Thursday 30 November 2017

Writing about antiquities...

'Nice' people, dealers and collectors.Candida Moss shares her personal view on how to deal with the sort of issues writing on antiquities matters involves:
Candida Moss My new personal rule is that for every death or rape threat I get I get to buy a new pair of shoes (just proposing this as a strategy if you have to read the comments!)

“The plunderer is a great option”:

Roberta Mazza shared this 'gem from the world of Biblical Archaeology' 

David really needs to look more carefully. The "great option" plunderer does not "prerserve" all the "stuff". He takes only what is most saleable and can easily be carried (and then hidden) . Look at any antiquities dealer's stock and then ask how typical that is of any excavated assemblage. the answer is not at all. So the recent Bonhams sale, think: Egyptian tomb. What did Bonhams sell in fact from the tombs that said "great option" plunderer had "preserved stuff" from? Actually they rifled the shabti box, therew the box away,, but had a couple of little "mummy-statues" to flog off. They then found the deceased, took a crowbar to the coffin, wrenched off the block of wood on the front with the face on it, destroying the integrity of the coffin itself and dumped the rest. They might saw from one of the boards a random fragment, less than a meter long if it has some colourful pictures or a segment of inscription. All the rest is dumped.

hat tip: Malcolm Choat

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Buy Without papers, Get cheated Like the Fule You Are

'This 700-year-old Torah scroll was seized by authorities in Turkey recently. Police acted on a tip after hearing antique dealers were selling it for $1.9 million in the southern province of Mugla. The dealers were arrested, according to Turkish media'. 

This is another of those 'brown' manuscripts from the Turkish/Syria border region.  I guess the perception is that since documents yellow with age, really old' documents should be brown. I'm guessing this is done with acid (I wonder what coca-cola does to papyrus over a few weeks?).

Like the rest, the 'Biblical scholar wannabe' who'd buy this dodgy junk would be fooled out of his money:
17 godz.
This is not a Torah scroll. the text was google translated from Arabic. This is fake.

If you are buying antiquities on any market that does not offer proper and 100% watertight documentation of origins - every emptor should jolly well caveat.

UPDATE 12th December 2017
Journalist refused to accept they'd got it wrong until she finally decided to ask somebody who even she accepted knows about such things... 

Happens with cars with dodgy paperwork, antiquities buyers/dealers why do you think you're an exception?

Happens with cars with dodgy paperwork, antiquities buyers/dealers why do you think you're an exception?

Examined this Zetec S today, recently purchased by its owner with his hard earned cash. Unfortunately fully rung onto false details & paperwork. ID’d back to a stolen vehicle & seized 😞Now preparing evidence to assist in investigations. Such a shame...

Tuesday 28 November 2017

IS it Gold, Dave? Yes, yes, it is gold!! Scrubbed up well, worth a few quid for yer.

On a facebook page near you , Dave Greeves bottle digger Bottle digger, detectorist and fisherman from Stockport  posted (27th November 2017) one of his recent finds, a late Roman crossbow fibula:

Fellow artefact hunters and collectors are ecstatic. Not recognizing what that pircture actually represents, the main topic was about how gold it was, how much money it was worth (including as scrap) and dousing it wit nitric acid would be the best thing to do (!)

Monday 27 November 2017

Environmental Damage Caused by Metal Detecting

Detectorist artefact-grabbing blind and deep digging through root system of tree....

It does not matter whether or not that hole is 'filled in' after the hoiking, it clearly damages the rhizosphere of that tree - which provides a terminus ante quem for the last disturbance of the soil on which it grows. This is not 'responsible metal detecting'.

Sunday 26 November 2017

Another Hoard, this one machined out

Metal detectorist Jason Massey‎ lives in Taunton, is ex-military and runs 'a group called Detecting For Veteran's (sic)'. This is for 'Armed Forces Veteran's (sic) who Metal detect'. Here he is on Twitter:
Jason Massey‏ @jlmassey7310 godz.10 godzin temu
WOW what a day only went and found our first HOARD on my Christmas 🎄 charity dig today . 206 Romans and a silver Roman ring. We raised £1175 for 2 charities and one is the @VETERANSCHARITY who will be getting £750 .
The same find is noted on Facebook, in Metal detecting 11 godz. ·
Had a great day on My Christmas 🎄 charity dig. We had our first Hoard of Romans some are Silver 206 .We raised £1175 for 2 charities 1 is A Armed forces charity. We haven't found the source but be going back this week hopefully.
Going back entails going back with a machine apparently. No mention of what the FLO said about that...
Jason Massey The last spot had 35 in one hole so going back and the farm do not mind if we scrap a few inches of the field.
The site is '150 acres plus on a large Estate' ("Raising funds for Veteranscharity no red tape just help where needed" and of course not a single collector will be enriching themselves by taking away a single artefact out of the archaeological record of this site with 'no red tape'). Another charity dig smokescreen.

