Monday 31 July 2017

Hunting for Artefacts and 'Fun'

Arsenal football club’s owner, Stan Kroenke, has launched a new UK TV Channel called My Outdoor TV (MOTV). Viewers of the channel can watch trophy hunting programmes featuring the killing of animals such as elephants and lions for ‘sport’ [...] “The channel claims to show ‘ethical, fair chase and legal’ hunting. Most people won’t agree that trophy hunting is in any way ethical, and studies have debunked claims that most of the blood money goes towards supporting conservation. I’m not sure in what way an idiot with a gun against an elephant is a fair chase.
Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record is legal too in the UK. Whether or not it actually is a good way to treat the archaeological record is highly debatable. Not, though, that you'll see any real debate about it in British archaeological circles... and why not? Do they not really care all that much about the archaeological record unless as a source of goodies to look at?

Five israeli Dealers Allegedly Involved in Tax Dodging

From Daniel Estrin‏:
Yesterday police said they arrested 5 antiquities dealers for alleged tax offenses. Now an Israeli official connects some of the dots.  Israel Antiquities Authority's Eitan Klein tells NPR that the dealers allegedly didn't declare their income in Israel from [...] sales. Police say the dealers allegedly gave fake invoices for sales to an unidentified American who got tax breaks and paid dealers kickbacks. Unclear if this alleged scheme, fake invoices for tax breaks, is connected to the Hobby Lobby.
Unlikely, isn't it? I mean the good Christian men of Hobby Lobby would not be paying kickbacks for fake invoices for tax dodging, would they? Would they? Anyway, the offical story is that there were three Israeli dealers. Is it not the case that the buyer would be a candidate for a tax refund in the US if they donated the objects they bought to a museum? Which Museum got objects imported with false invoices, I wonder? Any ideas?

Vijay Nanda Stuck in India

India's smuggling case against another American antiquities dealer (New York's Vijay Nanda released on bail after his arrest in India on suspicion of antiquities smuggling (TNN, 'Antiques smuggling: ‘Kingpin’ loaned artefacts to museum to get legal tag' Times of India Jul 31, 2017):
The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), which is investigating the case [...] has accused Nanda of smuggling antiquities, sculptures made of stone, terracotta, bronze, antique coins, ancient weapons and stolen heritage furniture; and selling it to auction houses in the US, Europe, south-east Asian countries and the Gulf. Export of antiques is banned. Of the 80 antiques seized, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has certified 73 as antiques. Nanda had no legal documentation or registration with the ASI as antiques dealer, the DRI had said. Among the antiques recovered were terracotta figurines from 1st century AD and bronze figurines of 'Mahishasura Mardhini' and 'Ganesha', which date to the 17th and 18th century. Nanda was arrested in February 2017 and was released in April after 60 days in custody. 
Nanda is at the moment attempting to retrieve his passport to visit his wife in the US saying she has to undergo surgery. The court however is refusing to release it, worried that if he travels to the US he will not willingly return to India to face trial. As if...

Sunday 30 July 2017

UK Detectorists Playing the Victim

The very existence of the PAS seems to me to falsify this entire passage of moaning from Collection-driven Exploiters of the archaeological record in the UK:]\
There are, however, many archaeologist 'dinosaurs' who are not prepared to accept that detectorists have something to offer to the heritage record. It is unfortunate that there does not seem to be an internal drive within the profession to right this misconception. Maybe it is time to make a start, before detectorists feel that it is all just one-way traffic? The profession has to be willing to sideline the extremists and accept that the recording system we have now is not perfect but probably the best we will get within the immediate future. It also has to accept that detectorists are not the 'great unwashed', uneducated rabble some would make others believe. An emotive statement may be, but one only has to read what Heritage Action and others say about the hobby to substantiate it. If these changes of attitude are not taken on board by the mainstream of the profession then the majority of those pursuing the hobby of metal detecting may well turn their backs on recording, with all the damage that would cause. There is a strong and growing feeling within the hobby that it is time for the heritage profession to offer some positive feedback to the multitude of responsible metal detectorists. After more than fifteen years of getting as many as possible of their colleagues to record their finds and detect responsibly, they have seen little sign of attitudes in the profession, as a whole, changing for the better towards the hobby. 
 Tom Redmayne and Kevin Woodward, 'The Metal Detecting Forum - an online community. Resource, education and co-operation',   Internet Archaeology 33 Feb 28 2013

Vignette: Stop complaining about the troubles you have, and start being thankful for the ones you do not.  

Jerusalem Dealers Arrested in US-prompted Bust

In a rare case when foreign dealers supplying goods to the US market have been nabbed, five antiquities dealers in East Jerusalem have been busted for large-scale  tax offences say Israeli police (Israeli police: Jerusalem antiquity dealers arrested for con). On Sunday, the houses and offices of the suspects were raided and a police spokesman says that luxury cars and about $200,000 in cash were confiscated. The police also seized some of the stock of the dealers:
The antiquities seized included ancient parchment pieces written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin, as well as ancient weapons, sculptures from the Hellenistic and Roman periods; high-level murals; pottery and figurines; and many bronze, silver and gold coins.
The raids were connected with investigations carried out by American law enforcement agencies who obtained information on Israeli antiquity dealers who had issued fake receipts and invoices over the past seven years, and this led to an undercover operation of the Israeli authorities that exposed the scheme.
“The investigation revealed that the volume of the transactions exceeded $20 million, and that the invoices issued by the suspects helped an American agent to receive large-scale tax refunds, with part of that amount returned to the suspects,” police said in a statement. “This information led to the opening of a covert investigation in which much evidence was collected using advanced technological means, leading to the establishment of an evidentiary infrastructure against the suspects.” [...] “This is a large-scale investigation against large-scale taxation, forgery and money-laundering offenses, using antiquities of unknown origin, which was carried out in full cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Tax Authority,” he added. Upon their arrest, the suspects were brought in for questioning at the Fraud Unit in Jerusalem, where they were interrogated on suspicion of tax offenses, money laundering and forgery of documents. After being questioned, all five men were arraigned at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, where a judge ordered their remand amid the ongoing investigation.
Photos of some of the antiquities being offered by these guys are circulating in the internet.  If these objects are indeed what these sellers were offering, in my opinion the alleged tax dodges would not the only dodgy caveat-for-goodness-sake-emptor business these guys were up to their necks in.

