Sunday 31 July 2016

Peter Tompa and Illicit Antiquities

It seems to me that Peter Tompa has revealed his total inability to argue his case. One wonders why he decided to become a lawyer.
"Okay, you've had your comment on this blog. Sorry, but you are back to being banned". 
Previously, Bailey and Ehrenberg's cultural property lawyer admits that for him:
what is licit or not seems to be fairly unclear 
a statement with which anyone following the debates will agree with me is not the case. As I said in my last comment before he banned me for saying it on a blog that is supposed to be about "cultural property" issues:
what is licit in terms of the international convention(s) is perfectly clear - Art 3 of the 1970 Convention for example, despite what some US dealers assert for the reasons I give on my blog the term illicit is being used correctly here. If antiquities from Syria and Iraq are leaving any of the conflict zone, it is immaterial if Mr Welsh calls them "illicit" or "illegal", I hope we can agree (can't we?) that this should not be happening in any sector of the ancient coins market. That is what Neil Brodie was writing about [...]. The satellite photos do indeed show the "mass destruction" of your title - the point about the deception is the failure to address the question seriously why this is happening and what it means for the action of individuals.


Saturday 30 July 2016

Victory for Reason: "Citizen archaeology" to be Dropped by BM

The 'Learning, Audiences and Volunteers' Department of the British Museum seems now to have split from the Propaganda Wing in the discussion about “citizen archaeology”. But it took some citizen conservationists to help them to decide to do this (information is lacking about the input from Britain's archaeological bodies on this). Heritage action write:
We’ve been corresponding with the BM (Susan Raikes, Head of the Dept of Volunteers and Audiences). It looks like they’re going to desist from implying metal detecting is citizen archaeology. We had put to her that using that phrase misinforms landowners by omission for it fails to reveal what her predecessor accepted – that 70% of detectorists don’t report their finds. Her reply was heartening: “Thank you very much for this – I have noted your point. I don’t believe that we have ever used the term in the way that you describe it here, and I will endeavour to ensure that this sort of misinterpretation cannot be inferred from our use of language in the future. With thanks.”
So hopefully the inappropriate phrase “citizen archaeology” will now be dropped from their press statements on artefact hunting and collecting. Good. It was a bonkers idea in the first place.

Partner Head-Patting Whitewash Questioned

England's tekkie-back-slapping Treasure Registrar continues the British Museum's undermining of the conservation ethos:
Treasure Registrar @TRegistrar 18 godz.
A very small selection of the Treasure finds donated to museums in England in the last two months. Thank you!
The photo shows a pretty pathetic group of scrappy bits and bobs which in the ground, studied in context could well have been useful archaeological evidence (but we will never know because that is now impossible after they were hoiked out of that context). As they are, these bits will just clog up a museum storeroom or showcase.

I think it is up to the treasure Registrar to tell us just what has been achieved here. What do these loose bits tell us about the past which we did not know? Why is their removal from the ground and loss of accompanying contextual information a compensation for all the thousands of finds which are hoiked by their "partners" and do not get reported - like the thousands which appear on eBay weekly.

If they feel free to show "a small selection" how about in the name of informing the p[ublic more clearly about what is going on, listing the lot and saying in which cases who donated what (landowner + finder/just landowner/ just finder) and then comparing that with how many have not been donated?

Friday 29 July 2016

Sale and Export, not the same - Duh!

The lobbyists for the no-questions-asked part of the antiquities trade simply do not get it. Here they go again: 
Archaeologists pleading the case of countries like Bulgaria may claim recent finds from there are "illicit," but what does that really mean in practice if Bulgarian authorities still allow small items like coins to be sold openly in markets throughout the country. 
But the halfwits that buy and sell artefacts seem to not really understand that this is one thing, and their export is another.  Regular readers will be aware of my discussions with one of those Bulgarian coin dealers at the Warsaw Expo coin fair (and his folder full of export licences for every single item he had brought) - so when can any of the dealers who pay for Mr Tompa's lobbying show me their folders of export licences like the ones I saw at the Warsaw Expo? I challenge Mr Tompa to go to Bulgaria, buy some coins and return to Washington with them in his pocket, jangling them as he goes through Customs in Sofia.A pell in a Bulgarian jail my make him do a bit more research before he goes shouting his mouth off. Go on Mr Tompa, put your money where your mouth is.

Dealers, Lobbyists and their 'Coin Elves' Fallacy

The lobbyists who avoid discussing the issues surrounding paperless trafficking of artefacts try to deflect criticism by  tongue-in-cheek phrasing such as ...
The problem of course is that Mr. Barford and friends claim that any undocumented artifact is presumptively illicit-- when that is demonstrably untrue for lots of common artifacts in particular.
This is bollocks. They actually cannot demonstrate the masses of paperless "common artefacts" they sell are of licit origins. Neither do they want to. Even the artefacts that come to them with documents are presumably separated from them by middlemen and dealers in order not to allow customers to become accustomed to the idea that there are artefacts with proper paperwork. This has been going on for decades.