When is it Legitimate to Exploit Remote Communities?

Criticism of explorer Benedict Allen, rescued in Papua New Guinea, raises an important question: when is it legitimate to travel to remote communities? (Mary-Ann Ochota What's the difference between explorers, anthropologists and tourists? Guardian, Thursday 23 November 2017). I'd say it is a similar question to what the difference is between archaeologists, collectors and sensation seekers in the exploitation of the fragile and increasingly finite archaeological record. I do not think that is one that the British archaeological establishment will be looking at with any alacrity or academic care.

Saturday 25 November 2017

CCPIA: US Department of State in Total Meltdown

“These people either do not believe the U.S.  
should be a world leader, or they’re utterly incompetent,”

 As the weeks and months of Trumpist misrule and destructive disruption go by the scale of the damage this regime is doing to the US body politic and standing in the wider world image abroad becomes clearer and questions must be asked whose or which interests is all this serving. From the point of this blog, te most disturbing are not the changes in the Department of National Heritage, for the US has none, but instead the Department of State where, incongruously, is the setting for US cultural policy with regards smuggled artefacts. What we see happeningb there does not encourage optimism:  Gardiner Harris, 'Diplomats Sound the Alarm as They Are Pushed Out in Droves' New York Times Nov 24th 2017). The dealers and collectors of the US (ACCP, ACDAEA, GHA and all the rest too) are rubbing their hands in glee.

The 'Largest Criminal Group in Poland' is becoming an Organized one

Polish metal detectorists are uniting to fight tightening laws (from next year collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record is being upgraded here from an offence to a crime - with all that that entails).. Here, in Polish (stick it through Google Translator): 'Poszukiwacze skarbów zjednoczyli się! "Największa grupa przestępcza" powalczy o swoje '. And here is the PAS legacy doing its harm abroad (ditto):
Ta sama grupa detektorystów w Wielkiej Brytanii przez jednego z tamtejszych ministrów kultury nazywana była bohaterami dziedzictwa kulturowego. W Polsce – jak przekonują detektoryści – resort kultury patrzy na obywateli z wykrywaczami głównie z podejrzeniem o rabunek dziedzictwa kulturowego. – Potrzebujemy nie tylko zmiany prawa, ale też starej i siermiężnej mentalności urzędników – przekonują jednym głosem poszukiwacze.
It is in fact the Bonkers British that need their mentality changed. Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record in the way it is done in Britain, Poland or anywhere else is without any doubt at all robbing us all of cultural heritage which is going into the pockets of these searchers. Tell me how it is not. Go on.
Hat tip Dorota Cyngot

A "Right" to a Reward for Collection--Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record?

The PAS has already started its Christmas silly season, soon we'll get the artefact advent calendars, the Roman bronze reindeer, the santa-shaped brooch and all the other seasonal dumbdown crap they foist onto the social media in a pathetic attempt to seem 'relevant'.  This, from the Treasure Registrar caught my eye:
'Tis the season for giving: thank you to finder for waiving his right to a reward for this Roman silver ring,
I'd like the Treasure Registrar to tell us, what "right". In England and Wales, the Treasure reward is discretionary, not a right established by law. Treasure Registrar surely has a duty to inform the public (and with the truth) about Treasure, no?

UPDATE 26th November 2017

Heritage Action have also spotted the misinformation: 'Treasure Registrar Telling it How it Isn't'
The season for giving? What, the season to give Britain what Britain already owns?
UPDATE UPDATE 27th November 2017

What did I predict?

The UK's Charity Artefact Hunting Rally Racket

(Rotary Club)
Heritage action this week speak out about the UK's 'Charity Artefact Hunting Rally' Racket (Heritage Journal, 'Another day, another metal detecting racketracket', 25/11/2017). Even the Freemasons and Rotary Clubs are being roped in to support this disrespectable and (for the finder/collectors lucrative) practice which turns our archaeological heritage into trophy pocket-lining for the artefact grabbers:
Rallies, whatever their form and whoever proposes them and whether for charity or not, are likely to damage heritage [...] almost everything that is ever found, despite belonging to the farmer and totalling millions of pounds a year, will go to neither the farmer nor the charity but will be pocketed by the detectorists.
 Vignette:  Metal detecting 'friend' of Gloucester Severn Rotary Club, he says he's raising money for 'cancer research' while filling his pockets with archaeology

Friday 24 November 2017

Joan Howard Collection 'under investigation'?

