Sunday 29 November 2015

Palmyra Museum Loot Intercepted in Turkey?

I was suspicious of this news item and decided not to report it, but Sam Hardy has had a closer look, discovered several different and muddled versions, and decided: 'Antiquities, looted from Syria’s Palmyra Museum, seized while for sale on the local market in eastern Turkey? No'. He discusses and illustrates the two items reported. Both are pretty crude fakes. He describes the sellers as at best "exploitative but incompetent opportunists" rather than regime agents or tax-paying middlemen in cahoots with ISIL.

Vignette: vase not from Palmyra

UPDATE 12th Nov 2015
 To clarify, by "pretty crude fakes" I meant not the antiquities they were claimed to be. I agree the vessel is more likely to have been as a modern decorative item and not even to be intended to masquerade as an antiquity.

Turkey and the Syrian Opposition

Allegations from Tehran, 'Turkey arms Daesh in exchange for oil, antiquities' Press TV Nov 29th, 2015. The question is to what degree Turkish aid sent to Turkmen rebels in northeastern Syria is taking place and to what degree these supplies are reaching ISIL.

Vignette: Turkey

Saturday 28 November 2015

Heritage Vandalism not just in Syria

It is not just in warm countries that delinquents with destructive tendencies take it out on the heritage, in Britain this week, a teenager was sentenced for starting a fire which gutted Fleet All Saints Church in Hampshire. His name is Daniel Finnerty. Many medieval churches have had the lead sheeting which covers their roofs stripped off to be sold by heritage vandals, this allows water to penetrate and weaken the structure of the building, causing collateral damage which can cost millions to fix - on top of re-roofing the building. Cultural barbarism is not the exclusive preserve of the stereotypical 'Muslims' of the xenophobic demonisations of the ant-immigration brayers.

What’s to be done about a Shrinking Passive PAS and a Milieu that Just Doesn't Get It? ?

Heritage Action have a thought-provoking text: 'PAS is shrinking. It really matters. So what’s to be done?', 28th Nov 2015. A tweet of a disgruntled FLO indicating that eighteen years on, the metal detectorists in her region really have not cottoned on to what the PAS means to them. As HA point out:
What did PAS ever do for us?” You mean apart from PR and ID services, massive positive advocacy to the Government, landowners and the public – and survival, and all completely free? Nothing mate.
I'd say enough is enough a failed social experiment in educating the tekkies is a failed social experiment. It did not work, time to STOP, and think of some other more holistic and more effective way of dealing with the Looting Matters.

Vignette: If the hat fits, we need to think of other ways

"Who owns art" turned into "Safe harbor" debate

The dealer and collectors' hackneyed argument "who owns art (anyway)?" began losing steam when faced with the rightful riposte that its not so much about "whether" to collect, but "how", it's not about ownership but standards and best practice. As a result they've drifted away from that, and redirected attention by depicting what they do as some form of "opposition" to a partly mythologised Hostile Other ("who threatens the values we all hold dear"). In other words they are attempting to garner support for extremist views by scapegoatism.

Thus we have seen the emergence of the "Safe harbor" trope in recent years. This has gone on alongside the "ISIL makes money by looting sites" trope (which in itself is the same kind of rhetorical and social engineering tactic which can be suggested to have its origins in the group of academics and activists gathered around the US Department of State). Dealers and collectors are currently being vilified (quite justifiably in my opinion) for failing to adapt to the changing circumstances in which the market finds itself by demanding and producing documentation verifying licit provenance (collecting histories) of the objects they handle.  Instead of responsibly buckling down to find ways of doing this and establish new standards of best practice in the industry, they strike out on a tangent. Employing a Two Wrongs argument has always been their main escape  and here it is too. For a long time collectors have claimed that by hoiking artefacts out of their archaeological context or removing them from a monument, they are "saving art" ("saving art for everybody by putting it in my private collection"). Unwilling to think up more sophisticated excuses, this is the one they are going with in the industry's 'ISIS-Crisis'.  Suddenly they start presenting the whole heritage debate in terms of "Syria" (but rarely post-2003 Iraq) and "the fight against ISIL" (as if ISIL was the only foreign group of militants anyone ever need to 'think' about).

Their argument goes like this:
"ISIL destroy monuments" they say (linking to no end of shocking ISIL propaganda videos showing them doing precisely that).
"This art is extremely important, the most important thing in this whole conflict", they say (falling haplessly into the very trap the provocation has set up for them).
"This uncivilised behaviour must STOP"  they say (showing they share the same values as the rest of us)
"We must bring everything we can carry off to our country where it is safe" they say (assuming their country will never become in any way a threat - the Paris seven attacked a theatre and restaurants, they could have done the same in a museum),
"regardless of how we get our hands on the art, the art is more important than anything else, it is OUR heritage and we wants it", they say.

First of all, Syria, Iraq and other regions of the MENA area are conflict zones, when Europe was last a conflict zone in the lifetime of our parents (and sadly for some in southern and eastern Europe the lifetime of our generation too), cultural heritage was damaged. Some artefacts did get evacuated to the US - and in some cases like the Hungarian Royal Crown, it took the Americans a long time to give it back after the War ended (I have discussed other removals of items from Europe in 1945 by the US, both state-sponsored and private, elsewhere in this blog. Russia likewise has stuff "evacuated" from the front line in 1944/45 which still has not come back). Obviously, despite the existence f international conventions and what we all would want to be otherwise, destruction of monuments and heritage (and much else besides) is what happens in any social conflict. Unfortunately there are inevitably those who see the breakdown of the old order in such situations as an opportunity to take things which would otherwise be unavailable. They take them for themselves - or more often than not for sale.

While we can all agree that the destruction of heritage must be prevented and halted, gathering up the loose bits and taking them out of the country as trophies to an imagined philanthropism (which in reality is masking greed) is quite obviously not the way this can be achieved. In particular this is not the case when the introduction of these desired things onto the market is potentially doing its part to perpetuate the conflict (it is not enough to attempt to dismiss the issue on the grounds that there is contention in the shadowyness of the antiquities market about the scale at which the latter is the case).

There are a huge number of issues that need to be debated around the simplistic gung-ho "America (or France) Saves the World's Art" argument. This is especially the case when it primarily comes to the public domain when used merely as a deflecting tactic by the dealers' lobbyists (see what Peter Tompa and the ADCAEA are up to) and big-colonial-museums-must-have-more-stuff brigade (James Cuno is the poster-boy). We need to examine very closely the motivations of those who support such schemes, and - in particular - look at the effects on the citizens of the source countries.

