Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Sam Hardy on the Potential and Limits of Netnographic and Market Data for Analysis of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record

Those 'discovery-focussed' academics intent on poo-pooing the conservation-based concerns of the critics of PAS-supporter-fluff might do well to have a look at the next piece of work by Sam Hardy (Hardy, S A. 2018: “Metal detecting for cultural objects until ‘there is nothing left’: The potential and limits of digital data, netnographic data and market data for analysis”. Arts, Volume 7, Number 3. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/arts7030040). It is a substantial piece of work and adds detail to his earlier study (the one the Ixelles Six/Helsinki Gang incautiously and to their shame tried to trash).*  Here is the abstract:
abstract This methodological study assesses the potential for automatically generated data, netnographic data and market data on metal-detecting to advance cultural property criminology. The method comprises the analysis of open sources that have been identified through multilingual searches of Google Scholar, Google Web and Facebook. Results show significant differences between digital data and market data. These demonstrate the limits of restricted quantitative analysis of online forums and the limits of extrapolation of market data with “culture-bound” measures. Regarding the validity of potential quantitative methods, social networks as well as online forums are used differently in different territories. Restricted quantitative analysis, and its foundational assumption of a constant relationship between the size of the largest online forum and the size of the metal-detecting population, are unsound. It is necessary to conduct extensive quantitative analysis, then to make tentative “least worst” estimates. As demonstrated in the sample territories, extensive analyses may provide empirical data, which revise established estimates. In this sample, they corroborate the detecting community’s own perception that they are ‘beat[ing these sites] to death’.
Sam also summarises it on his blog, where, in addition to all the other useful information, one may glean the snippet:
'in an affluent Western country, the average metal-detectorist may consume 0.32 metal-detectors per year '
So rather like computers and the like I guess. This takes me back to the days when I tried to determine how many detectorists the PAS propaganda of success was not talking of and two metal detector dealers gave me their take on the market size and revealed that they were not as interested in the total numbers sold as much as the number of detectorists who'd be coming back to buy another machine in the near future.

Anyway, the Ixelles Six are a bit tardy in responding to Hardy's answer to their obfuscatory hatchet-job (some of them at this moment are tramping around Lapland looking at what they say is Nazi pottery, an important task, no doubt, that will delay them addressing this issue). Now it seems they have another headache to deal with. 

Hardy, S A. 2017: “Quantitative analysis of open-source data on metal detecting for cultural property: Estimation of the scale and intensity of metal detecting and the quantity of metal-detected cultural goods”. Cogent Social Sciences, Volume 3, Number 1. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23311886.2017.1298397

Raimund Karl and the Bullddozers: We Can't STOP the Bulldozers Destroying the Past and we cannot STOP dogs fouling the Streets of Britain's Historic Towns

Can't STOP the bulldozing of our PASt?
... and here is something  from the impotent 'might-as-well-shrug-our-shoulders' supporters of the present status quo over the conservation of the archaeological record in the face of the damage being done to it by its Collection-Driven Exploitation: Raimund Karl (Prifysgol Bangor University) 'Bulldozing and the lack of efficacy of any kind of regulationA response to a paper by Samuel A. Hardy'. Here is the abstract:
In a recent study, Samuel A. Hardy (2017) has attempted a wide-ranging comparison of the efficacy of different kinds of regulating mechanical earthmoving operations in archaeological landscapes. Based on a comparison of 12 countries with partially different regulatory regimes, some more liberal, others more restrictive, he arrives at the tentative conclusion that liberal regulatory approaches are less effective than restrictive ones in reducing damage to archaeological evidence by bulldozing. According to the results of his study, the regulatory systems in England and Wales, and the USA, work particularly badly in preventing archaeological damage due to earthmoving operations. In this paper, I demonstrate that his study is seriously methodically flawed, and thus cannot be considered to be the empirical study it pretends to be. As I show, while Hardy uses a reasonably consistent methodology to estimate the scale of commercial earthmoving in 10 of the countries he examines, by slightly deflating the membership figures of the respectively largest online commercial earthmoving discussion board or Facebook group in each of them, he deviates massively from this for England and Wales, and the USA. Where these two countries are concerned, while having comparable data of the same quality as for all others, he estimates the size of the respective commercial earthmoving communities based on the vastly inflated numbers of the largest metal detecting association in one, and a miscalculation based on uncorroborated sales figures for metal detectors, second hand information gathered from an online journal article, in the other. I thus argue that Hardy’s (2017) study, its results, and the conclusions he draws from them, sadly must be discarded. Rather, I argue that his data, if not manipulated, shows (sic) that neither more liberal nor more restrictive regulation of bulldozing is more efficient than the other in reducing archaeological damage.
Keywords: Keywords: bulldozing, regulation, archaeology, transnational comparison, empirical research
I admit I have altered the title and content of the abstract a little (original here) to illustrate how specious the overall argument is. I think we should all be not a little disturbed by the number of archaeologists adopting this line of argument precisely now. What they are saying is that if restrictive laws do not stop people from destroying sites with metal detectors, spades and bulldozers, we might as well scrap the restrictive laws that exist so when these sites are disturbed by metal detectorists, and bulldozer drivers, we at least see some of the artefacts these people 'uncover' by their destructive activity. What nonsense. We should not rely on the law - since some metal detector users (and some mechanical earthmoving equipment drivers) but on increasing public awareness and public disapproval.

