Tuesday 31 May 2016

Battlefield Digger Relics Cause Disruptive Security Alert in Paris

Gare du Nord station was evacuated and hundreds of Eurostar passengers were stranded overnight in Paris after a traveller was discovered at six in the evening trying to take a Second World War bomb onto a London-bound train (Barney Davis, David Churchill, Ross Lydall, Hannah Al-Othman. ' Eurostar delays: Hundreds of passengers stranded after man tried to bring WWII bomb on board ' 31st May 2016)
It is at least the seventh time since 2011 that passengers have tried to board Eurostar trains with wartime relics. In May last year, souvenir hunters were found to be carrying battlefield souvenirs when their luggage was passed through Eurostar X-ray machines in Paris and Lille. A Eurostar spokeswoman said today: “People do try to bring back memorabilia quite a lot of the time. We have got a big notice up saying not to bring it on board.” [...]  
But the evidence suggests that many British metal detectorists are barely literate and many are clearly incapable of joined-up thinking.

Vignette: still from recent TV programme promoting battlefield relic hunting and playing with munitions carefree treatment of soil-corroded munitions

America, Implement the Convention Properly

It's up to US politicians to
implement suitable laws
The auction is over (Allison Meier, 'Despite Protests, Paris Auction of Sacred Native American Objects Goes Ahead' Hyperallergic May 31st, 2016)
Despite calls for a halt from US government officials and tribal leaders, EVE (Estimations Ventes aux Enchères) auction house went forward yesterday at Drouot Richelieu in Paris with a sale that included contested indigenous sacred objects and human remains [...] an Acoma shield was removed from the auction after reports that it may have been acquired illegally in the 1970s. [...] contested human remains objects, including a  mummified Nazca foot and a Peruvian shrunken head, were skipped in the auction, although their status is not clear as of now. [...] Monday’s auction is only the latest in a series of disputed sales at EVE involving indigenous sacred objects, going back to 2013.
Maybe now the finger-wagging from the Americans who can't be bothered to implement the 1970 UNESCO Convention will be over for another year. A year in which one trusts the same people will be making concerted efforts to pass laws to implement it, no? Action, not words is what is needed, the USA needs to act to protect the cultural patrimony of its citizens.

Sunday 29 May 2016

Plymouth Herald and the Pig

Jason Baker from Eggbuckland (Plymouth Herald)

As if the story about the lead pig could not get worse, the Plymouth Herald decided to do its best to try just that (Herald NTapp, 'Plymouth detectorist causes a "frenzy" with rare Roman find', May 25, 2016). The photos of the self-employed brickie finder who apparently managed to "research" the identity of the emperor mentioned was are one thing, the video (volume right up please) is... something else.
The pig-run, 141 km from Plymouth to Wells
Supporters of artefact hunting often suggest that the hobby is an expression aodf the desire of people to find out about the history of their neighbourhood. Mr Baker was not searching in his neighbourhood, and I bet most of the other "frenzied finders" were not either.

The Reasons for the "Need" to Acquire an Object Without Inhibition

In the mind
I had a brief twittersation with a collector on this topic a few hours ago and stumbled across this in the 'unposted texts' section of my blog's dashboard and decided to post it after all, as it may be of interest.

Shirley M. Mueller, author of “The Neuropsychology of the Collector” (in  Steven Satchell (ed.), Collectible Investments for the High Net Worth Investor. Editor Academic Press, 2009) has contributed a short text to Physician's Money Digest (May 05, 2016) on ' This goes some way to explaining perhaps why it seems collectors are unable to profit from our attempts at reasoning and explanation of the issues concerning the no-questions-asked market. This is not an issue of rationality:
The modulator, the prefrontal cortex or executive brain, is no longer able to navigate between conflicting primitive emotions. It cannot draw a suitable conclusion. This is either because the prefrontal cortex itself is damaged or the drive to collect is so strong that it overpowers the expected function of the prefrontal cortex. Then, poor collecting decisions are made, and a whole new set of emotions erupt. These new feelings may or may not be on the part of the collector because his deficits may not allow him to understand his situation. [...] The need to acquire an object with little if any inhibition is considered by Donald W. Black, MD, and his colleagues from the University of Iowa to be an impulse control disorder. It is classified as one of the symptoms of a broader psychiatric abnormality, obsessive compulsive disorder. Compulsive shoppers fit in this category. Collectors who are unable to resist buying objects they covet seem also to be of the same variety
So there you have it, collecting can be considered a mental disorder.  In fact most people do not collect, or if they do it's something innocuous and obvious like state quarters. Beyond that, it is an obsession.