Museums, Dealers and Collectors Getting Hands on Foreign Ancient Objects

Jonathan Tokeley Parry and friend
CBC Radio recently re-ran material first broadcast in June 2015: 'Who Owns Ancient Art? Part 1' ( Friday November 20, 2015)  Listen to Full Episode 54:00' and 'Who Owns Ancient Art? Part 2' (Friday November 27, 2015) Listen to Full Episode 53:59.

The blurb reads:
When the the Taliban and ISIS destroy ancient artifacts, the world responds with outrage. But where should that outrage lead: taking ancient art out of the country of origin? Or would that amount to what some have called neo-colonialism and cultural genocide? Just who owns ancient art? That's the central question that Paul Kennedy explores in this two-part series, produced by contributor Anik See.
Among those interviewed: Jonathan Tokeley-Parry, Matthew Bogdanos, James Cuno, Nika Collison (member of the Haida Nation, and curator at the Haida Gwaii Museum.

Friday 27 November 2015

Friday Retrospect: What the Supporters of "Partnership" Ignore

In my opinion, those who think that we will get that much-needed "best practice" from UK metal detectorists by patting them all on the head, cooing and being everso-nice are deluding themselves: 'UK Metal Detecting: Heritage Action Challenged Again (Yawn), by a Newbie '. After presenting some thoughts on the typical sort of responses we hear from a typical range of metal detectorists, I conclude, I think not without reason:
In my opinion, long term observation of this phenomenon indicates starkly that it's a waste of money trying to outreach to those that resist education. And its a waste of time British archaeologists persisting in  faffing around at the tax-payers' expense trying to achieve the unachievable for the only reason that its easier to deceive yourself and others that its different than it is, than actually taking real action to deal with the problem of collection-driven exploitation (CDE) of the archaeological record head on.
Nobody has thought fit to challenge that point of view. Ask your FLO why not.

[Mr Currell by the way never came back with any more of his Jim-Bob 'justifications'. I doubt that this is because he reconsidered his opinion and decided to STOP pocketing the evidence of Britain's past.]


Iraqi Smuggler caught

Smuggler apprehended by Iraqi commandos NW of Baghdad in possession of ancient antiquities. To whom were they on the way?

Wick Hoard Mashup

The Mail account of a new hoard buried in or after the reign of Marcus Aurelius (c. 160) has to be one of the worst-written in recent years (Sarah Griffiths, ' Hoard of Roman coins dating back to Mark Antony are discovered in Welsh field ' MailOnline 26 November 2015). It should actually be about the Treasure inquest, because the hoard was found some time ago. The text of the article wanders round random topics in a wholly confused way, the ultimate in British portable antiquities dumbdown. Without the space-filling waffle the main facts are:
A hoard of silver coins [....] have [sic] been discovered in a Welsh field [...], the 91 coins have been hailed by history experts as 'a significant find' and could be worth 'tens of thousands of pounds.'[...] They were unearthed by two friends out walking in a field near the small village of Wick in South Wales [...] Consultant psychiatrist Dr Richard Annear, 65 and John Player, 43, came across the small pot containing the money, including three particularly old silver denarii. They reported it to curators who were able to remove a chunk of soil containing the delicate find safely. 
Except the photo of that "delicate pot" shows the archaeologists did not do a very good job of it. It is not explained how "walkers" found a buried pot with coins. Perhaps they have X-ray eyes that can see through soil. But no, the problem seems to be that the reporters today found it in some way embarrassing to mention they'd been using metal detectors. As Edward Besly explains:

 Posted on You Tube by Wales News TV


"Detectorists" Responsible detectorists caught "Nighthawking"

Fans of the comedy series "Detectorists" will probably be disappointed by the second series which has not really got anywhere at all and been very lacklustre in the comedy, last night's was the penultimate episode (there will be a Christmas special which is currently being filmed [spoiler alert], part of it in the BM Treasure department). The storyline still has not really taken shape, but I really enjoyed the comedy in the last episode of the walkie-talkie commentary on the "stakeout" of an aircraft crash site (apparently with Nazi gold).

What was interesting though is that the arrogant two-man "team of elite detectorists working with the museum" were nabbed "nighthawking", showing that the boundary between the two worlds is just having the right piece of paper (in this case a MOD search licence). Given that the majority of detectorists present finds to the PAS, or flog them off on eBay without showing any kind of signed search and take agreement, or finds allocation agreement whatsoever, the boundary is a fine one.

Many 'responsible detectorists' will claim to be an elite, separate from the law-breakers, but ask them for a piece of paper to show they have gained full ownership rights by a formal agreement  and it seems not all of them have any such thing. This brings us close to the fourth category of illegal artefact hunting identified recently by the Glasgow criminological theorists (see 'Whatever happened  to the "Glasgow Fourth"?' Tuesday, 5 March 2013 or search for "Glasgow Fourth").

Edinburgh finds Photos, Coins though are Probably half way round the world by now

In order that dealers and collectors can keep an eye open for them, the National Museum of Scotland manages to find after all photographs of the coins  of dates "1555, 1601 and 1604" stolen there September 2nd, which could well have travelled half way round the world and back in that time....  National collection shambles.  Oh, if you are a taxpayer up there, you've just lost assets worth, they say, "£20,000", while they've been looking for the photos. Go here for the pictures of three coins and two alleged suspects. I bet they'll find neither after all this time.

Artificial Fertiliser (1)

Attentive readers may remember that 24th November was the date I set for examining the contents of the "Two Warsaw Chambers of Numismodeath" (PACHI blog Thursday, 29 October 2015). This was an attempt to duplicate the results of Dean Crawford's "kitchen sink" coin-colouring experiment which seemed to me suspicious (see my text 'Artefact Hunting, the "Lesser of Two Evils"? More on "Fragmentation"'). I really do not see how the chemistry of what he describes worked and wanted to duplicate his "experiment" to see what would happen. They involved burying fresh and patinated coins in artificial fertiliser for three weeks (as Mr Crawford had described) to see what degree of damage was caused. I'll do this in two posts, for the experimental methodology (so to speak) see the earlier post, for the summary of results you can skip to the third post in the series.

[UPDATE... This post was to be illustrated with photos showing the excavation of the containers, I bought a fresh memory card for that... sadly I neglected to read the packaging, a memory card is a memory card, no? Well, except if its a memory card that needs formatting before use. So, not a single photo is now recoverable. I'll post up pictures of the raw coins when I have calmed down].   

