Monday 29 August 2016

“No Man Knoweth the Day or the Hour”

This is awful news, a very close friend indeed from the 1970s
It is with great sadness that I am notifying you of the very sudden death of Mr Jonathan Catton. He collapsed at home on Thursday 26th August and the emergency services could not manage to save him. We would appreciate it if you would let any other colleagues, family and friends know, as we may not have been able to contact everybody. Due to the unexpected nature of this, we hope that you will respect the fact that the family need to take time to come to terms with this tragic news and that details will be released regarding the funeral arrangements. We thank you for your understanding. Linda, Peter and Edward Catton
Jonathan was a fantastic guy, he was the Assistant Director of the Mucking excavations in Essex, a position he filled ably for many years due to his exceptional people skills, he took a major role in the post-excavation project, and when that folded he ran the local museum until his retirement just a few months ago. Among my many fond memories is the time when I took my first aerial photography flight with Jonathan and his late father in a Cessna piloted by the latter. I saw him last December at the Society of Antiquaries at the launch of the Mucking Prehistoric volume, where he gave the most memorable and moving speech, we were going to meet again later on this year on the site. A truly devastating loss.

Sunday 28 August 2016

Monuments Meet Artefact: Architecture Pictured on Roman Coins

Just out.

Monuments in Miniature: Architecture on Roman Coins, is now available for purchase/shipping:
I believe the book has just received an “extraordinary merit” at the Numismatic Literary Guild awards. It is good to hear that some numismatic texts are well-written. Not all are.

Friday 26 August 2016

The Answer Should be Revealing

There are probably (my figures) 16 000 artefact hunters using metal detectors to enlarge their personal collections in the UK.
‏@HeritageCrime 8 godz.8 godzin temu HE Heritage Crime podał/a dalej Rural Crime Suffolk We work closely with the #MetalDetecting community to identify the small minority of #nighthawks #OperationChronos
HE Heritage   HE Heritage Crime dodał/a, Rural Crime Suffolk @RuralCrimeSfk 'Nighthawking' is the theft of artifacts from archaeological sites and areas. It's illegal #heritagecrime 1 podany dalej 1 polubiony

I asked them:
Paul Barford ‏@PortantIssues 7 godz.7 godzin temu @HeritageCrime How many fellow metal detectorists have they 'shopped' in the past two years? 

The answer seems a foregone conclusion, given that they stress that they (think)  that the milieu overall contains a "small minority". Yeah?

Thursday 25 August 2016

Battlefield Recovery: Rise of the Nazi-Grave Robbers

Zombie toys
for ghouls
The legacy of the televised TV exploits of three British metal detectorists continues to damage: Thomas Rogers, 'Rise of the Nazi-Grave Robbers' Bloomberg Business Week August 23, 2016
Inspired by shows like Battlefield Recovery, profiteers are digging up World War II grave sites in search of memorabilia. Preservationists want to stop them.

hat tip Andy Brockman

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Well, Somebody takes my point. A Pity the British Museum Can't Understand

With regard to the British Museum conference which poses the question "Can Detectorists Be Archaeologist [sic]?", I repeat the question in the context of my own twitter feed on antiquities collecting and the commerce in artefacts:
Paul Barford @PortantIssues 25.08
"Can artefact hunters be archaeologists"?… PAS, Tell us all about it
vj @ poetryinstone @poetryinstone 25.08 @PortantIssues
destroying context and reducing sacred art to showcase curios !! disgrace not only to the profession but to humanity
The issue is between those who in the past see only loose "things" to display and admire and those whose concern it is to preserve things in their contexts. The British Museum used to do real archaeology (Sutton Hoo for example), now it seems from official communiques that it does not even really know what the word means. The British Museum becomes a brutish museum.

Vignette: Artefact hunters in their natural environment; can they be archaeologists?

The Big Business Of Looted Antiquities

The trade in looted antiquities is big business – and some fear it’s growing due to instability in the Middle East and North Africa. While the U.S. has passed laws restricting imports from Syria and Iraq, many argue little will change until the market for these stolen antiquities is eliminated. New efforts to curb the plunder of the world’s cultural heritage.
The fight to preserve the world's cultural heritage sites. But Sarah, please, let us not link it with ancient Egyptian tomb looting. That's a lame argument unworthy of you.

More on "Citizen Archaeologists"

3 godz.3 godziny temu
Book now for the 2016 conference - 'Can Detectorists Be Archaeologists?': 
Answer: It depends what you mean when you use that singularly vague term "detectorists" (and what you mean by the phrase "can be"). I've already explored the rather simplistic British Museum exegesis of the term "archaeology" here. Mostly, if the question is can artefact hunters be archaeologists in the real sense of the word at the same time as being artefact hunters and collectors, from what we have seen of what they do and say, the answer would be "no".

Interesting isn't it that neither Heritage Action's Nigel Swift nor myself, the two most vociferous commentators on the BM's nonsensical "citizen archaeologists" have been invited to talk. So - who has? Obviously those who think they have the answer to the PAS's pathetic little straw man argument:
 though there remain concerns about the (seemingly) haphazard searching techniques employed by most finders.
Duh, no, no that is not at all what the actual concerns are, but tell that to the ivory tower idjits trotting out their glib, childish and meaningless "common ground" mantra. The question is in itself a supremely silly one, as one might expect from these days from the British Museum.

Can bus drivers be archaeologists? Yes, but how many are? Probably fewer than become ornithologists.

