Friday, 19 July 2019

Gaza Apollo Story Still in Limbo

Readers of this blog will know that a bronze statue of Apollo surfaced in Gaza over five years ago, and then went underground again (probably it is in the possession of Hamas fighting groups). As the Ancient Heritage Blogspot ("Gaza Apollo - the story continues"  Friday 19th July 2019) points out, there is now a documentary (available here until 14 August 2019) by Nicolas Wadimoff that introduces a number of interesting characters from Gaza and Jerusalem with something to say about it. . It mainly presents vignettes, rather than a narrative storyline coming to a conclusion, it's really a rather inconclusive post-modernist heap of snippets that the viewer - one presumes- is supposed to draw their own conclusions from... As readers will know, in my opinion the object is not an authentic antiquity. I do not like it stylistically, and that corrosion is like nothing you'd expect from under the ground or under the sea. I like the fact that among the characters in the film is a 'sculptor' shown making and antiquing tourist fakes, and there are two collectors shown surrounded by random piles of totally unlabelled antiquities.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Today is "Ask an archaeologist" Day....

and who is going to (bother to) ask them some really searching questions about the British approach to Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record?

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Little Englanders Have an Odd idea what Archaeology is

British approach to heritage since 1801
20 July – Festival of Archaeology Get inspired by the Staffordshire Hoard and join in with the national Festival of Archaeology. Try your hand at metal detecting and panning for gold,
or why not join in with stripping the marbles off an ancient temple?

Why does a "festival of archaeology" not promote real archaeology?

Monday, 15 July 2019

UK "Festival of Archaeology" Fetes Looters and Looting

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery‏ @PotteriesMuseum
#HoardFest2019 continues this Saturday, linking with @archaeologyuk #festivalofarchaeology. Discover *takes deep breath* an Anglo-Saxon warrior's grave, gold panning, metal detecting, matching bones with a zooarchaeologist, and a range of Staffordshire archaeology! *breathes out*
I really do not understand how, with archaeology being such a broad subject, in an effort to promote it, all the dumbdown museums can come up with is promoting its antithesis: "metal detecting" is a form of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record. What a shame that the "Festival" does not instead promote the protection of the archaeological record from such erosive activity. Bonkers Britain.

Some Thoughts on the British Museum

Ahdaf Soueif, 'On Resigning from the British Museum’s Board of Trustees' 15 July 2019
The British Museum is not a good thing in and of itself. It is good only to the extent that its influence in the world is for the good. The collection is a starting point, an opportunity, an instrument. Will the museum use it to influence the future of the planet and its peoples? Or will it continue to project the power of colonial gain and corporate indemnity?
That puts all that guff about the special role of the 'encyclopedic museum' in a better context.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Where Did Your Interior Decorator Get That?

Trophy art buyers, please noteOne of the most prolific smugglers in the world...”. Did your southeastern Asian conversation piece come from this importer? Find out where the trophy art in your home actually came from, contact the supplier and demand full documentation to cover yourselves.

The Role of Restoration in Making Archaeological Artefacts into Saleable Trophy Art

Two British restorers are facing charges as part of a smuggling ring in the upcoming Kapoor trial (Tom Mashberg, 'Investigators Say a Ring Smuggled $145 Million in Ancient Artifacts' New York Times 11th July 2019)
The smuggling ring harvested objects from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Thailand, the complaint said, and it created false paper trails that gave the items a patina of legitimacy, then sold them globally for large profits to collectors, art dealers and museums.  Mr. Kapoor was charged along with seven co-conspirators, most of them overseas, who would also require extradition. Arrest warrants for all eight men were filed Monday in the Criminal Court of the City of New York, along with a painstakingly detailed complaint that reconstructed a smuggling scheme stretching back to 1986. [...] artifacts were secreted into the United States using false import documents; [...] many were then shipped to London to be cleaned and restored for sale; and [...] the conspirators created fraudulent invoices and provenance papers asserting the items had left their nations of origin legally.  Two of the accused co-conspirators were identified as restorers who enhanced the value of the pieces — often still marked by the dirt from which they had been dug up by hired thieves — and brought them back to life as treasures. 

The responsibility of the conservators that work on material coming from the international anriquities market has long been a cause for concern, this case may well prompt a new look at this.

Kapoor to Face trial in US?