The dealers and their lobbyists want us all to believe that all those paperless artefacts they have are paperless, not because they have freshly surfaced somehow on the market from being physically underground. They want us to believe that they come from 'old collections' created before the notions of what was licit or not (national laws, international conventions) - in other words created in accord with the laws of the time. But of a time which they are unwilling and unable to properly define ("from the x-collection formed at any time before 1997"). That is of no use to man nor beast. The myth-making extend to wanting us to believe that those old collectors never retained any documentation (for example old invoices for insurance purposes) and that every single transaction involving them was done in an opaque paperless and no-questions-asked manner.

This nonsense fails to take account of one important fact. There never can have been enough material in (real, not mythical) old collections to supply the market in the second decade of the 21st century. Here are some reasons related to the social history of the collection of portable antiquities which show why this must be the case. While none by itself is conclusive, taken together we can see that the material so freely being sold on the no-questions-asked markets today must have been from somewhere else.

1) The population of the world has increased since 1970 (UNESCO Convention). If one in x-thousand people are antiquities collectors and that proportion has been stable over the past four decades, then obviously the number of collectors active worldwide before 1970 would have been less than half the number active today. So where have the extra artefacts come from?


2) In fact the number of collectors pre-1970 must have been much less than half the number active today. Collecting in general (and so also of portable antiquities) is connected with disposable income. This has increased relative to inflation over the decades since 1970. Obviously, the percentage of a population financially able to take up collecting in the past was less than it is today. Here's the graph for the UK

Quite clearly the numbers of people with disposable income in the first three decades after the Second World War were far fewer than the numbers today. The pattern of wealth differential and affluence in post-War Europe were different from those of the 1980s and 1990s and that today. There would have been fewer collectors among the populations of most countries recovering from the War before 1970. So where have the extra artefacts come from?

3) The market has changed. There has been a massive 'downmarketing' of the antiquities trade, before 1970 it was an elite and middle class hobby centred on town centre brick and mortar specialist sales spaces (galleries, specialist shops). Some offered mail order sales and their old catalogues are a clear indication both of the small scale of many of their business operations, as well as the relatively high prices (relative to earnings) of the objects they offered before the advent of the metal detector. The number of known dealers in this period was much less than today, a few hundred at the most in the more affluent countries, how many regular clients they had is anyone's guess (do any business archives from this period survive?), but the number would have been  limited by factors not in play in today's market.   Now almost anyone can collect antiquities. We have seen among their number today people in social groups C2 ad D among whom are many who can barely read or write, 

In the 1970s first the metal detector made certain types of finds more accessible, both from legal finds, but also many situations where their removal from the ground was illegal (this applies to almost all countries of the world in fact apart from the handful with bonkers liberal laws). This means many illegally obtained artefacts have been freshly-surfacing on the post-1970 market.

In the mid 1990s the advent of the internet sales of portable antiquities led to a massive explosion of the antiquities market to a form similar today. It is quite clear that the number of collections existing before this recent process cannot be the source of the supply of the market the size of the current one.

4) Not all artefacts in pre-1970 private collections made it back onto the market. Some collections were passed down through a family on the death of the collector and then disposed of in so-called 'estate sales'. In other cases, the family of a collector may in ignorance, haste or carelessness discard a lot of  'granddad's old junk' - which ends up in a skip (I am sure many of us in our families have relatives who on seeing something for sale reminisce that their parents 'had one like that' when they were kids and now they wish they'd not thrown it away). Some collections are destroyed by fire, flood, vermin or other disasters - not to mention in hostile action in times of conflict (huge numbers of art and collectables destroyed in many parts of continental Europe in WW2). Some collectors donate their objects to museums. So quite obviously the holdings of the smaller numbers of collectors acquiring these items in the past cannot fully supply the existing market. So where have the extra artefacts on the market of 2016 come from?

Let's put this up here.
Dura Europos with holes (see here for larger version)
And this:
Apamea recorded via Google
Just two sites of many which are riddled by this kind of digging. There are many more in Iraq. In the latter case people on the ground saw exactly what was happening in those holes - they were being dug by artefact hunters who offered their finds for sale on the spot. Now there are weak-willed people (who obviously have never seen one) who try to argue that what we see in these photos are fox-holes. The rest of us see through their insincerity.

"Perhaps these holes were dry" they wheedle. I doubt any antiquities dealer on earth would shift so much earth in a hot country after the first five tonnes of soil they shifted and sifted through produced no results at all, how stupid do you have to be to think anyone is digging these holes for no reason? (Or rather how stupid do they think the brown skinned "natives" are who are allegedly doing what no white man would?). If you look carefully, you can see the digging is not random,. it is targeting areas potentially artefact rich - and avoiding for example streets.