Rhyton-like thing, a la Hogwarts. I presume
it is supposed to be Achaemenid - certainly
not a functional drinking vessel

Not-very-convincing knocked-off head,
look at the goggle-eyes

Totally unconvincing 'ancient documents' ,
not very convincing handwriting

It is interesting to note that these dealers were selling goods within the US, perhaps to US dealers. What due diligence was done by the buyers? Still , at least we are getting some trans-border arrests in a US antiquities bust. Let us hope that business documents seized can be used to trace any collectors in the US who have broken the law.

See also: 

For what it's worth, Lynda Albertson‏ notes that the photos from IAA allegedly from the stock of the people being investigated can be traced to the website of known dealer Baidun. Are they among the dealers detained, or have the media just taken images of generic 'antiquities sold by Jerusalem dealers' to illustrate their article? 
The Baidun name has been involved with antiquities business for over 80 years. Founded by Mahmud Baidun, the Baidun business enjoys a reputable and respected name. Baidun Galleries, located on Jerusalem’s historic Via Dolorosa, house a carefully chosen collection that distinguishes us as one of the country’s leading dealers in rare and exquisite antiquities. Specializing in all types of antiquities from the Iron Age to the Ottoman Empire, The Baidun collection contains works from every major Levant civilization: Canaanite, Phoenician, Israelite, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Islamic. With a customer list ranging from world-leaders, prominent businessmen, museums and auctions, we will to assist you in creating the antiquities collection of your interest.
Thanks, but no thanks.

Saturday 29 July 2017

More Sage Advice from Grunter's Hollow that You'll not Hear from the PAS

Farmer Silas Brown warns his fellow landowners, ' Accepting £1,000 to allow metal detecting may cost you very dear!' (29/07/2017) Metal detecting is becoming big business. TWO organisations are now offering up to £1,000 for access to fields. But if you’re approached be warned: no archaeologist in Britain or the world approves of commercial exploitation like that. [...] you could lose subsidies not just for a while but forever. So you risk losing vastly more than £1,000.

Friday 28 July 2017

Global challenges facing the antiquities market

Ivan Macquisten, 'Global challenges facing the antiquities market' RICS Property Journal July/August 2017 edition

Fake News, false information, campaigners who do not appreciate the difference between 'those who trade lawfully' and those that do not (take a look at the subtlety there), rich and powerful anti-trade interests, these are just some of the alleged problems facing this branch of commerce. Not a mention of poor business methods which 'lose' the all-important documentation of where objects have been.

I would say the challenge facing these people is to cut through all this self-serving crap and reach a consensus on how to clean up the market so that it is not only 'within the letter of the law' ('they can''t touch you for it') but actually is the responsible, transparent and reputable business that people in it would want us to believe it was.

A link to this article was tweeted by HixenbaughAncientArt‏. It would be interesting to hear what an ACDAEA dealer thinks of it.

The myths about illegal antiquities and why you should never buy them

Hannah Pethen. 'The myths about illegal antiquities and why you should never buy them!', Archaeology and Egyptology in the 21st century July 26, 2017:
Buying antiquities, whether on the black market or legally, is always a risky business. Whatever myths purchasers tell themselves, most black market antiquities are looted from archaeological sites, destroying precious scientific information. Purchasing them only encourages further looting and removes them from their legitimate owners, the people of the countries which originally contained or displayed them. And buying from criminals puts money in the hands of murders, and forgers. No matter how exciting an object is, it’s never worth buying an illegally obtained antiquity on the black market.
What's the betting that lilly-livered trade lobbyists are going to pretend they did not see it?

Thursday 27 July 2017

Mutating US Interest Group

The American Council for the Preservation of Cultural Property (ACPCP) is 'staffed with industry leaders in Cultural Property collection, protection, and preservation' and aims to 'guide U.S. Policy on Cultural Property issues'. Formerly the "Cultural Property Committee," previously. "Cultural Property Research Institute," before that they were "American Council for Cultural Policy" , all the same people, Ashton Hawkins, William Pearlstein, Kate Fitz Gibbon

How to Control the Internet Market in Antiquities? The Need for Regulation and Monitoring