Chasing Aphrodite report that US authorities have finally brought criminal charges against American antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor and seven members of his alleged smuggling network. It seems that Kapoor himself has been charged with 86 criminal counts by Manhattan DA ranging from Grand Larceny to Possession of Stolen Property and Conspiracy. These charges come seven years after a raid by Federal agents on his Manhattan gallery in July 2012. Interestingly, it is also reported that among those charged was British antiquities restorer Neil Perry Smith, who faces 28 criminal counts related to his work for Kapoor preparing recently looted objects for sale. This gentleman's lawyers were snooping around this blog when I mentioned him in the context of work on some Cambodian objects. Chasing Aphrodite also note "Smith's attorneys threatened legal action when we wrote about him back in 2012". I think conservators everywhere will take an interest in the outcome of these charges. It transpires that another conservator is also mentioned in court documents, Richard Salmon, a British born antiquities restorer in NYC, is reportedly facing 47 criminal counts for his work with the Kapoor network
The five additional people charged are alleged members of Kapoor's Indian smuggling network: Sanjeeve Asokan, Dean Dayal, Ranjeet Kanwar (aka Shantoo), Aditya Prakash and Vallabh Prakash. Collectively they face dozens of additional criminal counts. Kapoor's global antiquities smuggling network is described in staggering detail over the 186 page criminal complaint, 8 arrest warrants and hundreds of exhibits filed in Manhattan courts. A case study like none other.
This promises to be big.

Tom Mashberg, 'Investigators Say a Ring Smuggled $145 Million in Ancient Artifacts' New York Times 11th July 2019. 

Jim Mustian, 'SmugglingArt ring charged with smuggling $143 million in antiquities' APNews 11th July 2019. 
The lead prosecutor, Matthew Bogdanos, told the AP that none of the defendants is believed to be in the United States. He said the authorities asked Interpol to issue international warrants for their arrest.

British Museum Congratulates Itself: Afghan Loot Being Repatriated 17 years Late

The nine sculpted heads were recovered
at Heathrow Airport in 2002
(© Trustees of the British Museum) 
Seventeen years after their seizure at London's Heathrow Airport, a large number of looted artefacts from Afghanistan are returning home. The objects, currently stored at the British Museum for safekeeping, include 4th-century Buddhist sculpture fragments ( Meilan Solly, 'Hundreds of Artifacts Looted From Iraq and Afghanistan to Be Repatriated' July 9th 2019):
 In 2002, border officials at London’s Heathrow Airport intercepted a pair of wooden crates brought into the country via a flight from Peshawar, Pakistan. Inside, they found a patchwork of 1,500-year-old clay limbs that had been crudely hacked off of sculptures that once stood in Buddhist monasteries in the ancient kingdom of Gandhāra in present-day northwestern Pakistan and northeastern Afghanistan. [...] the 4th-century sculptures—which include nine sculpted heads and one torso [...]  were likely targeted during the Taliban’s 2001 iconoclasm spree  [...] the sculptures speak to Buddhism’s short-lived influence in what is now Afghanistan, where the religion thrived between roughly the 4th and 8th centuries. 
A BM press release states that to Afghanistan will also be returning:
examples of the 1st-century Begram Ivories, a Buddha statue dating to the 2nd or 3rd century, Bronze Age cosmetic flasks, medieval Islamic coins, pottery, stone bowls, and “other minor items of mixed date and materials.”
It is not immediately clear why as long as 17 years were needed to identify what these objects are and put this material in boxes and send it back.  Its not as if any of the consigners and buyers have been put on trial in the UK... In the time it took the Brits to get their fingers out, the foreign looters and sellers have got away scot-free. How much time, for example, was spent mounting the loose heads on black stands (!) and then setting up the lighting for the snazzy publicity shot? Ridiculous... oh yeah, let the BM congratulate itself but the rest of us can see how awful it is at sending back to people what is theirs, not the property of the BM.

