Thursday 30 June 2016

"Romanes eunt domus"?

The Portable Antiquities Scheme continue their role in the education of the British public with this article on the 'Knutsford Hoard' in this month's issue of the metal detecting magazine "The Searcher"....

They found "one data" which suggested, no doubt, that there would be other "datums" if they dug further. I suppose there would be no point asking some FLOs the question on some lips this week whether it is referendums or referenda.

Shopkeeper Evasion, Dead Pigs, Ancient Coins and Cowboys

It was still yesterday in America when I was today labelled (Wednesday, June 29, 2016 What the Collecting Community is really Up Against) an "archaeomaniac" (sic). Why? It's because of my allegedly "true ultra-Socialist, or perhaps actually Communist" idea that anybody who wants to claim that the goods he is selling are licit, should be able to demonstrate that. A "revolutionary" idea it seems for some shopkeepers.
This is an overt demand for proof of licit origin, with a declaration that any artifact for which documented proof of licit origin is not available is to be presumed to be illicit.
Yes, an overt declaration that if Mr Welsh sells me half a pig for my freezer which he got from a bloke with a truckload of them in a Walmart carpark, he'd better have the health certificates that indicate that meat is not infected. Otherwise I'm not buying. I don't trust coin dealers with paperless  dead pigs or anything else.
Let's be clear about this: If [these] ideas are accepted, even more stringent burdens of proof would fall upon collectors than this new German law dares to impose upon German collectors.
("dares"?) Note that, collectors get lumbered with the costs of their own carelessness here. If a dealer ("trust me") can con a collector into buying things without paperwork these days, sooner or later a collector at the end of the chain is going to find themselves lumbered with duff goods which they can do nothing with. But this is not "Mr Barford's fault", it is the fault of stupid collectors buying stuff no-questions asked. Collectors should read the 1970 (1970 that's 46 years ago, 'Nam days) Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property- start with article 10 and wonder why US dealers have for all those years fallen short of the standards it sets. Ask yourself why they have failed to even make a start in all those long years to live up to the standards of transparency that ethical and responsible trade in such a commodity requires. How many artefacts in that time have passed through and been systematically "orphaned" from their true collecting histories in the US market alone? Why? Ask yourself.

Dealer Dave however does not actually address that issue, preferring instead to veer off into personal attack, questioning my "credentials"  (I think he feels one can write poetry without being a poet, or technical papers without being a technical writer), being simultaneously a "caped crusader" (Cf Sayles' "Space Cadets" junk) and allegedly a "Communist" with allegedly "a past to hide", but then rather illogically he compares me to Rudolf Hess [who, as far as I know was not a communist].
this almost indecipherable man who apparently wishes to become an "Archaeological Eichmann" who ferociously exterminates collectors. 
I think it is pretty clear from that that Mr Welsh has absolutely nothing substantive to say about the matter of transparency in the antiquities trade.  

Vignette: Some dead pig dealers are unable to supply buyers with certificates of health for their goods. I would advise not to buy anything from anyone who's not got the proper paperwork showing licit origins.  That is not being the "enemy of all butchers" just those that want to conduct cowboy businesses with zero transparency and accountibility.


"What the Collecting Community is really Up Against"

Actually, "What the Collecting Community is really Up Against" is the obstructive attitudes of the dealers they buy from who encourage the persistence of the same attitudes, denial and evasion ion the collecting communities. Once collectors mature enough to start thinking for themselves, the dealers will be forced to change their tune - and their business model. Thinking collectors, now there's a thing.

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Shopkeeper lies (Antiquity Dealers, eh?)

The Californian coinshop keeper who imagines that entitles him to the label "professional numismatist" like Al Bundy was a professional chiropodist clearly cannot understand plain English (perhaps he needs a teacher). He writes:
Both Tompa and I have previously discussed the "actual text" of this legislation in detail. The detailed openPetition analysis thereof was quite clear in its devastating indictment of the unfairness of this legislation to German collectors and dealers.
The petition was based on a text which was at least two redraftings earlier than the version passed several days ago by the Bundestag. There is no link in either the text of Dealer Dave or that of Bailey and Ehrenberg's  Tompa to the current version they are (allegedly) "discussing". If they are indeed discussing the actual text of the document, then they should cite it to show us that they are not making it up when they and their fellows accuse it of being both "socialist" and "Nazi"' I say they are, let them prove otherwise with reference to specific articles of the current text. Go on then. Unlike Fascist-Communist states in  Myth-Yurope, the Enlightened and United States of America of course grants full ownership rights to everything under the sun,... well, unless its items on their OWN extensive sanctions list of exports which are controlled. So what does this make them, then Dealer Dave? 

Do you understand the term "actual text"? 

"Respectable" Dealers

Dealer Dave has no objections to me calling him a shopkeeper because to consider the label as in any way demeaning would be "effete, antiquated snobbery" which allegedly "means nothing at all in the USA".
Being a well-known dealer in ancient coins with an award-winning website seems to me to be at least as "socially respectable" as being....
...the proprietor of a Manhattan antiquities gallery with charisma and who wears bespoke tailored suits to sell in opulent surroundings, high end objects often with some kind of collecting history attached to them? Does Mr Welsh claims equality with the Aboutaams? "Award winning" or not, there are, it seems, shopkeepers but also suave gallery owners in the same industry.

In fact, there is nothing at all "respectable" or even respect-worthy about dealers in so-called 'minor'  antiquities who rely for their profits on the acquisition, no doubt at some low unit cost, of goods which have no paperwork verifying licit origins (objects with paperwork apparently command higher prices), which are then sold to careless collectors, no questions asked. A respectable dealer will deal only in objects where he or she can demonstrate licit origins. "They can't touch you for it-legitimacy" is no legitimacy at all. So I invite readers to examine Dealer Dave's atavistic "award winning website" to see what they think that award was for if not for the presentation of collecting histories.