Hat tip for this one: Donna Yates spotted it

Looting of antiquities is as much a problem in US as it is overseas

Looting of antiquities is as much a problem in some areas of the US as it is overseas (Jim Mimiaga, 'Artifact looting, vandalism surge in southeastern Utah:Public, private partnership aims to foil thieves' The Journal Wednesday, May 18, 2016).
The Bureau of Land Management and Friends of Cedar Mesa, a nonprofit, formed an unusual public-private partnership this month to prosecute looters and vandals of southeastern Utah’s Native American treasures. Under the agreement, Friends of Cedar Mesa will offer a standing reward of up to $2,500 for information that leads to convictions in cases in San Juan County, Utah.  “Most people are unaware of the alarming and ongoing problem of looting and vandalism, including disturbing human remains, in the greater Cedar Mesa area,” said Josh Ewing, executive director of the conservation-minded Friends of Cedar Mesa. “Violators are hard to catch, so we partnered with the BLM to create a fund that hopefully encourages the public to report illegal activity.” '...] “The American public is betrayed by these crimes,” Eaton said. “When visiting our public lands, report suspicious activity. Protecting our archaeological resources is so important because it’s the heritage of all Americans.” 
In Utah, violations of the laws include theft or intentional damage of cliff dwellings, shrines, pottery, stone tools, rock-art panels, burials and historic structures. In the past five years, it is reported that the BLM has reported a surge of disturbing archaeological crimes in this region.
Between October 2011 and April 2016, the BLM’s field office in Monticello said it investigated 25 cases of looting, vandalism and disturbance of human remains in San Juan County. In 2012, a historic Navajo hogan was torn down by campers.In 2013, a burial site in Butler Wash was desecrated by looters.In 2014, a 2,000-year-old pictograph site in Grand Gulch was vandalized.In 2015, three remote sites on Cedar Mesa were dug up by pot hunters, and a burial alcove was dug up in Beef Basin. A prehistoric wall was pulled down at Monarch Cave on Comb Ridge and, in the same area, a wall at Double Stack ruin was knocked down.Vandalism has continued in the past four months, the BLM said. In January, a petroglyph was partially removed from a wall with a rock saw and chisel near Bluff, badly marring the ancient rock art. In March, campers on Muley Point built a fire ring out of building blocks from a 2,000- to 3,000-year-old site, and vandals scratched their names in a rock-art cave. In April, ATV riders drove through archaeological sites in the Lower Fish Creek Wilderness Study Area. Looting and vandalism is also a concern on Canyons of the Ancient National Monument in Southwest Colorado, says monument manager Marietta Eaton. A recent incident is under investigation.
I am sure the coin dealers will say it is the "fault" or archaeologists who are failing to pay potential looters a living wage to keep them on the straight and narrow.

How to Spot a Looter in Utah

In Utah citizens can win a reward for reporting illegal artefact hunting (some of us do it for free). Here's how to spot one (Jim Mimiaga, 'Artifact looting, vandalism surge in southeastern Utah:Public, private partnership aims to foil thieves' Durango Herald, The Journal Wednesday, May 18, 2016):

Collectors' Colonialist and Supremacist Ideology

Cultural Property Obfuscator and Issue Dodger, Peter Tompa attorney at the Washington legal firm Bailey and Ehrenberg said on his little-read blog... " I wasn't aware Greeks were "brown skinned folks" as Barford calls them" and then with a singular lack of logic calls me a "Communist" and "Racist" for questioning IAPN and PNG recommendations. I guess he's not done much travelling and has no real idea of the effects of the Mediterranean sun on most people's skin, and why many people go south to lie on the beaches there. It is not to buy coins.

The Greek National Football Team

Mr Tompa would presumably side with the view that the creators of European civilization cannot have been brown skinned, but very, very white, like this White Supremacist website.

The genetics according to one source

My point is that it is not a little racist of the IAPN and PNG to suggest in their statement to the CPAC that in the case of the artefact hunters of the United Kingdom and the United States, it would be enough to be nice to them, reason with and educate them and ask them not to, but to deal with the people from source countries, they insist that these folk will have to be "watched over" and paid off not to loot. The racism is not mine but that of collectors and dealers of the IAPN and PNG, compounded by their hateful and dismissive supremacist and colonialist attitudes towards the natives.

it is the time for all right thinking people to stand up to the hateful ideologies that lie behind the current activities of the IAPN and PNG. Culture can be used to unite but the IAPN and PNG are persisting in using it to sow division and hatred and attempting to use it as a tool of colonial domination - I bet they support that Trump fellow.

"Finds Frenzy", Money to be Made

Somerset pig
BBC 'Roman lead pig unearthed on Somerset farm in 'find frenzy'...' 27 May 2016
An ingot of Roman lead weighing six stone (38kg) has been unearthed on a farm in Somerset. Jason Baker discovered the "very rare" find - known as a pig - on an organised rally near Wells at the weekend [...] Mr Baker said therchanged my life," he said. "There's been one sold - a smaller one - for £36,000 and I've heard a few reports of [some fetching] £250,000."
e had been a "frenzy of finds" so when his detector sounded he "knew it was something good". The 31-year-old, from Plymouth, has only been metal detecting for 18 months and had signed up for the weekly event, organised by the Southern Detectorists Club. "Normally I find just a couple of Roman coins and that's normally a good day, so to find something like this has just
Jus' intresteid in th' 'istry you understand. Not th' munny. There is more:
Sean McDonald, from the club, said the last Roman pig found was in the 18th century.
"It is such a rare find it's hard to put a price on it. A minimum would be £60,000 but it could go over that fivefold," he said. "It doesn't come under the Treasure Act [...]  so Jason doesn't have to split it 50:50 with the farmer. "But he is, because he is such a nice bloke."
No, the object belongs to the landowner on whose property Mr "Nice Bloke" was a guest. The landowner has every right to take the artefact and throw the lot of these Entitlement-mistaken clowns off his land (I know I would) with a flea in their thick ears.