British Museum Hung on to Lots of 'Irisagrig' Cunies

Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets
 (© Trustees of the British Museum)
Eight years after their seizure (somewhere), a large number of looted artefacts from Iraq are returning home from the  UK. The objects were 'stored at the British Museum for safekeeping' (Meilan Solly, 'Hundreds of Artifacts Looted From Iraq and Afghanistan to Be Repatriated' July 9th 2019):
According to a British Museum press release [...] the British Museum will return a set of 154 Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets to the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. Seized in 2011, the clay texts date to the mid-3rd century B.C. and describe administrative operations in the lost city of Irisagrig. With the permission of the National Museum of Iraq, a selection of the artifacts will also go on view at the British Museum before returning home.  
It is not immediately clear why so long was needed to identify what these objects are and put this material in boxes and send it back.  Its not as if any of the consigners and buyers have been put on trial in the UK... In the time it took the Brits to get their fingers out, the foreign looters and sellers have got away scot-free.  Oh yeah, let the BM congratulate itself but the rest of us can see how awful it is at sending back to people what is theirs, not the property of the BM.
It might be worth putting that information in the context of these Lambert-examined items ('Barakat Gallery selling cuneiform tablets with no documented history' PACHI Saturday, 29 September 2018) and also another batch of cunies from the same source (perhaps same supplier?) seized in the US a year earlier ('Stolen Sumerian Tablets Come from the Lost City of Irisagrig' PACHI Wednesday, 2 May 2018). Let us hope the delay was not caused by a desire of British Museum affiliated scholars to repeat the PAS 'partnership' with artefact hunters by "Working with the Smugglers: 'Publish the Irisagrig tablets" before they "enter the bowels of the Iraq Museum" where brown-skinned scholars will have access to them, instead of western cunie-fondlers.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Buyer Sought by Police?

"Christie's auction house in London sold

the 11 inch brown quartz bust for £4.7 million
to an anonymous buyer in early July at one of 
its most controversial auctions in years".

The seller refused to show any legitimating paperwork for the artefact sold last week, while the Egyptian state claims it was stolen under the terms of existing laws. The sale was not suspended to allow the seller time to provide a verifiable alibi that should in any case have been in place before the sale was even contemplated - so the police have been called in (Josie Ensor, 'Egypt asks Interpol to recover Tutankhamun statue sold by Christie's' Telegraph 9 July 2019). Will Christie's co-operate with the investigation and indicate the seller and the present whereabouts of this item?
Christie's has denied any wrongdoing, saying it carried out "extensive due diligence" to verify the provenance of the statue and had "gone beyond what is required to assure legal title." The auction house has published a chronology of how the relic changed hands between European art dealers over the past 50 years and told AFP that it would "not sell any work where there isn't clear title of ownership."Yet it is not established how Austrian dealer Joseph Messina (the owner of Galerie Kokorian and Co, Vienna) obtained title through its documented purchase (allegedly in 1973-4) from Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis (1919-2004), because not only does it seem no such document exists, but the alleged former owner's family says he never owned and never sold this rather notable object. There were questions to be asked before the sale went ahead, those questions will not cease to be asked because somebody has paid men in suits £4.7 million for an object with 'sketchy origins'.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Bibby's 'Blut und Boden' Arguments

Using the past
Benjamin Netanyahu ‏ @netanyahu 17 godzin temuA new study of DNA recovered from an ancient Philistine site in the Israeli [sic] city of Ashkelon confirms what we know from the Bible – that the origin of the Philistines is in southern Europe. [...] There’s no connection between the ancient Philistines and the modern Palestinians, whose ancestors came from the Arabian Peninsula to the Land of Israel thousands of years later [...] The Palestinians’ connection to the Land of Israel is nothing compared to the 4,000 year connection that the Jewish people have with the land.
That'd be c. 1980 BC, I guess. The problem is that Israel is a state that is of modern origin, and its population in fact was created by migrations into Palestinian territory of members of separate communities from the diaspora from all over Europe (mainly Ashkenazim from eastern Europe) and the Middle East. In recent years this state has engaged in annexation of the territories of its neighbours, and maintained a policy of spilling the blood of the Palestinian people and increasing the repression when they fight back.

As pointed out on Twitter, 'If it's not abundantly clear, this is a world leader using race science to justify the continuing deliberate oppression of a people by the nation he leads'. As the Jews should know better than many other communities, the German Nazis did something quite similar in the 1930s and 1940s. It also appears, there is not actually all that much of a genetic divide between members of the Palestinian community settled in the Holy Land and the Ashkenites and Jews that moved there and claim the land as uniquely 'their own' on the basis of blood ties.