It's social pressure and attitudes that will bring an end to the current shoulder-shrugging laissez fairism. Like it has dog poo on the streets. Not in England though, it seems to me when I go back there on a visit from Europe, many towns still stinks of dog shit on a hot summer day. It should be against the law... 

Karl reckons that Hardy's figure of 27000 detectorists in England and Wales 'sadly must be discarded' in favour (he says on p. 19) of the
[...] figure of 14,834 established further above as the minimum number of presumably active metal detectorists in England and Wales, and assuming all of them to actually, at least mostly, make ‘licit’ finds, this would immediately bring down Hardy’s estimate of the number of ‘licit’ ‘reportable’ finds made per annum in England and Wales to ‘only’ c. 1,315,274. 
(note the scare quotes). Ah... but then only 80000 of those are recorded on the PAS database in an average year... oh dear, so still the PAS is not doing all that well (BTW these are figures well above that of the HA arteafct erosion counter). So Karl still has to play with the figures. Look at this (from someone who's just accused Hardy of manipulating his numbers):
Also, Hardy forgot to consider in his ‘calculations’ that the PAS does not record all finds reported to it (Lewis 2016, 131). Rather, the number of finds actually recorded by the PAS may reflect, on average, as little as c. 1 in 10 of all finds reported to its FLOs (pers. comm. P. Reavill, PAS FLO). Thus, the number of recorded finds might actually represent c. 837,950 finds reported annually to the PAS. Comparing these ‘estimates’, as many as c. 63.71% of all ‘reportable’ finds found annually by metal detectorists during ‘licit’ searches in England and Wales might actually be reported by them to the PAS. This would at least be considerably better than the c. 4% Hardy argues for, even if it probably is an ‘overestimate’.
What is missing here?
  FLO Catchment area map, Peter  Reavill
You say it could be almost 64%, Dr Karl? So, I guess we are supposed to assume everything is OK, it's not the ("partner") metal detectorists that are the problem, but just the inability to cope with the FLOODS of artefacts coming in. The point is, even if Karl was right (and I am sure he is not) these objects are still being pocketed by artefact hunters without even the most rudimentary information getting into the public domain -s we are all the losers from the selfishly-exploitative hobby that raimund Karl seems insistent on defending. I'd also like to know what all Mr Reavil's 'partnering' metal detectorists think of all this, week after week they take the trouble to put their artefacts in little polybags, write out the labels and the so-and-so in Ludlow cherrypicks the best ten percent and gives the rest back unrecorded. So the 5,313 records he's spent the last few years making represent some 48000 artefacts lost without record on his patch alone? If that is true, that is abysmal, Mr Reavill.

And in Bangor, 64% of the dog poo is not lying in the middle of the pavements, which makes Dr Karl really happy. 36% still is though, 4% has been bagged ip and taken right away, and the other 60% has been swept behind the bushes where nobody can see it. That'sapparently what the Bangor professsor sees as a great success and does not require any kind of social campaign to change things, and anyone who says it is not will get the same treatment as Dr Hardy.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Pre-Columbian Art Artifacts Chromolithograph Print 1885

Pre-Columbian Art Artifacts Chromolithograph Print 1885

Chromolithograph, printed in the late 19th century (ca. 1885) for the Meyers Konversations-Lexikon: ein Nachschlagewerk des allgemeinen Wissens. By Hermann Julius Meyer, , 1826-1909 (published by the Bibliographic Institute in Leipzig, Germany.)

Friday, 10 August 2018

Beierwaltes Seek to Reclaim Artifacts From Swiss

Lynda and William
Through the 1990s, Lynda and William Beierwaltes from Colorado made a name for themselves by creating what became “considered one of, if not, the finest private collections of antiquities in the United States” (they were in the news recently over the Lebanese bull's head scandal). The couple recently were faced with financial difficulties, and were forced to sell their property and declare bankruptcy. They engaged Phoenix Ancient Art S.A. to handle the sale of items from the home. Unfortunately for them, when the dealers took 18 of their items in February 2018 from the US to their gallery in Geneva, they were seized by the Swiss authorities during a search of a warehouse:
Swiss customs agents found the Beierwaltes’ property while investigating seven separate antiques that were stored in the same warehouse. All together, 111 items were seized. [...] According to the Swiss complaint, “no individual or foreign sovereign, and no other third party, has asserted any claim of ownership whatsoever over the Beierwaltes Property.” The Beierwaltes assert they vetted all of their items and “purchased each object in reliance on express or implied representations from reputable dealers and auction houses in the absence of any thefts reported to publicly available databases of stolen art, such as the Art Loss Register.” [...] The seized property includes a bronze Greek figure depicting an attacking lion, a Mesopotamian composite seated divinity, a bronze figure of an Egyptian Osiris and two Greek phalluses. 
The Beirwaltes are suing the Swiss government in federal court for seizing  their property , they seek an award of $24 million in damages. They are represented by Jessica Black Livingston of Hogan Lovells in Denver (Amanda Pampuro, 'Colorado Couple Seek to Reclaim Artifacts From Swiss' Courthouse news August 8, 2018).  People should learn from this that unpapered antiquities are not a medium that ensure you can recover your investment in any place and at any time you want.