Think Tank Policy Brief by Neil Brodie on controlling the internet antiquities market is now available How to Control the Internet Market in Antiquities? The Need for Regulation and Monitoring Policy Brief No. 3 July 2017
Illicit antiquities, some pilfered from war zones where jihadist groups operate, are increasingly finding their way online where they are being snapped up by unknowing buyers and further driving the rampant plunder of archaeological sites. These internet sales are spurring a vicious cycle: increasing demand for antiquities, which drives the looting, producing a greater supply of artifacts, which further increases demand. While global auction sales of art and antiquities declined in 2015—falling as much as 11 percent—online sales skyrocketed by 24 percent, reaching a staggering $3.27 billion dollars. According to Forbes, “This suggests that the art market may not be cooling, exactly, but instead shifting to a new sales model, e-commerce.” How can an online buyer guarantee that a potential purchase is not stolen property, a “blood antiquity,” or a modern forgery? The best protection is to demand evidence of how the object reached the market in the first place. However, as in more traditional sales, most antiquities on the internet lack any such documentation. Online shoppers therefore have limited means of knowing what they are buying or from whom. This is a particularly serious concern given the industrial scale looting now taking place in Iraq and Syria, which the United Nations Security Council warns is financing Daesh (commonly known as ISIS, ISIL, or Islamic State), al Qaeda, and their affiliates. Despite the clear implications for both cultural preservation and national security, so far public policy has completely failed to regulate the online antiquities trade. This is particularly true in the United States, which remains the world’s largest art market and a major center for the internet market in antiquities. American inaction has made it impossible to combat the problem globally, and moreover, is in great contrast to positive steps taken by other “demand” nations like Germany. This paper offers practical solutions to help better protect good faith consumers from purchasing looted or fake antiquities—while also protecting online businesses from facilitating criminal behavior. After briefly reviewing what is known of the organization and operation of the internet market in antiquities, it considers some possible cooperative responses aimed at educating consumers and introducing workable regulation. These responses draw upon the German example, as well as recent criminological thinking about what might constitute effective regulation. Finally, the paper makes seven policy recommendations, which while geared towards the American market, are applicable to any country where antiquities are bought and sold online.
Full Policy Paper PDF

The Hobby Lobby Settlement: A Gathering Storm for Classicists

'The Green Collection and Classics: "Brace Yourselves" ...', PaleoJudaica Thursday, July 27, 2017
David Meadows has a meticulously documented post on the Classics-related manuscripts in the Green Collection, their importance for scholarship, the complicated background of their acquisition, and the growing difficulties with their associations. ' The Hobby Lobby Settlement: A Gathering Storm for Classicists? ' Rogue Classicists blog 


Sunday 23 July 2017

In UK New Artefact Hunting Club Started up

'Responsible metal detecting' reaches out and yet another club is founded for 'citizen archaeologists', it appears anyone can join ('its about time we had a club for all thosepeople that really are pissed off with what we are expected to put up with. Itsa case of catch me if you can'):

This seems again to be about allegedly low Treasure valuations (some examples are cited which in the form given do seem rather on the low-side, I'd be interested in learning the facts of each of these cases) and delays in the valuation etc. process. Some of the responses to the proposal of a new group in response to these problems by responsible detectorists countrywide include a Steven Bailey who is still waiting for an outcome of a Roman silver ring which he handed in over 18 months ago ('I decided in Feb not to report any more of my finds'). A Scott Leitch curses 'them' and says that  he will 'never declaire anything ever again'. Somebody called Tez Sykes suggests that what is needed is a 'petition' sent to 'the British Museum FLO department' on behalf of every detectorist in the UK. One to watch.


One to look for, they've now hidden it. Which shows why we need to be looking over the shoulders of artefact hunters all the time. 

Saturday 22 July 2017

Treasure Hunting Holiday Firm Set up in Oswestry

A medieval silver bodkin found in a field in Shropshire has been declared treasure and prompted its finder, metal detectorist Chris Langston, from Oswestry, to launch a new business, specialising in metal detecting holidays in the area (Sue Austin, 'Unique silver find leads Oswestry man to set up metal detecting holiday firm' Shropshire Star Jul 17, 2017)
Mr Langston has been metal detecting himself for many years and has made numerous finds including coins and rings. Now he is hoping to pass his enthusiasm onto others with the launch of Metal Detecting Holidays in conjunction with local businesswoman, Louise Idoux. He said: "[...] The areas we detect, with landowners' permission, are steeped in history going back thousand of years. Our visitors will be metal detecting in areas where Bronze Age man marked out their settlements, where Roman legions marched and where the Welsh Princes' battled against the English sovereignty to reclaim the border." "History can be unearthed in one of the most fought over and heavily fortified areas of the UK and I believe this will appeal to people not only in this country but particularly in America."
No doubt. Like shooting lions in Africa does too, and little girls to sex tourists in SE Asia, a lot of money can be made if you don't actually break a law or worry too much about the underlying ethics.... And I do not expect too many UK 'metal detectorists' are losing too much sleep fretting about a little thing like that when referring to commercial exploitation of the archaeological heritage - after all, it's not mentioned in the Code of Practice for Responsible Detecting (let alone the 'shut the gates' NCMD one), is it?

