 - "From my experience I do not share Dan's point of view". There are still no comments at all under this text).  I referred to that post here: "Detectorbloke on Deep-digger-dullardry" PACHI Friday, 4 April 2014). The fact that I do so approvingly rather takes the wind out of DeepDiggerDan's "everybody hates us all" sails.

Mr Holdsworth was mentioned a third time where I contrasted tongue-in-cheek his use of social media with that of the detectorists' "partner" organization, the Portable Antiquities Scheme which has shown a singular lack of initiative in using these media to vigorously (instead of half-heartedly) promote best practice and debate on best practice in the UK ("Deep Digger Dan has been Invited to the PAS?"  PACHI Tuesday, 8 April 2014).

A Deep Digger Dan video which coincided with the "Nazi War Diggers" debacle was commented  upon by me in a fourth blog text here ("Deep Digger Dan Goes Nazi" PACHI Sunday, 20 April 2014). The looting of World War battlefields here on the continent for the collectables market is a subject which concerns me a great deal. I have seen the effects, both in terms of the damage it does to the natural environment of the sites themselves (often commemorated as 'places of memory' and otherwise protected)* and the items that come on the market, complete dogtags, bits of ground-dug uniform and personal items. There is no excuse for this, it is grave-robbing pure and simple. Claims from people like Craig Gottlieb that it's "preserving history" are nonsense given the variety of sources other than grave-robbing which one can use to understand ("get the feel of" if you like) the period. This is about cheap thrills and nothing else.  I argued my position, and invited Daniel Holdsworth to tell me where my logic is at fault. Seventeen months later, he still has not done that, but instead writes:
I've warned you before and I will do it again. If you do not stop this personal crusade against me you will be hearing from my legal team
Hmm, he presumably will be able to tell my readers where they can find this earlier "warning". I myself cannot recall ever hearing from him earlier, at least not under his real name.  I think that is supposed to be perceives as a threat, the notion that Mr Holdsworth has a whole "legal team" behind him is an intriguing one I will admit. Calling a "personal crusade against me" four posts on a blog with 8120 (it says) published posts on it and discussing the merits of an issue as case studies smacks of self-aggrandisement and paranoia.

Mr Holdsworth, you published some views on the relationship between artefact hunting and collecting back in April last year. I believe you owe your readers some proper answers to the points I raised about what you said (see above). Far from being on"a personal crusade', the comments section of my blog  are open to you to publicise your response.

Mr Holdsworth, you have a damaged Nazi helmet in your home (says so on an August 2015 post on  DDD forum) which you now say you accepted as a gift to wear to town (see above). I think the whole thing totally inappropriate and can be seen as something which brings metal detecting and detectorists into disrepute. Far from being on"a personal crusade', the comments section of my blog  are open to you to publicise your response.

Please Mr Holdsworth: "Come on, Get in!". Tell us about that legal metal detecting in Germany and Normandy too please.

* On Saturday on a family walk I was disgusted to see that one of them had been digging through some clumps of delicate and protected plants in the forest to the northwest of Warsaw which is full of WW2 sites and material. It's not whether the holes are "filled in" that is the problem, metal detecting is illegal in the national forest because it damages the environment, both natural and historical.

UPDATE 20th September 2015
I have just come from watching episode two of the dubbed Nazi War Diggers (more of that later) to find a comment from an irate Deep Digger Dan who seems to think free speech is only something he has, that he personally is endowed with some kind of divine rights and powers to close down public interest websites and avoid discussion of what he himself publishes in the public domain. One of the films I discussed earlier shows him playing the role of an officer "ordering" others about, now he wants to give me orders about what I can and cannot say and how. This is what he said (20 September 2015 at 03:41) under my post about "Deep Digger Dan Goes Nazi" saying what I think of his use of Nazi paraphernalia:
I have tried to be nice. Now I am ordering you to remove those images and any others of myself from your website. This is a blatant infringement of my copyright material and if not removed within the reasonable amount of time of 72 hours I shall be taking the necessary steps to have your website closed down. Your choice.
I choose free speech Mr Holdsworth. The Nazi in the helmet you are shown wearing and declaring you'll be walking around in the streets of Flamborough wearing could not do that, and died for it. Do please put it on when you go to visit your "legal team", just so they too get the answer to that question with which I ended my text in April: "just what kind of people are these metal detectorists?"

Dear reader, please go and read the original post which Mr Holdsworth wants to "disappear" (along with all the discussions here of Syria, Egypt, the numismatic squabbles in the US, and other heritage matters on this blog) just because he cannot cope with something he did being criticised. Remember "Nazi War Diggers".

The comments section, Mr Holdsworth, are still open for you to present your side of the issue, and tell us about your foreign detecting ventures. Why can't you just address the issues raised?