More Fundamentalists Destroying Archaeological Monuments

Jehovah’s Witnesses have been accused of vandalizing a 7,000-year-old archaeological site in eastern Mexico  in an effort to stamp out “Devil worship.”
The sect targeted the ancient ceremonial area because it was “not Christian” and destroyed “at least a dozen” stone altars built by the indigenous Otomi people at the San Bartolo Tutotepec archeological site, according to TeleSur TV. Members of the sect say the destruction was motivated by a belief that the ancient indigenous religion involved devil worship. The perpetrators claim that they were following the word of God by destroying the temple site. The Otomi people still hold the site sacred .
"Christian group vandalizes ancient Mexican site claiming it’s linked to ‘Devil worship’" DeadState June 28, 2016

The False Binary about ISIL looting

Amr AL-Azm on the fallacy of the "[Good collector] buying stuff to save it from destruction" trope.

The ADCAEA and Peter Tompa are believed to be working on a refutation of that statement. It may take a bit of time coming out.

The EU referendum and the Heritage

A lot of work ahead of us to replace existing systems, Richard Hebditch (NT External Affairs Director) 'The EU referendum and the National Trust' 29th June 2016.

'Statement from Culture Secretary John Whittingdale following the EU referendum on the DCMS sectors' 29th June 2016. In comparison more like smoke, clouds and fluff.

"What the Collecting Community is really Up Against"

Actually, "What the Collecting Community is really Up Against" is the obstructive attitudes of the dealers they buy from who encourage the persistence of the same attitudes, denial and evasion ion the collecting communities. Once collectors mature enough to start thinking for themselves, the dealers will be forced to change their tune - and their business model. Thinking collectors, now there's a thing.

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Is German Antiquities Legislation "Socialist" (sic), "National Socialist" (sic) or Neither?

A California shopkeeper ('New German Cultural Heritage Protection Legislation' Friday, June 24, 2016) does not like the new German antiquities law:
such legislation clearly reflects a Socialist perspective that "cultural property" is to a significant extent the property of the State in which it is located
while a commentator on the same page contrarily suggests
There seems to be the whiff of: Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer in the air. Perhaps it's me being over sensitive? Now it's easy to see why the UK ditched the unelected Eurocrats - who dream-up the EU's laws - for a return to democracy. .
Whether the legislation concerned claims state ownership of all cultural property has yet to be demonstrated by the shopkeeper. As for seeing Germany as a country of a single ethnicity under a dictatorship, one wonders what xenophobic newspapers this 'sensitive' Brexiter reads. Another claquer of Brexit in the collecting community (though ironically, himself - to judge by the name - from an eastern European immigrant family) agrees that the new law:
brings back bad memories of Germany's totalitarian past.
Though is coy about saying whether he means that of 1933-45 or 1949-1990. Instead of all this empty sniping, it would be good to see the antiquities dealing and collecting lobbies discussing the actual text, rather than making hasty puerile "looks like" comparisons.

Can we see that?

Paperless antiquities and that hoary old "from a Swiss family collection" excuse

Supposing you are offered a marble Roman head which you are told was from a Swiss family collection,” whinges Günter Puhze, a Freiburg-based dealer in antiquities. “How could you get an export licence from the country of origin without knowing exactly where it was dug up, maybe decades ago? Would you have to go to all the states that were once part of the Roman Empire?”

“Supposing you are offered a marble Roman head which has the documentation you need to demonstrate it has a verifiable collecting history which shows it  was licitly acquired and exported from the source country". Well, obviously the responsible dealer guarding his reputation would buy the one, and not give the other shelf space in his stockroom. Maybe Gunter Puhtze will buy the paperless one. He certainly seems to be indicating here that this is the case. Swiss collectors get your paperwork in order before trying to cash in on Granddaddy's art stash. After all, it could also be Holocaust art, couldn't it? 

Monday 27 June 2016

Antiquities Dealer Arrested in Athens, Greece

Have you bought anything from this man? '' Ekathimerini 21.06.2016

What Germany’s tough new law could mean for the antiquities market

The subtitle basically says it all: Catherine Hickley, '', The Art Newspaper 27 June 2016 "Warning that the world’s most stringent trade rules could see dealers moving abroad". Well, they won't be moving to London now it's going to be outside the EU with the problems of moving artefacts across that border too. Poor dealers, eh? I guess they'll just have to try and sell stuff they can actually show is licitly on the market. What a shame eh? Those who can't do that will just have to close up shop. But then pushing the no-questions-asked dealers out to clean up the German market is the whole idea of the legislation. So there will be no kiddie porn, illegal narcotics, black market guns or grey market antiquities.
The primary aims of the law are to stop illegal trafficking in looted antiquities and to ensure that works of art with national significance do not leave Germany. It has been warmly greeted by those whose heritage has suffered most from antiquities theft and smuggling. [...] The main bones of contention are requirements for export and import licences for cultural objects above a certain value, even within the European Union. The rules for archaeological assets, defined as objects found in the soil or water, are particularly stringent. The law would demand an export licence from the country of origin for any item offered for sale. [...]  The antiquities trade in Germany has been in decline in recent years, with many dealers shutting up shop altogether in the face of increasing regulation or retirement. Few young dealers have entered the trade in the country, which Geerling estimates to be worth only around €15m a year.
Just as if to show how the act is needed the article explains to circumvent the bit about its function to ensure that works of art with national significance do not leave Germany, we are told about German dealers who moved their stock outside the country to prevent them being affected. I think them spiriting away heritage like that says all you need to know about "art dealers" and why they are still trying to block this legislation.
Anyway, their potential moves are limited, it is reported that France will also have similar legislation soon. Perhaps they should just clean up their act.

Sunday 26 June 2016

Brexit Screwup Saves European Heritage?

Felix Salmon, 'With a single vote, England just screwed us all' Fusion 24th June 2016. So basically what their Portable Antiquities Scheme bonkers has been doing to the efforts of other European nations to cut down the looting and trade in loose antiquities for years. Basically both have the same intellectual (I use the term loosely) roots. Anyway, this means an end to the European Council of Metal Detecting, nobody here is going to listen to the Brits any more.

Saturday 25 June 2016

What is "Archaeological Evidence" when Collected by Collectors?

Leicester FLO Wendy Scott approvingly tweeted a slide from a presentation by Jane Kershaw talking via Skype about "the value of PAS data" at the pro-looting 'chance or challenge' conference in Aarhus. This is dot-distribution maps gone absolutely bonkers.

