Monday 31 October 2016

Essex Collectas Innit"

"Purchase with Confidence, 
Trustworthy and Transparent Trading, 
Dependable Dealership, Reliability and Good Faith"

Brett Hammond's TimeLines Auctions has an interesting piece where bidding is still below estimate

1st-2nd century AD

A bronze oil lamp with flared base, hemispherical bowl with projecting fluked nozzle, raised rim to the shoulder and upper face of the nozzle with pierced lug, curved bar handle with horse-head finial and pierced lug above the ears. 152 grams, 86mm (3 1/2"). Fine condition. [No Reserve]
Property of an Essex, UK collector; acquired London art market, 1960s-1980s.
Mr Hammond is currently the Chairman of AIAD, so this must be kosher, right? A little birdie tells me that in his opinion, these lamps only began appearing on the market in any numbers some time after this 'collector' claims he had it from a 'London' dealer. Is that so? How can this be? Is there any paperwork confirming that early purchase date? And where was it before then? How and when did it leave the ground and then the country where it was found? Such a grounding would settle the questions the typology of this object raises.  


Sunday 30 October 2016

Paris Match, BRAFA and Phoenix

Tucked away in an article in Paris Match (Frederic Loore, 'Un auteur des attentats de Bruxelles impliqué dans un trafic d’objets d’art ', 27/10/2016) we find some new information about BRAFA and a dealer mentioned here before:
Paris Match dévoile la saisie par les douanes belges, en janvier de cette année, de deux stèles cultuelles en albâtre, datant du troisième millénaire avant Jésus-Christ et provenant du site archéologique de Mari en Syrie. Ces stèles étaient proposées à la vente lors de la Brafa 2016 (la prestigieuse foire annuelle aux antiquaires de Bruxelles) par l’un des exposants : Phoenix Ancien Art. [...] Ali et Hicham Aboutaam [...] Selon Paris Match, l’alerte concernant la provenance douteuse de ces stèles a été donnée par Interpol Damas. Dans le cadre d’une procédure administrative (le parquet n’est pas saisi), les douaniers belges examinent les documents remis par Phoenix, destinés à authentifier la provenance légale de ces pièces. L’avocat de Phoenix a déclaré à Paris Match que sa cliente est confiante dans l’issue positive de la procédure dès lors qu’elle assure avoir respecté les réglementations en matière de transfert de biens culturels. L’hebdomadaire a également interrogé le professeur Michel Al-Maqdissi, archéologue auprès de la Direction générale des Antiquités et des Musées en Syrie. C’est à lui qu’il a été demandé d’expertiser les plaques cultuelles. Selon lui, elles proviennent du site archéologique de Mari, victime de pillages massifs depuis 2012.
If this article is anything to go by, the Belgian authorities are slow readers, they've had this documentation and artefacts since January? What is taking them so long?

Vignette: BRAFA dugup antiquities mixed in with antiques and other items (check video),.

Saturday 29 October 2016

Artefact Hunting: What the PAS Promotes

The Wibblethorpe Wave Watchers and Beachcombing Association are organizing their annual club meeting in the town hall on the topic: 'Can Shell Collectors be Marine Biologists?'.

The Marine Biologists Association have a webpage for those wishing to become a marine biologist. The Portable Antiquities Scheme might like to take a look at it and reflect for a moment what their role is. The MBA is 'Promoting marine scientific excellence and representing the marine biological community', what is the PAS promoting?

See also Heritage Action:  'The PAS Conference 2016: delivering the truth in code!', 29/10/2016

Vignette: PAS - "Oh look what we have found! Isn't that interesting?"

Friday 28 October 2016

Archaeologists: Innit Pritty?

It's a finds Friday again, and true to form, although the Geological Survey have failed to produce their sedimentary lithology sample of the week for public delectation, the archaeology enthusiasts are still at it... "Look-wot-we-found, you lot, Luvverly Treszure... yay, innit pritty?"

 The PAS 'record' of this artefact hunter's find of a Winchester-style strapend fragment from Nuffield is big on the art history and narrativisation, low on the archaeology and zero on context and taphonomy. Why is it in this state? It looks to have been snapped off deliberately - why? Or is this another one of the things oikish tekkies and their claquers are going to tell us was 'rescued from the plough'?

Acquired by Oxfordshire Museums Service after being declared Treasure - and how many similarly interesting objects of copper alloy or other metals are pocketed by collectors and never seen again because they are not gold or silver?  I doubt whether Bloomsbury is able to engage in a discussion of where the system is failing us, so anxious are they for self-promotion through only talking of 'success'.

Thursday 27 October 2016

This is Egypt Promo

Lots of cultural heritage of all types here:

Posted on You Tube by Egypt 26.10.2016 

but wait, what have you done here?*

I think many westerners would like to see a bit more political freedom, with the title 'this is Egypt'. But that might have to be done like this temple...

Here's another one: count the hijabis.