Please look at these photos in the awareness that there are a lot more sites which look like this, at Archar (Rataria) in Bulgaria for example, or Wanborough in the UK, or Slack Farm in Kentucky USA just to name a few morphologically similar examples. 

I see here looters' holes, which are where they are for a reason. 

That induces me to think that there are artefacts which came from those holes somewhere.  

I think that is a perfectly reasonable conclusion to draw from the physical evidence we have before us. The whole world has this evidence before it.

Coin fairy
Collectors and dealers would have us believe that these artefacts are "nowhere". They postulate some kind of mechanism (let's call them artefact fairies) which in the name of maintaining cosmic order automatically spirit all these illicit artefacts away from the bad humans who produce them and want to trade in them. They take them to some inaccessible artefact fairyland from where none of them will ever return to reach the open market in any way or form.

Artefact elves
They want us to believe that the artefacts on the open market today come exclusively from another source. Some mysterious process is at work where somebody (let's call them artefact elves) is taking material from some secret store of automatically licit artefacts and surreptitiously releasing them on the open market without any identifying paperwork to avoid revealing themselves.   

Now, many dealers and collectors may believe in the coin fairies and the artefact elves, like they do tooth fairies and the existence of a global anti-collecting conspiracy run by the Elders of Archaeon. The rest of us however may reach another conclusion, that the artefacts from looting all over the world (UK nighthawks too) "must be somewhere;' and from that somewhere there is nothing to stop them surfacing on the open market as long as that market accepts without question (because they believe in coin fairies) paperless artefacts of unknown origins.
If we accept that (in my view perfectly viable and logical model) then we do indeed come inescapably to the conclusion:..
any undocumented artefact coming onto the market from a barely-known source is presumptively illicit
Rather like collections of wild bird eggs in the UK after the passing of legislation (Protection of Birds Act 1954; section 1(2)(b) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) a person, without a relevant collecting licence, in possession of a wild bird egg for that possession could not show the egg in their possession was taken from the wild before the 1954 legislation came into force, they would have committed an offence. The burden of proof is on the collector to demonstrate licit possession, not the government to show an offence had been committed. There is now a problem for those who inherit undocumented collections in disposing of them. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that for exactly the same reasons (connected with conservation and growing public disapproval) private artefact collecting will go the same way as the once-popular bird egg collecting. Worth thinking about.

Thursday 28 July 2016

Transparency and the Demonstration of licitness in the Portable Antiquities Market

 Cultural Property Observer (attorney Peter Tompa) said...
The problem of course is that Mr. Barford and friends claim that any undocumented artifact is presumptively illicit-- when that is demonstrably untrue for lots of common artifacts in particular.
Then I fail to see what it is these people are pushing against. If it is demonstrable that an artefact is not illicit, then when it is passed on to a new owner documentation of that fact can go with it.  Problem solved.

But then it it fully truthful to claim what Mr Tompa just affirmed? Can the majority of dealers in portable antiquities demonstrate that they have verified that an artefact they have acquired entered the antiquities market and left the source country (as well as entered theirs) by licit channels? Maybe they can set our doubts to rest by from now on providing upfront in their sales offers information on what material they hold which documents their due diligence and can pass on to the purchaser.

Cultural Property "Observations" Worth Addressing?

A lobbyist's idea of open discussion of portable antiquities issues:
Mr. Barford is not welcome generally to comment on this blog given the tenor of some of his previous comments as well as much of what appears on his own blog. 
The guy however reluctantly agrees to me posting a single comment "to address Mr. Howland's and Dave Welch's [sic] comments" under his post about Neil Brodie's text on paperless trafficking of Middle Eastern antiquities. If  however you see what the metal detectorist and coin dealer wrote, there really is nothing to discuss there. The kind of personal attack Bailey and Ehrenberg 's cultural property lawyer encourages on his lobbyist's blog (link currently on the legal firm's website) to disguise the lack of proper discussion of the issues really deserves no comment. Pathetic, this behaviour is juvenile, superficial and pathetic Mr Tompa. That is my comment.

Vignette: Trumpa - the future face of America??

Art market players should be fully transparent

No to "coin elves":
CultureUnderThreat Task Force Recom #28: Art market players should be fully transparent

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Neil Brody on looting patterns in Syria

Neil Brody on looting patterns in Syria: Evidence suggests a higher-volume trade of smaller, cheaper objects.