Let us start with Experiment 1: Warsaw Chamber of Numismodeath
In this the coins were in wet soil saturated with a 3% fertiliser solution.The plastic foil was removed and the soil was found to be still damp (and wet at the base of the jar). There was a faint hydrogen sulphide smell from the damp soil. I originally had intended to smash the jar and excavate it from the side, but it was too cold outdoors and this would not have been appreciated by the indoor staff, so I decided to scoop it out from the top. In the end this did not make much of a difference, the coins in the lower levels (buried a centimetre down) were not very much affected by the experience. A huge surprise was the bimetallic 2zl piece which exhibited no trace of any corrosion, but it was one of the deeper ones.

The condition of the coins from the lowest level on excavation was quite surprising, they mostly had their brassy metallic surface intact.  There were four one grosz coins and a 2zl piece (bimetallic) which had gone in 'mint fresh', and a 1997 and 2009 coin which had been patinated. The 'mint' coins came out with a brassy surface, but when they dried, a grey-pink surface devekloped. This I think is the crystallisation of something from the soil water, but it seems quite firmly bonded to the coin. In several areas the coins had the mint-lustre preserved in small patches. It is difficult to be sure without a microscope, but there seem locally to be minute specks of redposited copper (?) in this crust, but it is difficult to see because of a white crystalline (laminar) material which crystallises out in the crust in the same areas (and comes off on the hands). I do not know what this is yet. The surface of several of the coins seems etched slightly, it is matted. This was more noticeable in the two older coins.

Six coins were at a slightly shallower level, just below the surface. They exhibit the same characteristics, but the etching is more pronounced. They include kopejki which had lost their smooth patina and now have an etched metallic surface. In both cases the amount of metal lost is clearly minimal (I should have weighed them before the experiment, but due to the accretion of the crust, the results would not have been very reliable as a measurement of the effect).

It was the six coins in the topmost layer of the experimental humidity chamber which more closely duplicated Mr Crawford's results. Three of them were more or less in the same state as those just described from lower down, and this included one of the kopiejeks which had had a nice smooth patina. That was now gone and the surface was etched. It is not clear whether the very light pitting is new, or whether the solution had stripped out corrosion caused by a century in the soil. None of the new coins put n the same solution showed this effect, and even from this group, local areas of mint lustre were preserved. The French frank had been a nice coin when it went in, now - to use the correct archaeological terminology - it s pretty knackered. The smooth black patina has gone though some patches remain, giving it a blotchy appearance. There is however a deposit of dark green on the surface, when I excavated the coin this had been a thick crust about 3mm thick on both faces of the coin, copper salts had clearly migrated from the object into the surrounding soil, this crust was however not at all cohesive and crumbled when the object was dipped into water to clean off the soil. The other coin which exhibited the same effect was not washed, and contained a small 1967 kopiejka in the crust. This was interesting, they were not touching, but where they overlapped the smaller coin had the original patina preserved, but where the coin projected beyond the other, the surface was etched. The green crust formed a bridge between the two coins suggesting that what was drawing the copper out of the one coin was the presence of the other. This suggestion is supported by the fact that the green crust was mainly on the upper face of the larger coin, but underneath it was only a ring around the edge.

I have not cleaned the coins I obtained more rigorously, I will keep them in the as-excavated state in case I can ever get an analysis done of some of the corrosion products. These coins are not as collectable as they would be with some other surface (and I am sure you can tart them up using easily available materials, that's what dealers sell glass bristle brushes [ouch] and renaissance wax [uh-oh] for).  Despite that, they are perfectly legible and retain all f their value as archaeological evidence despite the bad treatment they have received.

Artificial fertiliser (2)

This is the second of two posts concerning the so-called "Two Warsaw Chambers of Numismodeath" (PACHI blog Thursday, 29 October 2015). This was an attempt to duplicate the results of Dean Crawford's "kitchen sink" coin-colouring experiment which seemed to me suspicious (see my text 'Artefact Hunting, the "Lesser of Two Evils"? More on "Fragmentation"'). I really do not see how the chemistry of what he describes worked and wanted to duplicate his "experiment" to see what would happen. They involved burying fresh and patinated coins in artificial fertiliser for three weeks (as Mr Crawford had described) to see what degree of damage was caused.  For the experimental methodology (so to speak) see the earlier post.

[UPDATE... This post was to be illustrated with photos showing the excavation of the containers, I bought a fresh memory card for that... sadly I neglected to read the packaging, a memory card is a memory card, no? Well, except if its a memory card that needs formatting before use. So, not a single photo is now recoverable. I'll post up pictures of the raw coins when I have calmed down].   

Looking now at the results of Experiment 2: "The Warsaw Dungeon of Numismodeath"...

This mirrors more closely what Mr Crawford shows in his photo, and involved putting fresh coins onto damp earth and then tipping the fertiliser granules onto them and keeping the atmosphere in a sealed plastic container highly humid for three weeks but allowing the air to get to the coins (several already patinated: 5gr 2002 - spotty corrosion breakout, five 2 gr coins from 1991-2004 and one grosz of 2002 and some in freshly minted state, coins of 2014-5 1 grosz, 2 groszy, and and 4x 5gr).

The box was opened, the sponge on the top of the cotton buds was barely damp, but the cotton buds felt clearly damp to the touch and the soil under the fertiliser granules was too and a thin layer of wter had settled on the base of the container, but 25mm below the level of the top of the soil - the coins were at the interface between the soil and the fertiliser (as shown in Mr Crawford's photo). The fertiliser had retained its granular texture (I think this was what the manufacturers intended anyway) but had caked to form a friable crust in which the coins were embedded. The cotton buds were removed and the exposed surface photographed. An odd porous yellow substance is visible at one point, I am not clear what that is and vaguely wonder if it is not a piece of the experimenter's sandwich.

The coins were removed. Unlike the other experiment, there was no appreciable difference in condition according to where they lay in the box, the coins had metallic surfaces when damp, in some places with the original metallic mint lustre preserved, though in several places they had acquired a rainbow-colour patina like the phenomenon called 'cabinet toning' by coin fondlers. This however became less noticeable when the coins dried and we saw the same kind of pinky-grey crust and light overall matting of large extents of the surfaces. Only two coins developed a very thin light green crust on part of one face of the coin (the other being simply darkened). There was no clear difference between the coins that had gone in 'mint fresh' and those which had a patina - in all cases though that patina had gone.