Greedy Collectors and their Cultural Victims

A thing of beauty, or something else?
With regard to the fuss the US is kicking up about a coming sale of Native American artefacts in France, and given their own attitudes to appropriating as 'global heritage' the artefacts of other communities, it would be interesting to hear a US collector's reaction to what Bambi Kraus, president of the National Association for Tribal Historic Preservation Officers in Washington, a Tlinget Indian from south-east Alaska has to say (Paris auction house turns deaf ear to Native American appeals PRI's The World May 27, 2016).
The sale of these important cultural objects goes against our entire way of life, and way of thinking about being native and today's global world view. They are not just art pieces rather they are cultural objects.
So, a bit like a Greek temple antefix or Egyptian mummy case. She goes on:
They were made for a specific culture and were not to be shared with the outside world. “Many were stolen from Native communities. Many were sold out of duress because there was a lot of fighting over resources when Western expansion was coming up against Native people in the world. I know from my own personal history as a that they were being forced to change their way of life and they were being starved to death, and there was very little they could actually do to preserve their culture," she says. 
Discussion then turns to a specific item, an  Acoma Pueblo ceremonial shield Ms Kraus [as an aside: some lady says the shield was stolen from her home, but provides only an affidavit, not police report]:
It was important to them as a ceremonial piece, and was for their community only. It was made for their use and it should have no value outside of that community. And that's one of the questions that I have been trying to answer, what makes these items valuable?
So what does make these items worth stealing from the communities? I think the answer is pretty obvious:
So, if that is just rawhide and paint, why is that so valuable to someone who wants to collect it for its beauty rather than its value to that community?
Collectors' greed. Collectors' greed and desire to posess this as a trophy as a symbol of their domination of that community of 'Others' is what lies behind communities losing historical items which form the basis of their culture and identity. It is the same with rawhide shields as Greek pots, Egyptian tomb figurines, mummy beads, Roman coins and a host of other collectables. It would be interesting to hear an articulate collector's view, though hopefully one who'd go deeper than adopting a trite self-justificatory American Exceptionalist position. But, I suggest none of us need hold our breath waiting.

Saturday 28 May 2016

The Taunton "Northwest Frontier" Wreath

The controversial artefact

When I discussed in an earlier blog post the Mail story of the wreath which  a Somerset pensioner claims he was 'left by his grandfather who'd been travelling in the Northwest Frontier area' I was more interested in the provenance and the odd photo of the cardboard box than the object itself. I was prompted to look again the next day:
Dorothy King ‏@DorothyKing 10 godz.10 godzin temu
Looks modern to me ...
Retweet Quellenforschung du jour: The Daily Mail on a Hellenistic Wreath
Now I look with the benefit of David Meadows' comments I think he has made the case that there is a good chance this object is a modern pastiche and should be being sold as such in the absence of any firm supporting evidence that it is not.

By the way there seems to be a lack of clarity about what the original article claimed might have been the origin of the piece - a story now looking even more to be in tatters:
The current owner's grandfather was a great collector who was fascinated by archaeology and the ancient world. Although his family do not know how he acquired it, it is likely he bought it sometime in the 1940s when he travelled extensively. The man said: 'I knew my grandfather travelled extensively in the 1940s and 50s and he spent time in the north west frontier area, where Alexander the Great was, so it's possible he got it while he was there.
Most commentators took this to mean the region 'Macedonia' on the northwest side of modern Greece. Is this in fact what Grandson Anonymous was implying? The Northwest Frontier is also the name of a former province, part of the Pashtun region of British India and now part of Pakistan  (see here too). Grandson Anonymous could have been fantasising on the basis of Kipling's novella 'The man Who Would be King' (or more likely the 1975 John Huston film) in which something vaguely like this wreath (a crown) appears handed down from "Iskander" (Alexander).

The wreath could be a piece of modern costume jewellery, or have been made to deceive collectors (and over-enthusiastic Mail-reading auctioneers). What else is Duke's selling from this collection similarly authenticated by appraiser Guy Schwinge?