Dealers and their paid lobbyists were quick to go into denial mode. While Brodie documented his reasons for saying what he does, the oiks simply indulge in personal attack. UK artefact hunter John Howland demonstrates the depth of the PAS "partnership" calling Brodie's text "threadbare theories" and "utter nonsense" before engaging in the milieu's traditional tactic of calling into account the author's credentials. Dealer Dave Welsh carries on the theme of Brodie's "credentials" and in addition questions his capability and motivation, as well as his choice of research topic (!). 
What is not so healthy from my perspective is Dr. Brodie's institutional focus on looting and trafficking in "illicit" antiquities. He has in fact become an "academic archaeologist" whose "research" primarily involves studying and writing about "the illicit trade in cultural objects." [...] I am not an admirer of "academic archaeologists" whose professional identity has become the documenting and criticism of the illicit trade in cultural objects. [...] The attainment of "eminence" in the field of archaeology ought, in my personal opinion, to depend upon contributing to mankind's knowledge of the past, rather than study and criticism of the illicit trade in cultural objects. 
This is from the person (an engineer and coin-shop-keeper) who says that researchers have not yet proven (enough to his liking) the connection between the activities of commerce and collecting) and looting. Now he is attacking somebody who is one of the key figures in the effort to do just that. Note that Dr Brodie is being criticised for studying the trade in illicit objects - the very trade that folk like Dealer Dave declaratively says he too deplores and would like to see stopped. In order to STOP it, as Brodie stresses, we need to find out how it operates.  Coin dealers and lobbyists for the legitimate antiquities  trade can help this effort, or obstruct it. we see the way the Washington lobbyist and his obliging copycat pals are headed.

[UPDATE 29th July: Dealer Dave clarifies that he does not use the term "illicit" - but then shows he does not understand it. Amusingly, the topic of Mr Tompa's comments under the post on Syria has now veered from slagging-off Dr Brodie to attacking me for referring to the ongoing discussion (I use the latter term loosely here, because what the lobbyist produces is nothing of the kind). These people and their insistent claims to 'peer respect' are worse than pathetic].

Art Crime Insights

China, Market meltdown leaves antiques dealers on the shelf

Zhao Xu and Zhang Kun, 'Market meltdown leaves antiques dealers on the shelf' China Daily 26th July 2016.
China's collectibles' market hit a high in 2011, but then the bubble burst, leaving private vendors and craftsman desperate for sales. Zhao Xu reports from Beijing and Zhang Kun from Suzhou
We remember US dealers and their lobbyists getting all worked up over the rise of the Chinese market a while ago.

The Rigged US Cultural Heritage System

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Roman Society Lacks Nuance

1 godz.1 godzinę temu
Perhaps somebody from "the Roman Society" could explain to us what it is this group of coins is to be "saved" from? From Coin dealers and coin collectors? Are they a danger in some way? If so, why do we deal with the danger by public expenditure when all we need to do is change the law? Can we have a Roman Society statement on the "dangers of the trade in Roman coins"? Can we?

Tompa Tweeting Again

Trumping the US
Just when you thought the Peter Tompa zombie twitter account was dead, it raises its foetid head and howls again:  Mind you, it's only about that limping Baltimore illegal coin import stunt
Will due process concerns trump rigged bureaucratic decision-making? Let's hope so

Got it in one

Michael Press ‏@MichaelDPress  2 godz.2 godziny temu
Our failure to understand how cultural heritage is really threatened, in one tweet. Thank you @artcrime
Erin L. Thompson 3 godz.  Display about IS destruction of cultural heritage at @BowdoinMuseum w/unprovenanced art from private collection sigh 


Monday 25 July 2016

They Create a Desert and call it "Science"

"In der Archäologie geht es nicht darum,
etwas zu finden, sondern darum, etwas herauszufinden".

It is good to see our protest about "citizen archaeology" figured on Rainer Schreg's Archaeologik Wissenschaftsblog (Citizen Science für alle)
Gerade hierin liegt aber die große Schwäche von PAS, dass nämlich diese Sensibilisierung eben nicht in ausreichendem Maße erfolgt und viele der vermeintlichen Erfolge von PAS tatsächlich eher zum Schaden der Wissenschaft sind, indem Befundkontexte zerstört und das Vertrauen in Fundortangaben untergraben werden.
Would that this were true:
Derzeit gibt es einen großen Aufschrei gegen die Deklarierung von PAS als Citizen Science
There is actually a great silence from the British archaeological community (apparently for the most part , limp-wristed, pandering jobsworths who could not give a tinkers about any of this). It is good that there are archaeologists elsewhere keeping their eye on the ball.