Can you see that? The researcher is plotting out coin finds of 650-750 and equating lines of them with roads - including new ones, and a lack of finds is supposed to be showing where roads "went out of use". I can't help comparing that map with the PAS "affordances" maps and wondering how one can apply archaeological interpretations when what clearly is being mapped are modern collecting practices. I also ask what the connection is supposed to be between movement on a road of a specific type (as opposed to waterways) and the usage and deposition of coins and how those assumptions were tested. Do Elizabethan coin findspots, for example also "show which Roman roads were in use" in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (known from the early county maps). Were roads the only way coins got into the ground?

What, actually is "the value of PAS data" and what kind of data are they?

The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: A Timeline

Probably I am not the only person who, on second reading of Arial Sabar's text The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife acquired two scribbled sheets of [in my case coffee-cup-ring-stained] A4 with an attempt at a timeline of events on it. David Meadows (Rogue Classicist) has published his (Returning to the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: Reflections and Implications (I) June 24, 2016 ) and made some interesting comments. Worth bookmarking - I think we may be coming back to this. I was interested to see what he wrote almost-exonerating King, despite my own position, those seem fair points.

Thursday 23 June 2016

Germany passes cultural protection law

Good news from Germany: 'Germany passes cultural protection law that caused art world fury' Europe Online magazine 23rd June 2016.
The German parliament on Thursday passed a cultural protection law that will regulate the sale of German art deemed to be of "national importance" and clamp down on illicit imports of cultural artefacts. The law was approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s coalition government, which holds more than 75 per cent of seats in the Bundestag, while the opposition Greens and far-left Die Linke abstained from the vote. 
The legislation will allow artworks more that 75 years old and worth more than 300,000 euros to be assessed for national importance before allowing export abroad by five-member panels that will be set up in each of Germany‘s 16 states.
When the initiative was first presented by the Culture Ministry last year, it provoked a furious response from German art dealers, who said it amounted to excessive regulation by the government.
In fact there was a petition organized by Ursula Kampmann, which ultimately amassed some 46,000 signatures (which gives some sort of idea of the size of the market for the antiquities handled by German dealers).  The petition and objections of the German collecting community and trade were ignored by the German government and the Bundestag. The legislation was not even discussed in the Bundestag, but was adopted without opposition. Antiquity dealers and collectors are a minority 'special interest' group which are rapidly becoming voices increasingly alienated from matters of public interest and in some democracies they carry little weight in policy making nowadays.

Stolen by a UK Metal Detectorist - from us all

As a result of Operation Chronos, a Surrey metal detectorist has been fined for stealing a Bronze Age gold ring ('Treasure hunter fined for stealing ancient gold ring' West Sussex County Times,  23 June 2016)
Ricky Smith, 34, of Cranleigh, was ordered to pay a total of £1,050 after being found guilty of theft at West Surrey Magistrates’ Court, said police. Smith was sentenced on Friday (June 17) after Surrey County Council staff told him he had to report his find to a coroner on September 17 2014. Smith, who had found the Bronze Age ring on bridleway in a private estate in Cranleigh, told the Finds Liaison department that he was a detectorist for 11 years and was ‘in it for the money’, said police. Three days later he called again to say that he was going to report the find to Sussex. But it was later confirmed that Smith had contacted a museum in Sussex but had not reported his find to the Coroner, breaching the 14 day gap granted by the Treasure Act legislation. Detectives later identified Smith and found the ring at his home. He was summonsed to appear for a court hearing on April 12 but failed to appear. A warrant was issued and he was arrested on May 9.
The police were necessary to know the identity of the finder? Why did the PAS FLO not know and report him? The article explains at some length that what peopłe are stealing bz pocketing stuff without reporting is knowledge. Knowledge theft is the real crime in irresponsible collecting. Of course the article contains the de rigeur English PAS claptrap:
“The vast majority of detectorists comply with the law and have made a number of significant discoveries that have added to knowledge to our shared cultural heritage.”
Bollocks, by PAS estimates (because not even they can be bothered to make the necessary effort to find out the real details) the majority of artefact hunters finds go UNreported - but yes, that is actually complying with a Bonkers-Britain law which is about as much help in protecting the buried heritage as a wet paper bag. And it is clearly untrue to claim that “The vast majority of detectorists [...] have made a number of significant discoveries". Many of them most frequently target known sites identified by "research" (sic) in existing archaeological literature and the plaintive claim that most of them do not find anything worth reporting is the stock explanation of why reporting is at such a pathetically low level after millions of pounds spent on attempting to get these people to adhere to even any rudimentary form of 'best practice'. Deceit after deceit, all at public cost.

Investigating Metal Detecting: Big Funding, No Results Again?

Where is the final document of the Leverhulme Trust funded project 'ThePortable Antiquities Scheme Database as a tool for archaeological research' in which Roger Bland was principal investigator? It was due to finish last year and all we have from it so far is a rather slim and tentative "Guide to Researchers' which says mainly what we already knew.

Only Six in the World, but Cannot Shift it for 12k

It seems collectors for some reason are a bit wary about the possibility of buying the six known Anglo-Saxon helmets from Bab Dadge the dealer even if the price is dropped from an estimate of 35000 green ones to 12000. Could there be some reason for this? Is it the lack of full details upfront about collecting history that would bulk out that cover-all assurance: "legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14"? Or is there some other reason? Seems a bargain, no? And weapons and helmets are very popular in the collecting world, so what is it about this one that is preventing it from being snapped up by a greedy collector interested in such things?