* I guess that is unclear for those who do not know this temple. What we see in the film is a photomontage of the Temple seen from the east and at a distance in the background, and the foreground is made up by superimposing a manipulated view of the central ramp from the upper (I think) terrace looking west [so in fact the same ramp as you see in the background shot seen from the other side].  If you looked here really you'd see the lower courtyard stretching away to the coach park, which was not sexy enough for the film makers.

Coin dealer/scholar (sic): "coins are among the most common of all ancient artifacts that are found in areas where coins were used" Yeah?

Coin dealers' lobbyists and a "scholar dealer" are claiming on behalf of the 'professional' (sic) dealers' associations that these boxes (at Helmsley store) are mostly filled with coins

but who listens to such folk, who quite obviously have not the faintest idea what they are talking about? They do guided tours here, ignorant coineys would do worse than go on one and ask.

This archaeological store is right in the middle of an area where coins were in use from the centuries BC right up till now. Mr Tompa, with all your archaeological experience, would you say that coins are the most common historical artefact stored here? Are the artefacts stored here (pottery, food remains, building material, glass sherds, worked stone etc etc) of "cultural significance"?

Wednesday 26 October 2016

IAPN and PNG Require leave to Launder loot

IAPN dealer Lustig Wunsch
just itching to get his
hands on those coins
In the US, in their comments to the CPAC, the 'International Association of Professional (sic) Coin Dealers' and the 'Professional (sic) Coin Dealers Guild' alleging a conspiracy to create a 'rigged' system, both urge that in the application of the CCPIA by the US:
"Such restrictions should be limited to coins actually found in Cyprus". 
So all the IAPN and PNG dealers have to do is throw away or otherwise lose any documentation of their coins which links them with anything further back than the last owner/seller making that impossible to prove for any of them. In other words what most of them probably already do. Throwing away or otherwise losing the documentation is not the answer to Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property or the implementation of any Act (worthy of the name) to implement it. It seems to me that it is these two dealers associations that want desperately to rig the system. Shameful show.

It seems to me that in the light of their position on this, all respectable dealers of antiquities and ancient coins should immediately boycott these two associations and their disgraceful tactics, let the IAPN and PNG continue to represent the interests of those dealers unworried by the prospect of buying from the looters, smugglers and other criminals. Let the decent dealers form another one to reflect the interests of the truly legitimate trade and differentiate themselves from the Wild West cowboys of the antiquities trade and their weasel words. 

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Loot Laundry

Royal numismatists,
handling the stolen stuff
Over on the lootbusters page Dorothy King has a post 'Ionia: coins from the Hecatomnus Hoard'
This hoard of mainly Carian territory coins of Hecatomnus were found at Soke in Turkey in 1977, and smuggled out by February 1978 (the smuggler subsequently confessed). Turkey would like them back.[...] many of the issues concerned were extremely rare before the discovery of the hoard and when such coins appear, without provenance, in sale catalogues from 1978 and immediate following years, it seems likely that they came from the hoard 
So we see the value of dealers throwing away any documentation which would show when anything they have came on the market. Dr King showcases a number of these coins and it is interesting to see who is handling two of them.
Roma Numismatics Ltd (reconstructed collecting history - notes origin in smuggled hoard)
Nomos, skimpy collecting history, noted as from smuggled hoard.
Coin dealers are very slow on the uptake it seems (there's something in the corrosion which rots the brain maybe?), what do they think is the purpose of presenting a collecting history if not to differentiate material which came on the market licitly from that which did not? Duh. What then should happen to the material turning up which can be shown to have come from illicit activity? Put on sale with that fact proudly displayed as here? So what that they've passed through other collections? Illicit is illicit, no matter how the market tries to launder them.

For more by Dorothy on this hoard, see here:  Coins and The Looting of Hecatomnus' Tomb
The Hecatomnus hoard was apparently found in 1977 at Söke (between Miletus and Ephesus), and published as having been burried 390-385 BC - though frankly I don't know how curators could publish a looted hoard, let alone be so certain about it (Ashton, Richard H.J., Philip Kinns, Koray Konuk, and Andrew R. Meadows. 2002a. The Hecatomnus Hoard Coin Hoards* 5.17, 8.96, 9.387).) . The volume of coin hoards photos are lavishly illustrated, but only the text with good descriptions is available online, including auctions and dealers who were advertising the coins to this date (subsequent sales are very easy to find illustrated online):
* "Special Publications of the Royal Numismatic Society:

When will this Simian Coiney Nonsense STOP?