Seaton Down Coins

The coin hoard from Seaton Devon was reported by an artefact hunter who guarded the find from nocturnal artefact hunters who might be tempted to visit the site (most just hoik away and tip them on a tabletop in the fading afternoon light) 'Seaton Hoard, Dug Methodically by Archaeologists: Finder Slept in his car on Site Protecting it From Other metal Detectorists'. The artefacts are going on display in Exeter after the Treasure reward of £50,000 was paid - now all that is needed is the funds for the conservation, cataloguing and archival storage of the 23000 items, and then the full publication to at least die study level of the hoard and its context.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Russian Experts at Palmyra

Reuters Staff, 'IS destruction too extensive to restore Temple of Bel in Syria’s Palmyra' Reuters July 23, 2016
Two ancient monuments in the Syrian city of Palmyra were so badly damaged by Islamic State that they can only be rebuilt using substantially new materials [...] Experts from Russia’s Culture Ministry have assessed the damage in Palmyra after the UNESCO world heritage site was recaptured from Islamic State in March [...] One of the symbols of Palmyra, the Greco-Roman Temple of Bel, founded in the first century, “can be hardly restored”, the Russian experts said in a report presented on Thursday. “A recreation of the monument can only be made by its reconstruction using designs and photographs after preliminary clearing of the building’s ground,” the report said. This will require at least 3-4 years and “significant financing”, the experts added, estimating that the rebuilding of another key monument, the Arch of Triumph, would be possible within 9-12 months. “After the re-creation of the monument it will 60-70 percent consist of new materials,” the report said about the arch, whose vaults it said were “fully destroyed” by an explosion. Some original fragments of the nearly 2,000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin could be restored in 2-3 months, they said.
A decision on which works will be rebuilt has not been made yet, Russia called on other countries to take part in discussions on the restoring the ruins in Palmyra, including how such work would be funded.

Hanson, Metal Detecting Finds and a Metal Buttock

Hanson's auction house of Etwall, Derbyshire sees a new economic opportunity in flogging off archaeological artefacts. They are holding a "Specialist Auction: Metal Detecting Finds Tuesday 29th November - 10.30am". It is worth mentioning that Hanson's was one of those approached by "Trebletap" in an attempt to sell a piece of looted Saddam Hussein statue.

PAS outreach officer: qualities needed.

PAS outreach officer: qualities needed.....  Once upon a time they claimed to be British archaeologists biggest archaeological outreach project. No more:
"an interest in British archaeology would be advantageous".
What? They are seriously going to consider employing as outreach officers people who have no interest in archaeology at all if nobody else comes along? So who? Classicists? Mole catchers? Unfrocked catechists? Bus drivers and freemasons? No, the word missing here is "vitally essential". How on earth is anyone going to spread enthusiasm for best practice in an audience in a field for which they have no interest in at all? That's public money thrown in the mud isn't it? But there is more you
"will be sensitive to the needs of local communities".
What does that mean? Is not what is actually being conveyed is that you will suck up to a certain sort of person, nationally, but they don't dare say what distinguishes them. But as long as you are not really interested in what happens to the archaeological record at the hands of these folk, it's worth £28,460 per annum to turn a blind eye.

Paperless Antiquities Being Sold by University Collector

Where were these artefacts
housed before the sale?
Edgar Owen has a large private collection for sale on consignment. The first batch comprises 750 antiquities mostly of European, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Egyptian origin which he's hoping to shift wholesale. There are few central and eastern Asian objects, none from American of subtropical African cultures: 
The University Collection  is an excellent large and diverse collection of Greek, Roman and Near Eastern antiquities I need to move quickly at wholesale for a consignor. Preferably for sale as an entire collection[...] There are ~750 pieces almost all different and all guaranteed genuine. Excellent provenance. The collection belongs to a retired university Vice President and author of over 100 papers including some on antiquities and ancient technology. Collected over many years up until the 1980's. All purchased from US dealers. 
It seems that a variant form of the "collecting history" is given on a discussion list:
The collection belongs to a retired university Vice President and has excellent provenance. Collected over many years up until about 20 years ago by a University Vice President and author of over 100 papers including some on antiquities and ancient technology. All purchased from US dealers. 
until 20 years ago is not "1980s", and the UNESCO Convention was 1970 anyway. The use of the present tense indicates that this collector is still alive. Former vice president of a university somewhere in the USA (presumably), author of 100 papers including "antiquities" and ancient technology...  Since this would not be all that difficult to work out, one wonders what the seller has to hide by not identifying himself as the authority behind the claims to both legitimacy and authenticity. Such claims ring awfully hollow in the absence of the name. This is offered as "A University Collection" - which university is referred to here as legitimation? Was the university asked to lend its name to this enterprise and refused? Were the artefacts housed on university premises? The university in question should be informed that its reputation is being used in this manner.

Should academics engage in the private purchase and collecting of antiquities? What ethical codes and constraints affect this? For example to buy paperless antiquities loose on the "they-can-touch-you-for-it" market? Or worse, to buy antiquities with papers and then separate the objects from the legitimating documentation (for example discarding it)?