Vignette: a picture of a lime tree from a Polish website 

No-Questions-Asking Collectors Behind Bars is What we Need

The parents of a British Muslim convert who is believed to have joined the Islamic State group are set to stand trial in January for terrorism-related charges (Associated press, 'Parents of Suspected Terrorist to Face Trial in 2017' June 23rd, 2016)
John Letts and Sally Lane are charged with funding terrorism for allegedly sending money to their 20-year-old son Jack Letts. Jack Letts left his home in Oxford and travelled to Syria in 2014. He has been dubbed "Jihadi Jack" by some British media. His parents are accused of transferring payments of roughly 1,750 pounds ($2,600) in 2015 and 2016. They were released on bail. The trial date was set Thursday during a hearing at the Old Bailey court.
Interesting case, first of all, there is the issue of defining what we mean by the coverall term "terrorism". Secondly, one wonders whether, if the case is successfully concluded, we will soon see trials of UK or US antiquities dealers and collectors similarly charged with funding terrorism by passing money to middlemen handling artefacts traded from or through ISIL-held territories. Now, that would be a good thing if it could be pulled off. After all, nobody could claim they bought stuff "in good faith" given the amount of publicity this issue has received. A few collectors behind bars would lead to an increase in awareness of the need for proper, not the limp declared  ("Chapter 14") due diligence which is all these people usually manage.

English Infection in Danger of Spreading to Continent?

Archaeology this is not, and whether this particular horrible hoiking
hole is 'legal' or 'illegal' by a crazily liberal law is immaterial
with reference to the archaeological damage done. 
The happy twittering is coming in from the one-sided presentations in the 'academic' conference: "Chance or challenge: metal detector finds in heritage practice and research. I recorded a few of my thoughts here on Monday, 4 April 20: 'The English Disease'. If Britain brexits let's hope that is the end of their nonsense we'll see this side of the Channel.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Antiquities Dealers and their Friends

PAS partner-spin: Metal Detecting targets known productive areas, generally "redraws" little

Once again, looks like a grassland site with the archaeology just
below a shallow topsoil - the sort of site the Code of Responsible
Detecting says to keep right off - but who pays any attention to that
any more? (Photo Exeter University digging along with the tekkies) .
Slow news day down in the SW of England (Steven Morris, 'Discovery of Roman coins in Devon redraws map of empire' Guardian 22 June 2016), at Ipplepen:
The discovery of a few muddy coins in a Devon paddock by a pair of amateur metal detector enthusiasts has led to the redrawing of the boundary of the Roman empire in south-west Britain. Previously it had been thought that Ancient Rome’s influence did not stretch beyond Exeter [...]  Danielle Wootton, the Devon finds liaison officer, said [...]  it was clear that Wills and Hewings had happened upon something important.”
I suggest the FLO reads the Devon HER (online here) where a settlement and the road and previous coin finds are noted in records of the 1960s. Was it "research " of these existing records which led to the artefact hunters deciding to target the area to pull out another 150 coins for their own collection? Perhaps FLOs could state the case with accuracy and not engage in partner-coddling spin in future. Telling the public the truth about portable antiquity issues is - surely - what they are paid for.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Rare 'Anglo-Saxon Helmet' on Sale in US

Anglo-Saxon helmets are not what one would call a 'common' metal detecting find. But here's what purports to be one:  Ancient Anglo-Saxon Iron HelmetLot 51 sold by Artemis Galleries

Anglo-Saxon England, ca. 6th to 8th century CE. An exceedingly fine iron helmet comprised of two wide iron bands attached with rivets supporting an iron "crown." [...] Size: 8" L x 7.6" W x 6" H (20.3 cm x 19.3 cm x 15.2 cm) [...] The Saxons were fierce bearded warriors who fought with a ruthless, surprise attack style that intimidated many, even the Romans. Anglo-Saxon society revolved around warfare. [...] The need to obtain more land for distribution encouraged policies of conquest, and the kings of Wessex were particularly successful because they were able to expand into Cornish territory. Provenance: Ex-private United Kingdom collection, acquired in the early 1980's. All items legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14, and are guaranteed to be as described or your money back. A Certificate of Authenticity will accompany all winning bids. [...] Condition Intact save one small area, near choice.
There's that "All items legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14" excuse again. So that means that the collector who obtained it obtained a UK export licence for it then? Can we see it? Can we see inside the helmet, is there any trace of a lining or the attachment of additional metal or organic elements? What does the other side of the riveting look like? What about the edges of the sheet elements making it up, why are they so rough and not cut straight if they were fresh metal when the object was assembled? Can we also see a helmet 20x 19cm displayed actually on Bab Dadge's actual dolichocephalic head - that is a rather strange hat measurement - especially if the thing had a leather lining. The description is hardly very precise.

I'd also like to ask the proprietor of this antiquities shop which Romans did the Anglo-Saxons fight in Cornwall in the eighth century? Instead of an extensive crap narrativisation from the Ladybird Book of British History, why do we not get a professional description of the object itself, its actual technology of manufacture, current state and collecting history? Like, was it shown to a museum in Britain when it was found?

There are only five other AS helmets known - why is this a sixth if the typology is completely different from the others? Or is it too cynical to ask whether "United Kingdom" is used here to launder a find made somewhere else, because walking off with archaeological objects found while metal detecting is legal there and illegal just about everywhere else? Will the British authorities intervene in this auction, or will they just judge this item to be a crude pastiche or fake (for example created by assembling elements cut from excavated WW2 helmets with false rivets) and not bother?

But this is the  second one (at least) that Mr Dadge has sold recently to some collector or other.... with the same spiel and the same method of being put together. Odd, that. But hey, "antiquitity dealer" eh?

Monday 20 June 2016

What Brexit will mean for British Archaeology

This is an amazingly thorough write up of some amazingly thorough research: Doug's Archaeology " What Brexit or … Exit will mean for Archaeology… really all of the UK.  June 20, 2016. I wonder who it is for though, are there many archaeologists who are Brexiters? Many of the metal detectorists (who probably are to a large extent Brexiters) will be rejoicing that this would be a blow to the hated archaeology, bless 'em. But it won't affect metal detecting will it?

Friday 17 June 2016

Sauce for the Greek Goose, sauce for the Indiana Gander

"Schreck isn’t sure what thieves were looking
for and what would have been left behind.
“I don't
know that a whole lot would be left,
but again jewelry or other items that
they may have been looking for".