Vignette: There are 'metal detectorists' and then there are 'metal detectorists'.

Conflict Fake Antiquities Now?

I've been saying this for almost all the time the US Department of State started stirring up the fuss about Syria's Conflict antiquities (so has Dorothy King and a few others): Tim Cornwell, 'Almost 70% of smuggled objects seized in Syria and Lebanon are fakes, antiquities chief says', The Art Newspaper 24 August 2016. Now it's official:
Close to three-quarters of the artefacts seized in anti-smuggling operations in Syria and neighbouring Lebanon this year have proved to be fakes, Syria’s antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim tells The Art Newspaper. [...] There have been growing questions over the extent of illicit digging and antiquities trafficking in Syria by militant groups including ISIS. Abdulkarim says that while 7,000 objects have been seized by authorities in Syria since 2013, the proportion of fakes has risen from 30% to closer to 70%, both inside the country and in neighbouring Lebanon. Objects seized by police in Damascus include 30 fake ancient Bibles, as well as Korans. Another haul was 450 gold Medieval coins, all discovered to be fake, along with scores of fake mosaic tableaus and statues. Some items were poorly made fakes that were quickly weeded out, but sometimes it was difficult to distinguish between the real artefacts and the copies. “I hope the originals are stopped and the fakes go to the market place,” Abdulkarim says. 
So do we all. Well, all except those collectors who pay out their money for artefacts of unknown provenance without demanding to see papers proving they are licit and kosher. But who cares about them getting 'stung'? Much of the article is about Palmyra:
Three Polish archaeologists have joined conservation and training efforts in Palmyra, while two broken pieces are to travel to Rome for an exhibition in October, to be repaired and returned by Italian experts as a symbol of solidarity. While Russian teams were among the first into Palmyra, Abdulkarim stressed that the historic ties in the field were widely with the West and appealed for archaeologists to rally to Syria. “I appeal at all times for French archaeologists, British archaeologists, German archaeologists to come,” he says. “All the damage [that has been done] to cultural heritage will be for generation after generation. Just come to Damascus.” [...]  Abdulkarim’s goal of working to set politics aside and preserve a shared heritage has been well received by the international community. “I refuse to use our cultural interest for political agendas. It’s our common heritage, it’s our common identity,” Abdulkarim tells us. “The politics will change, but the heritage won’t change.”

Monday 22 August 2016

Naff of naff in Yorkshire

Just when you thought the discussion of metal detected artefacts could not hit a lower level... York does it again: 'The pot of anciet [sic] coins which may shed new light on York’s Roman past'... Yorkshire Post 20th August.

But the photo.. the photo is "something else" 

Tongue between the teeth UFO shot

The pot of anciet coins which may shed new light on York’s Roman past

Read more at:
The pot of anciet coins which may shed new light on York’s Roman past

Read more at:
The pot of anciet coins which may shed new light on York’s Roman past

Read more at:

ACCG Exposed

Small men exposed
Collectors, do you really want to have the 'freedom of access' on your market to dirty coins of types at risk of looting? New litigation sponsored by a deceptively-named coin dealer's organization aims to erode customs regulations on import of such objects. Dr. Peter Tompa, "a very highly qualified and distinguished attorney", claimed to be "one of the world's leading legal experts on cultural property law" is behind this. Meanwhile a cultural heritage lawyer who seems to me to know his stuff gives us a breakdown of the sad sorry saga of the way in which these dealers try to capitalise on their Baltimore Illegal Coin Import Stunt which they co-organized with London dealer Spink's ('One Side of the Coin: ACCG Re-Argues Previously Decided Legal Issues in Baltimore Test Case', Cultural Heritage Lawyer Monday, August 22, 2016) .
Soon afterward, the ACCG filed its motion for summary judgement and, on July 29, the court adopted a schedule that allows the parties to fully brief their positions. Once completed in mid-October, CHL expects to review the parties’  arguments.
I look forward to seeing that. Meanwhile Mr Tompa is plaintively tweeting to all and sundry on Twitter trying to attract their attention: 
2 godz.2 godziny temu
Rick St. Hilaire on the coin collectors' Quixotic effort to gut regulation on potentially looted ancient coins
54 min.54 minuty temu
To be fair, should link to the Guild's MSJ. Instead of spin, let the reader assess the merit.
and how 'fair' do ACCG dealers think they are being to the citizens (and collectors) of countries from which they want to continue to buy the material willy-nilly without bothering about the paperwork? Actually, if you read Rick St. Hilaire's careful analysis of the junk litigation of the ACCG, 'spin' is one of the last words that should come to mind to describe it. Once again we see that when collectors are called upon to give a substantive answer to serious critique, all they can muster is insults.

Collectors' Choice

If you already had indulged yourself and built up a personal collection of paperless antiquities worth several thousand dollars, and you had another spare 11700 dollars left over at the end of the month, what would you do with it? For some the choice is clear.

Omar has lost much, much more than his coin collection. Yet the life of another human being by the grace of God in a different situation than him would "simply not be worth living" without adding this paperless coin to which the sellers attached a racy story to all the others he already has. And he has no hesitation in showing his willingness to buy coins sold without any indication that there is documentation of licit provenance. No wonder there is so much anonymity on the antiquities market.  Shame on the lot of you.
 Vignettes: Rich collector's self indulgence or supporting the relief agencies?