By the way, Netanyahu's father changed the family name from Mileikowsky, which means from Milikow, a village in Poland.A

Vignette: Jewish racism a product of the Holocaust

Arrested for Trafficking that Took Place More that a Decade and a Half Ago

Well Connected 
An American financier, science and research philanthropist, who once counted as friends former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew is reportedly facing criminal charges related to the sex trafficking of minors. Jeffrey Epstein was reportedly arrested in New York on Saturday evening and expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan on Monday, 8th July.
A law enforcement official said Epstein would be charged with trafficking and conspiracy to traffic minors for sex. [...] "With his money, Epstein was able to buy more than a decade of delay in facing justice – but fortunately he wasn’t able to postpone justice forever," said attorney Paul G. Cassell.
It is believed that the charges will relate to the sex trafficking of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. This goes to show that wealthy antiquities dealers and buyers cannot count on permanent immunity to charges for their acts connected with trafficking, even years later, their accusers will catch up with them. Many collectors rely on retaining cultural property lawyers to keep accusations at bay, this case perhaps shows that this tactic cannot be relied on to guarantee total impunity. Let us see, but I feel many collectors will be watching developments in this case as closely as us.

Pervaiz Shallwani, Kate Briquelet, Harry Siegel 'Jeffrey Epstein Arrested for Sex Trafficking of Minors' Daily Beast 6th July 2019

Jonathan Dienst, 'Jeffrey Epstein Arrested in NYC on Sex Trafficking Charges: Sources' NBC New York 7th July 2019 Epstein is a wealthy hedge fund manager who once counted as friends former President Bill Clinton, Great Britain's Prince Andrew and President Donald Trump By

How much of the Staffordshire Hoard has been stolen?

Nigel Swift asks a question that all of the archaeologists joyfully celebrating that ten years ago some glittering Treasures fell into their receptive laps refuse to answer honestly ('How much of the Staffordshire Hoard has been stolen?' Heritage Journal 7th July 2019). Remember the archaeological excitement 'Remarkably all the objects were found in the plough soil, within a few inches of the surface'? Ever wondered why that was? Here's Nigel:
1.) In 2009 when the archaeologists first organised a detecting survey, the new deep seeking machines hadn’t been invented. So in 2012 when they went back they were “stunned” to find another 90 pieces and said: “It’s absolutely amazing. In the last search they used top-quality equipment to go over the area, which they use to find underground stuff in Afghanistan. They were absolutely certain there was nothing else down there.” But actually, what both US and British forces were using at the time (and subsequently) were Ebex 420H machines which have little depth capability (mines are mostly at shallow depth) and are not recommended by the manufactures for use in iron contaminated soil or for finding very small targets.

2.) That second survey was itself unsatisfactory despite having revealed some new objects that were judged part of the original hoard for very few (if any) of the new deep seeking machines were used and most of the searchers had older machines. So it was a “partial” search at best, with the same likely outcome as before: some objects missed.

3.) By contrast, from soon after the first survey all nighttime scruffs could have had the new equipment that was light years ahead of what the archaeologists were describing as “state of the art” for as early as 22 October 2010 we highlighted that “Minelab has just launched the GPX5000….it can easily find small objects at 24 inches” (15 inches below most ploughsoil), and 6 years later on 22 October 2016 we reported Minelab had launched the GPZ which, they said, “could find gold 40% deeper than the GPX“. Against that background the claims by archaeologists of the adequacy of “two detailed surveys” and “geophysics and trial trenching” are sadly and tragically deluded.

4.) I took a series of photos of the site over several weeks in February 2013, showing many footsteps and deep holes which I believe show pretty conclusively that nighthawking was happening. What metal objects did they find so far down? Coke cans and plough fragments, 30 inches below the plough zone? Or bejeweled golden Anglo Saxon objects which surpassed all the others but had to be broken apart and melted down to avoid prosecution? You tell me!
and as always, British ("wottaLottaStuff We Got") archaeologists will studiously avoid addressing that question. Metal detecting artefact hunters "are our partners" and "responsible metal detecting" is "a good thing" that "helps archaeology' and the words Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record shall never cross the lips of the archaeological mainstream, all complicent with the Ixelles Six and their collector-hooraying nonsenses and carefully staying well away from any discussion that might lead to the conclusion that really we owe it to society and the heritage to change the current laws that fail to regulate the damaging Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record and the antiquities market. Because it is too much bovver.

The Staffordshire Hoard fiasco was from start to finish botched and bungled, and failed to get the archaeological treatment it deserved. Although the work on the finds is swallowing up huge resources, even that is producing results that are far from satisfactory (that unhappy 'helmet' for example) and quite clearly, no change will occur the more archaeology tries to paper over the cracks by concentrating on the bread and circuses:
W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues @StaffsWMFLO @PotteriesMuseum
But like it or not, its the objects that engage and educate the public.
Bread and Circuses? why not add some ancient aliens too? - I would say archaeological outreach involves presenting actual archaeology, not superficial dumbdown. As for, "its the objects that educate the public" I would respond that objects do not do the educating, it is their presentation that does that - but merely presenting loose objects and their narrativisation has limitations. the problem is that loose OBJECTS are all we've got because Mr Herbert was doing artefact hunting and not a survey, Collection Driven Exploitation is not archaeology. the PAS was set up to get that point across and for 20 expensive years, has utterly failed... see 2003 PAS Aims.
W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues
We have had two thorough investigations, what more can you do with a ploughed field?
Actually, quite a lot if you are a real field archaeologist and not just a pretty-finds-fondler.