Pay peanuts you get monkeys. If the IAPN pays nothing at all for lobbying, they get Peter Tompa of Bailey and Ehrenberg PLC, who writes the same utter crap time after time. He used to get paid for it, now apparently he's doing it in his own free time. Here he is in full tinfoil helmet mode (System Now Rigged; Underlying Facts Have Not Changed):
'This is what I said, more or less, at today's CPAC meeting about the renewal of the current MOU with Cyprus. [...] "I am speaking on behalf of the International Association of Professional Numismatists and the Professional Numismatics Guild, which represent the small businesses of the numismatic trade...". '
Is he? Can the IAPN confirm that they fully endorse this junk? I bet they don't.
'We've heard a lot from first [...] the Trump campaign[...] that the system is rigged. Here, unfortunately, there is strong evidence that may be the case.'
No there is not, Trump's own statements reveal him to the rest of us as a small-minded, petty, bigoted, xenophobic, groping, fact-dodging pig. He's not going to get enough votes to lead his country to shame and disaster because many Americans do not share his 'values'. Neither do all Americans support artefact smuggling and theft. No 'rigging', just common decency. Something Trump and many coin dealers seem to lack any understanding of.
Coins are items of commerce. So, it is difficult for modern nation states to justifiably claim them as their “cultural property.”
So, nothing that is an item of commerce is cultural property? That's a new definition on me. The artisans, craftsmen and artists who made the items in our museums made them to sell, to buy food for their families. Are the items circulating in the well-documented kula ring exchange system cultural property for the Washington 'observer' or not? And if they are not, is that because they were made for circulation, or is it because as the products of  'tribal', brown-skinned folks, this is not the White lawyer's idea of 'real cultural property'? But it is culture, isn't it? What about stone axes or bronze age objects, exchanged over large distances in elaborate social networks before being hoarded? Also nothing to do with 'cultural property'? Or are coins part of some kind of  'superior' Aryan exchange system and therefore different from the goods of 'primitive' excchange. This is a serious question for the IAPN and PNG. As for the coins themselves, and building on that last argument, this is a really simian comment:
They are probably the most common of historical artifacts and are not of “cultural significance.”
Both parts of that sentence are complete tosh, as any fool will know. The coineys' representative, speaking on behalf of TWO "professional" associations reveals himself utterly pig ignorant. The 'cultural property lawyer' would presumably think that in Colonial Williamsburg 'coins are the most common artefact' found. I wonder if he has been there and asked the staff or is he just making this up as he goes along?  In Pompeii? In Pharaoh Ahmose's tomb? On the streets of Dura Europos? In a Pictish crannog? A Tuscan Roman villa? The Athenian Agora? The excavation of WW1 trenches at Ypres? What is this guy talking about? On which site or sites or in which county's archaeological record are discarded coins in fact the most common artefacts found? Facts or lobbyist's nonsense statement?

As for whether they are 'real cultural property'... coins of course - as are any other elements of material culture - as the name suggest are not bananas. Material culture is part of culture, and is part of the material evidence of the nature of that culture. Only an orang utan would argue otherwise and head for the bananas.  Then the US rep of the IAPN and PNG brings out the 'playing the victim' and 'discrimination' arguments: 
It simply makes no sense to preclude Americans from importing coins where there is no real “concerted international response.”
Since we are talking about the US CCPIA, let us now add what the commentator carefully omitted: 'in flagrant disregard of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on ...' and see it it makes a great deal of sense if we want to prevent the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Americans have a voracious appetite for such items (they imagine they help them find imagined 'roots' and serve as trophies and providers of cachet as symbols of 'erudition and culture' ). So yes, of course it makes sense to try and get some discipline into that particular market. Now for more Tinfoil Helmet time....
it has recently come to light that the decision maker at the time made the decision after she had already announced she was leaving for a job at Goldman Sachs, where she was recruited and works for the husband of an AIA Trustee who has been very active lobbying on cultural heritage issues.
(for more on the connection with chemical trails, illuminati and the GM bananas - see here: Goldman Sachs Power and Influence Benefit Archaeology Lobby?) This is the coiney idea of a 'smoking gun'. So? And who does Mr Tompa's wife work for? And has she recently changed jobs? Or received any "awards"? We need to know, people. Two can play at the 'ridiculous coiney' mud-slinging game. Then we have a justificatory 'Two Wrongs' argument:
“dig dollars” might be better spent on site security during the long off season and paying her local workers a fair living wage so they will not be tempted to do any looting in the long off season.
The lawyer fails to prove that looting is exclusively, mainly or sometimes done by former site workers. Or restricted to archaeological sites (and what about church thefts?). I have discussed this nonsense before (nobody much else will give this 'justification' of smuggling the time of day). The IAPN meanwhile has failed to make a single payment from its fund established to carry out the pilot programme  of their OWN SUGGESTION. Not a single one. That speaks volumes for its commitment to its own ideas. Like everyone in the antiquities dealing world, they are quick to sling the mud and demand that others deal with the mess the no-questions-asked market creates. They run a mile from any suggestion that they participate in any way.  For the logistics see here (the IAPN obviously have not looked into it, so they do not know): 'Guarding The Sites...' PACHI Sunday, 14 July 2013.

I argue that, apart from its impracticality, expense and unproven effectiveness, the position of the IAPN and PNG are egregious examples of orientalist Trump-like racism: 'Collectors' Colonialist and Supremacist Ideology'. Nothing these people write about the citizens of the source countries dispels that impression.