Many of the coins had granules of fertiliser stuck to them, where they touched, the metal underneath was bright and shiny, and it seems very shallow pitting was taking place at the point of contact, in several cases, there seemed to be redeposition of the copper around the edges of this contact zone. There was also crystallisation of a hard granular grey-white material at the edges of the contact zone, which seemed not to be coloured by any copper salts. This material adheres very strongly to the surface of the coin. Under oblique light, in between the islands of this encrustation, the glittery metal can still be seen over about 40-50% of the surface of the coin. The encrustations seem on the whole to be additional material which had migrated between the fertilser granules and crystallised where they came up against a barrier, in this case the flat surface of the coin. I have never seen anything like this on any excavated metal objects from farmland or anywhere else. I doubt you'd find any examples on eBay or the PAS (or UKDFD) dtabase.

Mr Crawford's results were not duplicated.


The Artificial Fertiliser Experiment (3)

This is the summary of the results of the experiment which I labelled "Two Warsaw Chambers of Numismodeath" (PACHI blog Thursday, 29 October 2015) which involved burying fresh and patinated coins in artificial fertiliser for three weeks (as Mr Crawford had described) to see what degree of damage was caused. This was an attempt to duplicate the results of Dean Crawford's "kitchen sink" coin-colouring experiment which seemed to me suspicious (see my text 'Artefact Hunting, the "Lesser of Two Evils"? More on "Fragmentation"'). It is worth looking again at Mr Crawford's photo of the results he said he got from what he did.

[UPDATE... This post was to be illustrated with photos showing the excavation of the containers, I bought a fresh memory card for that... sadly I neglected to read the packaging, a memory card is a memory card, no? Well, except if its a memory card that needs formatting before use. So, not a single photo is now recoverable. I'll post up pictures of the raw coins when I have calmed down].   

Experiment two duplicates what he said he did. Maybe the fertilisers are different, but basically not a single one of the coins from that experiment looks anything like what Mr Crawford produces as 'evidence'. My coins have metallic patches in between localised spots of thick grey-white encrustations. Only two have any green material on their surfaces, but that looks quite different from what the metal detectorist shows.  After three weeks in fertiliser granules, in oblique light my coins have metallic shine, not green crud.  Mr Crawford's experimental results could not here be duplicated.

Experiment one used a different methodology, here also the majority of the coins look nothing like what Mr Crawford produced. Only three had a green crud, in two cases superficially similar to Mr Crawford's. But it is only local, not all over the coin, and coins next to them failed to develop this - it is notable that the two which show the effect most markedly were old coins, probably ground-dug (perhaps there was a corrosion initiator [for example chlorides] already in the corrosion before the experiment started).

Even so, although Mr Crawford seems to be saying "look how awful, destroyed coins", having in my own hand the coins that look the same as his and produced by what must be a similar mechanism, I can say with full conviction that those coins are not damaged to such a degree that they are useless as archaeological evidence - however one might regret the absence of that nice smooth patinas of the Tsarist coins and French frank which made them nice to fondle ("piece of the past in your hand"). Perhaps if I have time after Christmas, I will resurrect the Chamber of Numisdeath and damage some more coins in the same way and then have a go at tarting them up to a saleable condition.

The results of my own work suggest to me that amateurs Dean Crawford and John Hooker FSA are being alarmist in claiming that they have 'evidence' of huge amounts of damage to buried artefacts by nasty agrichemicals. Yes, damage occurs, but my experiment shows that even in the same confined space and under the same conditions the effects will differ. To hold out a handful of green coins and suggest this is what inevitably happens when you switch from manure to manufactured nutrients, is simply deceitful. Mr Crawford's experimental results were not duplicated. I invite him to submit a proper account of exactly what he did to get the coloured coins he shows, so we can all try it. Can he do that?

English Artefact Hunting: And When PAS has Gone, We Will.... ?

The British love the Portable Antiquities Scheme of England (and for the moment, Wales). Metal detectorists love it because it spares no effort to totally legitimise their exploitive hobby. Archaeologists love it because it gets metal detectorists out of their hair and produces all sorts of "data" (I use the term loosely) to study. The public love the constant flow of ooo-ahhh glittery Treasures each with a neatly-packaged story to go with it (such as the stereotypical "local man does good, surprises the experts" kind of stuff).  Local government so far have been happy that by funding a cheerful lady in an attic room at the end of a long corridor to do the metal detecting head patting and keep Bloomsbury in touch, they can show the public all sorts of said glittery treasures (not making too much noise about who actually pays the Treasure ransoms so it can go in the local museum instead of a private collection).

All this is about to end. In May the PAS underwent a silent shakeup, and is now under new management in a precarious financial situation. As I predicted (and it gives me zero pleasure in being proven right here) the 'local partners' are dropping away. Recently it was Norfolk (you can sign a petition here), now it is Lancashire. Details of the approved Lancashire County Council heritage and other cuts are available here. Rescue are raising questions about how this will affect planning and its role in archaeological resource management. Meanwhile the local FLO is worried:
  7 godz.7 godzin temu  Reading this makes me think my host museum is actually on the list of museums to be cut :-(
 So, in the case of the PAS, it's no longer really a question of "what would happen if..." but "what measures do we have in place to deal with the situation when....". So, what measures have the archaeologists supporting artefact hunting and collecting in England have in place? Wishful thinking and naive hoping only? Of course 18 years of the incessant presentation of archaeology as something anyone with a metal detector can do and get "good results" has not exactly been very helpful in persuading local authorities that HERs are all that important in the public eye as vote-catchers.

All that is needed to tick off the 'archaelogical provision' is a smiling volunteer in an attic room at the end of a long corridor of dusty boxes containing an archive printout of the former HER in a museum prominently displaying a few heaps of coins and a gold torc in some well-lit cases and a few "recent metal detector finds in the news" by the gift shop.

Vignette: Time running out.

Thursday 26 November 2015

The Silent Crisis of the UK

John Harris, 'End of austerity? A silent crisis in local services tells the true story' Guardian Thursday 26 November 2015
Over the next five years – and possibly for even longer than that – the kind of dire, drastic cuts councils have been forced to make since 2010 will be continuing. Indeed, the situation looks more impossible than ever. To quote one very reliable source: “Even if councils stop filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light, they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by 2020.”
It seems that in the UK, certain sectors of the heritage are doomed to
fall into the same fragile category as libraries, parks, bus subsidies, welfare advice, help for homeless people, transport to school for children with special educational needs, and more: a great roll call of the basics of any halfway civilised society, either under threat, or disappearing fast.
Here is a summary  from the CBAof what the Chancellor's plans mean for the historical environment.

Norfolk Petition, Not Enough Cats?