Australia is investigating allegations that Joan Howard stole collectable artefacts from archaeological sites during her husband’s diplomatic trips (Australian Associated Press, ''Indiana Joan': Perth woman, 95, accused of looting Egypt artefacts' Guardian Friday 24 November 2017)
The Australian government has confirmed it is looking into the case of a 95-year-old Perth woman accused of looting artefacts from countries including Egypt. Monica Hanna of Egypt’s Heritage Taskforce posted an open letter to Australia’s ambassador to Egypt, Neil Hawkins [...]  Hanna said Howard had taken advantage of her diplomatic status and her behaviour was “not acceptable”. [...]  The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was investigating the matter and was obliged under Unesco conventions to return foreign cultural items that had been illegally exported from their country of origin.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Mrs Howard's digs were not authorised by any educational institution, nor given permission from Egyptian or other Arab authorities. The Howard family has declined to comment on the case.

Thursday 23 November 2017

Another Find Challenges Coin Dealer Myth

Another archaeological discovery which counters the asinine claim by dealers in ancient coins that hoards 'wee always' buried away from any places where their digging up by artefact hunters could destroy archaeological evidence: 'Archaeologists Discover Large Roman Building under Tree Where Coin Hoard Was Found in Bulgaria's Mezdra', Novinite, November 22, 2017. The hoard was third century and the building was still standing in the fourth century.


Tuesday 21 November 2017

Creating a False Past Through Bad Collecting Practice

A multimillion-dollar trade in fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls fuelled by a surge in interest from wealthy evangelicals in the US includes a significant number of suspected forgeries, two prominent experts have said ( Peter Beaumont and Oliver Laughland, 'Trade in Dead Sea Scrolls awash with suspected forgeries, experts warn', Guardian 21 November 2017).

Dads Box

"My Dad's miscellaneous box of all his finds over the years. You could say he's been digging for awhile. If you see anything that excites you feel free to tell me about it in the comments. Love to learn as much as I can about his  finds. He is the person who got me metal detecting years ago"(Facebook).
Not a single one of course is labelled to show where it is from... this is archaeological evidence lost forever through collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record. '

Monday 20 November 2017

Illegal Antiquities Trade Robbing Indonesia of History

The head 'just happened to come off',
and such heads 'just happen'
to be very collectable...
The illegal antiquities trade is robbing Indonesia of its history and millions of dollars ( Adi Renaldi, Indonesia Can't Stop Its Illegal Treasure Hunters', Vice Nov 21 2017) In the Central Java district of Sukoharjo looters are willing to pay local farmers as much as Rp 3 million ($222 USD) a day for the right to dig for buried treasures on the site of a protected ancient Buddhist temple there under the cover of darkness.
The money is a vital windfall for the village's rice farmers, who would typically make nothing off their paddies during the dry season. But it's also proven to be a difficult crime to prosecute. And with little risk of being caught there are few reasons for farmers in Joho village to not offer their fields up to cashed-up treasure hunters. "I know nothing about the heritage," one farmer, a man named Mariman, told the Jakarta Post. "Someone says they want to rent my field... I just allow them."
These looters are of course by no means 'subsistence diggers' but professional culture thieves, corrupting landowners by offering money for loot, no-questions-asked. Dealers and their lobbyists insist that offering landowners subsidies of some kind so they can have what they call 'a living wage' fail to explain how such a system would actually work in practice. A farmer can claim a subsidy by day, and still close his eyes to what happens in his fields at night and get payment for that too. The antiquities vanish into a murky black market with very little chance that they can be successfully  recovered by authorities. The article details other sites where material has been removed, and museum thefts.
Rosinta Hutauruk, the spokesperson for UNESCO's Indonesia office, told VICE. "The illicit trade in cultural objects continues to increase because there's stable demand," she said. [...] These antiquities typically pass through multiple sellers, crossing international borders before then end up in the hands of wealthy private collectors and museums. The Archeological Institute of America estimates that as much as 90 percent of the artifacts sold on the legal market don't have any paperwork listing where, and how, they were discovered. Add in the fact that the black market for stolen antiquities is also full of forgeries and it's easy to see how difficult it is to track down missing artifacts like those that vanished from rice paddies in Joho village. [...] once Indonesia's historical artifacts go missing, they may be lost forever.
What is needed, it is obvious to everyone (including one suspects the dealers and their lobbyists who are opposed to it), is increased transparency of the international antiquities market, and greater accountability on where items are coming from and going.  Only in this way will the gaping jaws of this voracious commerce be closed to the peddlers of illicit and freshly-surfaced (from underground) items.