Having tried it once, the IAPN and PNG representative trots out on their behalf yet another 'Two Wrongs'. This one takes the biscuit.

Finally, the State Department and Cyprus have never seriously considered alternatives to import restrictions like the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure Act.
Why should they, pray? And what has the state department of the US got to do with what the Cypriots do in their own country across the seas? In any case, only in the circles of the ignorant coineys of Washington, surely are there poorly literate people who cannot work out that neither the PAS not the TA in any way regulate the export of artefacts, so are of absolutely zero relevance to the current form of the atavistic 1980s "CCPIA". It beats me how may times you have to explain this without the loudest of them (at least) catching on. Is it really so difficult for the IAPN and PNG ("professionals") to understand this? Is there really something in the corrosion products of the coins they handle that rots the brain? After all, the PAS and TA have been in existence twenty years, and there is a lot written about it (for C2s and Ds indeed) in plain English.  The kids-left-behind in the US who cannot keep up with concepts as complex as tying their own shoelaces really should stay silent - at the back. That way people just assume they are stupid. When they shout out what they 'understand', we all are able to ascertain the truth about that.

Then, de rigeur,  the US representative of the IAPN and PNG trot out the usual 'playing the victim' and 'discrimination' arguments again bit again (he likes that one, plays well to the gallery):
 Indeed, it's a real shame that they particularly hurt the ability of Cypriot and Greek Americans from getting in touch with their heritage. 
What is a shame is that the IAPN and PNG are selfishly insisting on the 'right' (sic) to buy stuff smuggled from under the noses of Cypriots and Greeks whose families did not become economic migrants and still live in Cyprus and Greece. Nothing stops Cypriot and Greek Americans from getting in touch with their heritage by going to live in Cyprus and Greece to contribute there to the licit economy there, instead of financing the illicit one. Have the IAPN and PNG asked a representative sample of Cypriot and Greek Americans if they really want Greece and Cyprus looted of their culture to line the pockets of members of the International Association of Professional Dealers and the Professional Dealers Guild? My guess is that most of the decent ones would say a decisive no. Except some of the ones that will vote for Donald Trump anyway.

UPDATE 27th October 2016
An anonymous so-called "scholar/dealer" claims to have "answered" the above post. In fact this reply has about as much in common with authentic scholarship as bananas. The sock puppet concentrates on my discussion of the moronic assertion presented to the CPAC as a "fact", viz (I quote):
Coins [....]   probably the most common of historical artifacts and are not of “cultural significance.” 
That is what was solemnly said in Washington, and that is the thesis I discussed and showed was erroneous.The sock puppet weasels:
This is a perfect example of how you can be criticized for what you haven't said and don't mean. I would say that coins are among the most common of all ancient artifacts that are found in areas where coins were used.
No, Mr Weasel face, Tompa is criticised for what he not only said, but published in black and white. In any case coins are NOT the most common historical artefact found ANYWHERE "where coins were used". Not even in the Athenian Agora, Pompeii, or a Roman villa in Tuscany, or First World War Belgium (a fully monetary economy, and yes soldiers had money with them there). Mr faceless Weasel (who we do not learn whether he is a member of either of the "professional" [sic] associations so compromised by this statement) has failed to address the other TEN points I raise.

Really pathetic Mr Tompa, totally and utterly pathetic. How many more anonymous "supporters" can you conjure up to make idiots of themselves? How about getting somebody from the board of the IAPN or PNG to come here (or on your blog) and support what you said allegedly on their behalf and at their bidding? Dare they? Come on coineys, back up what your man says. Pathetic, the lot of you with your selfish false arguments. You just show how worthy you are of being accorded any attention in the heritage debate.

The rest of us can just take a look at the comment by David Knell for more evidence of a total lack of joined up thinking in the milieu of the no-questions-asked trade.

Saturday 22 October 2016

One ISIL Culture Criminal in Custody

Iraqi Shia militia Harakat al-Nujaba claim to have captured the man responsible for destroying Shrine of Jonah. Let us hope they get the rest of those abusing their position in the 'calphate' and punish them for their crimes.

Vignette: handcuffs

Friday 21 October 2016

Vomit Inducing Smarm from US dealer

As my readers will know, I consider many of the antiquities dealers I come across in my perusal of the international market, slimy toads at the best of times. So this from one of them, does not really surprise:

As to where this US dealer's thoughts really are is revealed at the bottom:

Sometimes the veiled nastiness of the antiquities trade just makes you want to vomit.

Thursday 20 October 2016

Gullible Collectors Naively Stake Faith on Forgeries

Where did they really come from?
Many recent biblical archaeological ‘finds’ have been proven to be false: often after enthusiastic collectors have handed over large wads of cash for an artefact that appears to be a direct link to their faith  (Jamie Seidel, 'Doubts raised over ‘New’ Dead Sea Scroll fragment finds' News Corp Australia Network, 20th October 2016).