The time to get serious about dealing with damaging Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record and the antiquities market had passed well before builder Terry Herbert put on his wellies on a June day back in 2009. Yet, still, with fiasco after fiasco (StaffsHoard, "Gloucestershire Licking Doggie hoard", Lenborough and all the rest) loudly trumpeted as "archaeological successes" in the national press, like climate changer, where we've arguably reached tipping-point, this problem too is getting worse.

Archaeological Mismanagement: 'More Treasure to be Discovered', Site was 'Not Excavated Properly' claims Staffordshire Hoard Finder

Nighthawks will perhaps wait, or perhaps they will not be waiting, for the longer evenings in a few weeks time (Jamie Brassington, 'More treasure to be discovered' claims Staffordshire Hoard finder', Staffordshire News 6th July 2019).
An amateur metal detectorist who unearthed the £3.2 million Staffordshire Hoard has relived the moment he discovered the huge haul and said he believes there is more treasure to be discovered at the site. [...] Mr Herbert said: "I believe there are another 100 or so pieces in there. "There are still pieces missing from the hoard. [...] Mr Herbert said he believed the site was not excavated properly which is why some pieces are still missing

The site was not excavated properly. Indeed a fact not addressed by any of the discussions I have seen of this find, if (as we now know) a substantial number of the items found come from all areas of the Staffordshire Hoard Helmet, it was not broken up into portions that were scattered, so why are they not in the collection we have? Again, the evidence of the fragmentation and the basis for the reconstruction of this object need urgently to be published, ten years on from their finding.

Mr Herbert is clearly superstitious and now we learn that he believes in his own entitlement to the degree that a guardian spirit of yesteryear picked him, personally, out to reveal where the Treasure had been buried:
It was on July 5, 2009, that Mr Herbert came upon the hoard. He said he was almost guided to the location. "I was there between 11.30am and 11.45am on the day," he said. "I had the sun on my back and I closed my eyes. "Then I felt a sensation of my left cheek. When I opened my eyes I thought I would go in that direction and started walking. It was around 80 yards away that I had the first signals." When the signal became really strong, Mr Herbert began digging into the field. He dug down to around 12ft when he found a small piece of gold, which looked like a pin and which he examined under a magnifying glass. This spurred him on to keep digging and he then found other items [...] Mr Herbert said it was only his second time visiting the field. He had found a few old coins, thought to be Roman, on a field opposite previously. He made his first trip to the Staffordshire Hoard field a few weeks earlier, which ended abruptly after his detector malfunctioned, but on his return trip, he used an older model which he was more accustomed to.
I presume the "12ft" is a dumb journalist's mistake for "12 inches (= 1 foot)".
But this article contains an interesting piece of folklore or is it oral history? fact that has been suppressed by the archaeologists discussing whether the archaeology of the landscape in which this hoard had been inserted had been thoroughly investigated.
Mr Herbert said the children of two previous farmers of the land, who owned it before Mr Johnson, told him that an ancient burial mound existed on the site.
Here we see the consequences of British archaeology's current fascination with the 'objects'  rather than the all-important context and the site itself - and its place in the cultural landscape. In the pursuit of glittering prizes, British archaeology has lost sight of the actual aims of archaeology.