Sam Hardy on Syrian Conflict Antiquities

A lecture by Dr Sam Hardy: "Antiquities trafficking in the Syrian civil war: a ‘vital source of funding’?" at the American University of Rome Wednesday 23rd September 2015:
As the civil war in Syria has progressed, the illicit trade in Syrian antiquities has flourished. Civilians are digging up antiquities to subsist or escape; organised criminals are racketeering amidst the chaos; and armed groups – rebels and regime forces as well as jihadists – are trafficking antiquities to finance their fighting. Even outside forces are implicated. Sam Hardy will show how they are all involved, how antiquities are reaching the market and what can be done.

Palmyra object of new offensive?

Syrian government war planes have launched one of the heaviest bombardments yet on the ISIL-held city of Palmyra. About 25 air strikes killed at least 12 militants, but also at least 14 civilians, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Syrian military sources quoted by Reuters have said Syria is using new types of very accurate weapons supplied by Russia. ISIL are not going to be giving up the strategic city without a fight, but let us hope that they are driven out before they do too much more damage to the ancient ruins and harm the local population in their hands.

Vignette: Boom

Friday 18 September 2015

ISIS, Heritage, and the Spectacles of Destruction in the Global Media

Ömür Harmanşah, 'ISIS, Heritage, and the Spectacles of Destruction in the Global Media', Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 78.3 (2015)
Abstract: [...] In this paper, I focus on ISIS’s destruction of archaeological heritage. I argue that this destruction can be seen as a form of place-based violence that aims to annihilate the local sense of belonging, and the collective sense of memory among local communities to whom the heritage belongs. Therefore, heritage destruction can be seen as part and parcel of this scorched-earth strategy described above. I also argue that the Islamic State coordinates and choreographs these destructions as mediatic spectacles of violence aimed at objects and sites of heritage, and these spectacles take place as re-enactments or historical performances that are continuously and carefully communicated to us through ISIS’s own image-making and dissemination apparatus that increasingly utilizes the most advanced technologies of visualization and communication. I will also pose questions about the relatively weak responses from the archaeological community around the world that rarely went beyond the stereotypical expression of “dismay” to ISIS’s heritage destruction. At the same time, I will try to answer the why and how of ISIS’s dislike of archaeological heritage in the context of late capitalism.
If these arguments are accepted, it means that "saving" bits of the smashed past by transporting them to distant lands with alien cultures is no less a form of 'place-based violence' and re-enactment of historic colonial power dynamics ("in the context of late capitalism").


Current Situation in Syria

The updated map by Thomas van Linge is not looking good for anyone, for Syria, for the archaeological heritage removed to government-held territory which is still shrinking:

The situation in Syria as of 16/09/2015,
Thomas has not shown the Russian troops now fighting together with Assad's army in Latakia region. . Here is his diagnosis about the situation in Iraq.

Thursday 17 September 2015

Trafficking Culture Society Student Seminar Series

Trafficking Culture Society Student Seminar Series (streaming live)   The Trafficking Culture Society is pleased to announce it’s (sic) Fall (sic) 2015 seminar series, interestingly titled "What's it to me? Relevancy (sic) and Impact of Doing  Research on the Illicit Antiquities Trade"

 The seminars take place in the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum every other Thursday this term at 4pm Glasgow Time, but those of us south of the border or across the seas can tune in live on Periscope. The Periscope link will be posted at @meg_lambert 15 minutes before the start of the talk
Autumn 2015 TC Society SeminarsSeptember 17 – Christine Weirch: “Introduction to the Issues: Freshers Week Special”
October 1 – Donna Yates: “Cultural Heritage Protection in Pre- And Post-Earthquake Nepal: Challenges and Opportunities for Researchers”
October 15 – Meg Lambert: “Harms of Omission: the Effects of Archaeological, Anthropological, and Art Historical Publishing on the Illicit Antiquities Trade”
October 29 – Christa Roodt: “Doubtful Provenance and Due Diligence in a Global Context”
November 10 – Christos Tsirogiannis: “Illicit Antiquities in Museums: Issues, Questions and Challenges for New Professionals”
 December 10 – Jessica Dietzler: “Affecting Things: Understanding the Subject Matter and Relevancy of Your Statements and Their Impact on Illicit Market Control”
The first in the series by Christine Weirch was designed as an introduction to the issues and lasted 36 minutes. The speaker had put together a brief overview of the issues and struggled valiantly with the background noise. The general bad sound quality of the streaming video made it difficult to grasp what was being said some of the time. Sadly, the speaker was also stood in shadow, so for the first part of the video was mostly a disembodied voice. Perhaps a better microphone on the video camera would solve the issue of volume and it would be good if the speaker could be better lit next time. Sadly, according to the online statistics, at any one time and despite the effort put into streaming it, it seems that only between 23 and 27 people watched.