Suspicions have been raised about the authenticity of 70 supposedly new fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls [...]  But they have since been sold to private collectors — among them the head of the controversial US Hobby Lobby craft chain — and their true sources are hard to prove. The US Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary owns one piece which contains two of the Bible’s most strident anti-homosexual passages — from the widely separated sections of Leviticus 18 and 20. It’s the very convenience — and marketability — of this text that has some experts raising questions. “It is extremely unlikely that a small Dead Sea Scroll fragment would preserve text from both chapters,” Dead Sea Scroll researcher Arstein Justnes, at University of Agder in Norway, told Newsweek. He said the ‘new’ fragments appeared to be ‘amateurish’ forgeries, copied from textbooks about the real Dead Sea Scrolls. “I think this fragment was produced for American evangelicals,” he reportedly said. “There is a real danger that an increasing number of forgeries is accepted into the datasets on which we base our knowledge of the ancient world.”

European Association of Archaeologists issues statement of concern on illicit objects in the licit market

Dr Lynda Albertson of ARCA ('European Association of Archaeologists issues statement of concern on illicit objects in the licit market') reproduces a recent statement of concern of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) regarding an October 25, 2016 auction at Christie's New York previously reported on ARCA's blog on October 11, 2016 which includes an object traceable to the confiscated Robin Symes archive. Taking this as a starting point and with reference to the dealings of Medici, Becchina and Symes-Michaelides the Statement of the Committee on Illicit Trade in Cultural Materials to an Ongoing Auction at Christie’s makes a number of points in a way which suggests that patience is running out and the EAA has little hope that the antiquities market will regulate itself (see the discussion of the issue of making the polaroid archives available to dealers):
The Roman marble figurine of a draped goddess, lot 92 in the forthcoming Christie's auction, is a typical example of an antiquity on offer: true commercial sources are hidden or not identified; we have an incomplete collecting history employing a chronological generalization ('prior to 1991') and the true country of origin - that is, the place from which the antiquity originally came/was discovered - is not identified. This analysis of the way in which this figurine is presented by the antiquities market encapsulates the state of the market and is a revelation of its deficient practices; this is the true value of this identification.
The Committee on the Illicit Trade on Cultural Material highly deplores such sales and urges every auction house to accurately verify the origin of the objects on sale, and refuse objects with doubtful provenance. In accordance with our statutes, we report any illegal activity, or trade of potentially illegally-acquired material culture. Furthermore, we aim to contribute in any form to discourage commercialisation of archaeological material.
As far as I know, the UK's CIfA has not yet got a 'Committee on the Illicit Trade on Cultural Material' and it is about time that it had.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Texas man busted at border with Mexican artifacts

Antiquities on wrong
side of fence and the law
Thousands of relics smuggled out of Latin America in recent years remain in the hands of private collectors in the United States and Europe.
Trade in rare Mexican artifacts may be a lucrative business, but smuggling them into the country is illegal. A Texas man found that out when he was indicted last week. Federal prosecutors in Pecos charged Andrew Marion Kowalik of Rockport with two counts of trying to sneak in "prehistoric flaked stone artifacts such as projectile points, knives and other stone tools." Prosecutors put a value on the items of $5,000 or more and said the items were stolen or someone was defrauded out of the items. Kowalik has pleaded not guilty.
Brett Barrouquere  Texas man busted at border with Mexican artifacts, October 18, 2016

Tuesday 18 October 2016

'Art Patrons' Financing Weapons Smuggling to Libyan Islamists?

Blood antiquities on international market?
According to information published by the Italian newspaper La Stampa, an organized crime group related to the Italian mafia in the southern region of Calabria (the 'Ndrangheta network) together with the Neapolitan Camorra, are purchasing Kalashnikov guns, rocket propelled grenades as well as rocket launchers from Moldova and Ukraine. It seems that the weapons are smuggled under the umbrella of the Russian Mafia. The destination of these weapons include being sold to weapon-hungry jihadist groups. It is reported that a major destination of these black market weapons are ISIL-affiliated fighters, based in the city of Sirt, Libya. "Naples has been, for many years, a central logistics base for the Middle East. The Camorra is also active in the world of jihadist terrorism that passes through Naples," Franco Roberti, a prominent anti-mafia prosecutor, told The Daily Beast ('Italian mob sells weapons to ISIS in Libya' Al Arabiya English 17th Oct 2016).

The Italian mafia has long been suspected of selling weapons to jihadist groups. A new detail in the La Stampa text is that allegedly, 'in exchange for weapons, the Italian mob obtains Greek and Roman antiquities that ISIL fighters stolen during their battles in Libya'
A La Stampa reporter posing as a collector was taken to a salami factory in southern Italy where he was offered the marble head of Roman statue looted from Libya for €60,000. The reporter was also shown a photograph of a larger head of a looted Greek statue, on sale for €800,000. According to the report, antiquities are brought to the Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro by Chinese-operated cargo ships.
The antiquities are said to be being sold 'to art patrons and connoisseurs (sic) from Asia and Russia' [...] 'the stolen treasures are [...] later auctioned to art collectors from China, Russia and Japan as well as the wealthy from Gulf countries'.