Sunday 21 August 2016

Old Wooden tool found in Derbyshire wardrobe

Strength of tradition
A bloke turns up in an auction house and announces "I just happened to have this in me wardrobe" and it was found in a "cave" (not a tomb?) in the Mokattam Hills near Cairo during the Second World War and somehow taken out of Egypt. The auctioneer (says) he believes him (BBC Ancient Egyptian tool found in Derbyshire wardrobe 20 August 2016). It saves worrying about any documentation, and just to make sure....
The tool has been verified by the Natural History Museum, in London, and will be entered into auction on 7 October.
This is the London Museum which has the department of Ancient Egyptian snail shells, Coptic avifauna collection and the Early Islamic conchology gallery. Personally I would advise against buying unpapered artefacts like this, you never know what you might be buying no matter who says what they "think" it is. It seems to have mortar on it... This is the same auctioneer who sees a great business opportunity in selling off metal detectorists' surplus stuff. (see here too).  

Choice Ungrounded Coin of Unknown Origins, Yours for only 12000 dollars

If you think CNG has even considered that they might need, in this day and age, to soothe buyers' concerns with any kind of collecting history for this coin of Zenobia, ruler of Palmyra, you'd be overestimating the sellers and buyers of dugup antiquities:

Instead of saying where it was since before the source country (which was?) established regulations controlling the handling of such objects CNG gives a potted history of  Odenathus, Zenobia, Vaballathus and Aurelian and how beautiful Zenobia was reputed to be. I would imagine the average coiney is capable of looking that up in Wikipedia - but what they really need is some details about where that coin came from. It says it is in 'choice condition', but enlarge the photo and you can see the surface is flaking off in places with no mention of measures taken by previous owners to stabilise it. A more detailed condition report of this specific coin might be a better space-filler on the page than tall yarns of imperial ambitions.

Despite the patronising and evasive description, some coiney has such a desire to get his hands on it, that he's currently bidding: $11777. And yes, I bet it is a he.

And yes before any smarmy coiney triumphantly announces that "Barford did not notice it was minted in Antioch and he does not know Antioch is not in Syria" - he did and he does. The coins still should not be being offered without a collecting history.

I was alerted by Judith Weingarten who sent a comment here

An Invitation from the Northern Relic Hunters

Up north of the Watford Gap, I hear they do things differently, like the way they'd send a cordial invitation to go 'metal detecting' with them. It seems the upbringing of the metal detectorist calling himself "Stephen Robinson" was a little lacking in the social graces. He thinks that by calling me silly names and insulting me, he can tempt me out with my metal detector (not used yet) on an artefact hunting trip (aka, "work") with him. Over on the John Winter blog [under the comment where I pointed out why the archaeologist's heart sank after a metal detectorist gleefully exhibited to her a load of naked, loose, ungrounded finds in a bag], he shoots off this gem ( 20 August 2016 at 8:40 pm): 
John, How many hoards have been found by metal detectorists on land that “had” (sic) No interest by Archis? In every trade and profession there are crooks. Even Archis. Yet Ball-ford says all detectorists are this way. Why does Mr Barf-ford have to tar everyone with the same brush? If he would like to come out from hiding in Poland and pop over to the uk I invite him to spend a couple of days with me to show him the work the honest lot put in. He won’t do that though because he has something against the PAS and now detectorists. I think it’s due to him not getting the Job with the PAS as chief tea boy and he’s took it to heart. Paul. Lighten up and broaden your vision on the hobby. If people dig deep enough they will find dirt on any profession… Just remember that
One wonders just what this guy thinks he's achieving, beyond giving his similarly blank-minded  "M8s" something to guffaw about. 
1 - Firstly the comment which the tekkies were trying, and failing abjectly, to discuss was not about illegal activity, but about the way that many of the so-called 'honest lot' go about doing their collecting. That means his reply got off on the wrong foot straight away,
2 - The question of how many otherwise unthreatened hoards have been recovered and then require expensive purchase, analysis, conservation, proper publication and storage is totally irrelevant to this issue but a deflection.
- that archaeologists have been known to steal objects is not at all connected with this issue either (but is it intended to act as a Two Wrongs justification?),
3 - I criticise artefact hunters on the basis of what their hobby is doing to the archaeological record and public perceptions of archaeology. I have never considered that all artefact hunters are thieves. It must be said that t, though many of them by not treating the archaeological resource properly in pursuit of their self-centred aims are leading to the destruction of information which it is entirely fair to label 'knowledge theft'.
4 - I live (not hide) in Poland, in the centre of Europe. We have metal detectors here too. We have people who know how to use them. I have "been out with" them a number of times in the past thirty years. I have used the services of these people and their machines on two of my archaeological projects, watched them work and had ample occasion to assess just how useful (or not) they actually are in the type of work I was doing. In the survey they were essential, on the excavation I was less enthused. I really do not see why I need to go all the way to visit Mr "Rob-inson" to learn what I more or less know anyway. 
5  - I'd have nothing "against" the PAS if they'd just engage in honest discussions, archaeologist to archaeologist, about the issues that they, and only they, can do something about but do not. 
6 - I have never applied for a job with the PAS as a teaboy or anything else. I can do the finds work no problem, but dealing with the likes of a "Mr Robbing-some" all the time might try my patience. 
7 - I think one cannot really accuse me, after fifteen years of studying it, of not having a broad view of artefact hunting and collecting. It's time to write the book.  
What is pretty galling is the way this guy assumes that the only reason somebody could possibly have criticism of artefact hunting and collecting is that they "do not know what I know". Because he has been told by the PAS spin-machine (and is incapable of weighing up the degree to which it is true) that artefact hunting and archaeology are in some way the same, he cannot see that those who express concerns about policies on the hobby are coming to the issue from a different position entirely. The only ignorance in question here is his own, failing to appreciate what the issues raised are. And here the thread of comments on the metal detectorists' blog is instructive. An article was published in a national newspaper. Its readers mostly seem to have understood the point made about detecting (the 300 comments under the article focus on other issues). Yet a metal detectorist reading it three months later did not understand what was being said, and then blogged about his misconceptions, and despite having it pointed out what the issue was, the comments of his fellows under it veer off wildly in a totally different direction - completely oblivious. It is with the lack of the facility for critical thinking among most metal detectorists in the UK that the difficulty lies. And what will, or can, the PAS do about this?