Mesopotamia Clay Cuneiform Tablet 2400-700 BC Complete and Intact

Mesopotamia Clay Cuneiform Tablet 2400-700 BC Complete and Intact Seller : forumancientcoins (5573 ) 100% Positive feedback   Item location: Morehead City, North Carolina, United States Price: US $920.00 Buy It Now.
AS87307. condition: Buff clay, 5.27 x 4.36 cm; complete and intact, additional comments: from an American Collection, ex Edgar L. Owen Ltd. (2012), ex collection of a New York City professional entertainer (acquired in 1980's)
No documentation offered upfront. Trite narrativisation:
Ancient Mesopotamia and Sumerian culture are the 'cradle of civilization.' Man's recording of history, science, mathematics, and literature began with clay and a reed stylus. Only a small percentage of tablets have been translated. Reading cuneiform is extremely difficult and a word for word translation is often impossible. Often it is only possible to get the gist of a tablet. Most are receipts for payments in kind, the number of lambs, goats, or oxen donated to a temple, for example. This tablet is untranslated but it is perhaps this type of receipt.


Thursday, 9 August 2018

Provenance and title ownership issues again (Real Bodies).

Good question, answer please
Did ‘Real Bodies’ in UK exhibition belong to Chinese prisoners? (‘Real Bodies’ in UK anatomical exhibition could be executed Chinese prisoners, says doctor  Guardian : Thursday, 09 August, 2018,)
The president of Imagine Exhibitions, Tom Zaller, called the suspicions about the bodies “fake news”. “I refuse to entertain these ridiculous accusations without a shred of evidence to back these baseless claims,” he said.
Provenance and title ownership issues again. Like antiquities, exhibitors putting on show of such sensitive material self-evidently should have full documentation of licit origins of each exhibit. Not only of the last source (some medical facility that had a surfeit of bodies of young males), but precise origins (including verifiable documentation of cause of death). Where is it? Without it the exhibition should never have been put together, let alone exhibited.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Part of the "James Stephan Snr. collection" Flogged Off

Some 40 items sold recently, predominantly by one dealer - but in a number of venues have the same partial collecting history:
Provenance: Forming part of the James Stephan Snr. collection, assembled in late 1960's and then by descent. Dr. Stephan was a US intelligence officer who also held a degree in archaeology. He was posted in the Anatolian region of Turkey with the US government during this time, and acquired his collection from dealers and villagers throughout the region. 
One wonders what an intelligence officer was doing in Turkey in the late 1960s, I guess we'll never know as this gentleman seems not to figure in the Internet anywhere else than in this dealer's sales offers. This gives the impression that putting together a collection of unprovenanced ancient objects would be the only achievement of his life. His tastes were pretty eclectic and he seems top have moved about a lot during his 'work' in Turkey. When did these objects leave the 'Anatolian region of Turkey' and where are the export licences?

A Neolithic Stone Axehead, Mesopotamia, ca 5000 BC      
An Ancient Iranian burnished Greyware Vessel, ca 3rd millennium BC ...   
 A PreHistoric Stone Button Seal, Syria/Anatolian Region, ca 5000 BC ...   
 A large Anatolian Gable Seal of a Doe, Neolithic Period, ca 4000-3500 ...     
An Anatolian Gable Stamp Seal of a Stag, ca 4th millennium BC ...        
A Roman Cochlear Spoon, ca 2nd century AD - Sands of Time Ancient ...         
 A Megarian-ware Decorated Bowl, Hellenistic Period, ca 2nd century BC   
An early Granite Amulet Head of a Ram, Anatolian ca. 3000 BC ...       
A Hittite Button Seal, Late Bronze Age, 14th -13th century BC - Sands ...        
 A rare Mesopotamian Bird Amulet, Uruk/Jemdet Nasr period, ca 4000 ...         
An Attic black figure lekythos, ca 5th Century BC - Sands of Time ...       
A Roman Redware Platter, ca. 1st century AD - Sands of Time Ancient ...     
 A Hittite black serpentine rectangular seal, ca 14th - 13th century BC ...   
 A Holy Land Terracotta Milk Bowl, early Israelite Period, ca. 10th cen ...   
 A fine Anatolian Seal of a Warrior, Early Uruk Period, ca 3500-3200 BC   
 A Phrygian Terracotta Cup, ca. 1200 - 700 BC - Sands of Time Ancient ...   
 A rare Anatolian Snake Head Seal, Jamdat Nasr period, ca 3100-2900 ...    
An Ionian red-glazed Fish Plate, ca 4th century BC - Sands of Time ...     
A Phrygian Terracotta Skyphos, ca. 1200 - 700 BC - Sands of Time ...   
A Greek black-glazed Fish Plate, ca 4th century BC - Sands of Time ...    
A Persian Bronze Bowl, Achaemenid Period, ca 550 - 300 BC - Sands ...     
Cypriot Bichromeware Baby Feeder, Cypro-Geometric, 900-600 BC ...     
An Ionian red-glazed Fish Plate - Diam. 14 cm (5.5 inches) - Catawiki     
A Large Roman Glass Funnel Flask - 15,2 cm - Catawiki     
A Roman Green Glass Beaker - 7 cm - Catawiki    
 An early Granite Amulet Head of a Ram, Anatolian ca. 3000 BC | eBay      
An Ionian red-glazed Fish Plate, ca 4th century BC | eBay       
AN IONIAN red-glazed Fish Plate, ca 4th century BC - £334.10 ...    
A PHRYGIAN TERRACOTTA Cup, ca. 1200 - 700 BC - $450.00 ...     
 A Roman Mold-Blown Beaker - 7,5 cm - Catawiki      