More American Moaning about Artefact Sales

Paris auction house turns deaf ear to Native American appeals PRI May 27, 2016
The EVE auction house in Paris is getting ready to sell off a collection of historical and highly controversial objects.  The collection notably includes a ceremonial war shield, masks, a shrunken head, a warrior jacket adorned with human scalps, ancient jewelry, and ceremonial stones. Most of the collection can be traced back to Native American Indian tribes including the Acoma Pueblo and the Hopi. US laws prohibit the sale of Native American ceremonial items, but those don’t apply in France. Native American tribal leaders are trying to stop the auction and start a dialogue to reclaim the ceremonial objects that were taken from native peoples more than a century ago. They held an emergency meeting at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington earlier this week to condemn the auction as a violation of international human rights. 
If these objects were taken from their communities more than a century ago, they have been in somebody's collection since then. If they were out of the USA when NAGPRA was passed (this is where collecting history comes in), their retention and sale was perfectly legal. If however they were still in US collections when NAGPRA was passed (the US federal law, 'The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act', Pub. L. 101-601, 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., 104 Stat. 3048, enacted on 16 November 1990.), then their retention and sale comes under that law - but also US law enforcement. The trouble is that the law is rather vague when it comes to non-institutional collections and private property, and cases have rarely been prosecuted. If the objects now in France were exported from the USA after that date NAGPRA came into force, then the same applies. There is of course a 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property but that implies the US implementing the relevant articles (here Art.  6). The USA has refused to do this, so even if teh French wanted to help, there are no legal grounds for confiscating the seller's property once it is in France, and (despite what some Americans are suggesting) that is not because the French are lax in their lawmaking, but because the US has not created the laws and procedures which would enable them to act. It is teh USA which is at fault here, not the French.

So all the emotional stuff about this issue coming from the US is quite out of place, unless it is directed to those that can rectify the gap min US legislation.
So far the appeals from tribal leaders and diplomats, and those on social media, appear to have fallen on deaf ears. EVE has given no indication of backing down on its Memorial Day auction. EVE director Alain Leroy told the AP that “all the items proposed are of legal trade” and that “the public auction process allows the different tribes to acquire their past, and that is exactly what some tribes prefer to do, seeking efficiency and discretion.” These auctions have been an ongoing source of friction between the US and France for several years. But pressure may be mounting. This week, US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called on the French government to help repatriate the items. “Auctioning off tribal sacred objects is extremely troubling not only because tribal law precludes the sale of these objects by individuals, but because items held by a dealer or collector are likely the results of wrongful transfer and may be for sale illegally,” she said.
Well, let us see US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stopping all and any auction of Greek, Roman, Bactrian, Persiabn, Egyptian, Coptic, Celtic, Viking, Islamic, Chinese etc etc etc antiquyities currently on sale by hundreds of US dealers with not a word of where they actually came from, because a lot of us think that these sales are indeed extremely troubling not only because source country law precludes the sale of these objects by individuals, but because items held by a dealer or collector are likely the results of wrongful transfer and may be for sale illegally. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander - even in the USA, surely?

US Civil War battlefield looted,

Metal detectorists "researching the site" (ie identifying potential "productive areas") is producing the loot for them to pocket, but is eroding the historical record (Andreas Preuss, 'Civil War battlefield looted, described as 'crime scene' CNN May 28, 2016):
The National Park Service is calling part of a Civil War battlefield "an active crime scene" following a series of excavations. Authorities are investigating looting at the Petersburg National Battlefield, just south of Richmond, Virginia. The battlefield describes itself as the site of the war's longest siege, lasting nine months between 1864-1865, and claiming 70,000 casualties. "Earlier this week, one of the park employees was out doing landscape work and noticed some things were out of place," NPS spokesman Chris Bryce said. The looting happened in the eastern part of the park, the National Park Service said, citing a large number of excavated pits. Marked graves were not disturbed. Park officials have not described what type of items or relics were stolen in the theft. "They are probably doing their homework of the area, probably did research on Civil War ...They were in the ground, they likely would have used a metal detector and a digging tool," Bryce said. Civil War relics, like uniform buttons, rifle parts and other metallic battlefield items regularly show up on internet auction sites. The Park Service says looting a National Battlefield is a federal crime, carrying up to a $20,000 fine and two years in prison for a conviction. 
Setting up a Portable Antiquities Scheme here would solve nothing. Destruction is destruction.

Gotta Hellenistic Wreath to Sell Anonymously? Take it to Duke's

Provenance: Acquired by the Grandfather of
the vendor is [sic] the 1930's [sic] and thence by
descent Private Collection, Somerset

Duke's Fine Art Auctioner

Euan McLelland, 'Incredibly rare 2,300-year-old Ancient Greek gold crown worth £100,000 was kept for decades in a tatty box of old newspapers under bed by owner who had no idea what it was ', MailOnline   26 May 2016

A Hellenistic gold wreath has "surfaced', reportedly kept in an old cardboard box under a bed by an anonymous elderly man in Taunton.
Valuers from Duke's of Dorchester in Dorset attended the pensioner's home to look at some items he had inherited from his grandfather [...] Bits of dirt embedded on the wreath suggest this one was buried at some point [...] The current owner's grandfather was a great collector who was fascinated by archaeology and the ancient world [...] his family do not know how he acquired it [...] The man said: '[...] I inherited quite a lot of things from him and I just put this to one side for almost a decade and didn't really think anything of it. 'Recently I decided I needed to sort through things and called in Duke's to have look at some of the items he'd passed on to me' [...] The antiquity will be sold on June 9. 
Despite having zero provenance. What kind of a collector was Grandfather Anonymous? Where did he get it and when precisely? The newspapers it was wrapped in are not detailed - it could have been acquired just before Grandson Anonymous inherited the estate "ten years ago". This is "can't touch you for it" licitness and no responsible collector should want to add such an item to their collection. Duke's currently has some other "interesting" objects on sale - including a 'Syro-Palestinian' icon with no real provenance.