He  Mr "Robbin-some" is a member of the Northern Relic Hunters but you will not be able to see all the "good things" they do, because their forum is "private". Obviously got a lot to hide from the British public whose historical heritage its 790 members are pocketing bits of. But here they are in action....

Posted on You Tube by Raki Man 24.06.2014
.... I think that more or less clinches it. This really does not encourage me to fly over from Warsaw on the off-chance that I might 'learn' something from these representatives of the 'honest lot'.

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

Critical Thinking about the Ethics of Artefact Hunting

Sam Hardy passed this on to me, it had completely escaped my notice. Apparently in the UK in 2013 the OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA, a leading UK awarding body) has noticed the heritage debate around artefact collecting. In the GCE 'critical thinking' paper (A level), they used the example of so-called 'metal-detecting' as the exam topic. The paper consisted on a resource booklet with five texts which were to be read in fifteen minutes, and an answer paper with four compulsory questions. The second concerns the HA artefact Erosion counter ("how useful is it as evidence ?") . It strikes me that the archive of answers to those questions would have been be excellent material for a PAS study of attitudes of a sector of the public which they probably do not always reach, young people who are not artefact collectors.

It is very encouraging to learn that out there somewhere in the UK is a (probably small) group of people who think that artefact hunting and associated activities are a topic for 'critical thinking' rather than the kneejerk repetition of mantras which is all its practitioners and supporters are capable of.  Possibly because most of the C2s and Ds among them never made it to A-levels.

One wonders if the PAS was involved in creating this exam paper.
Hat tip to Sam Hardy

Saturday 20 August 2016

California doctor pleads guilty to looting Native American artifacts from public lands

Artefact hunting in the US can also have high penalties ( Louis Sahagun, 'Mono County doctor pleads guilty to looting Native American artifacts from public lands' LA Times, 15th August 2016).
A Mono County doctor pleaded guilty Monday to two felony counts connected to the looting of Native American artifacts from public lands, including Death Valley National Park. Jonathan Bourne, 59, an anesthesiologist at Mammoth Hospital, also agreed to pay $249,372 to cover the costs of curating and storing about 20,000 relics that federal agents found in his home overlooking the High Sierra community of Mammoth Lakes, U.S. Atty. Phillip A. Talbert said.
Like the metal detectorists, the guy actually posted photos of himself online taking the artefacts. Among the artefacts he had some he'd taken from human burials "glass trade beads in 2010 from a prehistoric cremation and burial site in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada". He seems to have made a plea bargain on two of the many charges he was faced with and as a result
Bourne faces a maximum statutory penalty of two years in prison and a $20,000 fine for each of the two felony counts. However, “the government has agreed not to request any time in custody for Mr. Bourne,” Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said.

Bournemouth Collectors Stoop Low

Five years ago, August 20 2011 a Red Arrows plane came down near Bournemouth, and very soon afterwards, the site  was being searched by collectors for keepsakes:

Trophy hunters have been swarming all over the site of the fatal Red Arrows air crash – in a sickening search for ­“souvenirs”. Villagers say people have turned up armed with metal detectors and shovels and even asked residents to point out the exact spot [the pilot]’s body was found. One resident, Stephen Young, said: “It is sickening. They were just like ants crawling all over. “At one point I counted 35 people all bent down in the field. It is very ghoulish.” [...] Locals say people have flocked to the site to collect pieces that scattered over a 500 yard area. Dorset Police warned: “It is RAF property and they are committing theft.”
'Red Arrows: Sick trophy hunters swarming over fatal crash site' Mirror, 1 Sep 2011.No charges seem ever to have been brought.

Vignette: Digging to collect

Friday 19 August 2016

PAS do your Job (updated)

When someone walks onto site uninvited
with a bag of artefacts your heart just sinks
and you have to bite your tongue.

Somebody exposed
Over on the John Winter blog is a text 'The Female Archaeologist ‘Bites her Tongue’, 20 August 2016 about an old article in the Guardian about being an archaeologist (Anonymous, 'The secret life of an archaeologist: soil in your sandwiches and sexism on sites' The Guardian Monday 25 April 2016). What caught his eye was the bit where the lady writes about metal detectorists being unaware of the importance of context and associations in the turning of a 'find' into archaeological evidence. The PAS it seems does not teach that, and the archaeologist's comment goes winging right over the head of the metal detectorist as well as the eleven other ones who have commented below his article.