The talk was set (I guess) at the level of undergraduate students who knew little about the topic, and those of us hoping we'd see more of Glasgow's own recent research used to illustrate the issues, were instead shown safe old stuff. So we got Stead's 1998 diagram of the scattering of the Salisbury hoard (but the point was made that looting occurs in the British Isles too) and Medici. David Gill will be disappointed to learn that the speaker used "provenance' to mean "collecting history" (but also to mean "title"). I am looking forward to later ones when we should get more "meat" about current research. Also it will be interesting to hear some discussion on the titular "what this is to me", considering how few archaeologists (for example) actually want to engage with these questions at anything other than a very superficial level. Let us see if the seminar organizers have any success in teasing an answer from them why this is.

UPDATE UPDATE 18th Sept 2015
If you missed the streaming online presentation, it is available here on Vimeo They promise they will be learning from the problems experienced and the next ones will be even better. Next one is Dr Yates, she'll be in front of the microphone, so hopefiully will be more audible than in this recording where she stood on the edge.

Russia summons Polish ambassador over Soviet statue

"Remembering history is what differentiates humans from animals" 
Russia summoned Poland's ambassador on Thursday to protest at the removal of a Soviet-era statue in a Polish town on the 76th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, highlighting increased tensions between the neighbours. Katarzyna Pelczynska-Nalecz, Warsaw's envoy in Moscow, was called to the Russian Foreign Ministry to explain the dismantling on Thursday of a statue of Soviet General Ivan Chernyakhovsky in the Polish town of Pieniężno. Chernyakhovsky was the youngest ever general in the Red Army and a decorated commander in its massive westward advance on Nazi Germany that helped end World War Two. He was killed in action at age 38 in February 1945. Pelczynska-Nalecz said after the meeting that the Russian side objected to the statue's removal and asked for the process to stop. "I listened to it, I presented the Polish position on the issue that the whole process is 100 percent according to Polish law," Pelczynska-Nalecz told journalists.
The Pieniężno monument is quite a handsome example of seventies socrealism. The monument is not being destroyed, just removed from its present situation.  Chernyakhovsky has negative press in Poland due to his repressions of the ''Home Army" partisans (who owed allegiance to the government-in-exile) in the effort to place a Soviet-supported government in power (here's a Russian view, one man's 'occupation' is another's 'liberation').

The big question is what the monument is doing still standing in a Polish town. Most of them went in 1989-90. Even the last surviving Warsaw one I knew of (hidden and forgotten in a bush right in the town centre) has now gone after surviving more than two decades. The bush has gone too.  Soviet war memorials and military cemeteries are a different matter, there are many here still and are carefully monitored and conserved, as is only right.

The Return of "Nazi War Diggers" as "Poszukiwacze wojennych skarbów"

Polish television is probably among the worst in the world. I never watch it. But somebody posted this to me, it seems a TV production company thinks that just by putting "Nazi War Diggers" out in POLISH they are going to get around the issues raised. "Poszukiwacze wojennych skarbów" ["Searchers for War Treasures"] featuring a dealer in Nazi relics (Craig Gottlieb [CGM Militaria = Bouncy YankStephen Taylor [RRPG], Kris Rodgers [Addictedtobleeps] and Adrian Kostromski, [search for these names on this blog for my previous thoughts on this whole fiasco]. It is being put out on Discovery channel  Thursdays 22.40, repeated on Sundays at 12.55.
Tereny frontu wschodniego II wojny światowej wciąż kryją szczątki milionów żołnierzy i ich broni. Czterech mężczyzn wyrusza z misją odnalezienia zapomnianych pól walki.
 I do not think these battles and battlefields are "forgotten" by anyone here. How incredibly insensitive and disgusting. This is so disappointing. In the trailer the metal detectorist is heard saying "digging is not a science". But digging something like this properly jolly well is the very nearly so.

Anyway, we were told by the four men involved that "we'd got it all wrong", that the trailers Nat Geographic put out were nothing like what they filmed. So, now we'll finally learn about what the series showed - just watch this space.

Scottish Museum "Communications" (sic) Office Dodges the Question

Tired of being messed around with by dealers and their trade associations, I don't expect it from museum "professionals" too:
Dear Ms **** No, I am not asking about any police „investigation”. I am asking about the state of your museum’s records. You hold public property in a public trust. Can you please answer the question? Thank you. Paul Barford
Have they got any proper records of what was stolen? Is that why they do not want to answer a perfectly valid question honestly? One can only wonder.

And look at this, they reserve the right to charge a member of the public for answering a FOI question about their perfectly legitimate concerns, like "have you actually got adequate records of three items of public property which you had in your display cases"? The very idea! Shame on you!
Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.