The Family Box: What an interesting photo the auctioneer took.
Why? What date are those newspapers? 
The "Dead Grandfather Provenance" is used quite a lot in dealing in antiquities. In some cases it covers an object where the actual message is "I don't want to tell you where this is really from" as in the matter of the sarcophagi reportedly offered by Morris Khouli to  collector Joseph Lewis II as well, perhaps the infamous Leutwitz Apollo. (see here too). In my experience dead grandfathers with a poorly sorted collection are used to launder some pretty obvious fakes in auctions by people who claim to "know nothing about what this is so I am setting the minimum starting price". There is always one greedy fool who thinks he knows more than the self-proclaimed ignorant seller and competes with a shill bidder (most likely) to push the price of worthless lumps of metal up a sizeable sum under the impression that it is a valuable authentic artefact. Grandfathers should document their collections better or they just become a red flag after their death.

UPDATE 28th May 2016
David Meadows, Rogue Classicist, is sceptical about even more of this story. he points out why the object seen in the photos is quite unlike the body of properly-excavated comparanda:
Taken together, there is much to be suspicious about this one. The disconnect between the accounts in the Daily Mail and the Duke’s of Dorchester official description are concerning at least from a collection history point of view. The huge difference in valuation also suggests the auction house might not be as enthusiastic about this as the Daily Mail would have us believe. Outside of that, the wreath itself has several features which just don’t ‘seem right’ from a Hellenistic gold wreath point of view. We’ll continue to watch how this one develops …
I think looking at the points he made, his suspicions could be right (noting too the scare quotes in te auctioneer's description) and this is an example of a fake-dodgy artefact being laundered by the Dead Grandfather ploy rather than a looted-and-smuggled-dodgy one. On which case who is the scammer? The anonymous pensioner who called in Duke's (why this auction house and not Christie's?) with some vague story about where it had come from, or was it the person who ten, twenty, years ago or more fooled Grandpa Anonymous into buying this, with the latter only realising he'd been duped later (when in shame and disgust he hid the damn thing away in a box and did not admit to anyone he'd been caught out)?

Friday 27 May 2016

Thinking of Buying Antiquities? Read the Terms and Conditions

TimeLine Auctions is one of the leading and most visible of middle-range British dealers in portable antiquities, they offer a whole load of metal detected stuff as well as loads of non-native antiquities, some of which from time to time I have had a few words on in this blog. Its CEO Brett Hammond  was recently on the Treasure Valuation Committee. This makes it all the more awkward that there are comments from readers to an earlier post of mine about authenticity issues which remain unanswered by this auctioneer.

If you are thinking of buying in an auction like this (and as an archaeologist and for your own peace of mind, I would in general suggest as a general rule that nobody buys anything from any antiquities dealer who does not offer upfront full verifiable documentation of  legal origins and authenticity as part of the sales offer), I'd also advise reading the small print of the 'terms and conditions' and thinking about why it is there.

European Union licences plan ‘could hit London art market’

Britain's Portable Antiquities heritage in all its crass antipreservationist glory (Nicholas Cecil, 'EU licences plan ‘could hit London art market’...', Evening Standard Friday 27 May 2016)
Arts chiefs today raised fears that London’s market in high-value works could be hit by a “damaging” new EU import licence system. Their concerns were sparked by a survey ordered by the European Commission as part of efforts to fight the illicit trafficking of stolen antiquities and masterpieces, originating from war-torn countries such as Syria and Iraq. It asked for views on “mechanisms” to tackle this including an “import licence system on the demand side (ie EU-side).”
Jolly good job too. Let's have some initiatives getting some mechanisms to keep stolen and looted blood antiquities off the EU market. Not everybody is happy about the prospect of a market free of such dirty art. Anthony Browne, chairman of the British Art Market Federation, told the Standard
“Our big concern is that an import licence system applying to everything covered by the EU existing cultural regulations would impose a new and very damaging burden on the British art market which is heavily dependent on cross-border trading. London’s principal art market competitors are outside the EU - New York, Switzerland and Hong Kong - and would not of course be affected by this initiative from the European Commission.”
He also stressed that gangs dealing in stolen cultural works were unlikely to apply for an import licence. Wow, there's a sharp intellect at work there. An art market so very dependent at the moment on no-questions-asked cross-border trading is just ripe for exploitation by those very same gangs. Alleging that those "market competitors" are not affected by measures to clean up the market (really? and the CCPIA of the US?)  is simply a two wrongs argument. In any case buying EU, if the material on the market is properly vetted and policed is a way of ensuring kosher artefacts, who is going to buy from those competing markets with the Dirty Art, Mr Browne? Are they clients of yours?