It is interesting to note that this scholar did not bequeath his antiquities collection to the university as was the case with other academics who collected such things such as Professor David Moore Robinson at the University of Mississippi. Why not? Why is this being marketed as "the University Collection" when it has not come from, nor is going to, a university? 

This collection includes many objects of a type that would have needed an export licence to leave the source country before 1996. There are cunies for example (untranscribed), a cylinder seal or two. Yet in none of the descriptions I looked at was there any mention of the export documentation being available for the new owner. Seven hundred and fifty loose paperless objects is no bargain at any price and no matter "who" had bought them in the past. 

One wonders whether the university that appointed this guy knew he was collecting paperless antiquities from all corners of the classical world with the attendant risk that a university official might be buying antiquities of less-than-legal origins. Or did the anonymous collector keep the university in the dark about his activities on the US antiquities market? Full transparency requires Mr Owen to at least name that university.

Saturday 23 July 2016

Who is "Lisa", who is "Adam"?

"Hansons are delighted to have metal detecting find experts, Lisa and Adam involved". Why are no surnames given for these "experts" ? In what are they expert? Which way up to hold a metal detector? UK antiquities legislation? The identification of objects? Working with metal detectorists? Are these "metal detecting find experts" FLOs by any chance? As a reader has pointed out, there is a pair of FLOs from a nearby county which have these Christian names. I would hate to think that these are the "metal detecting find experts" working with the auction house which is currently refusing to answer the question on establishing title to sell. We remember what happened to the FLO found selling Roman coins when Roger Bland ran the PAS.

Friday 22 July 2016

Artefact Hunting and Blood Sports

Heritage action British Museum playing a supportive role in killing for fun?
the Chilmark and Clifton Foot Beagles are holding another metal detecting rally and PAS are going again [Annual CCFB Rally 4th September 2016]. As we said last year, you can search the world and never find such a crass event where cultural exploiters fill the coffers of wildlife exploiters and officials from a national museum sit at a folding table legitimising it all.
This years site is at Keynsham near Bristol and as tekkies say "the area looks interesting". And the FLO's name is....? Perhaps he or she will drape the finds recording table with entrails to make the hunting set feel more at home as they bring in the disembowelled remains of the region's archaeological record for them to look at.

Bottle Digging as Archaeology

The Centre of East Anglian Studies at the University of East Anglia has been digging Victorian and Edwardian rubbish dumps in a community excavation project involving researchers, student diggers, and local history societies called What East Anglia Threw Away. This investigates a region through its rubbish in the era before World War I.
it brings together researchers, student diggers, and local history societies in the shared delights of exploring old rubbish dumps. After digging up refuse near the former schoolhouse in Bergh Apton, we identified the schoolmistress who threw it away, by examining the School Log. At Castle Rising, we excavated a dump abandoned at the outbreak of World War I, when the dustman went off to fight. Enhancing local knowledge, providing training for students, and forging links between regional researchers and the University are part of The Centre’s mission. We also hope to discover how products were transported around the region, what was consumed, and how systems of waste disposal have evolved to the present day.
There is a website which many interested in bygones will find interesting.
Hat tip Dorothy King

FBI returns seven Mayan objects to Guatemala from Los Angeles collection

Dan Whitcomb, 'FBI repatriates recovered 1,000-year-old Mayan artifacts to Guatemala ' Fri Jul 22, 2016
[US] Federal authorities on Friday formally repatriated a collection of more than thousand-year-old Mayan artifacts to the Guatemalan government at a ceremony in Los Angeles after recovering them from the estate of a deceased art collector.
We need to be detecting them in collections while their buyer is still alive in order to find out more about where they came from and by what route. Merely "repatriating" them is no solution.In this case however it seems there is a rough idea of who was involved/ Three of the sculptures:
have been traced to the Late Classic Maya Era (A.D. 600-900). According to the FBI, experts say the fragments were uncovered near a ruined temple building in the Petexbatun Region of Guatemala and that an inscription found on them is part of a text that served as a primitive calendar. The other four pieces were thought to have originated in the El Peru area of Guatemala and believed to date to the Early Classic Period (A.D. 400-600). [...] the items were believed to have been purchased by the now-deceased art collector in the 1970s from a man who was convicted during that decade of dealing in other artifacts that were illegally brought to the United States. No charges were ever filed in connection with the seven pieces repatriated on Friday. The U.S. government has an agreement with Guatemala restricting the import of archaeological artifacts.
The phrase "no charges were ever filed..." seems to indicate that the authorities knew of the objects' presence in the US before they surfaced on the collector's death - and therefore presumably that the collector knew that objects in their collection were of illicit origin, but kept them anyway for as long as they could. If that is so, their shame follows them to the grave, they are hiding their shadowy deeds behind anonymity. If collectors are doing nothing to be ashamed of, why are they and their families so intent on keeping their names out of the public domain?