I doubt that there really is an 'exchange' (in kind), rather the weapons are sold to jihadists or middlemen and the transport which brought them across international borders undetected is used to transfer another illicit cargo on the return journey. This is the way organized criminal groups profit from both legs of the journey - which does not mean that the so-called 'art patrons' who buy this stuff are not financing the activities of organized groups which are involved in the movement of other illicit items, such as drugs and black market weaponry.

Donna Yates is maintaining scepticism. The dealers' lobbyists as usual  are steering clear of the topic so far.

Domenico Quirico, 'Arte antica in cambio di armi, affari d’oro in Italia per l’asse fra Isis e ’ndrangheta' La Stampa 16th October 2016

Tom Porter, 'Italian mafia sells Libyan antiquities looted by Islamic State Italian crime gangs reportedly exchanged the archaeological treasures for weapons'. International Business Times October 17, 2016

Hannah McGivern, 'Italian mafia trading weapons for Libyan artefacts plundered by Isil?' Art Newspaper 17 October 2016

Libyan Express, Agencies, 'Italian mafia is providing Libya’s IS with weapons in return of ancient artefacts', Monday 17 October 2016.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, 'The Mafia Runs Guns for ISIS in Europe The mobsters have the weapons, and they’re making a killing selling them off to Islamic radicals ', The Daily Beast 24th March 2016.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, 'Italian Mob Trades Weapons for Looted Art From ISIS in Libya Two Italian organized-crime rings are accused of trading in weapons with ISIS fighters for illegally pilfered artifacts from Libya', The Daily Beast 18th October 2016.

Chris Jones in his 'Gates of Nineveh' blog gives an interesting breakdown of the story and is sceptical about some of the details (' The Mafia, Looted Antiquities, and the KGB' October 19, 2016 )

Antiques Arrest in Abu Dhabi

Three foreigners held in Abu Dhabi for trying to sell smuggled antiquities '  AP October 18, 2016.
Police in Abu Dhabi said that they have arrested three foreigners for trying to sell smuggled antiquities [...] [the men] arrested at a hotel in the capital of the United Arab Emirates had antique daggers, old coins and other items they tried to sell for a high price. Police identified the three as being Arabs, without offering any specifics on who they were, their nationalities or the providence [sic] of the stolen items. 
It wasn’t clear whether these were archaeological artefacts.

Monday 17 October 2016

Iraqi Army has Recaptured the Assyrian city of Nimrod

The push to drive ISIL out of Mosul is now underway, already the media are announcing that the Iraqi Army has recaptured the Assyrian city of Nimrod south of Mosul. I assume we will be getting videos of the damage done within the next few days. Nineveh will be coming up soon too. The advance to Mosul continues. Up to 1.5 million people are believed to still be living in Mosul.

Sunday 16 October 2016

Dabiq Taken

ISIS seems to have withdrawn from Dabiq without a fight. Somebody has produced fliers saying this was not the battle for Dabiq prophesied.

The Dabiq prophecy was central to ISIL (see Martin Chulov's 17 September 2015 Guardian article 'Why Isis fights').

British Academy supports Artefact Hunting

The University of Leicester Press Office tells us that their (School of Archaeology and Ancient History) visiting Professor Roger Bland has recently been awarded the prestigious President's Medal from the British Academy 'for his part in establishing the Portable Antiquities Scheme'  
“I am humbled to have been honoured with this prestigious award,” he said. “Mainly because it recognises the success of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in harnessing the efforts of amateur searchers for archaeological objects who use metal detectors in transforming our knowledge of our archaeological heritage.”
Well, that is a falsehood for a start. They do not set out to create knowledge (for if they did, they'd use a different technique), but they use metal detectors to hoik out artefacts blind from their archaeological associations and pocket them (or carrier bag them) for their own personal collections.

Some of these loose collected items are shown to the PAS and its supporters claim that this in some way leads to said 'transformation'. I think the case for this is overstated - and it is clear that the sample size of what is reported versus what is hoiked overall is too small to say whether the availability of the missing information would not modify that 'transformed' picture. Who is to say when it sits in detectorists sheds or in skips and flogged off on eBay?

Maybe one of those PAS-loving archaeologists would like to come here and show me wrong? No? Thought not.

Vignette: There are too many pictures of Roger Bland on this blog at the moment, here's an aardvark. 

Saturday 15 October 2016

US Congress Bases Policy Document on Sensationalist Reporting

The US Homeland Security Committee report, Cash to Chaos: Dismantling ISIS’ Financial Infrastructure is commented on by Christopher Jones House Homeland Security Committee Releases Report on ISIS Financing, Gates of Nineveh blog 14th October 2-016.