UK Detectorist urges Grave-Robbing

A burial site is as good as any other to go hunting for collectables if you are an scruple-challenged pocket-filling heritage grabber on the hunt for loot: "get back and check for more. Could be burials"

Egypt retrieves ancient artefacts from Cyprus

ncient Egyptian items due to
return home from Cyprus soon. 
Image Credit: Ministry of Antiquities
Ramadan Al Sherbini, 'Egypt retrieves ancient artifacts from Cyprus' Gulf News November 20, 2017
Ancient Egyptian artifacts, smuggled out of the country more than three decades ago, will soon return home from Cyprus, an official at the Ministry of Antiquities said on Monday. “The ministry has succeeded through diplomatic and legal efforts to prove that these pieces left Egypt illegally and reached Cyprus in 1986,” Shaaban Abdul Jawad, the director of the retrieved antiquities department, added in a press statement. [...] They include an alabaster vase carrying the name of the 19th dynasty Pharaoh Ramses II and 13 amulets of different shapes and sizes including those of sacred emblems and statutes, Abdul Jawad added. “Recovery of these pieces comes as hard evidence that the Ministry of Antiquities spares no efforts in order to restore Egypt’s stolen and smuggled antiquities and protect its cultural possessions,” said Abdul Jawad.
I don't know about that alabaster but that crude ceramic shabti with a large winged scarab on its breast does not look much like the real thing to me. What is the point of gathering all this bazaar archaeology in Egyptian stores? What can be done with it?

UPDATE 21.11.17
The question will not go away (Ahram)

Come on, get serious guys...

Incestual Relations: CCP Welcomes Global Heritage Alliance

American Committee for Cultural Policy welcomes Global Heritage Alliance, a new cultural policy advocacy organization,

but, but... they are basically the same old guys... there's nothing much 'new' in what they are saying and doing. Same old story.

Spot the Difference

Metal detectorist in the UK:

UK detectorist (Rotary International in GB and I)

Collector in Perth:
Joan Howard (The West Australian)
Spot the difference. Both seek publicity and social approval, one wears a pink shirt, the other a turquoise dress, but both are making personal collections of material removed from archaeological sites and contexts, damaging the archaeological record.

Sunday 19 November 2017

Hoik Hole - so what if it is 'filled in afterwards'?

Hoik hole dug by detectorist John Forster‎ 19th Nov 2017

a typical hoik hole (this one dug by John Forster), dug blind vertically by artefact hunter on getting a metal detector signal.  The degree of possibility for observation of archaeological context here is just about zero.

Saturday 18 November 2017

Networking with Cultural Criminals

News from China:
Chinese police have caught 91 suspected tomb raiders and antique smugglers, and retrieved more than 1,100 cultural relics, the Ministry of Public Security announced Friday. The investigation lasted over a year, with arrests made in Shaanxi, Shanxi, Gansu, and Henan province, said the police. The operation started July 2016 after police in Chunhua county, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, were alerted that the tomb of Lady Gouyi, a concubine of Emperor Wu (141 B.C.- 87 B.C.) and the mother of Emperor Zhao (87 B.C.- 74 B.C.) of the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-A.D.220 ), had been raided.
There is a gallery of photos of the antiquities seized, mostly the sort of stuff that comes onto the international market from Chinese sources.

This case is a reminder that rarely do antiquities 'surface' on the market (from 'underground') due to the activities of a single individual (the nominal starving father digging to 'feed his children' beloved of dealer folklore), but is the product of an organized network of people  having the means to sidestep the checks and regulations that are supposed to stop criminal activity such as antiquities trafficking.

Dealers and collectors of antiquities which are bought in a non-transparent and no-questions-asked manner seem to regard these 'systemic leaks' that escaped the notice of the authorities of the source countries to be fair game, the results of a game of luck, but by putting money into the pockets of those at one end of the established supply chain and counting on doing further business with these suppliers, they are providing the motor for the continued functioning of that chain, they are investing in fact in organized crime. They become part of the network. 

Thursday 16 November 2017

House Fire in Sicily

It seemed yesterday that Sicilian firefighters had not completely extinguished a fire that broke out earlier this week at the home of an antiquities dealer (Palazzo Pignatelli in Castelvetrano on the western tip of the island), and it is reported to have flared up again. In fact, that seems not to be true. True or not, bad luck never strikes three times in the same place it seems, so any documents providing details of transactions carried out by Sicilian antiquities dealer Gianfranco Becchina that survived the fire will presumably be secured and available to investigators looking into collecting histories of items bought from him in the past. I'm off this morning to see if I can get a bottle of his olive oil as a souvenir.