Another Commercial Organization Eroding the UK's Archaeological Record

Apart from Nigel Jones and his happy band of pay-to-exploit diggers and collectors, there are other ones. Make no mistake, organizing commercial artefact grabfests is a money spinner. Here's another one, Let's Go Digging:
Lets Go Digging was the brainchild of Paul Howard, a detectorist who was becoming aware of the difficulties facing himself and his fellow ‘diggers’ when it came to getting permission to detect on farmland. With the rise in crime and other negative factors, farmers were becoming more and more reluctant to allow strangers on their property. Paul realised that the only way to convince landowners to allow detecting was to commercialise it, to recompense the farmers for allowing groups of people onto his fields. In no time at all, Paul’s venture began to gather pace with hundreds of people joining his Facebook page interested in being part of organised group digs. With the farmers seeing it as a revenue stream for their business, permissions began to increase and recommendations and referrals soon enabled Paul to organise frequent events around his home area in the West Midlands. Lets go Digging’s popularity has now stretched to almost 2000 members and land permissions being offered nationwide. Recently he launched Lets Go Digging (Wales) which is already attracting substantial interest.
They are now active in Wales. The first event in Brecon had a good turnout with 'a great range of coins and artefacts recovered, making the day a success for all' (except the main stakeholders, the British public whose heritage was pocketed).
With over 100 coins unearthed, including a few exceptional hammered silver pennies along with a few Romans and various artifacts (sic), the Brecon Rally was a positive start to the Welsh venture and already Paul has been approached by farmers offering permissions. 
Paul intends to take this venture further South and further North 'as further interest in the hobby is becoming increasingly apparent'.
Paul believes that with group digs, the administration and organisation will result in far better records being maintained of what finds are discovered and where. That landowners will be far more receptive to a respected organisation and that the hobby can be promoted to encourage more people to join in digging the history from beneath their feet.
Our archaeological heritage, our feet. I am sure Mr Howard would like to show us all those records of the 100 coins and other artefacts from the 'Brecon dig' on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. Where are they now?

What, though, is happening to the PAS' concept of 'citizen archaeology' as more and more businesses are being set up to commercialise the Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Heritage? We've had one off or annual commercial artefact hunting rallies on individual sites, now we are seeing the creation of businesses set up with the explicit purpose of identifying exploitable bits of the archaeological record and setting their paying clients loose on them. Surely, this is making a mockery of the claims of the PAS about 'responsible artefact hunting' (because doing it commercially is as far from a 'responsible' approach to the archaeological record as you can get). Will then a 'responsible' PAS be addressing these problems at any of their conferences any time soon? Don't hold your breath.

Tekkies Swap 'Their' Land

On a metal detecting forum near you, land exchange now

Are you a club looking for land?

Post by Oxgirl36 » Sat Jul 22, 2017 1:14 pm
Let's go digging have land in Wales, Lancashire and Devon that they can't use. They are offering the land to clubs that might need it as it could be lost otherwise. Interested? Contact Paul at LGD either via Facebook or via their website.
Surely, is it not up to the landowner to determine who they will invite onto their property, and from which 'pool' they are selected. Land not ransacked for collectables is not land 'lost'. Why is this land in these regions not profitable to search? 
It seems to me that metal detectorists are getting a bit above themselves, the more money they make from the commercialisation of the Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record. Do you get a PAS FLO thrown into the 'deal' too?

NYC Antiquities Dealer Sues WSJ over Story

A New York antiquities dealer, Hicham Aboutaam, is suing the Wall Street Journal for suggesting he and his brother have sold items looted by ISIS. (Sydney Smith, 'NYC Antiquities Dealer Sues WSJ over ISIS Looting Investigations Story' Media Ethics July 22, 2017).
The Wall Street Journal‘s spokesperson Steve Severinghaus told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “The Wall Street Journal‘s article about investigations into the trafficking of material looted by ISIS was thoroughly reported, fair and wholly accurate. We fully stand by the article and will mount a robust defense to Hicham Aboutaam’s lawsuit.” iMediaEthics has written to Aboutaam’s lawyer for more information.
Courthouse News Service uploaded a copy of the lawsuit, which was filed in New York. In the lawsuit, Aboutaam repeats his denial of buying or selling any looted items, and he accuses the Journal of “ignoring months of assiduous attempts to guide and correct [Wall Street Journal] reporters’ misconceptions, misunderstandings, and incorrect assumptions.” [...]
The lawsuit says that the Journal article caused Aboutaam to lose funding, business relationships and business opportunities. Hicham Aboutaam’s Geneva-based brother, Ali, isn’t suing over the article because his business hasn’t been as affected, the New York Times noted.
I wrote at the time that the article appeared largely built on innuendo. Media Ethics has an interesting breakdown of the manner in which WSJ referred to its 'sources'. Certainly a case that will be watched with interest by journlists and bloggers alike.

Metal detectorist Sells Roman Fleet Diploma

Gavin Havery, ' Metal detectorist finds Britain's first Roman Fleet diploma near Lanchester, in County Durham' Northern Echo 21st July 2017
Mr Houston finds plenty of ring pulls from fizzy drinks cans, and his main artefacts tend to be musket balls. Until discovering the diploma his best find was a Palstave bronze axe head, which dates back thousands of years. He has now sold the diploma to Durham University’s Museum of Archaeology for a five-figure sum, splitting the money with the landowner. Mr Houston said: “For me, the only place it should be is in a local museum for local people because it is part of our local history, and a massive part of our local history. “This is the best place for it.” 
So he "sold" it. To us. And pocketed the munny instead of the artefact this time.

Friday 21 July 2017

Detectorists Targeting Gloucestershire Farmland at Night

Baz Thugwit,  Nocturnal Citizen
Archaeologist Without Licence
examning one of his finds
Metal detectorists who hunt for buried ancient artefacts are targeting farmland in Gloucestershire. The practice involves people using metal detectors searching at night to hunt for valuable objects without the landowner's permission to be there and to take away their property (Illegal detectorists targeting Gloucestershire farmland  17 July 2017).
Gloucestershire Police said it contravenes the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and is rife during late summer after fields are ploughed. Farmer Graham Nichols, from Kingscote, said the people involved know what they are doing is illegal. Mr Nichols claims there are 150 acres of Roman settlements beneath his farmland. He said: "It's where people come with metal detectors to try and find Roman remains. The problem is all this land is scheduled so it's an illegal activity." "They know what they're doing is illegal as they are coming out at night when it's dark," Mr Nichols added. "This is history, and once they've taken that history away it can never be put back there, and this is the future for generations to come." Gloucestershire Police Sgt Garrett Gloyne said: "It happens at a particular time of year after farmers have harvested crops and fields have been ploughed." He warned if someone is found using a metal detector on a scheduled ancient monument they could be arrested, and also urged the public to notify the force of any suspicious activity.