For its information about antiquities trafficking, the report relies almost exclusively on reports from major media outlets such as the New York Times, Guardian, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. Unfortunately major media outlets have frequently been the purveyors of inaccurate information on this topic, and this has negatively impacted the report. The report correctly identifies Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan as major transshipment points for antiquities smuggling. However, experts on the Syrian antiquities trade generally believe that much looted material either moves east rather than through closely monitored auction houses in London and New York, or that it is kept within the region in hopes of selling it in a few years when suspicions die down. When it comes to estimating the value of antiquities looting to ISIS the report relies on outdated information, misrepresented statistics, and discredited figures.
There is for example a brief discussion of one of these figures:
The often-repeated $36 million figure comes from Martin Chulov’s reporting in The Guardian. The figure has been widely questioned on this site and elsewhere. Chulov took his figure from captured documents shown to him by an Iraqi intelligence officer. It appears to show income from looting or ghanima, which in ISIS’ terminology means the expropriation of money and property from local populations. Looting of archaeological sites is classified as the extraction of al-rikaz or a “natural resources from the earth” akin to oil, gas, minerals and precious metals. Profits from digging are taxed at a 2o% to 50% rate, unlike ghanima which is expropriated wholesale.
Jones adds: 'My own research based on available open source data concurs with this figure, estimating that ISIS has made a few million dollars from antiquities and that taxing looters accounts for less than one percent of the organization’s budget' before noting:
Unfortunately, the congressional staffers who wrote this report seem to have simply searched for reports published in major media outlets without critically examining them. Much of the media coverage of archaeological looting in Iraq and Syria has been drive by sensationalism. With reports like this there is a very serious danger that sensationalized articles and bogus figures could drive policy recommendations with regards to prosecuting the war against ISIS.

Sekhemka statue 'now in US'

A statue ripped out from Sekhemka's tomb and sold off in the nation of shopkeepers for nearly £16m in 2014 by a mercenary local authority in league with British 'aristocrat' has ended up being exported to America - where else? (BBC Northampton Council Sekhemka statue 'now in US' 15th October 2016)
Auctioneers Christies had refused to state where it was going and there were rumours it may have ended up in a private collection in Qatar. However, it has emerged the Department for Culture, Media and Sport granted an export licence to the US in April.
That the international antiquities market with oodles of dodginess to hide is pathologically secretive surprises nobody who knows what is really what. That British civil servants discharging a public service hide what they are doing with their country's cultural assets share the same secretive manner of dealings with it is a matter for a public enquiry. Where is British transparency? I had predicted that Donald Trump's countrymen would get their hands on it on this blog earlier: 'Sekhemka to go to US Museum After All?' Friday, 1 April 2016,

Revision of UK Artefact Collecting Code by Including the Tesco Clause

The latest from Heritage Action: ' Farmer Brown: They’re revising the detecting code at last! But will it be emasculated again?'
This week CBA Director Mike Heyworth chaired a meeting “to agree a revised metal detecting code”. Good. We farmers need a “Tesco clause” saying “show everything you intend to take home and get a receipt for it” (like millions of Tesco customers, including all detectorists, do all the time.) Which honest detectorist would object to that? And how could archaeologists oppose it (given that it would stop PAS’s database being infected with nighthawked items and/or false findspots). So the new code will be a litmus test of who controls Britain’s buried heritage, professionals or the rough wing of detecting. If a Tesco-like clause is inserted, it will be a step towards resource and landowner protection whereas if the code is emasculated, as happened to the original one, then the pressure from dishonest detectorists will have prevailed.
He then recalls the 15 “recording strikes” threatened by greedy artefact hunters when other reforms were proposed. They expose on the one hand what the revised Code should cover a and what the likely reaction to such suggestions would be from the ('we so much wannabe seen as') "responsible detectorists".

Friday 14 October 2016

Wednesday 12 October 2016

"Lern About Archology, wot for?"

Apparently, the UK AQA (formerly Assessment and Qualifications Alliance exam board) have taken the decision to discontinue Archaeology A-level and replace it with a Classical Civilisation A-level. Obviously archaeology, a discipline as the PAS tells the public and exam board wallas can be done just as well by anyone wiv a metal detector, no longer appears to them to be any kind of a discipline that people can learn anyfink frum studying.  So only 'classical civilization' matters now? Coin fondling taken to its ultimate end.
Eoin MacGabhann, AQA Qualifications Developer, said: "By looking at the lives of the ancient Greeks and Romans and studying some of the most important texts and artefacts from the past, students will deepen their understanding of literature and culture.
Probably there will be a metal detecting and coin zapping O-level next. Oh and just to further significantly reduce access of young minds to a range of material culture and ideas, art history is also to be axed on the way to further philistinisation.