Donna Yates @DrDonnaYates not long ago
Nineteenth-Century Grave Looted in Indiana …
Paul Barford ‏@PortantIssues even less time ago  Paul Barford retweeted Donna Yates
US dealers lobby groups - CPAC should force Greeks et al to pay a "living wage" to stop looting there - start at home!
The boards of both the International Association for Professional Numismatists and the Professional Numismatists Guild have, it is true, so far neglected to respond to my written  request for further information about the recommendation they made to the CPAC in Washington that somebody make sure that off-season casual labourers are paid a "living wage" to prevent them looting archaeological sites in the vicinity. I am sure this is because they are putting together a proper answer with concrete proposals of how this could be implemented.

I suggest thought that before putting it into action in an unfamiliar socio-economic environment, the US-based dealers in the Association and Guild put a pilot scheme into operation themselves in selected poor regions of the US with a rich heritage - such as Harrison County for example. Let us see how much it costs and what the effects are. Are you ready to put your own recommendations into action IAPN and PNG? Show us that you know what you are talking about - put your money where your mouth is. Show the world you are as interested in action being taken as the rest of us and are not just stalling - again.

"Antiquities Market"

Interesting experiment. Try and find out what the British antiquities market in general looked like before the Internet and metal detectors (so let us say 1920s to 1970s). The catalogues of the big auction houses only give a view of the 'upper end' of the market, the postal catalogues of the smaller shops tend to concentrate on coins. There are not many of either here in Poland of course. So what does Mr Google say? Type in "Antiquities market" and you get a series of articles on looting, illicit trade etc. While that's nice, one wonders what that says about the existence of this "legitimate market" one hears so much about (from the dealers). Where are the texts relating to that per se? Oh there are lots of apologetic texts ("we-are-misunderstood-and-not-like-those-nasty-archaeologists-say"-type stuff from Mr Ede and his fellows), but not much in a way of characterising what that market looked like in the past and what it looks like today. Why would that be? Something to hide?

If I walked into a provincial antiquities dealer's shop in the 1960s, what would I have found?  My first visit was to one in Brighton in 1979, and I remember shabtis, scarabs and 'Luristan' bronzes - the man was very nice, served tea and explained that 'Luristan' was a trade cover-all term for "don't really know what this is and where it's from". I do not recall being then particularly shocked, this was a time when I was just beginning my 'adventure' with metal detectorists and visiting their clubs. There were two coin shops in my local town which had Roman and medieval coins among the shinier modern ones. The blokes that ran them were very nice - but then started saying too much about what metal detectorists were doing, and what they were bringing in which was a bit of a turning point for me. I recall stone axes in another shop about this time. What else? What would have been the ratio between 'local' and 'imported' antiquities on the trade as a whole in the UK?

Are there any studies on this I should try and get hold of? 

Thursday 16 June 2016

Harvard Pap. Dodge Fiasco: Scholar Pleads Naivity

'He lied to me' was the response of Karen L. King Harvard historian of Christianity on reading Ariel Sabar's report on the identity and history of Walter Fritz, the owner of the papyrus fragment she published as "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" (Ariel Sabar, 'Karen King Responds to ‘The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife' ’ The Atlantic 16th June 2016).
Although she had exchanged numerous emails with the owner and had met him in December 2011, she realized after reading the article that she knew next to nothing about him, she said. Walter Fritz had never mentioned his years at the Free University’s Egyptology institute, his formal study of Coptic, or his work as a pornographer whose star actress was his own wife—a woman who’d written a book of “universal truths” and claimed to channel the voices of angels. He had presented himself to her as a “family man” who enjoyed trips to Disney World and was independently wealthy. “I had no idea about this guy, obviously,” she said. “He lied to me.”
This is extraordinary, she introduced material into the academic literature on the mere say-so of a complete stranger, one which a few mouse clicks Googling the information which she did have would reveal his "Nefer Art" business. Personally, if I learnt somebody was an art dealer with dodgy papyri on their website, I'd suspect them of being a yarn-spinner right away.  She met Fritz in December 2011, but presented the papyrus 18th September 2012, and in that time had not made any progress in verifying where actually the too-good-to-be-true fragment had come from.
But King had placed her faith in the opinions of expert papyrologists, along with a series of carbon-dating and other scientific tests, at MIT, Harvard, and Columbia, that had turned up no signs of modern tampering or forgery.
But this refutes nothing, because they only looked at a selected part of the evidence. The object "surfaced" in association with three other documents. Dr King did not submit the associated material to any tests at all for authenticity. That was left to a journalist to do four years later, and scholarship is all the poorer for that.

Astoundingly, when Ariel Sabar asked Dr King why she hadn’t undertaken an investigation of the papyrus’s origins and the owner’s background, he received the reply:
“Your article has helped me see that provenance can be investigated”.
Wow. Yes, most other scholars take great care to examine the material they wish to use as a source of information about anything to ensure it is what it is supposed to be. The carpal of an ass can be radiocarbon dated to 28 AD +/- 22 yrs, can be shown by isotopes to have been fed grass which grew in the region of Jerusalem, and osteological analysis can show it walked with a slight limp from carrying heavy weights, but no amount of tests showing that "there is no evidence that this was not the donkey that carried Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday" will show that it was. But belief is not trammelled by constraints of logic:
King said she would need scientific proof—or a confession—to make a definitive finding of forgery. It’s theoretically possible that the papyrus itself is authentic, she said, even if its provenance story is bogus. 
It seems though that she is still clinging on to hope:
King hoped that Fritz would allow the scrap to remain at Harvard, so that scholars could continue to probe questions of authenticity.
But she does now admit that the preponderance of the evidence now that Sabar has done what she should have done four years ago “presses in the direction of forgery.”

Hmmm, Harvard

Only in the USA?
6 godz.6 godzin temu
: “Your article has helped me see that provenance can be investigated." A Harvard history professor said that.
3 godz.3 godziny temu
Scholar meets world. "Your article has helped me see that provenance can be investigated."
3 godz.3 godziny temu
Douglas Hunter podał/a dalej Douglas Boin
There's something to be said for scholars learning some basic journalism skills.
21 godz.21 godzin temu
Seth L. Sanders podał/a dalej Roberta Mazza
The real story of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is scholars' low standards of evidence for things that tell good stories
4 godz.4 godziny temu
I have the best provenance, really good provenance.