PAS now do your job. Mr Winter's blog is widely-read... please, one of you get on it and do that outreach you are all taking millions of pounds to do. Is there nobody among you who sees the potential of social media for 'outeach' to and informing those 'partners'? 

Some of us noted the original article and commented on it when it first came out ('An Anonymous Archaeologist Afraid to tell metal Detectorist What is What' 26th April 2016).

UPDATE 20th August 2016
"Shove a shovel
in 'er marf"
There are now 32 comments under Mr Winter's piece, most of which achieve little more than suggesting what a group of unreflexive, empty-headed fluffbrains UK metal detectorists are. As I have observed before, study of their forums seems to indicate that for many of them, coping with a text more than eight sentences long is a huge mental effort. Unfortunately the quote Mr Winter discusses is after the nineteenth, largely self-indulgent, one - so unsurprisingly many of them think that what the writer is talking about to her Guardian readership is "nighthawks". Note also the chip-on-the-shoulder remark about the author being "indoctrinated at college or university". I sent a comment explaining what the article's author had said - about context - but got rebuked by the blog owner (20 August 2016 at 12:40 pm):
Please consider your audience, Paul [...] and compose your comments so that we can understand. I’ll book you in to Stoke Mandeville Hospital so they can lance that PAS complex you seem to have. Please advise … as I’m sure you will!
The PAS of course has taken millions of pounds of public money (and still does) to sort out misunderstandings such as the views of the public on a "bag of loose finds" hoiked by metal detecting. Anyway, I think it was pretty clear in my comment (it is exactly six sentences long) what the issue mentioned was .... but instead of answering the point I made, one "Keith", for whom English seems fom the way he uses it not to be his native language remonstrates  20 August 2016 at 1:24 pm:
Mr Barford[,] you should be well aversed [sic] with the statement ” walking onto site uninvited” [...].
while "QM" from Romford Essex threatens the article's authoress with violence  (20 August 2016 at 7:05 am):
stupid women …things are going forward with folk working together …maybe to help [sic] her from bitting [sic] her tounge [sic]  we can shove a shovel between [sic] it [.]
Certainly I think even the PAS would be forced to honestly admit after reading that sequence of comments that things are hardly "moving forward" if after 20 years, not even the first aim they set out to achieve in 2003 has become part of tekkie lore. Perhaps the PAS is waiting until Monday to put these people straight. I see that the text of mr Winter's article was published in 'The Searcher', the favourite detecting magazine of the PAS - so perhaps there will be an exhaustive answer there.

UPDATE UPDATE 20th August 2016
True to form, not being able to concentrate on discussing the issues - which is that he totally misunderstood what the Guardian author wrote - John Winter tells his readers that I have now sent an "abusive" comment to his blog and on those grounds he has blocked me from commenting further there. I guess that's one way of getting out of backtracking when you write arrant nonsense.  I urge him to prove he is telling the truth by shaming me through publishing this alleged abusive comment from me, let us see how it is formulated and spelt. Needless to say John Winter did not receive any kind of abusive comment from me - he is making this up. He will not publish it for the simple reason he did not receive one. How utterly lame can you get?

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

Bulgarian police arrest man over illegal possession of ancient coins

(It is not clear if these are the actual coins involved in this case)
One of the arguments coin fondlers like Peter Tompa advance against US import restrictions on dugup coins from Bulgaria is that it is somehow "discrimination against US collectors" because the Bulgarians can buy coins in Bulgaria. They cannot quite grasp the idea that an internal market in something does not equate with free export of the same thing - that seems a little beyond the average coiney. Anyway, here's one for Peter Tompa to explain away to his readers: Bulgarian police arrest man over illegal possession of ancient coins Sofia Globe August 19, 2016.
Bulgarian police arrested a 51-year-old man in the Black Sea town of Byala after he was found in possession of a number of ancient coins, ranging from a Roman coin to 16 silver late medieval ones. The operation involved officers from the directorate against trafficking in cultural property, the anti-organised crime directorate and Varna police, the Interior Ministry said on August 19. [...]  Pre-trial proceedings had been initiated and investigations were continuing. The statement said that since October 2015, actions against illegal treasure-hunting, acquisition, storage, sale and trafficking in objects of cultural and archaeological significance had led to the prevention of the illegal export of more than 1400 such objects.
As an example of the sort of thing the lobbyists for the dugup antiquities industry get up to see Peter Tompa's "No Answer" and the comments. This is the specialist claimed to be "among the best in america". He says the manner in which coin collectors collect is "irrelevant", I do not believe that to be the case, as we see above.

Evil in Ohio

White whores would get
more respect than natives?
Some collectors, sick, sick people. Some collect fragmented Egyptian coffins and other tomb furniture, other jerks get their antiqui-thrills buying body parts (The Associated Press, 'Ohio man who bought Native American remains gets probation' Friday, August 19th 2016) 'An Ohio man has received three years of probation after admitting he purchased remains of eight Native Americans reportedly stolen from a farm'. If they'd been the exhumed bodies of 1870s white saloon-bar prostitutes, he'd have got more than that.

Heritage Metal Theft Campaign

Heritage metal theft is a hug problem in the UK. Here is part of an awareness raising campaign:

What is ?

Number 1 - Architectural Metal used on roofs, guttering, lightning conductors etc.

Number 2 Cultural Metal such as objects, coins, jewellery etc.
They'v used the Staffordshire hoard!