Artefact Hunting in USA: 'Over 90% Sites Destroyed or Degraded by Looters'

Over in Donald Trump's USA, it is a constant mantra of antiquities dealers and their lobbyists and supporters to insist that instead of their own industry functioning through a clean and transparent market, the way to cut down on antiquities trafficking is for the authorities of all source countries for the antiquities that surface (from underground) on the US market to guard all the exploitable sites. One might therefore be forgiven for asking how well that solution works in their own country. An article in the Pacific Standard (Kathleen Sharp, 'The Theft of the Gods: On the trail of looters and crooks who traffic in Hopi ceremonial objects', 16th November 2017) supplies a disturbingly pot-calling-kettle-black answer:
America's ancient heritage is disappearing at an alarming rate. Some archaeologists estimate that more than half of America's historic sites have been vandalized or looted. According to the non-profit Saving Antiquities for Everyone, over 90 percent of known American Indian archaeological sites have been destroyed or degraded by looters. As the cultural legacy of Native American tribes has vanished, the demand for genuine U.S. antiquities has exploded.
The problem is, this is not the American Way of doing things:
"We have a huge problem in the U.S. because we don't protect our country's artifacts," says Martin McAllister, a forensic archaeologist. Art collectors from Dubai and Beijing can purchase an exceptional Native American item at auction in London, Brussels, and Paris—and the tribe from which it came will probably never see it again. "It's not just the legacy of Native Americans that we're losing," says Marietta Eaton, director of the Anasazi Heritage Center. "It's all of ours."
I suggest the US first set up systems to guard their own heritage before attempting to dictate to foreign sovereign nations hosw they should run their country. In the meanwhile, let us clean up that dodgy international market and make it transparent, so we can all see where those artefacts are 'surfacing' from.

Sick and Disgusting

All-American kids enjoying themselves abroad

16th November, 2017 Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service confirmed that the American government has reversed a ban on trophies from elephants killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Two Palmyra Busts in ISIL Hideout [UPDATED]

Two stolen statues found in Daesh hideout near Palmyra 15th November، 2017
The authorities on Wednesday found two stolen statues in a hideout of Daesh (ISIS) terrorists on the southern outskirt of ancient Palmyra city in the eastern countryside of Homs. SANA reporter in the central province said that two stolen statues were found in one of Daesh hideouts in al-Sawwana area to the south of Palmyra city, adding that the statues were handed to Homs Antiquities Department.  

Dorothy King adds: 'if they're real: hard to tell from photo'. Certainly the photo on the webpage is taken from a bad angle, and is formatted weirdly. The surfaces of the object do look smoother (the bloke's cheeks for example, the edges of that broken nose) and I was wondering too about these ones. Could one or both be plaster casts? Even if the latter were the case and some ISIL guy rummaging around abandoned buildings found them and took them to hiding elsewhere, from one point of view (what ISIL was up to) it is not important if he'd found real ones or was misled by fake ones, he/they still saw some value in hiding them for later use - though whether that was for sale or another smashing-antiquities-propaganda film, we will never know.

UPDATE UPDATE 20th Nov 2017
This video seems to show the same artefacts (Chris Tomson, 'VIDEO: Syrian Army recovers ancient artifacts stolen by ISIS in Palmyra'  al masdar news  15/11/2017 )    :
In a secret hideout in eastern Homs, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has discovered a large amount of artifacts that were removed from Palmyra Museum as ISIS overran the city back in 2015 Footage released by Syrian state television shows the SAA retaking the lost artifacts after they were discovered earlier this week. In addition, ISIS also captured a large batch of weaponry which was abandoned by ISIS before it fled from the sparsely populated area in 2017

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Iraq: Death Sentence for Museum Destruction?

As much as I loathe what he is convicted (I hope fairly) of doing, and rejoice that he has been found, I cannot condone this if this is all they've got on him: Nehal Mostafa, 'Islamic State militant sentenced to death for smashing monuments in Mosul', Iraqi News Nov 13, 2017).
The Central Criminal Court in Baghdad has sentenced an Islamic State member to death over taking part in several crimes including smashing and stealing of monuments in Mosul. Abdul Sattar Bir Qadar, spokesperson for the High Judicial Council, said in a statement that the court sentenced the suspect to death “Over conviction for taking part in terrorist crimes including the smashing of monuments in Mosul .” He added that the suspect admitted to affiliation to the group’s State of the North. “He took part in smashing and stealing of monuments from Mosul museum.” “The court found enough evidence and decreed the death sentence against the suspect in accordance with the fourth article of countering terrorism law,” he said. The group, which considered sculptures as symbols of infidelity, posted footage showing its members axing down priceless Assyrian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Persian and Roman artifacts, many of them two millennia old or older, drawing international condemnation. Reports later showed that some antiquities were sold out in online auctions.