Daniel Hannan
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan accused Brussels chiefs of holding back the proposed licensing regime, together with “so many other nasties”, until after the EU referendum on June 23. He added: “London is the only international arts centre in the EU. People come here from all over the world to buy and sell, from Russia, China, India, South America. If they have to start messing around with import licences, with all the associated costs and time-wasting, they’ll take their business elsewhere, to New York or Geneva.”

Where they can buy Dirty Art, which is then freely exported from this hub to Russia, China, India and South America?
The UK, mainly London, accounts for two thirds of the EU’s entire art market by value, Mr Browne said. He added that the UK was already acting to stop national treasures in conflict zones being stolen and destroyed, including with the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003 and the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill going through Parliament. A Culture Department spokesman said the UK “has effective laws in place to prevent the illicit trade of cultural goods and antiquities”  
1954, Roger Bannister runs
the first sub-four minute
mile in Oxford, England.

That's a joke, isn't it? But not a very funny one. The "Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill going through Parliament" is the one that puts into action the Hague Convention, you know the May NINETEEN FIFTY-FOUR Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, . How many of my readers even remember 1954? And all this time Britain has NOT been acting to stop national treasures in conflict zones being stolen and destroyed under it for the simple reason that the UK has not yet signed the thing. Pull the other one Mr Browne.

As for the claim that a law passed in THIRTEEN YEARS AGO was "already acting to stop national treasures in conflict zones being stolen and destroyed", that is just a lie since we are told that the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003 was used for the first time ever just a few weeks ago to prosecute the church thief in R v Christopher Cooper (g in Tainted Cultural Objects (Jeanette Oldham 'Crooked amateur antiques dealer who stole 'priceless' religious relics from churches across UK jailed' 6 May 2016). That is thirteen years when the UK antiquities market has been chugging along regardless and nothing at all has been stopped. Nothing Mr Browne. Yet this blog  has reported among others of numerous sightings of dodgy artefacts on the London market from conflict regions (including Syria), as have others. So what good to any of us is this pathetically inadequate legislation a Culture Department spokesman too ashamed to give his name said comprises “effective laws in place to prevent the illicit trade of cultural goods and antiquities”. In fact, is it not the case that (as is implied by the concerns of the people represented by Browne and Hannan) the fact that the laws are so useless at actually stopping anything at all going on, that the UK market is as big as it is?   

Thursday 26 May 2016

Israel Antiquities Authority Plan To Excavate Judean Desert Caves

The Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Heritage Project in the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, and together with the Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev, is promoting a national plan for comprehensive archaeological excavations in the Judean Desert caves, to recover some 'Dead Sea Scrolls' before the looters do ('Israel Antiquities Authority Plan To Excavate Judean Desert Caves To Save Scrolls Being Robbed' Yeshiva World Wednesday, May 25th, 2016). 
According to Israel Hasson, director-general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “For years now our most important heritage and cultural assets have been excavated illicitly and plundered in the Judean Desert caves for reasons of greed. The goal of the national plan that we are advancing is to excavate and find all of the scrolls that remain in the caves, once and for all, so that they will be rescued and preserved by the state”. [...]   For many years, IAA inspectors have been proactively enforcing the law in the desert, during the course of which they have made a number of seizures and foiled bands of antiquities robbers that sought to become rich through the detrimental exposure of items of great historical importance. However, these actions are a mere drop in the ocean and the Israel Antiquities Authority stresses that only by excavating all of the scrolls in the ground and transferring them to the state, will it be possible to ensure their well-being and preservation for future generations. [...] According to Amir Ganor, director of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, “ [...] Despite the rigorous enforcement actions taken against the antiquities robbers, we still witness acts of severe plundering that unfortunately are possible in such large desert expanses. There are hundreds of caves in cliffs in the area, access to which is both dangerous and challenging. In almost every cave that we examined we found evidence of illicit intervention and it is simply heart-breaking. The loss of the finds is irreversible damage that cannot be tolerated”.
 The first excavation in the programme is taking place in the Cave of the Skulls in Nachal Tze’elim. Here in November 2014, inspectors of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery apprehended a band of robbers, residents of the village Sa‘ir near Hebron, plundering the cave.
The suspects were caught “red-handed”, were arrested on the spot, have been investigated, sentenced and served a prison sentence, and are required to pay the State of Israel a fine of 100,000 NIS. At the time of their arrest they were in possession of important archaeological [material]. In 2009 an ancient papyrus was seized that was written in Hebrew and dates to the Year Four of the Destruction of the House of Israel (139 CE). The papyrus was confiscated in a joint operation by the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and the Israel Police during a meeting with antiquities dealers in which the papyrus was offered for sale for the amount of 2 million dollars. The investigation of the robbers involved in the affair showed that this papyrus was apparently also discovered in Nachal Tze’elim. The contents of it, which mentions the towns and settlements in the area of the Hebron hill-country, suggests that the papyrus was part of an archive of documents belonging to Jews who fled to the desert from the Hebron area after the Bar Kochba uprising. Now, the Israel Antiquities Authority hopes to find such documents. 
(the 2014 bust was reported in this blog: Sunday, 7 December 2014, 'Cliff-Hanging Antiquities Bust in Israel'). The current excavation is difficult due to the position of the cave, about 80 meters from the top of the cliff, and c. 250 m above the base of the wadi, requiring special equipment for the team to reach the site. More than 500 volunteers and field personnel from Israel and abroad were required for the undertaking, and they are sleeping and living in a camp in desert field conditions.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Retentionism in UK National Art 'policy'