Lesson from the Harvard Pap Dodge Fiasco

Commenting elsewhere on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife Fiasco:
I am sure we can agree that the issue is that objects just "surfacing" from the opacity of the market should have their collecting history and actual origins thoroughly examined by academics before they decide to handle them. If they do, a condition of handling licitly-obtained and licitly-owned source material must be complete disclosure, not hiding of important facts about their origin. The fact that the academic here agreed to hide important details to gain access has landed her, her institution and a whole field of study in a highly embarrassing situation. [My understanding was that the fragment is currently housed actually in the Harvard School of Divinity, hence my remark.]
There is a tendency among collectors, dealers and some academics studying such things  to believe that in the case of what theoretician of historiography Jerzy Topolski called addressed sources, (coins, inscriptions, manuscripts, cuneiform tablets, papyri) the message they carry can be interpreted in its own rights, without regard to its context of discovery. But each text or image is created, used and then lost in a particular context, and these factors relate not only to their creation but also reception (by the addressee). The fragment now in Harvard Divinity School has markings on it which are 'addressed' to a certain audience, and where and how this artefact "surfaced" is important in determining the motives for its creation and dissemination (and meaning) of the "information" it contains.

Vignette: "It's the text that's important..."  (nonsense)

Amber Room Search in Poland

After the predicted anticlimax over the non-existence of alleged Nazi Gold train, Polish treasure hunters are off on another jolly jape inspired by events in the dark days at the end of the Second World War.  Now they are looking for the Amber Room. For those who do not know the story:
The Amber Room was a gift of King Frederick Wilhelm I of Prussia to Russian Emperor Peter the Great. The room was brought to St. Petersburg in 1717 and was fitted into Russia’s Catherine Palace in the Tsarskoye Selo imperial residence. Architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli added gilded carving, mirrors and mosaic panels made of agate and jasper to the room’s interior decoration under the rule of Empress Elizabeth of Russia (born 1709-died 1761), the daughter of Emperor Peter the Great. The Amber Room remained intact for about 200 years. It was stolen by German fascists who occupied Tsarskoye Selo during WWII.
It was then shipped off to the Castle in Koenigsberg  (now in Russia’s Kaliningrad region) in 1941, and then when the Red Army advanced on the city, one story is that it was evacuated by the Germans and hidden somewhere in the Reich in 1945. One of the several places where it was believed it had been hidden was the bunker complex at what is now Mamerki in Poland. There were searches here in the 1950s-1960s because a witness claimed that the Germans had unloaded treasures there in 1945 (one of several dozen places where hearsay evidence located secret treasure hoards - very few of which prove to be in any way grounded in fact). Field engineers tried to find the alleged hidden treasure for several days, dynamiting entrances into that concrete facility, but found nothing.

Anyway more modern equipment has now been brought to bear on the legend, ground-penetrating radar - and drilling has started in the anomalies it revealed. The first hole, 3m deep, has found no empty cavities. A new borehole will be sunk next week. Tass reports on the story 'Amber Room not found in Poland so far — explorers' Tass June 15 2016.

Sadly, the actual truth seems to be that the Amber Room never left Koningsburg Castle and was destroyed in Red Army military action between 9 and 11 April 1945. Claims that the Nazis took it away would therefore be Soviet propaganda.

Vignette: President Putin in the reconstructed amber room - photo from interesting article.

Dealer's Only ONE Single Fit-all Standard for "Legal Collecting"?

Bab Dadge (Artemis Gallery) sells some of his artefacts with the guarantee:
All items legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14, and are guaranteed to be as described or your money back.
Except the ones where he does not.

This is what he means. But of course there is not just one law covering the sale of cultural property, is there? Note that he does not say that he has ascertained (and can verify) that their sale by him has not involved infringement of the laws of the countries from which they came or passed through. Why would that be, when that is the nature of antiquity trafficking? Also, does North America not produce ancient art? Or is there some problem in brushing off the legal issues with items from the territory of the USA? 

Following the Pots Means Confronting the Myths of the Antiquities Trade

For the past three years, archaeologists led by DePaul University's Morag M. Kersel have used drones or UAVs to monitor looting at the Early Bronze Age site of Fifa on Jordan's Dead Sea Plain ('Drones Monitor Looted Bronze Age Sites in Jordan', February 16, 2016).
"Three seasons of monitoring at Fifa have demonstrated that UAVs can provide quantifiable evidence for the rate of ongoing site damage," said Kersel in a DePaul University press release. Their work shows that while looting at the site is ongoing, it is now continuing at a much reduced pace compared to when the project began. "An element of the ongoing research is the examination of why looting has abated," says Kersel. "Are there no more graves to loot? Have looters found more lucrative financial resources?" The team is now using ethnographic interviews with people in the area to understand why looting at the site may have slowed.
Here are two drone shots of one of these sites:

Oblique view of Fifa, showing extent of the looting holes (#FollowthePots)

Here we see that it would be little comfort even if the looting had stopped. Huge areas of the site have already been roughly stripped out, destroying any stratigraphy in random areas, hindering any future attempt to excavate the area properly. This is what lies behind all those complete pots, lamps and glass vessels we see being handled by dealers all over the world, each of which - they swear - is from an "old collection" brought to them by the Munich Antiquities Elves. It must be the Antiquities Pixies which are taking the looted stuff from the recently-dug holes riddling Jordanian sites and the ones in Egypt, Syria, Iraq etc. We need more light on the activities of these Pixies and Elves claimed by the dealers, expose their activities. Or, if we prove they do not exist, work out where the stuff is going... "follow the pots".