What the Antiquities Trade Does to Sites: Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria

This is what the no-questions-asked antiquities market does to archaeological sites:
Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria
nowuncovered, 'Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria' July 12, 2012
Cast your eyes upon the ancient Roman city of Ratiaria. Taken from google Earth this shocking photograph shows the approximately 40ha site scored with treasure hunter trenches and the tracks of heavy vehicles. The BAA have measured the destruction to stretch 2km in length and 1km in width, with some looters holes reaching 10m in depth. [...] Decades of looting have completely destroyed the cultural layer, turning the site into something reminiscent of a battleground. Scores of trenches have reaped havoc on the topography, with archaeological material littered across the site – you can hardly take one step without treading on a piece of ancient ceramic. [...] The first question that often springs to mind for any newcomer lucky enough to see the site is always – why is this allowed to happen? The destruction is so vast and the archaeological significance so high that is it easy to be bemused by the apparent disregard for such a national treasure. Yet as ever it’s complicated. The countries troubled history and deep se[at]ed issues of organized crime have made it incredibly difficult for those seeking positive change, to work effectively. 
In other words, the looting of this site is a source of profit for organized crime, middlemen, dealers and collectors are putting enough money into the pockets of criminals that the latter will do all they can to protect their interests. That's what all those Bulgarian artefacts that have been flowing through eBay and the hands of many online dealers for over a decade really mean.

Thursday 21 July 2016

Marine Antiquities Scheme (MAS)

Packed house for the launch of new Scheme

The British Museum launched today the new Marine Antiquities Scheme (MAS)  to encourage divers and others to report their finds. This was accompanied by a presentation by the new BM Director Hartwig Fischer. Until now the reporting of loose finds from the sea and shore was done under the PAS. Here is the website,
The MAS is funded by The Crown Estate and implemented by Wessex Archaeology. The MAS is largely based on the Portable Antiquities Scheme managed by The British Museum. In addition to this website, there is an app available for download to Android or iOS based hand held devices.
The database is empty at the moment ("try porthole" the search engine suggests plaintively).

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Some UK Artefact Hunters are the Worst Scum

 . Regular readers will know this is a site special to me, scum. There is plenty of land around they can go on. They'll not get caught and if they are, nothing will happen to them in Bonkers Britain. Come to Poland lads, you'd get three years. That is why we have much less looting than they have in the UK and fewer metal dcetectorists (many of them go to England to pocket stuff there).

Letter on Auction Sales of Artefact Hunting Spoils

Perhaps I beat all those concerned British archaeologists no doubt doing the same to it:
From: Paul Barford [ ]
Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2016 5:18 PM
To: Charles Hanson [ ]
Subject: Lost treasures uncovered from beneath our feet
Dear Mr Hanson,
I read your column on the upcoming sale of metal detected items and have blogged about it here What is the legal position of these finds?

Have you documentation that each of them has been seen by the landowner on whose property it was found (and is) and awarded to the finder and stipulating how the proceeds of any sale are to be split? What other measures have been taken to ensure the finder has title to sell of each of these items?

As an antiquities seller, you should know that it was one of the recommendations of the 2009 nighthawking (illegal artifact hunting) report to oblige sellers to provide provenances and prove legal title.

This is also policy of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (and I presume all of the objects you are selling have previously been responsibly presented by finder with the landowner’s agreement for recording by the PAS) “Advice for people buying archaeological objects from the UK: Five things to ASK”

eBay also has comparable “responsible buying” guidelines:
Yours sincerely,
Paul Barford

Shhh, don't mention the Asian Art

Sales move out of Germany as new Kulturgutschutzgesetz becomes law
Under the new due diligence guidelines, the Kulturgutschutzgesetz demands proof of provenance before ‘cultural goods’ are sold – paperwork that is often not available. Export licences are also required [...] Nagel’s sales of Asian art in Germany (in recent years accounting for two-thirds of income) will now cease and move to Salzburg in Austria. [...] Lempertz in Cologne say they will be moving sales of Asian art [...] to Brussels.
These two auction houses if you google them sell all kinds of stuff - yet it is the Asian art they seem wary of. Interesting. One cannot help but wonder whether there is any connection between this touchiness and the fact that it was in Germany on his way to... well, what exactly?... that a certain US-based Asian art dealer was arrested. Perhaps Asian art is just a touchy subject in Germany.

Treasures from Underground LOST to Auction

It is really wonderful what treasures lie
beneath our feet in the rich fertile soils of our county.