UPDATE 13th October 2016
thePipeLine 'A-Level Archaeology a Thing of the Past as AQA Axes Exam' October 13, 2016

Sunday 9 October 2016

Montreal Museum Piece Turns up on Market

relief -but is it real?
Lynda Alberston, 'A Persian soldier from Persepolis loses his second home' ARCA Blog October 9th 2016.
A sandstone bas-relief panel then-titled, "Head of a Guard" was stolen in September 2011 from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) and found in February 2014 in Edmonton. The Persian Achaemenid relief from Persepolis had been, at the time of its theft, part of the museum's permanent collection for decades [but ] has entered the commercial art market[...] the piece apparently didn't return to the museum's collection after all.
One reason might be that some of us think that it is extremely dubious: 'Montreal "Achaemenid" Relief Recovered '  PACHI Thursday, 16 February 2014; 'Questions About Two Bearded Blokes: The Montreal Thefts' PACHI Thursday, 16 February 2014. But of course the fact that it was exhibited in a major museum gives it the air of legitimacy. Caveat emptor, I'd say.

Artefacts and their Collecting Histories

"Afghan Genizah collection"
(National Library of Israel)
As a footnote to the recent discussion of the handling by archaeologists and numismatists of artefacts without verified origins an article on the so-called Afghan Geniza (sic) has a couple of quotes the significance of which for their work will most likely have escaped our British colleagues:
“I follow the principle of my teacher, Professor Givon, who said that whenever one acquires antiquities, one should beware of buying at the same time the tales which the dealers attach to their merchandise.

“None of the experts who have spoken publicly on the matter of the Afghan documents appeared to be too troubled by unanswered questions about their origins, seeming to accept such things as the cost of doing business in ancient artifacts.

Saturday 8 October 2016

Cultural Heritage on your plate

Just to remind people where I am, and one of the many, many reasons why I am not about to move soon: Polish Food 101 ‒ Pierogi. Oh, and pro tip if you are tempted to try, do not overestimate how many you can eatt in one sitting. They can be filling.


Metal detecting: a miasma of statistics and lies

Until recently
the face of PAS
There’s a big shadow over Britain’s portable antiquities policy. It’s that PAS’s data can’t be authenticated. Any archaeologist looking at this wants to challenge that statement? PAS staff? No?


But a member of the public who pays for the charade may wish to ask for the money back.

Thursday 6 October 2016

Selling Chalk for Cheese in Washington

National Treasures, artefacts seized in bust (Art Newspaper)
In Washington they quite often sell you chalk for cheese it seems, so often that even some cultural property lawyers there cannot tell the difference. Yesterday there was the news that Greece had stopped a ring of armed criminals who were supplying the German, Swiss and Austrian markets with undocumented freshly-surfaced material (the same markets as some of his dealer-clients supply themselves from). The lawyer, reading this, in order to deflect attention from the fact that the market should be taking steps to avoid selling to collectors material sourced from armed criminal gangs, tweeted the following:
6 godz.6 godzin temu
@IvanMacquist The coins look to be of modest value. Greece should focus on protecting national treasures and institute a PAS for coins.
1) One wonders what they teach in US lawyer-schools. The whole basis (starting point) of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (of which the US is a state party) is that it is an agreement between states that each sovereign state has the right to define for itself what it considers the cultural heritage which it protects from 'Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership'. It is not up to the US (still less a US collector) to say what Greece "should" or "should not" be allowed to do. It should be noted that there are no provisions in the 1970 Convention to allow challenging these definitions, what a nation considers to be the cultural heritage of its citizens is non-negotiable.

2) I cannot see enough of the coins in the police photo to see what they are, so I wonder what the source of the information is that the coins seized were of little value. Is Mr Tompa (a collector of Greek coins himself) in contact with the dealer to whom they were being shipped when seized"

"ignore the guns"
The 'value' of goods on the market is not any criterion for whether they should be being sold by armed criminal gangs to dealers who then sell them on to non-diligent buyers. A packet of cigarettes is of modest value (most buyers just burn them) which does not mean that we can close our eyes to the illicit trade in these goods, especially when mixed up in that trade are armed criminal groups. Recording findspots of artefacts dug up by armed criminal gangs does not seem to me likely to solve the problem that armed criminal gangs represent.

3) The golden artefacts in the foreground of the photo published yesterday and the spread of other artefacts behind them seem to have escaped the blinkered numismo-centric field of view of this "observer" (or should that be "obfuscator"?)."Instituting a PAS for the coins" ignores the clearly-stated fact that this group was handling a much wider range of cultural goods, statues icons, gold jewellery etc.

4) Of course, being American, Peter Tompa has an intrinsic inability to grasp just what the PAS actually is. Those readers who are less confused will know that the PAS is in no way at all connected with Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Greece or anyone else setting up a PAS-clone for coins (or any other antiquities) would not affect the illicit import, export or illicit transfer of ownership of cultural property.

I suspect that next week, Peter Tompa will propose solving the southern European human trafficking problem by giving out free coloured condoms to Greek, Turkish and Bulgarian truck drivers, and the week after that will propose resolving America's drug problem by distributing Cadbury's chocolate bars outside schools in California and Missouri.

A tip, if you ever get invited to Peter Tompa's house and they propose staying for 'pizza', it'd probably be best to politely decline.  When dealing with collectors, you never know what you might get.

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