A Roman Green Glass Beaker, ca. 4th century AD | #1922589756    
 An Ionian red-glazed Fish Plate - Diam. 14 cm (5.5 inches)    
 AN IONIAN red-glazed Fish Plate, ca 4th century BC - EUR 381,97 ...    
and here are the pictures:  Images for "James Stephan Snr."

That there is a senior suggests that today is still living a James/Jim Stephan Junior. There is a collector Jim Staphan from Bradford Ohio mentioned in The Ohio Archaeologist for 2000, and again in the Ohio Archaeologist for 2004 , and a Jim Stephan in Oregon, buton the whole it is not a particularly common surname in the US.

There seems to have been quite a lot of this type of thing goping on, diplomatic bags being used to bring back the cultural property appropriated by individuals sent abroad on US government service. We have for example William Spengler and his coins at least for him we have a proper obituary. Then there is Wayne Sayles and his coins from his period of service in Turkey.

Monday, 6 August 2018

US-Iran sanctions and the Antiquities Trade

BBC US-Iran sanctions: What do they mean?
The US is implementing economic sanctions on Iran after pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. But what are these sanctions, and what impact will they have have? One result will be increased social unrest in the country (arguably a US aim) . What we will probably not be seeing, though is a drop in antiquities (papered and unpapered/illicit) being sold by US dealers on the International No-Questions-Asked Antiquities Market.  Obviously the US is not going to sign an MOU to stop criminals bypassing the sanctions, so the goods will keep coming, and perhaps if economic hardship and social unrest follows, even increase - but this time as 'conflict antiquities'. We've seen this before, in Syria.

The No-Questions-Asked Antiquities Market, a Terrorist Financing Risk

Coin Dealers: What Do You Know About What has happened to the NMA's Coins?

Is there still a big box of coins hidden somewhere between Kabul and Munich? Or have thousands of stolen coins simply surfaced onto and been absorbed into the international no-questions-asked market for ancient coins and antiquities?  The current  issue of the University of Chicago's quarterly News and Notes features efforts to track down missing treasures from the Museum of Afghanistan, including an estimate that 18,000 coins, or 60% of the NMA's numismatic collection, have been looted.

EU import licensing proposals Debate Delayed

The European Parliament has delayed a vote on adopting new rules on cultural property imports until September. The antiquities trade has been putting lawmakers under pressure to scrap even modest reforms, such as requiring documentation of source country (Anna Brady, 'Leaked document on EU import licensing proposals is deeply concerning, say dealer associations' The Art Newspaper 3rd August 2018):
The European Parliament has delayed a vote on the contentious EU import licensing proposals, initially due in July, until September. But the contents of a leaked confidential document have “deeply concerned” both CINOA, the international confederation of art and antique dealer associations, and the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA), two of the trade associations that have fiercely opposed the new regulations. The document, dated 28 June, reveals a list of draft compromise amendments to the proposal which fall short of the changes argued for by both associations during a meeting in Brussels on 18 June.
One of the problems these dealers see is  in the proposed requirement to identify one “source country” for an item in order to obtain an import license to bring it into an EU country. Dealers claim  “it is impossible to attribute an item directly to any source country, or to pinpoint when it was exported, which means it is equally impossible to state whether such an export was conducted according to laws that existed at the time”. Well, then no responsible dealer can claim that he or she has demonstrated its licit origins before adding it to their stock. So what is such a 'reputation' worth, for goodness' sake, if they are trading items of unknown origins? It is certainly up to the dealers and the would-be importer to prove that the item is not illegal, before attempting to move it across any borders.

The dealers point out that:
the document also does not specify the value and age thresholds for objects above which the new import laws would apply. These, CINOA and the IADAA suggest, should be set at €75,000 and 500 years. 
yet the laws of some countries from which items are exported have other criteria, and surely the new regulations should respect those for individual cases. The new regulations cannot either override the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the legislation based on it in states party.

Vignette: Soon not a matter for UK

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Two New Texts by David Gill

Drusus (with Tiberius)
Prof David Gill has uploaded two texts on some items that have recently 'surfaced' in US museum collections:

"Context Matters: Drusus Minor and Tiberius."  (View Paper) and

"Context Matters. Recently Surfaced Antiquities: Ignoring the Evidence?." (View Paper)

He asks why, four decades after the 1970 UNESCO Convention, so little care was taken over ascertaining licit origins before the acquisition of these items.