Michael Savage has some interesting points about the issues surrounding 'saving Treasures for the nation' which could equally well apply to an incessant series of rewards for the constant flow of metal-detector hoiked Treasures often containing a repetitive series of objects. To what extent is the public expenditure justified and why? (Grumpy Art Historian, 'Let her go' Curmudgeonly criticism, mostly about art. Monday, 23 May 2016).

Mali jihadi Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi to plead guilty

Destruction of heritage in Mali
was not the work of ONE man
A Malian jihadi Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi will plead guilty to being among those attacking the world heritage site of Timbuktu before the international criminal court (ICC) based in The Hague at a joint hearing and sentencing due to be held in the coming months.
He stands accused of jointly ordering or carrying out the destruction of nine mausoleums and a section of Timbuktu’s famous Sidi Yahia mosque, a Unesco world heritage site dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. [...] Mahdi will admit a single charge of “the war crime of attacking buildings dedicated to religion and historic monuments” in 2012, when many of the ancient shrines were destroyed. [...] ICC prosecutors say Mahdi was a leader of Ansar Dine, a mainly Tuareg group that controlled areas of Mali’s northern desert together with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) and a third local group in early 2012.
Reports make no mention of anybody else being charged for similar deeds in the same conflict. Will al-Faqi al-Mahdia be left to carry the can for all the others still in hiding?

Update 27th September 2016
he got nine years in jail

Operation Chronos Investigates Another UK Metal Detectorist

but then that begs the question, What is "ethical" artefact hunting, is artefact collecting "ethical"?

IAPN and PNG Protection Assistance Scheme (PAS)

Bemused IAPN President
Here is this morning's joint announcement by the International Association of Professional Numismatists and the Professional Numismatic Guild about the introduction of their Protection Assistance Scheme (PAS) for archaeological sites in source countries to which their lobbyist made reference at yesterday's CPAC meeting (IAPN and PNG Statement on Greek MOU).
IAPN and PNG join 88% of the public comments posted on the regulations.gov website that express concerns about the MOU’s restrictions on ancient coins exported.  Rather than overbroad restrictions on imports into the USA that adversely impact Americans interested in ancient culture, after much thought the IAPN and PNG propose modest steps that, as people interested in ancient culture, we all can take to preserve sites. What we propose is:
1) that vulnerable sites are monitored when they are not being excavated in the long off-season and 
2) ensuring local people around them are paid a fair living wage so they don’t have an incentive to loot to help make ends meet.
We hold that simple steps like these could do far more to help protect the World’s cultural patrimony than prohibitions on imports that only hurt legitimate collecting and people to people contacts and appreciation of ancient culture it engenders.
To that end we intend to start two pilot schemes as a catalyst to encourage others to follow our model. We propose in 2016-7 to issue 800 Site Protection Assistance Scheme (SPAS) grants to security firms and local families to show the effectiveness of our proposal. We hope that this will encourage other organizations to enter the scheme. Applications are invited from interested commercial security firms and local families local to prolific archaeological sites for IAPN and PNG's SPAS grants. Families must demonstrate that they fall below the Federal Poverty Threshold and state what they consider to be a fair living wage. The pilot scheme will be restricted to countries of the Old World which produced ancient coins and which have an GNP per capita below 40000 USD.
A letter of application should be submitted by Jun 30 2016 to the offices of the President of the IAPN: Arne Kirsch SINCONA AG, Limmatquai 112, CH-8001 Zürich or the offices of the Executive Director of the PNG: Robert Brueggeman Executive Director 28441 Rancho California Rd., Suite 106 Temecula, CA 92590