Number 3 - Public Art such as metallic sculptures and statues

 Number 4 - Maritime Metal such as cannon, ingots, condensers etc.

 Number 5 - Memorials and Monuments

Number 6 - Street Furniture such as railings, signs, lamps, post boxes etc.

Let us hope that more UK heritage metal thieves get locked up before they do any more damage. 

Thursday 18 August 2016

Al-Sabah Collection of Ungrounded Antiquities

Prudence Harper and Martha Carter
at a recent book signing event.
Jane Jakeman , ''
The al-Sabah collection in Kuwait consists mainly of superb silver and gold vessels. Almost 100 pieces, dating from the earlier stages of the Hellenic trail to the advent of Islam, are described in The Arts of the Hellenized East [...] it is painfully apparent that scholarly assessment was greatly hampered by lack of provenance. [...]  It would, however, limit the global interchanges of scattered pieces if auction records were cited and auction houses had to disclose who was selling unprovenanced work, which could be enforced by wealthy purchasers refusing to buy unless this was made public. Some Egyptologists have called for every antiquity to have a passport, as for cars and race-horses. Julian Raby, director of the Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington, remarked to me on the al-Sabah treasure: “No European or American museum could put together such a collection now, not so much because of costs, but provenance issues.” Silence may well cast a shadow over a collection. [...]  No-one doubts that the al-Sabah family are good collectors in the sense that their objects are carefully conserved and published. But does this justify in general the multitude of unscrupulous dealers in the market and the placing of the object at the whim of a private owner? It used to be argued in favour of slavery that some owners treated their slaves well.
Perhaps a start can be made by boycotting purchasing the catalogue and visiting this accumulation of shiny trophies. Let collectors like this realise that what they do with the common heritage is of potential concern to us all, and that their activities are subject to social approval. Perhaps only the withdrawal of social approval, and increased public scrutiny is the way to increase the appreciation among no-questions-asked collectors and dealers of the need for social responsibility.

Trouble in Pirate's Cove

A little birdie tells me that the ACCG tried to rile up a certain group of collectors on a forum near you, but blocked to me, about the Cyprus MOU and are being given a somewhat hostile reception by the provenance-seeking antiquity collectors there. I hear another dealer has even challenged Dealer Dave to say what it is he is trying to do which he fears means that this requirement for documentation could lead to items being confiscated. Wow, 'twould be nice to be a fly on the wall. Anyway this is all good if at last the naysayers are being asked to explain themselves and answer criticism from within. It is time to STOP the dealers' nonsense and start some adult discussions on how to clean up the no-questions-asked market.

Meanwhile, the cut and paste campaign over at the website seems not to be going too well. "No comments posted" it says. Are the ACCG in trouble, or is there another explanation?

Vignettes: Getting rid of the archaeologists

hat tip anonymous reader

"Coins from Syria"

The war there has been going on five years, but now freshly surfaced and undocumented coins and jewellery from Syria are restricted from entry into US Not before time. Not that it matters to the antiquities trade, for they have been denying all along that there is a single piece of such material on the international, let alone US, market. The State Department’s Cultural Heritage Centre has produced a special little banner for us on the occasion and to taunt the US no-questions-asked coin trade with its empty amateurish  arguments and pointless posing.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Four Ways You Can Help Cultural Heritage

A little pep article from ASOR, 'Four Ways you can Help Heritage'  "four ways you can help the ongoing cultural heritage crisis in Syria, northern Iraq, and all over the world":
Stay Informed
Become an Advocate
Become Politically Engaged
Funnily enough, 'visit your local dealer and buy a bit' is not one of them.

Needless to say, everyone's favourite trade lobbyist has already been sniping away with a comment under the text.

Vignette:  Cheerleaders Gdynia (photo by Łukasz Trzeszczkowski,

Roman coin hoard saved from Collectors

A generous and concerned British public has once again forked out another few thousand quid to Treasure hunters and their partner landowners to stop the coins being split up and sold on the international antiquities trade ('Roman coin hoard to stay in Devon'). While that is good news, one wonders why such a situation exists in England and what British archaeologists (the Portable Antiquities Scheme in particular) are doing to raise public awareness and combat the problem of the wholesale legalised looting of the British archaeological record for personal profit (1970 UNESCO Convention article 10). Surely the answer cannot really be "nothing at all"?
The Seaton Down Roman coin hoard will stay in Devon thanks to a number of donations and grants. The hoard has been purchased by Exeter’s RAM Museum for £50,000, allowing it to be kept together and displayed for the benefit of the people of Devon and Exeter and for future generations.
This hoard was mentioned on this blog earlier for three reasons. Firstly, because the finder guarded it against being stolen by other metal detectorists after the loot, putting the lie to the claims that in other cases (most infamously the Lenborough Hoard fiasco) that this is somehow impossible to achieve. [PACHI Friday, 26 September 2014, 'Seaton Hoard, Dug Methodically by Archaeologists: Finder Slept in his car on Site Protecting it From Other metal Detectorists'; PACHI Saturday, 3 January 2015, 'The Excavation of the Seaton Down Hoard'].

Secondly, it also more infamously produced the so-called "Portable Antiquities Scheme's millionth coin" but that is not so as the PAS was set up to deal with non-Treasure finds, but this hoard was classified as Treasure.