Papyri, and "Hot Wife Porn": The Temptations of a Harvard Scholar

Somebody else's, not Jesus' wife
The story which Ariel Sabar has skilfully put together about the provenance of Pap Dodge - aka "the Gospel of Jesus' Wife - is doubly bizarre ('The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife  The Atlantic July/August 2016). First of all the backstory to this artefact (which I have said all along was a fake) is in itself a highly bizarre tale. What also is so puzzling is the fact that no part of this story seems to have been known to the person who should have been most concerned about the reliability of the source material she was using. That is the Harvard historian of early Christianity, Karen L. King, who failed to make elementary enquiries before she presented it in September 2012 at a conference in Rome. But Dr King was not really all that interested in the provenance of the object:
King wasn’t interested in talking. “I haven’t engaged the provenance questions at all,” she said. What she did know, she’d already reported in her 2014 Harvard Theological Review article. “It’s all out there,” she said. “I don’t see the point of a conversation.” I told her I’d spent months reporting in Germany and the United States. Didn’t she want to know what I’d found? “Not particularly,” she said. She would read my piece once it was published.
and of course she should have been, to guard against handling illicit material, and to guard against being palmed off with a modern forgery. Or end up as the Hollis Professor of Divinity in Harvard Divinity School who publishes dodgy papyri owned by bareback-gangbang-filming pornstars. Certainly we now know that the scholar had not put "all" that could easily have been found out in her publication of this piece. There were suspicious discrepancies in the  owner's story and material supporting it which she should have spotted and resolved. For example, the owner sent an email stating he'd bought it from the previous owner Hans-Ulrich Laukamp in 1997, but the invoice of that sale was dated 1999. The object was said to have been exported through the Iron Curtain in 1963 at the height of the Cold War. An authenticating letter from 1982 bore typewritten text of two different alignments, suggesting it was a pastiche. Professor King failed to spot any of the discrepancies.

Ariel Sabar went to extraordinary pains to piece together this story, eventually tracing the owner of the piece - Walter Fritz who was a former colleague of Hans-Ulrich Laukamp. Most crucially Fritz  had previously studied egyptology in Berlin and even authored at least one academic paper on the Armarna Letters. As Sabar notes, once he'd "dropped Fritz’s name and email address into Google"... "What happened next felt almost too easy". But the Harvard scholar (who had both name and email address) apparently neglected to even do that.

One of the facts determined so easily by Sabar is that Fritz and his wife ran an art dealership in Florida (Nefer Art, here too), incorporated in 1995. As Sabar reports: "The company’s Web site advertised a peculiar miscellany of services: wedding photography, “erotic portrait photography,” and “documenting, photographing, publishing, and selling your valuable art collection”...".  We now know that the proprietors of Nefer Art and "hotwife porn" website owner had by 2010 apparently acquired at least two fake papyri with which he approached Dr King representing himself as a hapless layman,
addressing King as “Mrs.” rather than “Dr.” or “Professor” and claiming that he didn’t read Coptic and was “completely clueless.”
It is reported that on the Nefer Art website were some other dubious-looking documents (these photos seem to have gone, I have not seen them myself [UPDATE: They still exist, courtesy of Dorothy King: The Amarna relief looks dodgy too]). As Sabar reports, one was in Arabic and the other in Greek:
I e-mailed the images of these manuscripts to a few scholars, who found them almost comical. The Greek one, which bore a drawing of a nude woman, superficially resembled texts from Greco-Roman-era Egypt known as “magical papyri.” But the Greek words made little sense, the scholars said, and the script was more or less modern print. “Perhaps not in Times New Roman,” Sofía Torallas Tovar, a papyrologist at the University of Chicago, observed drily, “but in a modern typography.” The drawing of the female figure, meanwhile, was “in a style unparalleled to my knowledge in an ancient document, but easily found in modern school notebooks.” Two experts in ancient Arabic manuscripts told me that the script on the other fragment was backwards, as if someone had photographed it in a mirror.
So where did Nefer Art get these Coptic papyri from? One of the key documents in the object's alleged collecting history is a contract concerning “6 Coptic papyrus fragments, one believed to be a Gospel” dated November 12, 1999; signed by Hans-Ulrich Laukamp and the Walter Fritz. It has on it a handwritten annotation: “Papyri acquired in 1963 by the seller in Potsdam (East Germany)”.  Sabar quickly confirmed what was already suspected that  Hans-Ulrich Laukamp was unlikely to have been the owner of six Coptic papyri allegedly bought in Potsdam in 1963 and put together a convincing case that the invoice bears an implausible date (Laukamp was apparently not in the country when it was allegedly signed in a kitchen in Florida).

There is also a typed letter to H. U. Laukamp (dated July 15, 1982; signed by Peter Munro) mentioning Gerhard Fecht. Sabar has ascertained that the notepaper heading seen in this letter (which is only known as a photocopy) was not used before 1990.

Note that there is nothing explicitly linking these documents bearing signatures to the "Jesus Wife" fragment. This allows the possibility that they were concocted to give a provenance to another object in the Fritz Collection, for example the Gospel of John fragment in the same hand which we know he had. The "Jesus Wife" text itself was apparently copied from a publication which came online in 2002 (after the death of both Laukamp and Munro) and was first mentioned in Fritz's initial contact with King in 2010.

Sabar is circumspect about naming the forger, Fritz denies he had anything to do with the manufacture of the object, but while pretending to be nonchalant about whether it is authentic or not
“No owner has ever claimed this is real,” he said of the papyrus. He was right: In the e-mails to King, the owner never said he had an authentic piece of antiquity. He wanted King’s opinion about that very question, and in the end she and the experts she consulted could find no signs of fabrication.
Yet he is extremely aggressive in his defence of the papyrus:
He had even more scorn for critics of the Jesus’s-wife papyrus, deriding them as “county level” scholars from the “University of Eastern Pee-Pee Land”
He perhaps means that place in Ohio next to the township of Biegański.

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Contested Pre-Columbian Artefacts in Pittsburg Museum

Where does this lot come from?
Scott B. Leff of Point Breeze claims that nearly 300  pieces of Pre-Columbian art on display in the University of Notre Dame's Snite Museum of Art were stolen in 1996 from his father, Jay C. Leff, a retired bank president and renowned collector of pre-Columbian art (who died in 2000). Leff is seeking a court order for the art's return or damages equal to its current value.
The lawsuit says his son learned in 2015 that the museum had bought the art a decade earlier but that Notre Dame refused to acknowledge his ownership. Although the museum bought the art from a legitimate dealer, the dealer apparently bought it from the thief, the lawsuit says.  [...]  Scott Leff reported the theft to Pittsburgh police in 1996, according to a copy of the police report included in the lawsuit. He valued the collection at $575,000. In a letter to Scott Leff included as an exhibit in the lawsuit, the university notes that there's no evidence that anything came of the police report and neither of the Leffs ever took any action to recover the art from the person the son believes stole it. “We do not believe a true owner of this valuable art would do nothing for 20 years about the theft of art allegedly worth ($500,000),” the letter said. The university said that without “compelling proof” of Leff's ownership, it would reject his demands for return of the art or a negotiated sale.