British 'Responsible Metal Detecting' in Orl its Glory

"from now on anyone asks me what
to do with a find im going to be telling them
what i would do. and thats not whats written in books of rules"

I just found this on Facebook and think it should be shared with all those fans of British so-called 'responsible metal detecting'. It is associated with the band of artefact hunters associated with Nigel Jones, the guy who is going to get his legal team on me to block me discussing his commercial organization. While we wait for that to happen, I will continue discussing what I think needs outing and discussing. 
TO PAS OR NOT TO PAS, THAT IS THE QUESTION? SHOULD WE NOT KEEP ALL OF OUR FINDS AND SAY FUCK THE THIEVING STUCK UP ASS HOLES THAT KEEP LOSING OUR FINDS. Personally I hope all of our heritage gets stolen and sold abroad, because from where im sitting, the selfish bastards in the British museum cant be arsed to record finds correctly and even loose a metal detectorists finds. WHAT YOU GONA DO WHEN NO MORE FINDS ARE RECORDED AND THE MUSEUMS FALL EMPTY BECAUSE YOU LOOSE EVERYTHING............
 #pas #flo #britishmuseum #digitkeepit
Fans of British 'Responsible metal detecting' can also follow the hashtag 'dig it, keep it':  ...where this post is attributed to a certain Mr Jones, the organizer of a large commercial artefact hunting organization, and then we find this is the next call for a reporting strike in retaliation for uncomfortable questions being raised about the effects of current policies on Collction-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological Record.

'from now on anyone asks me what to do with a find im going to be telling them what i would do. and thats not whats written in books of rules' (Nigel Jones)

Of course the official view is that the so-called 'responsible artefact hunter' with a metal detector in the UK does not have to 'ask' Mr Jones or anyone else, he just goes to the FLO with what needs recording (as per Code or Responsible Collecting). That's the responsible thing to do.

So what's the difference between selfish taking of evidence of everybody's past for oneself without sharing the knowledge? That is Knowledge Theft, and I would say just as damaging to the record of our past as Nighthawking. Isn't it?

UPDATE 23rd July 2017
Since this was written, some of the commenters seem to have had second thoughts and the more revealing ones have been deleted... Something to hide, folks? 

Code? What Code? See You.

Nigel Jones (who is threatening to get his legal team on me for debating heritage issues) has set up a commercial artefact hunting organization, he makes money out of getting farmers to agree to some collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record of his land (perfectly legal in the UK). Considerable numbers of artefacts are being decontextualised and disappearing into scattered ephemeral personal collections made for entertainment and profit (when any items are sold off, members are told there is not obligation to return any of the proceeds to the landowner as long as the value of individual items does not exceed 300 quid). Here's a happy customer writing about the range of artefacts he got out of the historical record during one such event (no doubt we'll see the whole range of recordable items found on such a prolific site on the 'rallies' page of the PAS database)  to bulk out the rather poor showing from the commercial events recently.
Peter Lister zrecenzował: The Metal Detectorist5 gwiazdek  24 kwietnia
Had a really good day the event was really well organised and people were very friendly the detecting area was huge with no green waste - I found lead loom weights, trade weights, coins and buttons but left the event on a high when I found my first hammered and silver George 111  Just like to say thanks for a great day and see you all next weekend.
The Metal Detectorist thank you peter see you next week on the ridge and furrow we have to dig over the weekend
Don't forget to take your copy of the Responsbility Code with you.

Vignette: 'Ridge and furra', unploughed for centuries, stuff just there fer the taking... 

Paying Guest Pricey Pockets a bit of Your Past

While I wait in anticipatory trepidation to see what the legal team of Nigel Jones come up with in the way of a response to fair use discussion of the activities of one of the new commercial artefact hunting units in the UK, here's a testimonial from one of the members what a joy good thing it is to go hoiking with them, ripping out bits of the country's heritage to pocket it:
Dave Pricey zrecenzował: The Metal Detectorist5 gwiazdek 22 kwietnia ·
This is a great group with sum off the best land I have seen great atmosphere with in the club and sum great finds I will be atending as meany digs as possible my I add with the idear off tea and coffee to all on the digs is a great idear keep up the good work and credit where credit is due cracking club be silly to miss out [emoticon]
They used to have schools in Britain, before Brexit. How many of Mr Pricey's 'great finds' will be recordable items which see the light of day in the PAS database?

Deep Digger Dan, How's the Legal Action Coming on?

The detectorists' approach to discussing
issues connected with artefact collecting
Talking about legal threats from law-abiding 'responsible metal detectorists' who don't like the treatment of the heritage being discussed, we've not heard all that much recently from Deep Digger Dan (Daniel Holdsworth), have we?  Last I recall, he too had his own 'legal team' and had ambitions to prevent me debating heritage issues. Where is Deep Digger Dan when Nigel Jones needs him? 

'Deep Digger Dan Threatens to Close the PACHI Blog...' PACHI 19 September 2015


Tuesday 18 July 2017

The Insta-Dead: the Rhetoric of the Online human remains trade

Bad taste art
Huffer, D. and Graham, S., 2017.  The Insta-Dead: the rhetoric of the human remains trade on Instagram, Internet Archaeology 45.