Monday 13 November 2017

Iraq investigating 'stolen artifacts' at the Louvre Abu Dhabi

The Iraqi government is investigating reports claiming stolen Iraqi antiquities are on display at the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, a high-level official in Baghdad said on Monday (' Iraq investigating 'stolen artifacts' at the Louvre Abu Dhabi' The New Arab 13 November, 2017)
The alleged stolen artefacts date back to various historical periods in Iraq and were reportedly looted in the chaos that followed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. "Parliament will file a motion with the government to form a committee to investigate how they reached the UAE and take legal action to repatriate them to Iraq," MP Sadeq Rassoul of the ruling National Alliance told The New Arab.An official at the office of Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, however, said Baghdad cannot be sure whether the Iraqi antiquities in Abu Dhabi were looted during the invasion or were replicas. "A committee has been formed to follow up the subject, and verify the reports claiming Babylonian, Assyrian, Akkadian and Ottoman-era artefacts are being shown at the museum," he said. The reports first circulated on social media, showing snaps of what were claimed to be stolen Iraqi historical artefacts. The International Campaign to Boycott UAE, a newly formed group, claimed on Sunday the Louvre Abu Dhabi was displaying stolen Iraqi, Syrian, and Egyptian artefacts, obtained via criminal gangs linked to terrorists.

Nighthawks mantra

Seen on a metal detecting facebook page near you:

So it belongs to everybody, or just the greedy bugger who comes along first and takes it for himself with no thought for the neds of others?

The Bible Museum and its Problems

Steve Green’s collection, once headed for the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is tainted by allegations of smuggling (Kelly Crow, ' Hobby Lobby Scion Spent Millions on Biblical Relics—Then Came a Reckoning', Wall Street Journal Nov. 13, 2017). Mr. Green and his family have amassed a $205 million collection of roughly 40,000 artifacts over the past eight years,
The collection was planned for inclusion in the 430,000 square-foot Museum of the Bible. That’s as big as the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture. Yet for the past three years, staff members at the museum have been sifting and rejecting potential donations from the Green collection that carried lingering questions of provenance, its director David Trobisch said. Most of the Greens’ antiquities remain with Hobby Lobby, the family owned arts-and-crafts chain. [...] Bible scholars Candida Moss at the University of Birmingham and Joel Baden of Yale have just published a book, “Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby,” that said Mr. Green acquired objects with a “naiveté that begins to look willful.” Roberta Mazza, a papyrologist at the University of Manchester, has criticized Mr. Green’s collecting methods in lectures at scholarly conferences on art crime and biblical literature. She said she noticed an ancient Coptic fragment from the New Testament book of Galatians, displayed at an exhibit of the Green collection three years ago, which she believed she had earlier seen for sale on eBay . It offered no ownership history, she said. “I don’t care if a billionaire wants to open a museum so long as it’s ethical,” Ms. Mazza said.
When the museum opens, its permanent collection will consist of just 2,840 vetted objects, Mr. Trobisch said, a fraction of what the Greens own. The museum has had to distance itself from controversy over the collection.

Provenance an Issue: The 'Schleusingen collection' and Untermassfeld

A bizarre tale of theft and suspicious packages casts doubt on claims for an early-human occupation in northern Europe (Ewen Callaway, 'Archaeologists say human-evolution study used stolen bone', Nature 13 November 2017). The Untermassfeld site in Germany yielded more than 14,000 large animal fossils dating from between 900,000 and 1.2 million years ago, but serious concerns have arisen about the interpretations of material from this site claiming evidence for one of the earliest human occupations of Europe. In an extraordinary letter posted to the preprint server last month, archaeologists allege that three papers, published in 2013, 2016 and 2017, included material of questionable provenance and researchers express concern that appropriate questions regarding the provenance of the material appear not to have been asked.
In their papers, Landeck and Garcia Garriga attributed the material, along with hundreds of rock fragments of limestone and chert, to “the Schleusingen collection”, which they stated was recovered by a biology teacher in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Kahlke says he is personally unaware of a Schleusingen collection and questions whether the material was collected at this time. Rocks like those described in the papers can be found in the vicinity of the site, but he says that animal fossils are concentrated in a small area that has been under excavation since 1978. No other research teams had permission to excavate the site during that time, Kahlke says. But he says that material was routinely stolen from the site — which he reported to the police, most recently in 2012 — until the site and fossil bed were better secured. There is no suggestion that Landeck and Garcia Garriga were involved in these thefts.
but it seems they were involved in handling material from private collections, and then using it in their research. One of the bones mentioned in their work seems to have been stolen by artefact hunters from the excavation in may/June 2009.