The Save Norfolk's PASt petition has nearly 1000 signatures, pretty poor considering how "important" people say they think archaeology is. Also pretty unimpressive that we have perhaps 16000 metal detectorists, every single one of whom benefits from the umbrella of legitimacy the PAS (begun in Norfolk) offers their exploitive hobby. Without the PAS the hobby (and the public's picture of the heritage) would not be what it is today. It is pretty incomprehensible that this has so far not received very much support from this "history loving" community, if nowhere else. Perhaps more cat photos are needed to attract attention. The bottom one symbolises metal detectorists who apparently will not "see the meat" ever unless it jumps up and hits them in their faces, then they do the "OMG" face, tap furiously away at their keybords, send an irate copy-and-paste letter to their MP, and generally run around like headless chickens for 19 days, before losing interest.

"Can't see a problem M8"

Bulk Lots from Israel? Not a Good Idea Perhaps

Some Israeli dealers sell uncleaned lots of coins, by the bucket load. I've had a few run-ins with a mouthy Jerusalem dealer who does this. Anyway, no names are given but:
" 9 min9 minut temu Hoard of ancient coins and jars seized by Israel's Antiquities Authority from North Israeli antiquities dealer".
but it seems it is another dealer involved.
Police and Israel Antiquities Authority agents on Tuesday arrested an art dealer from northern Israel after finding him with over 3,000 illegally obtained ancient coins — valued in the tens of thousands of dollars.  The suspect, a resident of Kibbutz Beit Hashita and a licensed antiquities dealer, was charged with attempting to sell the objects he illegally acquired to buyers abroad, and to do so without an export permit. The IAA said in a statement on Thursday that investigators found over 3,000 coins — some over 2,000 years old — and lead and ceramic objects in the man’s home. By Israeli law, antiquities found in Israel are property of the state, and the IAA must be notified within 15 days of discovery. [...] The man said he assembled a large portion of the coin collection by collecting them in the fields near the kibbutz and cleaning them in a lab in his home, the report said. [...] The man, whose name wasn’t immediately released for publication [admitted] to illegal sale of antiquities and exporting antiquities without a permit. He was released to house arrest and his artifacts and computer confiscated by the authorities. Formal charges are expected to be brought against the suspect in the coming days. 
It is still unclear how in the light of the local laws, US dealers can claim to be buying "1000 uncleaned coins found in Israel" legitimated by an Israeli export licence. Can they explain that and say from which licensed dealer they were acquired?

Conflict Archaeology Bibliography

Chris Jones has a useful 'Conflict Archaeology Bibliography' Gates of Nineveh November 25, 2015
"a bibliography of academic works related to conflict archaeology, cultural heritage protection during armed conflict, and the use of archaeological and historical arguments in armed conflict. This bibliography will be regularly updated and suggested additions are encouraged".

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Two Rallies, Two Counties: Success and Failure

Ann Byard in a hard hat (Twitter)
John Winter, 'All Our Yesterdays – Anglo-Saxon Burial and Brooch' 26 November 2015.
1) Weekend Wanders rally, West Hanney in Oxfordshire, Sunday 21st December 2014, a multiple Anglo-Saxon coin deposit found by metal detectorist Chris Bayston. FLO in attendance Anni Byard, the Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for Oxfordshire. Metal detectorist prepared to wait for results. Searching stopped, site protected, archaeologsts brought in, context of find documented. By contrast:

2) Weekend Wanders rally, Lenborough in Buckinghamshire, Sunday 20th September 2009,a single Anglo-Saxon brooch found by metal detectorist Paul Coleman ("row upon row of coins stacked neatly"). FLO in attendance Ros Tyrell, the Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for Buckinghamshire. Metal detectorist did not wait. Keyhole hoiking commenced immediately, hoard emptied onto tabletop in the evening, context of find totally lost.
So, it seems the main deciding factor in turning collecting into archaeology is the person and character of teh Finds Liaison Officer whose job it is to liaise with finders to get good practice. As Mr Winter's account suggests Buckinghamshire that day apparently experienced FLO Fail, even though there was a good example to learn from five years earlier in a neighbouring county. Tragic.

Ms Byard has been mentioned in this blog a number of times, not always coming over too well, but at least here she did what her job description requires, so praise where praise is due. And as far as Lenborough is concerned, criticism where criticism is merited - though don't hold your breath to hear any from the Portable Antiquities Scheme who we may easily observe institutionally have very little self-criticism. So I note from the programme that there was nothing at the PAS conference two days ago about 'Avoiding a Second Lenborough'. But a lot of "didn't we all do well?"

UPDATE 26th November 2015
Coincidentally, Ms Byard  points out herself today how well she's doing:
1 godz.1 godzinę temu
And here it is - 25,000th find - not much to look at but only the 3rd known!
Note the creepy retweet to Vaizey. Now, how many finds made in Oxford in that same period of time and pocketed by metal detectorists have not been recorded? Is it not valid to point out that this too is a statistic of which the public should be aware? If it is a valid point, why are the PAS keeping so quiet about it?


Another Good Initiative from SAFE

Over the past year, the SAFE team has been hard at work creating new public resources to be used by diverse groups of people wishing to advocate for cultural heritage preservation. Though still a work in progress, various components of our “SAFE Toolkits” will be released on our website over the coming months. These toolkits will be filled with resources available for public use. From posters to social media ideas, apps to event guides, specific toolkits will cater to specific needs, whether you’re a student, teacher, community volunteer, or museum educator. Cultural heritage belongs to everyone, which is why we want to encourage everyone to become a cultural heritage advocate. You bring the passion, we’ll provide the tools. To give you a sneak peek, today we present the ‘SAFE Passport’: a simple reminder to travelers and tourists about the damage caused by purchasing looted artifacts while abroad. 
Will "responsible dealers" be promoting this initiative?

War, More Than ISIS, Is Destroying Syria's Ancient Sites

'Tel Brak idols', on the market for years
By focussing on blackening the reputation of ISIL, analysis of satellite images shows that the media are giving a poor picture of the cure the actual extent of damage to Syria’s rich cultural heritage.
The team examined images of 1,450 ancient sites across the shattered nation and found that one in four has been damaged or looted in the civil war that began in 2011. More than half of those sites are in rebel-controlled areas, followed by those dominated by Kurdish forces. Damage at sites claimed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, accounts for a quarter of the destruction, with the remainder in areas loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “It is quite evident that overall incidents of looting are much higher in Kurdish and opposition-held areas than in either Syrian regime or ISIL areas,” said Jesse Casana, a Dartmouth University archaeologist who is leading the analysis. This finding should not be surprising, given that looting tends to spike in places with no civil authority, Casana told a gathering of the American Schools for Oriental Research in Atlanta earlier this month. Contested areas, such as those around the ancient city of Aleppo, have suffered even more extensively than sites under ISIS control. [...] When the team categorized damage as minor, moderate, or severe, sites in ISIS-controlled areas were more likely to have suffered severe damage than those in other parts of Syria. “This could be read as evidence of more organized, potentially state-sanctioned looting in those areas,” Casana added. 
Of course, this is more or less what Sam Hardy and I have been saying all along, for at least two years now. But it is nice to see the Americans catching up. I would say though that there is a need here to look at the phenomenon diachronically. In this and Sam's blog are documented examples where areas now in the control of one group were looted well before the group now there consolidated their current hold. The article is interesting for the mention of how even the team backed by the DoS has had problems getting access to up-to-date satellite imagery.