Brian Bowling, 'Fight between Pittsburgh man, Notre Dame over half million dollars of early American art moves to federal court', June 14, 2016.

Bab Dadge and his Tainted Arguments on "Legal Collecting"

"Artemis Gallery is an ancient art gallery and antiquities dealer specializing in Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Pre-Columbian art, as well as collections of Near Eastern, Far Eastern and Oceanographic [sic] antiquities for sale. Our extensive inventory includes ancient pottery, stone, metal, glass, textile objects and Pre-Columbian art from South America, Central America and Mexico, as well as art from Greece, Italy, Rome, Egypt, the Middle East, China, India, Japan and the South Pacific. All antiquities for sale are unconditionally guaranteed authentic for as long as you own them".
Bab Darge (Artemis Galleries Erie, CO 80516 USA) sells a whole lot of stuff and offers some advice to collectors on "Cultural Patrimony and Legal Collecting",

Posted on You Tube by Artemis Gallery
He says:
There are lots of lars and lots of areas of confusion about these lars [...] this is something you must know about as a collector, dealers, if you don't know about it, you shouldn't be dealers.
Mr Darge then goes on to show what he knows about it:
Well, first of all, in 1983 the United Nations held a canference called UNESCO [sic] and UNESCO was a number of countries around the world gitting together and creating a treaty that started to regulate the exportation [sic] of cultural property, but a lot of people think, OK, 1983, magic date, that's the date you have to be concerned with. Well in the United States [...] 1983 isn't a magic date. In 1983, UNESCO was signed, but that is a,... it's an agreement but it's nut a lar.  The first lar that came about as a result of UNESCO was [inarticulate noise], ironically, in the United States in 1983 and it is culled the Cultural Property Implementation Act. An' it basically put some, um, things into place that allowed lar enforcement to prevent the smuggling of items from these countries where items are found into the United States [...] if you are not on this list of what is currently seventeen different countries, it is still legal to import items from these countries
OK, let's leave it there. The real name of the document he mentions is the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Anyone who actually knows about it as much about as the Barfords' cat (but evidently not Dealer Darge) can see that the guy has got the whole thing right round his neck. The last point of course ignores exactly what the Convention is about - the legality of export relies on the issue of a permit for objects which in the legislation of a source country such a permit is required. UNESCO (as my cat knows) is not a "conference" and does more than just write a convention or two (or would if the US would pay its subs). The Convention without-a-name was written in 1970. The US was not the first country in the world [sic] to implement it - but most other countries who are state parties implement all of it, not just Article 9 ignoring the other 25 as the US does. 

Note what he's doing here in this deceptive little "info-video". He's searching for a "magic date" beyond which he does not need to trace collecting history. It is not 1963 he tells his viewers, it is often much later. No matter that his country's government ostensibly signed up to the principles embodied in the 1970 Convention in 1983, Dealer Darge suggests to his buyers that legally, there is a 'can't touch you for it' period where they can buy smuggled stuff from the Seventeen US-Sanctioned Pillaged Countries between then and the date each individual MOU with a specific source country came into force. Because that's what the law says, the law that is supposed to be implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention in the US but is not. Dealer Darge also somehow seems not to remember to inform his viewers that for the US museum community, that "magic date" is no later than 1970 - when the Convention came into force on an international scale.

Dealer Darge is delighted to add that in the CCPIA there is a provision which is "actually nice fram a collector's or dealer's standpoint":
There is what is called a Safe Harbor Provision of the [Convention on the] Cultural Property Implementation Act that allows items that have been in the United States for greater than twenty years to be awarded Safe Harbor. It means that if you can prove they have been in the United States  for longer than twenty years, in theory according to this lar, they're now legal. It is OK for you as a collector to own them, for me as a dealer to buy them and sell them.
He means 19 U.S. Code § 2611 (2)D which gives the definitions of items from the Designated Lists which are excempt from to seizure and forfeiture (as long as "the claimant establishes that it purchased the material or article for value without knowledge or reason to believe that it was imported in violation of law" Note: imported as opposed to exported). So basically anything in the US before 1996. Dealer Darge seems distressed that another US law the [1934 National] Stolen Property Act (18 U.S.C. §§ 2314–2315) applies to those same objects.
that act basically says the [C]CPIA is meaningless [sic]. The Stolen Property Act basically says that if an item is stolen, it is stolen. So it doesn't matter if it was stolen fifty years ago [...] if this item was smuggled out of a foreign country and they have lars in place that prevented that, the United States can enforce the those laws of those countries, so it takes those seventeen or so states we've got treaties with and lars enforcing and says "it doesn't matter" [waves arm dismissively]. Fortunately, that law is seldom if ever used but it can be.
For Holocaust art for example, Mr Darge. Or that Acoma Pueblo shield stolen more than twenty years ago, or that inverted Jenny stamp. And it should be for any portable antiquity looted even twenty-one years ago in 1995. What is there to contest about what is and what is not stolen property based solely on when the crime was committed? The US dealer's attitudes to law expressed here really beg questions about just what moral issues we are dealing with. Basically stacking a load of looted objects from a country pillaged by artefact hunters at the back of a cupboard for twenty years or less if the MOUs expire (and we all recall how strenuously US dealers and their lobbyists try to fight their extension) should not be allowed to make tainted goods somehow (legally) kosher. Mr Dodge's enthusiasm for a mere two decades long Safe Harbour period (it's less than he's been dealing antiquities) is a tainted argument.

What we need is less of the emphasis on (merely) "legal collecting" and more on ethical and responsible collecting. Then things are not as complicated as searching for the dates various MOUs were signed, if an object cannot be verified as legally obtained and owned, then it is not kosher

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.