Getting Dirty with Sam Hardy

Antiquities Coalition interview Dr 'Conflict Antiquities':
Getting Dirty with Sam Hardy, a Conversation on Antiquities

Not an 'Impossible Situation' at all

"An impossible situation for museums [and collectors], 'to be blamed...for owning objects with provenance issues, while simultaneously denied the ability to confirm whether those objects passed through the hands of these dealers.'” (
Is there really an issue here? I disagree:
  7 min7 minut temu
W odpowiedzi do
Surely the onus on them in a market infested with looted items and fakes () is to determine which dealers' hands they did pass through and if that is impossible, walk away from a potentially dodgy deal, no?
This really is not rocket science, if you want a surgeon to operate on your kid's tonsils, you go to one who's got the papers, and not check which illegally-operating pseudosurgeons are in police records. No?

Where did your antiquities come from?

Antiquities Coalition raise an issue the no-questions-asked market will not like addressing...

Sold me Istry, Bought me a Log Cabin

Frances Crickmore 3 godz. I thought you would be interested in seeing this its the only thing I have ever sold because there could be more found it would devalue it. I bought a Log cabin with the money I thought I deserved something for myself. hope you agree.


Coffin Collection and Tomb Raid: Egyptian Police Seize Over 450 Historical Artefacts in Fayoum

objects laid out on the floor

Egypt Today, '464 historical artifacts seized by police in Fayoum', Nov. 9, 2017:
The Egyptian Tourism and Antiquities Police managed to seize 464 artifacts from illegal antiquities merchants in Fayoum. According to police reports, two certain cars visited Fayoum city regularly and sold a number of antiquities with the aim to smuggle them abroad. The police found 266 Ushabtis made from rare blue ceramic, eight wooden faces for a person, 12 statues made from blue ceramic, pottery statues, three pottery pots, 66 fragments from ancient coffins decorated with hieroglyphic inscriptions and a number of plates used in mummifications. A further 122 Ushabtis were found with the criminals, yet the statement has not clarified the materials they were made of.
Apparently 'Fayoum Antiquities checked the seized artefacts and verified their historical importance; confirming that the seized artefacts are antiquities. ', but it looks to me as if at least one of those ushebtis in the (admittedly) blurred photo is not a form known from authentic site finds. Anyway, that photo shows something much more telling. Look at what is on the floor. Most of it comes from tombs with only a few items that are most likely surface finds of settlements (some sherds for example) Is it a typical assemblage of finds that would be found in a freshly-opened tomb or cache of funerary equipment? Nope.

Note that most of the bits are small enough to put in a suitcase, and note the preponderance of straight edges on them. Over on the left are twelve mummy case fragments. The longest is the clumsily-painted white one in the middle looks to be about a metre and half of the front board, sawn off at knee level. The others (mummy case bits and what is possible a sarcophagus side) have been sawn up by the looters (or middlemen) into shorter portable and displayable fragments. The rest of the object from which these portableised 'antiquites' have been separated has been discarded and destroyed. Goodness knows what disrespect was done to the human remains from those coffins (see below). On the right we see eight faces pried off the front board of another eight coffins. Here we see the facile fascination of collectors with heads and faces, rather than, for example, nuances of the phrasing of the funerary inscriptions on the body of the coffin. These facial segments would only have been pegged on and the jagged gesso edges from the wrenched join needed tidying up with a knife. This is not ancient damage (as for where this sort of thing is sold, Randall Hixenbaugh, for example, has several). Again the rest of the coffin is discarded. On  the floor at the extreme left are some black shrivelled things, difficult to make out, but a fair guess might be that these are bits of mummy (human bodies) being sold as trophy curios - we've seen this kind of ghoulish behaviour among Egyptian artefact collectors a number of times.

Next time you hear a collect coming out with the usual self-serving crap about 'preserving' (or 'saving') the past remember the destruction wrought to the relics of the past by those that supply the no-questions-asked market with ever increasing numbers of unpapered objects which this typical assemblage of portable antiquities shows. 

Sunday 12 November 2017

'Qurna in the sky'

Qurna, as it was
This is wonderful, 'Qurna in the skya great new website of photos, map, and descriptions of the now-vanished Qurnawi houses on the Theban west bank. Very evocative for those of us who lived there.
Qurna is the name of an area on the west bank at Luxor, Egypt, in the world cultural heritage site of the Theban Necropolis. Along a stretch of hillside running about 3 kilometres from south to north there was a collection of hamlets mainly arranged in family groups. The houses were built along the lower slopes of the Theban hills, where there are tombs of many periods. The authorities saw the residents and their houses as a danger to the tombs and monuments, and for decades there were plans to relocate the people. From 2006 to 2009 nearly all the houses on the hillside were demolished – even though some of them were over 100 years old and thus covered by laws to preserve them. No programme of recording was done before the bulldozers moved in. The built heritage of the Qurnawi meant nothing to the authorities.
I really must go back... 