Thirdly, because this hoard was not hoiked out loose into a carrier bag like most of them are these days,  but what the metal detectorist left in the ground could be properly excavated (as few of them are, even these days), we can say that the coins came from an archaeological context - which is the opposite of what dealers (like California's Dealer Dave Welsh)  are trying to tell their dullard clients. Neither, used to dealing with loose finds surfacing on the market (from underground) anonymously,   have any significant grasp on the literature and thus are among the least well-placed to judge but continue to bleat their innocence of involvement in looting of archaeological sites. they are decieving themselves, but cannot deceive the rest of us. [PACHI Saturday, 13 December 2014, 'Viking Hoard Was Buried Inside Building'].

Vigntte: One way to keep the archaeological heritage?

Two Faked up Antiquities (Digitally) Dissected

The effects of the no-questions-asked approach to antiquities, an object bought by the Chicago art museum in 1898 was totally faked up (as a relief) by the art market from a fragment of a Hadriaic bust. Ray Johnson spotted the other half, totally faked up in the collection of the Museo Nazionale Romano in Rome’s Palazzo Altemps. This sculpture in Rome had been restored with a new face at some point in its history (as noted in 1756, by Johann Joachim Winckelmann). Both are of unknown provenance.

There is a video explaining in rather dumbdown terms (if you know your ancient history a bit better than the film assumes, you can safely skip the bit from here to here.) how they sorted out the mess produced by the less salubrious dealings of the art market. of the Grand Tour period.

posted on You Tube by The Art Institute of Chicago

Note how brutally the restorers cut the piece about.The 'art market' is not much better in itys dealings with the objects it claims to protect today - which are still divorced from the information about their collecting histories. The film says that the "antiquities collections are not dead collections", which is pretty ridiculous when it is precisely the antiquities collecting which has been killing the information content of items like this. Where was it found, in what kind of context was this item used and displayed, by whom and why? Was this private art or public art" What happened to it after the decline of the Antonine dynasty? Since it was collected in an 'ungrounded' form, we will have no chance of ever knowing.

An Old Man is Brought to Tears by "Independent Research"

Over on a collector's blog near you Wayne Sayles, the dealer with an arts history degree, writes (August 2016 at 15:25):
If you want to see the "so much sense' that brought so many tears to the eye of an emotional old coin dealer that he found it difficult to type, turn to the John Hooker FSA blog for his attempts to grapple with the notion of the evils of cultural heritage without reading any of the basic literature that pertain to the question ('The "cultural heritage" Group Neurosis'). It's what they call "independent research" where the adjective seems to denote that the author is free to blithely make unfounded assertions with no attempt to back them up.

As for "shutting up" critics of the self-indulgence of the dealers and collectors, Mr Hooker has already refused to publish a whole series of comments questioning his statements and lack of definition that I have posted to this essay's rather directionless series of 'instalments' (now in its tedious fourth week). I guess he found no answers in the limited range of his online reading. But engaging with what somebody else says and taking issue with what is unclear or could be seen another way (as I presume they teach even in art history courses in Wisconsin) is what we call debate Mr Sayles.

The collectors and dealers may strive to shout down, intimidate and generally discourage the closer examination of their position by people holding different views than their own. But the debate will go on. Yes, the real message is that the past does belong to all of us (it's why we call it our "heritage" Mr Hooker) but that does not give artefact hunters, dealers and collectors any entitlement to pocket it, appropriate it entirely to themselves or make private profit from it in a way which obliterates the past, and prevents others from accessing it. This is precisely because we agree that it should be being used for the benefit of all including future generations and not just to satisfy the extemporary whims of greedy individuals. And that is exactly what is happening today because of the manner in which the commerce in dugup antiquities is being carried out, manners of handling artefacts which Mr Sayles dealers' interest group the ACCG is engaged in defending, with the help of Mr Hooker. 

There are those who think that is wrong and will speak out, even at the cost of being accused of "pontificating" and becoming the target of the nasty personal attacks and ridicule that for the last decade and a half have been aimed at them precisely by the collectors of and dealers in those artefacts. Fifteen years of ongoing erosion of the archaeological resource while which no progress has been made in cleaning up the market and sorting out this problem. But then, precisely that is the aim of people like Mr Sayles (MA), Mr Hooker (FSA), Mr Welsh, Mr Howland and all the rest.

"Independent Scholarship" and ISIL

Christopher Jones has an interesting piece on so-called "Independent research" and the ideological war ISIL wishes to wage with western civilization (a bit like the coin dealers too) - ISIS Embraces Critical Scholarship of the Bible? Gates of Nineveh August 16, 2016
the work of a great number of people unconnected to and unsupportive of ISIS and their goals has been collated and redirected for the purpose of recruiting people to join the Islamic State. Thanks to the magic of the internet, everyone is now an expert. And since everyone is now an expert, even a brutal and thuggish organization occupying a stretch of landlocked, mostly undeveloped desert land in the Middle East can now throw together seemingly sophisticated scholarly-sounding recruiting pitches based on amateurish misinterpretations of hundred-plus year old extremely outdated but free and public domain source material. Welcome to 21st century war.

Ignorance the Breeding Ground of Fear

The text on the bag reads as: "This text has no other purpose than to terrify those who are afraid of the Arabic language". It's a trap for small-minded Brexiters.

hat tip, Dorothy King.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Nazi Gold Diggers Update.

For anyone still interested in this farce, a nice summary of the position so far:
Yesterday two holes were dug down to bedrock, a third one planned for today. I would have thought investigating the surface below the earthen 'mound' that is supposed to hid the train would reveal if any tracks had ever been laid here....