'For the Avoidance of Doubt: Charity Artefact Hunting Rallies ARE a Complete Racket'

It is difficult not to agree.
Heritage Action 'For the avoidance of doubt: charity detecting rallies ARE a complete racket' 5th August 2018
I think we should have a list published of the "charities" that actually without scruples accept donations of money generated in such a manner. Then the rest of us decent folk can decide if we will support those charities ourselves. That would be a way to hit the heritage snatchers where it hurts, remove their apparent 'respectability'. Let British charities grown some ethics-awareness and not aid the stripping of heritage assets for money. 

For the Avoidance of Doubt, in UK Artefact Hunting, it is not just the So-called "Charity Rallies" that are a Racket

A heritage-snatcher says that the valuation and remuneration of the value of finds made on a recent rally he ran 'full (sic) into the NCMD recommendations'. Wassatt then? Well, it seems to be this document: 'National Council for Metal Detecting Member of: The Sport and Recreation Alliance MODEL SEARCH AGREEMENT', which inauspiciously starts: 'I..... being the owner / occupier of land premises known as...' (the occupier has no say in the matter).

This document predictably (instead of defining conservation-based ethical and responsible - sustainable- artefact hunting) immediately starts talking of the money, it seems the old notions of the 'Treasure hunter' die hard:
'...agree that in consideration of the payment to the landowner / occupier of ............% of the value or rewards arising from the recovery of any property or objects found by the undersigned [herein after called the licensee(s)] over the value of £ ....... ........ , the licensee(s) may enter the said land or part thereof to search for items of buried or other material, whether antique or modern'. 
A point of contention is the blank space for 'over the value of...'. Surely the landowner (NOT the 'occupier') has the right to veto the licensees pocketing anything at all from his land, irrespective of its value (and the agreement does not set out any form of protocol for valuing any item found). In any case maybe he landowner is not interested in getting five quid for the sale of a small fragment of Roman bracelet or pin, but if the metal detectorists finds 437 of them or small 'minor' items of similar value and disposes of those of them that are duplicate to his growing collection (which also has a financial value that somebody at some time will realise), this document in its present form denies the landowner of the percentage of cumulative 437x5 quid profit (that's over 2000 quid he's asked to simply give away).

Note that, despite the recommendations of the '2009 Nighthawking Report' (which the NCMD did not endorse of course), there is no mention here of the documentation of the transfer of title from the property owner to the collector of each item removed from the property.  

This dodgy NCMD 'Model Search [and take] Agreement' then goes on to state that one of the provisos of any individual agreement continuing in force is that
'The licensee(s) shall always observe and adhere to the Code of Conduct as set out by the NCMD which is a condition of membership and include s reference to the voluntary Code of Practise (sic) for Responsible Metal Detecting (See overleaf)...'
In fact 'overleaf' in its present form is not the CPRMD at all, but the 'shut-the-gates' NCMD one and way down in that is written that members should 'acquaint' (sic) themselves merely 'with the terms and definitions used in the following documents: [...] (3) The voluntary Code of Practise (sic) for Responsible Metal Detecting to which the NCMD is an endorsee'. Well, actually in its current (2017) form, it is not in fact - an element of the current form of the detecting racket that is not reflected in the unrevised NCMD document two years on. The same old lies are being told and passed on to the landowners. As far as I am aware nobody has been expelled from the NCMD for not being 'acquainted' with a document that the NCMD no longer endorses.

Another proviso for the agreement remaining valid is
(4). The licensee(s) shall record finds made on the said land with third parties including The Portable Antiquities Scheme ( PAS ), Historic Environment Records (HER ) or any museum service only after gaining the appropriate permission of the landowner to do so and then only to an accuracy of findspots that all parties are comfortable with. 
This is rather ridiculous, because if recording of finds is made one of the provisions of the agreement being signed, 'gaining the appropriate permission of the landowner to do so' is a superfluous provision. The very fact that the landowner has signed that he'll allow these people to hoik archaeological artefacts out of their land on condition that they allow the evidence of what they've taken to be entered in a public record already conveys the landowners permission to do so - since he's made it a condition. Joined-up thinking was never an attribute strongly represented in the British artefact hunting milieu.

But note those 'third party' recorders only 'include' (but need not be) the Portable Antiquities Scheme (Cf what the CPRMD says, its what puts the 'R' in it for goodness' sake).