There is a thriving trade, and collector community, around human remains that is facilitated by posts on new social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Etsy, and, until recently, eBay. In this article, we examine several thousand Instagram posts and perform some initial text analysis on the language and rhetoric of these posts to understand something about the function of this community, what they value and how they trade, buy, and sell, human remains. Our results indicate a well-connected network of collectors and dealers both specialist and generalist, with a surprisingly wide-reaching impact on the 'enthusiasts' who, through their rhetoric, support the activities of this collecting community, in the face of legal and ethical issues generated by its existence.
Like the private collection of dugup antiquities:
"The amassing of human remains by private collectors of sufficient means is itself a modern microcosm of the ethical stance and practice of many American and European museums in the late 19th-early 20th centuries (see Redman 2016 for a comprehensive review). In the same way that those early collecting practices did damage and violence to communities from which the dead were collected, the emergence of social media platforms that facilitate collector communities seems to be re-playing that history. Not all of this collecting is necessarily illegal, but it is important to understand what is happening, where it is happening, and how these human remains are framed as collectable objects so that archaeologists, cultural heritage professionals, museums and so on are better equipped to engage with this desire and to channel it productively.
Hmmm, channelling the private collection of human remains 'productively' seems an odd idea. A bit like trying to make a silk purse out of the collection-driven destruction of archaeological context.

Sunday 16 July 2017

'Really, Really Passinitly Interestid in th' Past'

One of the more easily recognizable Medieval artefact types, pilgrim badges:
Another good post John.. And very informative.. I always enjoy your posts.. But, again, had I found something like this, I would not know what it is   Micheal
The ability to observe archaeological information and record it for passing on to others requires you to know what you are looking at. Many people who go out artefact collecting with a metal detector have not the foggiest, so the activities of the average detectorist are always destructive of archaeological information. Always. PAS archaeologists, comment please.

You don't Need to be an Expert to Understand How the Antiquities Trade Works

Mistakes some might be making
A tongue in cheek piece commenting on Hobby Lobby's contraceptive-denying hypocrisy: Jane Ahlin 'Hobby Lobby changes the Ten Commandments ' INForum Jul 16, 2017
"You're saying you don't know about Hobby Lobby's smarmy antiquities dealings in the Middle East?" [...] did he say being asked to wire money to seven separate personal bank accounts didn't strike him as a wee bit unusual?" [...] "And did he say that mailing antiquities to Oklahoma in boxes labeled 'ceramic tiles' and 'clay tiles' wasn't to avoid U.S. Customs?" "Well...". "Well nothing, Sunshine. We're talking straight-forward stealing and lying." Mary smiled broadly. "That's why we gotta change the commandment 'thou shalt not steal' to 'thou shalt not insure contraceptives.'" [...] back then Steve Green talked about how ignorance of the Bible threatened America's future. For somebody who missed 'thou shalt not steal,' that's rich, don't you think?" [...]" Here's a guy claiming he's such a hotshot Christian, he gets to deny his employees birth control insurance coverage — which, by the way, most people including Christians see as personal and medical and none of his business — a guy who, as it turns out, has no qualms about smuggling looted antiquities for...wait for it...a Bible museum he's opening in Washington, D.C." "I see. That does sound like hypocrisy, not Christianity." "Amen to that, Sunshine."

Saturday 15 July 2017

Hands off the Antiquities, USA

Cultural policy is about our relationship with other
countries and their pasts, which help shape their futures.
But it is also about values, those we share and those that
we, and perhaps we alone, prize

U.S. cultural policy will become key as wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa give way to reconstructions argues Alex Joffe ('Hands Off the Antiquities Advice for U.S. Policymakers' The American Interest : July 15, 2017).
Collecting antiquities is morally and legally problematic. [...] The [Hobby Lobby] case brings American cultural heritage policy—how the U.S. government understands, supports, and defends cultural heritage, including antiquities sites and cultural property—into the spotlight once again. It also highlights the fact that cultural heritage policy is far more than a matter for law enforcement. Indeed, cultural heritage policy is tied to both foreign and security policy. Intelligent foreign policy demands deep understanding of how culture shapes conflict, including those cultural artifacts that can be removed from their places of origin. Meanwhile, both terror groups and transnational criminal syndicates often loot and smuggle antiquities to finance their operations. Non-state actors operate globally, thriving in corrupt, weak or collapsed states, where such activities are relatively easy. The cultural costs are the destruction of archaeological and heritage sites, the weakening of local economies, communities, and nations, and the erasure of humanity’s common narrative. 
While the U.S. government has responded to some of this with legislative and executive moves to restrict the import of stolen antiquities and other cultural property from Iraq and Syria, much remains to be done.
The U.S. government should also, along with NGOs and academic organizations, raise public awareness about the damage done by the sale of antiquities: One television spot with Kim Kardashian could put looted antiquities into the same category as baby seals.
Joffe argues that  'the problem of cultural heritage will become acute for both military and civilian authorities when stability operations in places like Afghanistan and Syria turn into post-conflict reconstruction'.
Here the U.S. government (and the international community) will be confronted by a series of problems, such as irreconcilable claims regarding the possession of cultural heritage sites and property from different ethnic, religious, and local groups. To whom do sites belong? What should be rebuilt and by whom? Will, for example, Shi‘a and Yazidi shrines and mosques destroyed by ISIS in northern Iraq and Syria be rebuilt? Who has responsibility for restoring ravaged antiquities sites in northern Iraq, like Nimrud—the Kurdish or Baghdad government? Cultural heritage problems will do much to shape post-conflict politics and landscapes. Local consensus will be difficult, and the international NGO and development communities will inevitably weigh in. The process is likely to cause further conflict, opening the way to more looting and destruction. Furthermore, the immense piles of money that are a part of post-conflict reconstruction will encourage looting. These will be policy issues for the United States, whether we like it or not. 