Andrew Lawler, 'War, More Than ISIS, Is Destroying Syria's Ancient Sites' National Geographic November 25, 2015

"The world must find ways to intervene and protect antiquities when nation-states cannot do so"

In his latest text, James Cuno argues we should send in the Blue Helmets to Syria and Iraq to "save history" ('ISIS Rampage: A Threat to Cultural Heritage That Belongs to All' YaleGlobal, 26 November 2015)
Deteriorating security in Syria and Iraq, and the tenacity and complexity of ISIS, requires a multilateral response from the international community, and a rethinking of how it can overcome the inherent limitations and obstacles of the nation-state–based regime for the protection of cultural heritage. If the heritage destroyed and under threat by ISIS “belongs to all Syrians and all humanity,” as UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has claimed it, the international community must find a way to overcome the limitations imposed on cultural heritage by the United Nations.
One wonders though whether this is a serious suggestion , or whether the President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust is simply trying to score points in his long-running neo-colonialist battle against UNESCO. 

Dr Cuno avoids detailing how this would operate. There is a vicious war going on in Syria and it's not much better in Iraq. How many men and women would be needed to protect one site from ISIL militants intent on looting or destroying the next Nimrud or Mar Elian or the barrel bombs of the Assad regime? How, actually would he like to see this done? What weapons would they us? Light sabres, fighter plane squads strafing anyone who comes near an ancient site in their own homeland?  Who would take the decision which of the tens of thousands of archaeological sites and cultural monuments ("belonging to us all") people will be sent to die and kill for? On which criteria will such a selection be based? Religious, commercial (tourist value), ease of access, archaeological potential?  How many troops would he send into the war-zone what would they do there in real terms and how would their safety be assured while they were doing it?  Do Mr and Mrs Cuno have sons serving in the armed forces who he'd send to save a few nineteenth century graveyards etc. from bulldozing? Would he sacrifice his sons for a Roman arch and row of sun-bleached columns in Palmyra? Really?

Save Lancashire's Heritage Petition.

Save Lancashire's Heritage - please sign the petition.
Lancashire County Council has made proposals that will devastate Lancashire's heritage. [...] the closure of 5 museums in the next year [...] funding to heritage will be sliced by 93% in the next 2 years [...]  all staff will be lost (including many specialists) [...] Remember once its all gone we can't get it back

Nobody "Doubts", but Nobody has "Proven Anything" either

Daniel Rivero has a rather ill-titled article in Fusion ('Meet the lonely online warriors leading the fight against looted art', November 24, 2015) but the ending is worth quoting because blackguard dealers will be putting a different spin on things:
While the researchers I spoke to don’t doubt that looting is going on in ISIS-controlled territories, nobody suggested that there is an uptick in goods from the region flooding the world markets. And no researcher has definitively drawn a link between patternized looting and the funding of the largest terrorist organization in the world. So if looting and selling is going on, as many suspect, it’s happening in an investigative vacuum. Everyone is talking about it, but no one is doing actually actively, anything. Not even one case has been proven", Tsirogiannis, of Trafficking Culture, told me. “Look what I do,” he continued. “I am producing evidence, identifying objects, objects I find are being repatriated, and all this proves that my research is correct, that my thesis is correct. So why on an international level is there still not even one team that works on [ISIS]?” If the international community doesn’t work together either through academia, governments or NGOs to fund researchers like him (but not specifically him, he wanted me to stress), then the hope of identifying and dismantling these organizations across the world is greatly diminished, he said. “Within the last fifteen years we have five lost opportunities for examining how and if antiquities are leaving conflict zones. We lost Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Syria,” Tsirogiannis warned. “What about Yemen?” I asked him. “Yes, yes. Yemen too, you’re right. Six countries in 15 years,” he said. “Tell me: What does this mean for the future of the world?” he asked. “This is escalating into something bigger.”
poor old Yemen, always getting ignored. By the way Mr Rivero, it's not just "art", this is archaeological evdence being trashed for the buyers to pocket.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Old-Looking Objects Seized from Dealers in Iran

A Tabletop of goodies saved from
entering the antiquities market
Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) 'Objects of historical interest seized in Tehran' Cultural Heritage Iran in Pictures November 24, 2015

The objects, including gold jewelry, silver coins, a seal that dates back to the Sassanid era, and figurines, were seized in three sting operations which led to the arrest of six smugglers. As many as 278 historical objects and 10 fake antiques have been seized from smugglers, the director general of Tehran provincial Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department said. The objects, including gold jewelry, silver coins, a seal that dates back to the Sassanid era, and figurines, were seized in three sting operations which led to the arrest of six smugglers. After laboratory examination, the items will be sent to museums to be put on display, the official said.
You can look at the photos ("released by the Iranian Labour News Agency") yourselves. If they see only "ten" fakes here, I really do not know what's going on.

Sam Hardy on Verona Museum Theft

It is worth taking a look at Sam Hardy's discussion: 'Were Verona Civic Museum’s paintings stolen to fund terrorism, stolen to order to supply a collector, or just stolen?':
Seventeen paintings have been stolen from a museum in Italy. They are theoretically worth €15 million/$16 million/£10.5 million though, whether they were stolen to be sold or stolen to be kept (then sold), any black market value may be far lower. The bigger question, right now, is why they were stolen…

PAS Puff Booklet Available


More PAS propaganda promoting artefact hunting and collection:
7 godz.7 godzin temu
'50 Finds from Cheshire' is now available from the Grosvenor, Weaver Hall, Lion Salt Works and Congleton Museums :)
But the thousands of metal detected and pocketed finds unreported and unrecorded are available nowhere, except here: eBay British Antiquities 2,578 listings today.