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

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Thailand is seeking the return of Illicit items from museums in the United States

Thailand is seeking the return from museums in the United States of a number of items that were taken illegally from the country, and has been gathering evidence to back its claims. These include nine ancient Buddhist relics that are on display at the Norton Simon Museum in California, as well as 17 other relics on display at the Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii. Thai officials are also providing evidence to prove that two ancient lintels on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco were stolen from ancient temples in Thailand's northeastern provinces of Buriram and Sa Kaeo. The two lintels are no longer on display as the claims and effort to recall the items are being considered.
The U.S. government in 2014 returned 554 ancient artifacts, mostly pottery, that had been taken from Ban Chiang, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The pieces were recovered in a 2008 raid on the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, which agreed to return the items to Thailand in exchange for none of its staff facing criminal charges.  The raid was part of a multiyear investigation in which three other California museums and two private art dealerships were also raided. Several people accused of being part of a network smuggling art from Southeast Asia were arrested.
The Associated Press, 'US Art Collector Returns 12 Ancient Artifacts to Thailand' New York Times Aug. 3, 2018

Legal Threats Against Expert Witness

Convicted relatives of antiquities trafficker Christos Michaelidis are reportedly trying to silence Christos Tsirogiannis, a leading trafficking researcher and expert witness in their Greek trial.

UK Charity Heritage Hero: 'Should of Took it Mate!'

Heritage Action:
A Roman enamelled gold ring has been found by a metal detectorist on a “charity” dig held on a known site at Crewkerne where a rare Roman lead-lined coffin had been found.

Permission for the event had been given on the basis it was “for charity” so the detectorist will be donating his share of any proceeds or reward to the charity.

We presume.
I presume the charitable landowner who gave permission for the 'charity' heritage grabfest will join in with the generous giving and will be doing the same...

Meanwhile there are some damaging oikish types saying that we should 'orl be gratefull' that the archaeological find was reported in the first place, the finder's barely-literate-mates are on the case:
Jason Massey: Well I've been offered 60k in a private message but obviously I said do one (sic).
Ryan Coin Hunter Rees: There you go in the right place/auction wich I doubt youl be able to do lol I can see it doing well over 80,000+. should of took it m8 afyer all its only a ring
Jason Massey: Lol had a auctioneer say if I could take it abroad I could get 2 million mate in the right auction house
Ryan Coin Hunter Rees: Is that in african dollars ? Only joking m8. When it goes international youl shit your self when see the numbers spiral out of control . but museum will pay what they say is right ....  get plenty of valuations jason and take no shit m8 seriously they try gave have your pants down m8 there ruthless
Jason Massey: Yes I've seen it before mate
So, are they suggesting that the establishment would short-change a charity?

A US Collector Has Returned 12 Ancient Treasures to Thailand as Part of a Crackdown on Looted Artifacts

Sarah Cascone, 'A US Collector Has Returned 12 Ancient Treasures to Thailand as Part of a Crackdown on Looted Artifacts', ArtNews Net August 3, 2018
An American antiquities collector has returned a dozen looted ancient artifacts, including decorated pottery and bronze jewelry, to Thailand, which has been campaigning in recent years for the return of smuggled treasures. The objects are believed to be between 1,800 and 4,300 years old and made by an ancient civilization in Ban Chiang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in northeast Thailand. Thai culture minister Vira Rojpojchanarat announced the return of the prehistoric artifacts on Thursday, the Associated Press reported. It remains unclear how the collector, Katherine Ayers-Mannix, obtained the antiquities, which she turned over to the Thai Embassy in Washington, DC.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Friday Retrospect: 'Nighthawking Down" but even in a small village in Rural Suffolk....

PACHI Monday, 18 April 2011 'Glemsford Detector Users: Nighthawking Down? '

Glemsford is a small village with an interesting plan near Sudbury, just over the river from Essex. There was a commercial artefact hunting rally held here a while back in the course of which an unusual Roman lantern was found. It was promptly dug out there and then by the tekkies arousing some criticism in the archaeological world and media. In an effort to justify this, detectorists were claiming that the local archaeological FLO had been invited to the rally and had "failed to turn up" but the rally went ahead anyway. The justification for hoiking it out and not waiting until a properly equipped team could get there was that other detector-using artefact hunters could come and hoik it out, either legally, as one local detectorist Sukisal put it:
that farmer had given quite a few detectorists permission to search his land, my friends being some of them. [...] So, no it wouldn't still be there if left for 'proper' excavation.
[These are the "responsible" ones I suppose].
Or they would come illegally:
There is a well known nighthawk or two that resides in that very village, and I can tell you they were at that rally, I saw them.
Let us just note that a moment, a well-known nighthawk "or two" lives in Glemsford, and responsible detector user Sukisal knows about this and can recognise him even.

Glemsford, Suffolk, 'Nighthawking capital'
of the Southeast, or simply typical?

So-called nighthawks are criminals, breaking laws connected with both property rights and heritage protection. Has Ms Sukisal done anything with her knowledge, like reporting these people to the relevant authorities, or has she kept quiet, concealing knowledge of a crime? Were these particular individuals reported to Oxford Archaeology when they were researching the Nighthawking Report? What about the other "nighthawks" the same Suffolk detectorist reported active in the area around Icklingham (not at Icklingham, but the neighbouring areas) the other side of the county? We may also remember Norman Smith saying about Nighthawkers up north (but not only) that "we know who they are, but do nowt about it...".