Tel Dothan Pots 'Contemporary with Abraham' Green Bible Museum

Whoah! They seem to assume that 'Abraham' was an actual figure (not like King Arthur then) and he can be given dates... in mainstream Biblical scholarship the historicity of the Patriarchs is no longer seriously postulated and this has been the situation since the mid-1970s. This 'museum' looks like it is going to be a real barrel of laughs. I cannot wait to see the artefacts of the 'Flood'.

Abraham, by the way is also one of the Quranic patriarchs, he is credited with building the Kaaba in Mecca.

Belgium is the "weak link" in the fight against trafficking in cultural property

Since December 2016, the "Arts and Antiquities" unit of the federal police has been dismantled, a decision endorsed by Interior Minister Jan Jambon. Since then, Belgium appears to be "the weak link in the policy against illicit trafficking in cultural property", deplored Edouard Planche, in charge of the anti-trafficking program at UNESCO, in the pages of Le Soir on Thursday. This unit was the only point of contact able to respond to requests from Interpol, foreign police and customs. Its closure at the time had alerted the International Criminal Police Organisation, which expressed its concern in a confidential letter to Prime Minister Charles Michel in September. For six months the bases of Interpol and Belgium, dealing with stolen works of art, are no longer provided and this is raising concern abroad. The federal police says that a "point of contact" for art traffic was however "recently restored."
Oscar Schneider, 'Belgium is the "weak link" in the fight against trafficking in cultural property', The Brussels Times 14 July 2017

Bible Bumble: The Befuddled Build-Up to the New Museum of the Bible

Something tells me that the opening of the Bible Museum on 17th Novem,ber is going to be met with a lot of criticism. The latest indication that this is going to be the case is an interesting text by Lee Rosenbaum (CultureGrrl, 'Bible Bumble: The Befuddled Build-Up to the New Museum of the Bible' July 13, 2017):
the reputational injury from being the intended recipient of goods that were “smuggled into the United States through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel, contrary to federal law” (in the words of the Attorney Office’s press releasecan’t be healed by a facile apology for “some regrettable mistakes.”

Privatisation of Knowledge Production Limits Critical Enquiry

Fiona Greenland  (assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia) discusses 'Hobby Lobby’s parallel universe of antiquity studies' on Dan Hirschman's 'scatterplot' blog, July 13, 2017
The Museum of the Bible’s Scholars Initiative invites academics to research and write about [the] extraordinary artifacts in its collection. As Baden and Moss have pointed out, however, before undertaking the research scholars are carefully screened. They must sign a non-disclosure agreement. Researchers who have refused to join the Scholars Initiative have been denied access to the collection. Researchers who did join have found themselves embroiled in controversy for appearing to toe the party line for Hobby Lobby.
It’s easy to conclude that squeamish academics should simply stay away. Nobody is forcing anyone to collaborate with the Museum. But to say that is to ignore the underlying problem of turning cultural objects that belong to “all people” into private interests. Here I like the concept of academic sovereignty as formulated by Charlie Eaton and Mitchell Stevens (2017). The concept gets us thinking about an organization’s power over scholarly inquiry and academic instruction. Academic sovereigns straddle multiple institutional domains, are autonomous, ubiquitous, and durable, and contribute to several discourses. While Eaton and Stevens focused on universities, I can’t help but see that kind of power in Hobby Lobby, which has annual revenues on par with several major US universities.
You don’t have to be a Near Eastern specialist to be concerned about the broader outcomes of a private group, with a pronounced political and religious agenda, having the power to control the empirical underpinnings of a discipline. What the Hobby Lobby-Museum of the Bible case means for all of us is that when the basis of knowledge production is privatized the grounds for critical inquiry are also vulnerable to delimitation.
Prof. Greenland is 'currently completing a book titled Ruling Culture: Art police, tomb robbers, and the rise of cultural power in Italy', which sounds as if it could also offer some interesting insights..

Palmyra artifacts recovered by Syrian Army

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has recovered several artifacts that were stolen from the ancient city of Palmyra by the so-called Islamic State (ISIL), the Syrian Arab News Agency reported on Friday. According to SANA the Syrian Arab Army and competent local authorities completed four major busts in and around the ancient city. SANA added that the stolen statues were handed over to the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums, as these ancient artifacts date back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D.  General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums considered that the statues had been stolen from the tombs of the southeastern cemetery which was repeatedly looted by ISIL
Leith Fadel, 'Palmyra artifacts recovered by Syrian Army', Al-Masdar News 14/07/2017.

Portable Antiquities Scheme may Contain Traces of Nuts

Portable Antiquities Scheme may contain traces of nuts

Friday 14 July 2017

Dumbdown 'Engaging with the Past', First 'Metal Detecting', now Selfies

Dumbdown 'engaging with the past', first 'metal detecting' (Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological Record) to 'get people visiting museums', now selfies
"Museum selfies have become a thing, and are even encouraged by some museums to draw younger visitors. There are entire blogs dedicated to museum selfies. Museum Hack, which gives quirky, unofficial tours of major museums around the country says on its website, “Museum selfies are an awesome way to engage audiences with your museum and collections"..." (Sopan Deb, 'Oops! A Gallery Selfie Gone Wrong Causes $200,000 in Damage', The New York Times).
'Awesome'. While you are there, why not scribble your name on the wall to say 'I engaged with the collections here'?