hat tip, Nigel Swift

Staffordshire Hoard Delusions and Deceptions

A PAS FLO's idea of what an
"open area excavation" looks like
Sometimes I wonder what they teach them these days in archaeology-school in that little green isolationist insular place off the shore of Europe. On seeing that a load of back-slapping British archies were congratulating themselves that a whole bunch of glittering Anglo-Saxon goodies fell into their laps  "on this day" ten years ago, I pointed out the obvious archaeological fact that ten years on, we still know too little about its site and landscape contexts. To which an archaeology outreaching FLO responded, surprisingly reflecting the unenlightened conviction that you can't get much archaeological information from a ploughed field (not what we were saying over here in Poland in the seventies) :
Wendy Scott ‏ @leicflo W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues  
23 godziny temu
We have had two thorough investigations, what more can you do with a ploughed field?
Actually quite a lot, and certainly much more than was done here. As was pointed out by Martin Carver, among others. Oblivious to that (probably he's not read it), another tekkie-partnering and totally complacent FLO jumps in with the same kind of crap:
Durham FLO Ben Westwood ‏ @FLODurhamFLO     15 godzin temu
W odpowiedzi do @leicflo @PortantIssues
Very thorough investigation, including geophysics, trial trenching and open area exc. Plus a pretty detailed excavation report available online. I'm sure more *could* be done, we'd just need to access that bottomless pot of cash that's always available to archaeologists....
IS this adequate? See below
This is the kind of shoulder-shrugging jobsworth dumbdown [non-]outreach that these people are doing on archaeology's behalf that simply ensures that nobody is going to strive for more, nobody is going to tell the public and lawmakers that this is a totally unsatisfactory situation, from any angle. That way, there will be no awareness of the need for access to those funds. As far as the public is concerned, metal detectorists do 'discovery for free', so why pay for more if all we say we need are the glittering goodies and a few keyhole diggings?  The 3.2 million quid Treasure Ransom paid out for a law-abiding finder and landowner of the Staffordshire Hoard field to abide by the law and report it would have gone some way to a proper survey of the archaeology of that field and the surrounding area. As for the open area excavation that took place, I wonder if the Durham FLO has ever actually seen a true example of the sort of open area excavation that would be needed to excavate a complex of timber buildings like the ephemeral traces at Yeavering? I suppose its more of an "open area exc." than a metal detectorist's hoik hole, or the burrowing the FLO did (with a paint scraper and plastic bag) at Lenborough) or CrazyCressie dug at the "GloucestershireLollingDoggie Hoard". But none of these even deserve the name 'excavation'.

I think some of these British archaeologists really need to go back to archaeology school for refresher course and 'PAS-detox'. If they were not 'brexiting', the islanders could perhaps get some EU money to come over here to Europe and see how archaeology is done, if they think that that is the best they can do.

Here is the Hoard field and that allegedly 'very thorough investigation, including geophysics, trial trenching and open area excavation'...

The 'geophysics' consisted of a resistivity survey (in damp clay soil) c 120m x 135m ... That's the beige area in the extreme corner of that "only a ploughed field". Within that is a magnetometer survey of an area some 50m x 20m (shown as the red bit within the beige)... not really 'very thorough' penetration in my book.

The 'open area' excavation (blue here - can you see it?) measured just 9m by 13m (within which occurred a posthole, a gully and a ditch - none of the linear features were extensively excavated and remain undated. There was also a probably modern feature 1012 - 0.4m in diameter, and 0.1m in depth filled with dark grey-black silt-sand, similar in composition to the ploughsoil. This could be the traces of an earlier metal detectorist's hoik hole).

Those trial trenches (also shown in blue - can you see them?) consisted of a total length of 100m of trenches most measuring just 1.6m in width. Some features were found, both natural and anthropogenic - including a palisade trench. But not enough was excavated to make any sense of their plan or establish their chronology and sequence. 

Meanwhile, there is the landcape context all around it - totally unexplored. The natural topography of the microregion, the stream valley (and its sediments), the stream crossing, the microtopography, the slope down towards Watling Street, the location in relation to old road junctions and Tamworth. The old field boudaries. All we have is a pile of glittering objects from a findspot where we know there were other features of some kind, but we are in no position to say anything about them. And that barrow that the previous owner's family knew about? What was that curvilinear feature so poorly examined in 2009-10?

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Just Eat the Archaocake and enjoy the Glittery Bits

How perfect is it that and share their big discovery anniversaries in the same year? 2009 and 1939 respectively. Every ten years we can all get together, quote and at each other, and sun ourselves in the glow of . With cake.
And let's just not bother about the archaeology, eh. 