When are the PAS going to present the other side of artefact hunting and collecting to its public audience (who pay for it)? Where is the booklet that presents artefact hunting to the British public in the context of the publc concern over "looting" (the same thing of course) in Iraq , Syria and Egypt? Where is the PAS information about the issues surrounding buying antiquities on eBay? (There is one, who knows where to find it and direct members of the public there?)

Sunday 22 November 2015

Kingscote Illegal Artefact Hunting: Update

The three artefact hunters caught by nightvision cameras at Kingscote, Gloucestershire (Cotswold farmer claims detectorists 'raping land of Roman history' 12 October 2015), have still not been identified and reported to police by any of the UK's 16000 "responsible" (I use the term loosely) artefact hunters. they have simply vanished into thin air, despite relatively clear images of their rather distinctive physiognomy being broadcast on national TV and figured in newspapers. Certainly, there is more than a handful of metal-detecting individuals out there who knows very well who these people are, but "ambassadors for the hobby" that they are, have decided to "keep sztum" and let these men continue to get away with what they are shown as doing on the BBC. UK metal detectorists claim to a man "we are not all nighthawks" ("we all hate nighthawks, they get us a bad reputation") but every single one of themkm who covers up for culture criminals are themselves tactitly accepting the anti-social and criminal mentality as part of British metal detecting. It is time for the really responsible deectorists to speak out, the merely declaratively responsible ones will not. Where are you?

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  

Saturday 21 November 2015

Trove of Antique Roman Coins Found in Swiss Orchard without a Metal Detector

'' Discovery News

A Swiss fruit-and-vegetable farmer in Ueken, in the northern canton of Aargau, Switzerland spotted some corroded green coins in a molehill in his orchard in July while inspecting his cherry orchard. He reported the find and after months of discreet excavations, archaeologists were able to document a hoard of 4166 bronze and silver coins (total weight 15 kilos), one of the biggest such treasures ever found in Switzerland. The coins date from the reign of Emperor Aurelian (year 270-275) to that of Maximilian (286-305), with the most recent coins dated to year 294. Because the land had been farmed, and despite all the rubbish collectors try to foist off on you about fertilisers, the coins were in good condition. Because the hoard had not been found by metal detectorists, it could be excavated properly (unlike hords in Britain hoiked out roughly like the Lenborough Hoard) and it was found that "some of the coins, made mainly of bronze but with an unusually high silver content of five percent, were buried in small leather pouches".
How much the coins are worth today is beside the point, Matter said, pointing out that the farmer would not be allowed to keep his treasure. “He will likely get a finders fee,” he said, “but the objects found belong to the public, in accordance with Swiss law.” The Ueken treasure is set to go on display at the Vindonissa de Brugg Museum in Aargau.
So, why does Britain "need" artefact hunters?

Paris's plan to protect cultural treasures from terrorists

There seems to be a general lack of discussion of the French government's notion of providing "artefact asylum" (Jonathan Jones, 'Asylum for artefacts: Paris's plan to protect cultural treasures from terrorists' Guardian 20 November 2015; Ed Adamczyk, 'Hollande proposes that Syrian antiquities be brought to France for safekeeping', UPI Nov. 17th, 2015 ). The original text here.

- "a new European database of stolen cultural property": Why not? But can we amalgamate it effectively with other existing ones? But then, in terms of antiquities, the French seem not to have noticed that everybody has been saying for yonks that a database of objects known to be stolen helps not a jot with freshly-looted objects. We've got one of those (ALR) and it's not working. 

- "a European Monitoring Centre to scrutinise the illicit art trade": Absolutely, the more the merrier, but why just scrutiny? Let us have proper regulation. It has to have teeth.

- "a special fund to preserve and reconstruct imperilled antiquities": (as if we do not have any of those within Europe), but yes, let us make lots of money available for documentation, securing the fragments, repair and where possible,  anastylosis of destroyed monuments like Warsaw after WW2. How to raise it? Somebody suggested on the Guardian comments thread:
"What they should be doing is setting up an international treaty so that national police forces can confiscate looted antiquities from the shysters in Paris, London, New York, etc who have bought them on the black market, in fact there should be hefty fines on them to be used in restoring damaged antiquties".
and why not?

- "a programme to train more archaeologists in Iraq and Syria": and not just archaeologists. But then everybody's doing it - are they trainng them for the same things in the same ways? More co-ordination here needed. But having the personnel is not enough, they need places to work from and in, and resources.

- but "providing asylum for antiquities"? Which antiquities? Those from the market, or are they proposing shipping out the antiquities evacuated from museums in occupied Syria and Iraq now in the shrinking areas held by the regimes of these floundering states? The latter seems to be suggested here:
In an address to the 38th meeting of the UNESCO conference in Paris, Hollande said he would assemble a group of French archaeologists and local authorities to remove antiquities from Syria for safekeeping in France. His plan, he said, would protect artifacts from "fanatics who are attacking the living and the dead, all who have humanity today and tomorrow, and those of yesterday." Officials of the Syrian government say more than 300,000 artifacts have been moved to safe places within the country, including from areas controlled by IS.
How would this be arranged/ executed? Under what legal measures and safeguards? When will the material return, and to whom will it be returned and in what form? What happens if evacuating the stuff is seen by the Syrians as an admission that their whole state will be overrun and they do not want to countenance the possibility of defeat (and if that is the case, why is France going to rescue old stones and pots and not people)?

That is just a few of the points that come to mind. Where is the discussion?

Farmer Brown to speak at the Portable Antiquities Conference?

Another cogent post on the Heritage Journal which will be PASsed over in total (embarrassed) silence by the supporters of British policies on artefact hunting: 'Farmer Brown to speak at the Portable Antiquities Conference!'

And by the way, now the LavaPAS is being run by the BM's Department of 'Learning, Volunteers and Audiences', why is Farmer Brown not invited to speak at the conference? What kind of body is it that silences and ignores its critics, instead of addressing the issues at hand?

Friday 20 November 2015

Coin Fondling "Independents": Two examples

Medal of Yavin (from Mint in box).
Ancient coin fondlers and other collectors like to imagine that by accumulating numbers of ancient artefacts ripped from their context and divorced from their findspots by documentation-discarding-dealers and middlemen  they are somehow participating in scholarship. When asked for any kind of textbook setting out a modern methodology of 'heap-of-loose-coins-on-a-table-numismatics' the proponents of this model fall into an embarrassed silence, before erupting in the typically dismissively aggressive response one would expect from this chip-on-the-shoulder milieu when asked for the specifics.