Egypt, Site Guards Murdered

In Egypt, masked gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on a security checkpoint in Giza province on Friday killing five policemen (AP, 'Gunmen kill 5 policemen near Egypt's oldest pyramid in Giza',  14.07.17)
The drive-by shooting in the early hours of the morning took place in the village of Abusir in Badrashin, part of Greater Cairo [...] The attack took place near the famous Step Pyramid of King Djoser, [...] The attackers stole the weapons and radios of the victims and tried to set fire to the bodies but fled upon seeing people gathering nearby, witnesses said.
The slain policemen were part of the force tasked to guard Saqqara, with its concentration of funerary complexes, temples and tombs. This event should be borne in mind by those dealers and their lobbyists who insist that, instead of buyers lifting a finger and eliminating the possibility of financing the looters and thieves by buying unselectively, no-questions-asked,  foreign governments should  provide better site security by placing guards 24/7 on all archaeological sites, everywhere. A team of five armed guards however was not in a position to fend off this attack. What human cost does the dealers' insistence involve? Why can they just not clean up the portable antiquities business?

Dealers' Associations Scraping the Barrel

The sad spectacle of the Baltimore Illegal Coin Import Stunt continues. The dealers of the US simply will not accept that they have to obtain at least minimal documentation of the recent history of items they want to bring onto the market to separate the licit from the potentially illicit. What selfish jerks. So their lobbyist Peter Tompa hopefully announces (CPO Thursday, July 13, 2017: 'ACCG Gets Amicus Support'):
Six collector and trade groups have supported the Ancient Coin Collectors' Guild's appeal seeking to ensure that the due process rights of collectors are protected. 
Balderdash, they are seeking to perpetuate ther damaging no-questions-asked business practices. Let us just name and shame these cowboys: 
(1) American Numismatic Association; (2) Association of Dealers and Collectors of Ancient and Ethnographic Art; (3) Committee for Cultural Policy; (4) Global Heritage Alliance; (5) International Association of Professional Numismatists and (6) the Professional Numismatists Guild.
'Integrity and responsibility'? That's a laugh.  Once again, the content of the relevant legislation is being misrepresented to collectors:
Under the Convention for Cultural Property Implementation Act, the government may only seize and forfeit archaeological and ethnological objects “first discovered within” and “subject to export control by” specific countries.  And even then, the government must make some showing that the articles left that country after the effective date of those regulations.  Here, at most, all the government showed was that the coins were of types on the “designated lists” for Cyprus and China.
Which is indeed the criterion applicable to items seized at the US border without documentation supplied by the exporter that it complies with the requirements laid down by the CCPIA. While the US law is atavistic in relationship to today's antiquities market and a piece of crap legislation in general, its wording is perfectly clear in relation to the items which these dealers conspired were to import into the US.

When will this farce stop, and when will responsible collectors tell the dealers they buy from that they expect better standards, not only within the business practices of the trade, but also behaviour of those involved in it?

 It may end sooner than we think when the international dealers' associations promoting it realize that while they've been faffing around with the CCPIA to protect one end of the market, massively more restrictive moves have been happening over here in Europe where it is not 'whether one can import' that is in question, but the legality of objects themselves. American dealers will now have their export market to worry about too.

The ACCG and the dealers and collectors that support it have been pissing into a pool of filth which is rapidly drying up as they watch.

EU on Illicit Cultural Property

When should the import of a cultural good be considered illicit? 
The import of cultural goods into the EU can be considered illicit when those goods have been exported from a non-EU country illegally, i.e. it is the laws of the exporting country which determine the licit or illicit character of the goods in question. These laws can range from national legislative measures for the protection of cultural goods, or implementation of the UNESCO Convention.

Thursday 13 July 2017

An American 'Global Heritage Alliance'

In the Libya CPAC comments is one from the 'Global Heritage Alliance and the Committee for Cultural Policy' written by Gary Vikan, 'CCP's President and a GHA board member'. It is the usual claptrap from those who want to see the CCPIA fail to implement the measures of the 1970 UNESCO Convention in even a milnimalist fashion on yet another part of the US antiquities trade. But the question is what is this 'Global Heritage Alliance'? It seems to have no website detailing what it is, who supports it and what it does (except write pro-trade claptrap), Who are these people and what does an organization with such a hackneyed name represent? Is it really global in its membership, or is it another case of US neo-imperialistic attempts to impose an alt-right version of 'American values' on the rest of the world? 

MOU Comment from Mar-a-Logo?

Although this was posted anonymously, the written style closely resembles that of a well-known Twitter contributor who has received prominence recently: [a comment on the U.S. Department of State (DOS) Notice: Meetings: Cultural Property Advisory Committee  - DOS-2017-0028-0001]
It's long overdue for the State Dept. to stop rolling over and playing dead.

The countries with MOU's and would-be MOU's *never* existed in ancient times.

By denying American collectors to have the same right to collect as virtually every other country, two problems are created.

1) Tax revenues will by reduced by an estimated $50 million. GNP down a shade. Plus legal dealers will have reduced incomes for no good reason.

2) Collectibles sold by third-party countries (everyone but us) will now be significantly more expensive to Americans. Unfair.

A level playing field? No, this is a tilted playing field.
Or perhaps this kind of expression is contagious.
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