Friday, 5 July 2019

Yahoo, Hooray? Ten Years Ago, The Staffordshire Hoard Fiasco Began

The Google Street View of the site
The demise of British archaeology has never looked more complete. All over the place in Britain we hear that the '10th Anniversary of the Staffordshire Hoard discovery celebrated' (, 5th July 2019). It was on the 5th July that a superstitious house-bound invalid on disability benefits was sufficiently able-bodied a decade ago to find the first gold items while artefact hunting in a field near Lichfield. He spent the best part of the following week hoiking many more (where are the records made then?) before reporting it to the arkies, who were suitably impressed by the glittery haul. 'Gobsmacked' became archaeological parlance. 
The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery (PMAG) [will] [...] celebrate the anniversary by holding a Staffordshire Hoard Garnets and Gold Festival throughout July, with several exciting events including re-enactments, demonstrations, birds of prey presentations and talks. 
Keyhole sondage failing to
sample major site
Meanwhile, despite a token police all-night guard of the field, which seems to have lasted all of two days as far as I can see, trespassing metal detectorists visited the site on a number of occasions (as documented several times by Heritage Action - though nobody from the archaeological establishment took this up in any publications) and presumably took away unknown numbers of items from the incompletely-examined site, before a larger survey found bits of the hoard that the September 2009 keyhole exacavation had so tragically missed. I would not mind betting that the field and area around are still clandestinely visited by hopeful tekkies, undeterred by the false claim that the archaeologists had 'emptied' the field of its archaeological content. No chance. As was stressed in an article that was (unusually, for Britain) critical of current policies on Collection-Driven Exploitation of the UK's archaeological record and the archaeological profession's inadequate response to the issues raised, British archaeology's response to this find was and is pathetic. Even when the metal detectorist said he'd found other stuff 100m away indicating the presence of other potentially important material evidence, nobody listened (except, I'll wager, the 'nighthawks').

Yeavering, ephemeral traces
of scattered buildings 
A decade on there was a display of the main results of the archaeological work on the (objects from) the Hoard, two replicas of The Staffordshire Hoard Helmet from which approximately a third of the fragments in the Staffordshire Hoard come from. The replicas however are clearly quite wrong, and we await detailed publication of the evidence that led to such a reconstruction and not one more functional and plausible. Another Staffordshire Hoard fail in my view.

So far, interest has been focused - typical post-PAS style - on the loose objects:
There are around 4,000 fragments and artefacts within the Staffordshire Hoard and they were crafted between the mid-sixth and mid-seventh centuries AD and buried between 650-675 AD. They combine to a total of 5.094 kilos of gold, 1.442 kilos of silver and 3,500 cloisonné garnets. Although fragmented and damaged when found, there is nothing comparable in terms of content and quantity in the UK or mainland Europe. [...]  Significant items include a selection of Christian objects – the great cross, the pectoral cross, and the Biblical inscription – which are some of the earliest Anglo-Saxon church objects ever discovered.  
Whoopee, eh? Who'd have thunk it? Christians in Anglo-Saxon times! Those dubious excitements aside, meanwhile, we know nothing much at all about the site these loose objects were deposited on and the landscape it was deposited in. The archaeologists explain that away conveniently:
The excavators found no other Anglo-Saxon features where the Staffordshire Hoard had been buried. There were no buildings, no burials, and no signs of a battle. This suggests that the hoard was hidden in a wild area, far from any human settlement.
Alternatively, just off the excavated area could have been a whole Yeavering-type centre (where topoil finds also were rare).
"Nobody really knows why the hoard is there. It could have either been a deliberate burial on a boundary perhaps after someone died or buried quickly by someone who had stolen it who was making an escape on Watling Street. "That's really the only thing that was there at that time. The land there would have been woodland and heathland.
Really? On Tuesday, 26 October 2010, I suggested that there is another possible reason why this hilltop (to the left of the centre of the photo at the head of this article, looking along Watling Street from near where it crosses a stream) was used for this deposit:
I think there is every chance there was a royal vill in the valley below where Roman road crosses the stream 6 km from Lichfield and unless the team from Birmingham has investigated this properly the fragile traces of that too will be "hammered" into oblivion by our "mates" with the metal detectors before long. Apart from some scrabbling around in the immediate environs of the find itself, just what kind of followup to these hundreds of Treasure finds made each year is there? What kind of protection is extended to the places where nationally important treasures have been found to make sure they are not further damaged?
and what kind of archaeological investigation is done to put the findspots of material like thins in context? After all, if these are nationally important finds, they come from sites that have produced nationally important material evidence, so - logically (since archaeology is about contexts not loose objects) -  those sites should be properly investigated and documented as well as being protected from random Collection-driven Explotation. No? 

Is that something archaeologists are shouting from the rooftops on the occasion of this tenth anniversary of a discovery (from a site where that discovery has barely begun)?

Pathetic show, arkies of the UK! Time to get on with some real archaeological outreach, perhaps.