Is the alleged decline in the amount of nighthawking going on in Britain that was so loudly trumpeted a while back due to the fact that when compiling their report Oxford Archaeology was primarily (and rather naively) reliant on metal detectorists 'shopping' fellow detector users as one of their basic sources of information, but the latter in fact were reluctant to pass on the information they have? The detecting forums are full of mentions of "nighthawks" that are active in the regions around where the "responsible" guys do their artefact hunting and hoiking-out. They are cited as the primary reason why ("responsible") artefact hunters all over the country "cannot" report their finds promptly and accurately. If we listen to metal detectorist chatter it is difficult to see any evidence that this problem is any less significant a threat to the archaeological heritage than it was fifteen years ago. I suppose the real question is when assessing the truth of the matter we have to consider whether we should pay more heed to the anonymous compiler sitting behind a desk in Oxford or the group of people not able to write such posh English, but actually out there in the fields in all weathers and in direct contact with the information on the ground. They certainly do not see the problem as in any way reduced in significance.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Turkish Treasure Hunters form Association

Treasure hunters in Turkey have organized under an association, concerning the archaeology community who warned the move could speed up the plundering of ancient heritage (İdris Emen0 Turkish treasure hunters form association, archaeologists irked' Hurriyet Daily News July 30 2018).
Turkey’s “Trove Search Regulation” stipulates that a legal digging could be done in an area of 100 square meters maximum with approval from the local museums directorate. The permit is valid for a year and the excavation can be done for up to a month at most under the inspection of museum experts. The treasure hunter receives 50 percent of the treasure if it is found on state-owned land. If it is found on privately-held land, then the private owner receives 10 percent while the treasure hunter receives 40 percent, as the remaining parts go to the state. If historical structures, such as the ruins of a building, are also unearthed, then the treasure hunter receives nothing.
Because the artefact hunting has damaged an archaeological site. Britain needs to introduce a similar system.  But there are opponents of this conservation-directed approach:
The Anatolia Treasure Hunters Training and Research Association was established last month. The new organization stresses in its charter that it was founded to educate, train and assemble people who are interested in treasure hunting, while raising awareness. Archaeologists, however, doubt the true intentions of the new association. “We find it strange that an association could be found[ed with] the approval of the state, although it would work to damage the cultural heritage of Anatolia with illegal excavations,” Turkish Archaeologists Association chair Dr. Soner Ateşoğulları told daily Hürriyet. “Their actual goal is to sell metal detectors. These machines are tools that have damaged cultural heritage. The state should limit their use or totally ban them,” he added.
Although the ATHTRA might find a sympathetic ear among those stalwart friends of 'non-professional metal detecting', the Ixelles Six (Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Natasha Ferguson, Stijn Heeren, Michael Lewis, and Suzie Thomas), there are concerns among Turkish heritage professionals that growing acceptance for the use of these tools to search for historical objects as a result of the activities of the new association would incentivize illegal diggings. . 
Uğur Kulaç, the head of Anatolia Treasure Hunters Training and Research Association, disagreed with scientific experts. As a producer and seller of metal detectors for treasure hunters, Kulaç claimed “illegal excavations and treasure hunting are two separate work.” 
and here we see the same "we are not nighthawks" argument trotted out. Searching for buried metals blindly with a tool built to find hidden buried metals in order to dig them up and take some away is simply damaging to the archaeological record - no matter what the extraneous circumstances are. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Sunday, 29 July 2018

A Matter of Belief and Faith in Artefact Hunters: The Ixelles Six side with Robin Symes

David Gill wrote in May about 'Symes and a Roman medical set' (May 10, 2018) concerning some loose metal items associated with the fragments of a case:
Schinousa archive photo of loose metal objects
Pierre Bergé and Associés of Paris are offering a rare Roman bronze medical set (16 May 2018, lot 236). Its recorded history is: "Ancienne collection Hishiguro, Tokyo, 1992". [...] . The set appears to be the one that has been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogannis from an image in the Schinousa archive thus linking it to Robin Symes. Given that the catalogue entry suggests that this piece came from a funerary context and that the history of the piece can only be traced back to 1992 (and not to 1970), questions are being raised about the set's origins.
The Ixelles Six (on pp. 323-34 of their recent joint article) step in with an explanation. According to them, there is nothing at all wrong with this. These objects may have been found in a country with permissive (collector-friendly) legislation - such as the UK-  and their undocumented appearance on the market is not information lost through artefact hunting, not at all, it is (they say) simply 'zero gain'.

Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis (2018, p. 323-4) assure us that it is 'fundamentally wrong' (or as they put it 'a simplistic and incorrect basic assumption') to assert that unrecorded removal of metal artefacts like these from wherever they were originally buried or found equals irrevocable damage to the cultural heritage of an area, and that excavating that site would be less damaging. They apparently consider anyone who disagrees with them as simply ignorant and lacking their 'thorough understanding of the background, practices and impacts' of artefact hunting. You see (I guess, ignoring the effects on the actual part of the archaeological record they came from),
in order to be considered ‘cultural damage’, a find and/or its associated information would have to be irretrievably lost. This assumed loss is a two-step process. Firstly, the ‘unscientific extraction’ of archaeological artefacts in itself, occurring whenever a[n artefact hunter] digs down and retrieves an object from the soil, is assumed to be inherently damaging. [...].
They claim that this is not always the case, they claim that ancient artefacts can be found simply 'loose' in nature (in a field for example) and then nothing is gained by not having a record of its associations and relationship with other material. That's what they say (p. 323-4). But then, how can one tell that a particular find was indeed made loose in a field if there is no documentation of its extraction from the ground? Assuming these objects were not found buried together in an archaeological context seems a matter of belief (faith) than an empirical fact. They go on to say that the artefact hunters (who may even have been amateurs, not 'professionals') from whom a middleman obtained these artefacts may have preserved the associated information of its findspot and associations, so they cannot be said to be lost at all (another matter of faith and belief in artefact hunters). Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis write:
It is true that a number of finds go unreported, even under a permissive legislation and with a recording scheme in place. However, this unreported information is not necessarily lost; often [artefact hunters] keep private records of their finds and finds locations [...], many [...] are open to collaboration and willingly give access to this information when asked by professional archaeologists, even if they have not reported on their own initiative, a phenomenon described elsewhere in studies on avocational artefact collecting attitudes as “responsive” (e.g. Shott, 2017, p. 135). One may wonder whether such ‘hoarding’ [artefact hunter]s are more willing to divulge information later on under permissive or restrictive legal regimes!
So I guess what they are saying is that (if we could find out which country this group of items came from) by making the law of that country less restrictive, those artefact hunters would be sharing their information with archaeologists. Like a lot of little Schinousa archives suddenly surfacing. But then, is a mere record of 'finds and finds locations' enough to preserve the data on the associations and relationship with other material in the context of deposition?  We may doubt that, but hey, they are the Ixelles Six. They know.

But more, the Ixelles Six question the postulation of preservation. Preservation for what?
Another aspect that should be considered is the likelihood that an artefact would yield information if it was not recovered by a[n artefact hunter]. [...] development-led archaeological fieldwork in North-West Europe often employs sampling strategies rather than fully excavating the threatened area. Thus [...] artefacts outside the sample areas would still be overlooked, and likely lost forever during the subsequent building work.
So therefore archaeological excavation is made to sound more damaging (in an object-centric view) than total artefact hunting  But, Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis ignore the fact that Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological record makes a selection of artefact assemblages and does not attempt '100% rescue'.  We come back to that  'thorough understanding of the background, practices and impacts' of artefact hunting, I guess.

These Six, four of them the staff of foreign universities, appear to conclude that:
It [...] is too simplistic to equate unreported metal [...] finds with the loss of cultural heritage [...]  unreported finds are not damage, but at worst a zero-gain (as they may not have been picked up by regulated fieldwork, or may have been lost through damaging agricultural activity), at best information that may become available in the future. It is our view that, in countries that liaise with [artefact hunters], these finds data [...] can advance archaeological knowledge, complementing traditional archaeological survey and fieldwork
So is the sale of the undocumented Symes medical instrument assemblage anything to be concerned about, or should we take a lead from the assurances of Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis that  everything is all right in la-la-land partnership between archaeology and antiquities collecting? I'd be interested to hear their development of this idea of theirs, maybe refining it with information about when they feel / know/ opine that artefact hunting without documentation is harmful, and when it is not (and why). Some suggestions of empirical and transnationally-applicable rules please.

 Source text:
Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat,  Natasha Ferguson,Stijn Heeren, Michael Lewis and Suzie Thomas,(2018)  The Complexities of Metal Detecting Policy and practice [...] Open Archaeology 4 322-333. [accessed Jul 27 2018].

Friday, 27 July 2018

“Criminogenic collectables” Collectors are the real looters

Dr Donna Yates has just been awarded a €1.5 million European Research Council Starting Grant for the project: "Trafficking transformations: objects as agents in transnational criminal networks"
Donna’s 5 year project will explore the role that objects play within transnational criminal networks, exploring the broad question “can objects cause crimes?” Using methodologies for understanding the relationships between objects and people, and how networks form from these relationships, Yates and her team will follow the pathways of what they’ve termed “criminogenic collectables”: objects of desire and collecting that seem to, at times, inspire crime. Specifically, they will be looking at the movements of cultural objects, fossils, and collectable rare wildlife starting in the Americas, the South Pacific, and Africa. Donna’s team includes Prof Simon Mackenzie of the Trafficking Culture Project and Dr Annette Hübschle of the University of Cape Town.

I like that phrase, 'criminalogenic collectables'. the word 'coins' springs to mind. But is a broader sense the term I promote 'collection-Driven exploitation of the archaeological record' relates as it makes the link between the activity (digging holes in the archaeological record) and the object of desire. Congratulations Donna.

Collectors' Corner: Authentic Arrowhead Art of large Texas all genuine Artifacts Over 200 pieces WoW

Authentic Arrowhead Art of large Texas all genuine Artifacts Over 200 pieces WoW
Over 200 Authentic arrow head pieces many of them can go for 50.00 for just one, one of a kind no other like it .
and artefact collectors claim that they need to take these items from the archaeological record to 'study' them, and 'preserve the history;... here we see them made into a patriotic local-geography themed decorative item and trophy-piece. Naff.

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