Culture Wars: Ethnic History and Ethnic Divisions in the Heart of Europe

Yesterday's march in Warsaw on the anniversary of Poland's 11th November 1918 independence raised a lot of comment in the international media due to the tenor of a lot of the material written on banners and chanted by the marchers. Here is AlJazeera:

Minister Glinski
In relation to my earlier comment here on the absence of cultural professionals and representatives of the social sciences in the debate on identity, Piotr Glinski Poland's current minister of Culture and National Heritage for the PiS (Right-wing populist 'Law and Order') government made some remarks yesterday referring to the xenophobic and racial excesses of yesterday's 'Independence' march: 'Gliński: Nie ma zgody na myślenie o wspólnocie narodowej w sensie etnicznym. Na to wsparcia polskiego rządu nie ma [Glinski, there is no tolerance for thinking of a national unity in ethnic terms. the government does not support this]. He says (I can't be bothered to translate burble, stick it through Google or Babel Fish):
Dziwię się, że wczoraj, faktycznie gdzieś w przestrzeni publicznej, na pięknym marszu narodowym, pojawił się transparent, który mógłby sugerować, że ktoś myśli o narodzie w kategoriach etnicznych czy w kategoriach rasistowskich – stwierdził Piotr Gliński w trakcie I Kongresu Inicjatyw Pozarządowych. – Na to wsparcia polskiego rządu nie ma. Chciałbym wyraźnie powiedzieć, że nie popieramy tego rodzaju haseł – dodał wicepremier. „Chciałbym wyraźnie powiedzieć: popieramy myślenie narodowe w sensie narodu kulturowego. [...] to jest oczywiście potrzebne i ważne. Taka wspólnota jest wspólnotą pożyteczną. Wspólnota narodowa rozumiana w sensie etnicznym jest wspólnotą wykluczającą, wspólnotą, dla której zgody polskiego rządu w Polsce nie ma” 
Somebody should help the Minister with a reading list from social anthropology about the actual meaning of the words he uses. Ethnicity is not the same as 'race', and the interactions between culture and ethnicity are very much more complex than the Minister apparently imagines. Glinski's is the backward-looking government which is felling Białowieźa forest and destroying democracy in revenge for Communist 'wrongs' thirty years ago....

What the young men marching on the streets yesterday were demanding was indeed cultural exclusion, between the 'real Poles' and others - that is exactly what the Party which Glinski belongs to supports. Their leader infamously refers to those opposed to PiS policies a 'worse sort' of Poles, while his own supporters flatter themselves accordingly that they are  'the best sort'. This is the division proudly celebrated in the emblems carried and worn by yesterday's marchers.

Mr Glinski's own cultural policies are in no way inclusive, it is he who is apparently behind the recasting of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk to somehow lessen the emphasis on the Germans (!) and increase the coverage of Polish heroism... The Ministry is not opposing the removal of monuments to the young men who died in fighting in the parts of the German occupied land which later became Poland because they were wearing uniforms with the label 'made in USSR' (dead young men are a tragedy, no matter who sent them into the field to fight and die). This is indeed a totally 'ethnic' approach to modern history - and such reprehensible divisiveness has the full support of the present divisive government of Poland's 'Law and Justice' party.

UPDATE: I am reminded by a colleague that Minister Glinski is a sociologist, so there's even more reason for him to know the difference between race, and ethnicity/culture. 

As Foreign ISIL Fighters Return Home... the Antiquities Market Must be Policed

Writing for the Middle East Institute, Amr Al Azm and Katie A. Paul ask an important question: with ISIL collapsing, what happens when its foreign fighters return home? Will cultural racketeering and  terrorism follow them?
authorities must act now to coordinate with their regional and international counterparts in order to keep up with the looming wave of ISIS fighters returning home and seeking new sources of funding. Likewise, Europe and the United States should be prepared to take action as their markets feed a trade that contributes to the ongoing cycle of instability in the MENA region. Unlike years past, today we have knowledge of the capabilities of groups like ISIS, which offers an important opportunity to proactively address these crimes rather than reacting to the losses after they have happened.

Not Just Metal Detectors: Flints on Sale

Phil Riris‏ @philriris .3 godziny temu
Looted Neolithic antiquities from Egypt and Britain, selling for 100s of £ in English antique shop. God knows when they were pinched.

I suppose the question is, while In Egypt many citizens wiould be disturbed by this sale, in Bonkers Britain, who gives a tinkers?

The issue is of course that without the documentation showing how they entered the market who can prove that these item,s are not 'looted' or 'pinched'?
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