John Hooker (as he reminds us, 'FSA') decides to show us this brand of numismatics in action on the basis of the coins of Tarentum, and warns:
The complexities of mythology cannot be exaggerated, but whenever we have to add political and monetary history to this picture as is quite common in numismatics, it is no small wonder that the subject of numismatics can only be presented, academically, in an introductory fashion. No single work presents a complete picture of this coin, and the issues (including those of other cities) to which it is related. 
He then goes into a show-and-tell of a loose coin in a mode well illustrated here:
The medal of valor was engraved in [sic] a stylized flower that resembled an emblem used by the Galactic Republic of old. At its heart was a stylized a rising sun that symbolized the dawn of a new hope in the wake of the Alliance's victory over the Galactic Empire. [....] This medal was first seen being presented to Luke Skywalker and Han Solo by Leia Organa in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. Chewbacca's not being awarded a medal in the film was a source of discontent for many Star Wars fans. While a number of stories now considered part of Star Wars Legends, such as The Day after the Death Star!, confirmed that Chewbacca did receive a medal, Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo  and Chewbacca Adventure is the first canon tale to confirm this.
The reverse is fairly plain, with an inscription helping to understand what it is and where it is from, like most of the coins "studied" by coin fondlers:
Carefully recreated from original archival materials and fully authorized and endorsed by Lucasfilm Ltd. Constructed from solid die-cast metal plated with 18-karat gold with a rich matte finish. Suspended from an olive-green ceremonial ribbon like the ones used for military medals of honor. [...] Certificate of Authenticity.
Mr Hooker FSA will no doubt be able to explain the 'difference' between this show-and-tell and his show-and-tell about Apollo Hyakinthios based on Robert Graves' mythology book ("avoid abridgements") and the dolphin riders of Taras with its "looks like" comparanda.
We see, also, that the story of Arion is also conflated with Phalanthos/Taras but I think that mythological "drift" rather than syncretism is the most likely reason. I have also seen the dolphin rider on the Gundestrup cauldron described as Arion, but his identity as Taras is certain. A lot of the confusion about the Gundestrup cauldron is due to a lack of mythological/iconographic knowledge (especially of the Greek). 

More "special knowledge" claimed by the collectors, and the alleged ignorance of everybody else. The rest of us see a picture of somebody riding a big fish which is probably not intended as a dolphin, and that is as far as you can go without unbridled speculation and guesswork.

Mr Hooker FSA makes reference to "John Francisco (an independent scholar and numismatist)" but documents no addresses or personal data "to place his writings in context" as both Mr Hooker FSA and an ANA/ACCG dealer apparently deem is totally necessary behaviour in numismatic circles. We do not hear what it is he is "independent" of, unless it is the necessity of supporting any his 'scholarly' statements with references unless to a single general coin handbook and a Loeb translation of Pausanius. He is also cited as an example of numismatists "taking into consideration the many weight standards under which Greek coins were struck and the connected political/historical implications". What we find under the link he supplies is mostly in this sort of vein:
Okay, good. Let's see if I can come up with something ;) First of all, am I sure that we have all the types of spread fabric staters amongst the five? Emotionally, I am sure, but logically we cannot be sure. We have enough mints that are represented by only one, two or three coins that we should not have total confidence that we have it all. However, with that caveat, I have got a set of theories that I am following until I am either satisfied with them, or until they (individually or collectively) explode!! And you all get to watch! :)  [...]  together they make up a really nice set in the Pythagorean cosmogony given in Hippolytus. Animal (Sybaris' bull), Vegetable (Metapontum's barley ear), Metal (we would say mineral, Kroton's bronze tripod). The force of strife or war, (antipathy, Poseidonia's Poseidon wielding a trident) and the opposite force of peace or love (sympathy, Kaulonia's Apollo purifying himself at the valley of Tempe). Animal, vegetable, mineral, war and peace  [...]  I think that the Pythagoreans had a plan concerning what types for coins they wanted, but I don't think that that plan survived unscathed and was implemented completely. Laos may be an abberation, it may mess the whole Pythagorean "message" up, but it couldn't do that if it wasn't incuse. It is like a little guy giving the great Pythagorean system, the finger. "Yes, there are great gods, but there are little gods too and we're going to support the little guy." 
and here we see the coiney doing the equivalent with his mumbo-jumbo surmises.  You can make your mind up whether the form or content consist of any form of scholareship known this side of the planet Tatouinne.

I think that, should coineys insist on employing their specious argument that regulating the no-questions-asked market which masks the flow of freshly-surfaced illicit antiquities would in some way hinder their own brand of 'independent coin-in-hand scholarship', it first behoves them to show that  'heap-of-loose-coins-on-a-table-numismatics'actually merits the use of the term scholaship. A discipline has - by definition a body of methodology that separates it from uncontrolled inventive imagination and speculation. Let us see a modern textbook (preferably textbooks) setting out the basis for considering fondling of loose coins (isolated from their contexts of deposition and discovery) any kind of an academic discipline, independent or not (cue: more personal attacks on the questioner, but no proper reply).


Thursday 19 November 2015

Switzerland's Tough New Stance on Freeports Will Shake the Art World

Geneva Freeports (Photo via:
I would imagine this is not a good time to be in the antiquities market, all the old stand-bys are gradually being eroded away. Like the no-questions-asked freeport system (Henri Neuendorf, 'Switzerland's Tough New Stance on Freeports Will Shake the Art World'  Artnet, November 19, 2015)
The Swiss parliament approved stricter regulations for freeports and customs warehouses yesterday, according to a government announcement. The regulations are part of a wider crackdown on money laundering, smuggling, and other illegal activities that Switzerland has launched. The amendment to the Swiss Customs Act, which comes into effect on January 1, 2016, also grants the Federal Customs Administration (EZV) new power to monitor and control the entry and exit of goods more efficiently and effectively. Under the new regulations, the government introduced a six-month time limit on the storage of goods intended for export. 
To enhance transparency, the identity of the buyer of the goods that are to be exported to Swiss freeports must be declared. With the introduction of the new amendment, the legislature wishes to ensure the required transparency towards domestic and foreign authorities on the stored goods.
The days of collectors hiding their prized artworks from tax authorities could be numbered. Furthermore, the black market trade in illicit antiquities and stolen artworks will be significantly impacted by the requirement to reveal the contents of the crates going in and out of the duty-free warehouses. According to the Swiss publication Cash, a 2013 report by the Swiss Federal Audit Office determined that the long-term storage of goods with great value was found to be indicative of illegal storage for the purpose of tax optimization or to circumvent trade regulations on cultural goods or weaponry.
One wonders when the dealers will set up another petition to "protect collectors' rights"....
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