وبابوا نيو غينيا الانضمام التعليقات العامة على الموقع الشبكي اللوائح التي تعبر عن القلق بشأن القيود المفروضة على مذكرة التفاهم على العملات القديمة تصديرها ونبسب؛ بدلا من القيود الفضفاضة على الواردات في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية التي تؤثر سلبا على الأميركيين المهتمين في الثقافة القديمة، وبعد الكثير من التفكير ووبابوا نيو غينيا اقتراح الخطوات المتواضعة التي، كما المهتمين في الثقافة القديمة، ونحن جميعا يمكن أن تتخذ للحفاظ على المواقع. ما نقترحه هو:1) أن يتم رصد المواقع المعرضة للخطر عندما لا يتم حفرها هم في موسمها طويلة و2) ضمان تدفع السكان المحليين حولهم للأجور المعيشة عادلة بحيث لا يكون حافزا لنهب للمساعدة في تغطية نفقاتهم.
ونحن نرى أن خطوات بسيطة مثل هذه يمكن أن تفعل أكثر بكثير للمساعدة في حماية التراث العالمي الثقافي من الحظر على الواردات التي تؤذي فقط جمع الشرعي والناس للناس الاتصالات والتقدير من الثقافة القديمة التي تولدها.تحقيقا لهذه الغاية نحن عازمون على بدء المخططات الرائدة اثنين حافزا لتشجيع الآخرين على أن يحذوا نموذجنا. نقترح إصدار منح برنامج دعم حماية الموقع إلى شركات الأمن والأسر المحلية لإظهار فعالية اقتراحنا. نأمل أن يؤدي ذلك إلى تشجيع المنظمات الأخرى للدخول في المخطط. والدعوة موجهة إلى الطلبات المقدمة من شركات الامن التجارية المهتمة والأسر المحلية المحلية للمواقع الأثرية وافرة للحصول على منح بابوا غينيا الجديدة. يجب العائلات تثبت أنها تقع تحت عتبة الفقر الاتحادية. ويقتصر مخطط تجريبي لدول العالم القديم الذي أنتج العملات القديمة والتي لها نصيب الفرد أقل من دولار أمريكي. يجب تقديم خطاب الطلب إلى مكاتب رئيس:

Arne Kirsch SINCONA AG, Limmatquai 112, CH-8001 Zürich; Robert Brueggeman Executive Director 28441 Rancho California Rd., Suite 106 Temecula, CA 92590
Please reblog, let us get those applications coming in and give the IAPN and PNG a chance to show that the policies they recommend are at all feasible.

Tuesday 24 May 2016

IAPN and PNG Statement on Greek MOU FAIL

IAPN and PNG solve lead theft conundrum?
I see Peter Tompa of Bailey and Ehrenberg PLLC still claims to speak for both the international Association of Professional Numismatists AND the Professional Numismatics Guild (IAPN and PNG Statement on Greek MOU). Collectors and dealers in both these groups should ask the boards of both why. They were discussing yesterday the US implementation of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The IAPN AND the PNG claim that preventing illicitly exported coins from entering the US has somehow "already damaged private and institutional collecting". Does that mean that these rely on illicit antiquities to be sustainable activities in the US? If so, I would consider it very rash of collectors to go shouting their mouths off about it in Washington.

Tompa sees the problem of the the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property as being resolvable by being
either more careful in issuing [metal detecting] permits or adopting something akin to the PAS in the UK
This is weak logic. Firstly many of the designated antiquities covered by the existing US legislation are non metallic (statues, ceramics etc) and thus not acquired using metal detectors. Secondly, it remains to be seen how may times one has to explain to superficially-thinking US commentators that the PAS of England and, for the moment, Wales has absolutely no connection with import, export and transfer of ownership of any type of cultural property. Like his equally-ill-informed but mouthy compatriot Rabbi Zev Friedman (here and his students here) blaming the Holocaust on the people of Occupied Poland in their so-called "Polish Death Camps", Tompa places the blame for looting on archaeologists:
Rather than overbroad restrictions that adversely impact Americans interested in Greek culture, let’s consider modest steps archaeologists can take — like ensuring their sites are monitored in the long off-season and ensuring local people they employ are paid a fair living wage so they don’t have an incentive to loot to help make ends meet—instead.
That is like saying that preventing lead roofing theft from English churches should be countered by the "modest step" of creating a broad social programme by ensuring that vulnerable remote sites are guarded by a parishioner spending the night on the church roof and ensuring all local people "have employment with a fair living wage so they don’t have an incentive to loot to help make ends meet". Presumably he would advocate the same approach to preventing "nighthawks" too. I think the problem with this is that as a lawyer, Mr Tompa should be aware that crime is not caused exclusively by opportunists who "cannot make ends meet". The fact that lawyers can make money defending people accused of culture crime suggests that not all of them are without financial resources. Of course the way to stop rural crime like stealing building materials and scrap metal is to make it more difficult to monetise them by putting restrictions on transactions on the market and raising public awareness among buyers. It can be seen from their conrtribution to the public discussion here this is something the IAPN and PNG have totally failed to do.

The True Face of Treasure Hunting

Cash handouts for not breaking the law?
19.05 See some of the recent treasure cases and what people's [sic] feel about the UK Treasure process on this great FB group:
but ...
unfortunately the time scale and process for valuation will eventually stop people doing the right thing.
What he means of course is abiding by the law. So what is he saying, if the public does not cough up the munny kwik 'nuff, they'll take their hoiked stuff elsewhere? Scandalous attitude.
18.05    so many people are disgruntled with the way the treasure process is currently run & so many treasures prob go unreported
Who's "them" then?

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