Vignette: Two metal detectorists still hoping there's metal there...

Monday 15 August 2016

Sunday 14 August 2016

Cut-and_Pasters, are you LISTENING?

Veiled rebuke of the coin dealers' associations and their time-wasting army of cut-and-pasters poised to flood the CPAC with dissent?  
Patty Gerstenblith ‏@PGerstenblith 8 godz.8 godzin temu Patty Gerstenblith podał/a dalej Heritage at State I encourage all with relevant information to submit comments about Peru and Cyprus proposed MOU renewals by Sept. 30

“Directions and post code will be emailed a few days beforehand”

"Self-centred acquisitive oiks knowing they’re doing wrong but doing it anyway? Surely not?!"
Heritage Action 'Another fine bash at Weyhill Fair!', Update 14 August 2016

More US-Looted Saddam Statue Pieces Come on Market

Gohdar Alkaidy and Jan-Henrik Dobers, 'Abenteuerliche Auktion Saddams Bronze-Bein in Hamburg!' Bild (Ad-blocker sensitive) 11th August 2016. I really think the US cannot afford to get too hypocritical about ISIL-looting when they still have not hunted down who in the US-led invasion forces stole this stuff. The fragments from the statue they theatrically toppled in April 2003 in Firdos Square are not war-loot in the terms of any convention, they are the products of theft during military occupation.

I would say they should be all the more keen to do this because this event is so iconic of the gung-ho manner in which the warmongers went in and smashed the Iraqi state and then demonstrated to the entire world they had no idea what to do next. The looting of the Baghdad Museum on the US watch was just a symptom of the chaos the US was simply unprepared to deal with. This then produced the vacuum in which various militant groups formed  which are still destabilising the Middle East. 

Cartoon by Nicholson from “The Australian

Vignette (top right): US foreign policy in action 

Coiney Postulate and the REAL WORLD

Dr. Peter Tompa, "a very highly qualified and distinguished attorney", claimed to be "one of the world's leading legal experts on cultural property law" disagrees with the publication on the Federal Register of a Designated List of the 'Archaeological and Ethnological Material of Syria that describes the types of objects or categories of archaeological or ethnological material that are subject to import restrictions, if unlawfully removed from Syria on or after March 15th 2011'. Mr Tompa objects to the notion that Customs will conform to "its current extralegal practice of detaining, seizing,  and seeking the forfeiture of anything that looks remotely like it appears on the designated list and then require the importer to prove the negative". I asked him what he would see as the answer to the problems faced by US Customs, but he seems not really to understand how the real world works.
5 godz.5 godzin temu
Easy. Burden of proof on Customs. No repatriation to Assad. [...].
Let us imagine that central Europe has been hit by an epidemic of mad cow disease and the US decides to ban import of beef from Poland unless it carries an EU-1198 certificate (indicating that the batch of meat it accompanies was produced from animals tested and certified as free of this specific disease). A shipment from a Baltic port turns up in Baltimore which the import manifesto shows was sent from the German town of Gorlitz by the firm "Polbeef" (director Jacek Kowalsi) and has no  EU-1198 certificate. Mr Tompa is saying that if, at the time the meat is passing through the port, the US Customs cannot prove that the cows in the field (wherever) had Mad Cow Disease, then that meat should pass through onto the US market - that the burden is on the US Customs service to find out which farm or farms those cows were reared on, and then find out whether when they were alive they exhibited any symptoms of madness before they stop the shipment from crossing the international border. If they cannot prove that on the spot, the meat should be regarded as "innocent" and be sent to DC junior school kitchens to be served up to Tompa Junior. That is how US dealers say they want US Customs to 'protect' the US market from tainted goods.

This is an extension of the logic (I use the term loosely) of "one of the world's leading legal experts on cultural property law". Quite obviously the task of the Customs is to stop objects of questionable nature entering the US until such time as its nature is established.  This is a safeguard to protect US citizens and it works the same way with preventing tainted meat from entering the market (by withholding goods that cannot be documented as taint-free) as it does with tainted cultural property. I am sure that the dealers associations that have  paid "one of the world's leading legal experts on cultural property law" as their lobbyist do not want tainted material coming onto their segment of the market. But "burden of proof on Customs" is a pretty impractical (not to say lame) manner of preventing that. Any reputable dealer having material of Middle Eastern type which they have ascertained has not come from war-torn Syria before trying to ship it to the US will presumably have no qualms in showing that the material he or she is selling is demonstrably of licit origins. Otherwise they'd better not be selling it to the US. "Easy".

As for the 'repatriation' of objects likely to be from Syria when the exporters cannot show paperwork establishing other origins, then should they  go to Syria? I suppose the dealers Mr Tompa represents would like them to stay in the US. But then precisely combating neo-colonialist paternalism is what the 1970 UNESCO Convention, cultural property is to enable nations to work together not be a source of discord.  It is no surprise to anyone who can actually read the text that the focus of UNESCO thinking on cultural heritage issues is within and for the framework of nations (clue: the organization's name). Syria - like America - is a country with citizens, a state administration and a cultural heritage of its own, irrespective of the name of the man who currently heads its government and whether or not Barack Hussein Obama wants him to be there or not. The US has international obligations, and if it is not to lose even more influence than it has in the term of its 44th President, it really ought to see how it can show it is fulfilling them.
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