Going for gold in Matlock
Charles Hanson, 'Lost treasures uncovered from beneath our feet' Matlock Mercury Tuesday 19th July 2016
From merchant lead weights and rumbler bells of the Seventeenth Century, to a medieval key, Roman coins and a Henry VIII gold hammered coin - all treasures found across Derbyshire. When a metal detectorist visited our saleroom in Derbyshire recently this remarkable hoard of treasures tumbled onto a valuation table. It is fascinating to see what can emerge from bags and boxes brought to our saleroom. This vendor had been detecting across many areas of Derbyshire, including Ashbourne, for the past two years and already had amassed this marvellous array of items.
And no doubt would be among those who claims he or she  is in it out of a passionate interest in history and "not in it for the money at all". Anyway, other people "not in it for the money" will be selling their Treasures from beneath our feet (that's the archaeological record to you and I)
On the back of this collection we will be holding an inaugural auction of such metal detectorists’ finds on Tuesday, November 29, at our Etwall saleroom. We are keen to see further entries for this unusual and exciting specialist sale. Entries for the auction will close on November 2 so there’s still time to go treasure hunting! Hansons are delighted to have metal detecting find experts, Lisa and Adam involved. In creating such specialist auctions and being able to be of service to both sellers and buyers we are excited in opening up a new market and specialist department within our auction showrooms
Have these sales got the Alastair Willis seal of approval? Has the local FLO been along there to make sure that the items are responsibly reported and ensure that the finder has shown a valid landowner release document for each of the pocketed items being put up for sale? After all, Heatons would not want to run the risk of dealing with stolen property, would they? Or are they all that bothered, can any old metal detectorist turn up with a carrier bag full of bits including gold coins and tip them on the valuation table to get their finds accepted no questions asked?

I see that Mr Hanson admits to having been a metal detectorist, I suspect it is pointless to ask him therefore whether he thinks it is OK ripping holes in the historical record so people like him can make a profit selling bits of it off while the artefact hunters have decimated the rest. Thank goodness wild bird eggs and rare animal species are now safe from the collectors and auctioneers. Roll on the day when the carefree, random and selfish destruction of the historical record for personal profit goes the same way.

UPDATE24th July 2016
Charles Resized
The auctioneer has updated his site with a twee page on "metal detectives" (sic):
The recent surge of interest in such history created by television programmes such as Time Team, [Britain's Secret Treasures PMB] along The Vikings, The Tudors, and of course the award winning dramatisation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, has opened up this market; and the recent discoveries of treasure hoards by amateur metal detectorists have captured the public’s attention [through the PAS press releases on them PMB]. Hansons look to present the finds discovered under our feet, along with the treasured heirlooms passed from generation to generation, encouraging an ever wider audience to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of those who went before us. Specialist Auction Dates Metal Detecting Finds Tuesday 29th November - 10.30am (Closing date 2nd November) Metal Detective Finds are also included in a specialist section of our monthly Antiques and Collectors Auctions and quarterly Fine Art and Antiques Auctions. 
What else has "opened up this market" are TV programmes like "Britain's Secret Treasures" and the coverage of the amount of Treasure found by metal detectorists through the incessant PAS press releases (all except one find, eh Kent FLO?). As far as I know, real detectives do not flog off the evidence they uncover in the course of their investigations. These ones must be some mercenary cowboy ones.

And this brings us to the point, why when Mr H. wants to make a profit from flogging off the loot, does he call the persons who bring it to him "amateur metal detectorists"? The moment they walk through his door they become commercial artefact hunters.

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Basel Ancient Art Fair (BAAF) Closes Shop

After intensive efforts to continue, the organizers of the Basel Ancient Art Fair, to their deepest regret, have decided to discontinue BAAF. For twelve years our fair [...] has drawn many interested collectors, art aficionados and museum curators as attendees.[...]  The disappearance of the Basel Ancient Art Fair from the Swiss art market calendar is, among other things, connected to the changing world of international fairs.  
Sic.These dealers used to attend, but will be going elsewhere now:
Dr. Robert R. Bigler Asian and Egyptian Art Ruschlikon/Zurich Switzerland,
Galerie Jean-David Cahn AG Basel Switzerland,
Donati Arte Classica Lugano Switzerland.
Galerie Rhéa Zurich Switzerland,
Sycomore Ancient Art SA Geneve Switzerland.
Galerie Chenel Paris France,
Galerie Cybèle Paris France,
Roswita Eberwein Antike Kunst Göttingen - Paris Germany - France,
David Ghezelbash Archéologie Paris France,
Galerie Jürgen Haering Freiburg Germany,
Galerie Günter Puhze GmbH Freiburg Germany,
Antiken-Kabinett Assling Germany, 
Ancient Art Amsterdam The Netherlands,
Arteas Ltd London United Kingdom,
Charles Ede Ltd. London United Kingdom,
The Merrin Gallery Inc. New York USA,
 Royal-Athena Galleries New York USA,
 Safani Gallery Inc. New York USA.
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