France retreats from Recommendations of Savoy-Sarre Report

Vincent Noce, 'France retreats from report recommending automatic restitutions of looted African artefacts' (The Art Newspaper 5th July 2019) Suggestions from the controversial report on repatriation written last November by Bénédicte Savoy and Felwin Sarr were all-but buried at a recent conference held at the French Academy in Paris. This instead of discussing what the report had suggested focused on “wider cultural cooperation with Africa“. The Savoy-Sarr report had recommended a systematic and unconditional return of African cultural heritage and created alarm in French and European museums. The prospect that it raised of automatic restitutions to African states of all goods seized during the colonial era was hailed on one side as a welcome advance in the process of building links between nations and towards a long-overdue decolonisation, but on the other as a threat to the so-called Universal Museum notion so beloved in the western world.
In his opening speech at the symposium on Thursday, the French culture minister Franck Riester only pledged that "France will examine all requests presented by African nations" but asked them not to "focus on the sole issue of restitution."[...] The conference was attended by some 200 archaeologists, anthropologists, art historians, curators and representatives of ministries of culture from Europe and Africa. Despite being invited to address the meeting by the minister, Savoy and Sarr failed to show. They were not available for immediate comment.

Japanese Collector Returns Cambodian Artefacts

Eighty-five artifacts are displayed before the handover
ceremony at the National Museum, in Phnom Penh,
Cambodia, July 5, 2019
A number of pre-Angkorian and Agkorian artefacts displayed in a Japanese collector’s home for two decades have been returned to the Southeast Asian country’s National Museum (AP 'Japanese Collector Returns Cambodian Artifacts', Associated Press July 5, 2019):
The 85 artifacts are mostly small bronze items and include statues of Buddha and the Hindu god Shiva, plus jars, ceramics and jewelry. [...] Cambodia has made intense efforts to recover artifacts looted during its civil war in the 1970s. [...] The collector, Fumiko Takakuwa, told reporters after the handover ceremony that she and her husband had bought the items in Japan and liked to collect and display them in their home[...]  “My husband has said before he passed away that those artifacts have to be returned back to Cambodia, and today I am happy that I did,” Takakuwa said. 
The 85 items were believed to have been stolen from Cambodia’s temples during the war, when intense looting occurred and valuables were smuggled through neighboring Thailand.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Blood Buddhas: 'How Smuggled Indian Heritage Is Funding ISIS'

Anuraag Saxena explores how cultural artifacts smuggled from India 'funds the terror activities of ISIL'. It seems such are being sold through several famous auction houses that need to clean up their act and start presenting to public scrutiny proper paperwork showing the objects they handle really are as 'legitimate' as they glibly claim.

Trophy Stone Head brings in Good Profit, Despite apparent deficiencies in Paperwork

Statue's lopped-off 'Tutankhamun' head bit took less than a minute to sell for £4 million at Christies tonight. That left eye looks even squiffier in the auction room shot of it.

vignette: Reda El Mawy

France Hands Looted Bronze Age Artifacts Back to Pakistan

In 2006, French customs agents seized several illegal shipments containing antiquities stolen from the Pakistani province of Balochistan, some dating back as far as 5,000 years. On July 2, officials in Paris handed the treasures back to Pakistan.
Radio Free Europe video
Many of the pieces turned up in France in September 2006, sent in parcels addressed to a gallery in Paris. The packages were intercepted by customs officers at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport and identified by the National Centre for Scientific Research as items looted from cemeteries in Pakistan’s Indus valley. Another consignment of pottery and terracotta pieces destined for the same gallery was stopped two weeks later. And during a search of the unnamed gallery’s premises, customs officers seized several hundred more ceramic pieces. In a ceremony held at Pakistan’s embassy in Paris, 445 artifacts were handed back to Pakistan on Tuesday, with an estimated value of 139,000 euros ($157,000).
Aurore Didier, head of France's archaeological mission in the Indus basin, said the ceramics came from illegally-excavated graveyards and were examples of two different cultures: the Nal (3100-2700 BC), and the Kulli (2600-1900 BC). "For this period, very few sites have been documented and archaeologists stopped their work in Baluchistan in 2007 due to political issues in the area," she said. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Reverse Racism of Human Remains Ghouls

This is pretty unbelievably crass. A woman in a British Columbia has purchased a human skull as a birthday present for her boyfriend, according to a Facebook post (Martha Troian, 'Federal Conservative candidate gives boyfriend human skull for birthday' APTN News July 3, 2019):
A Facebook post by Oliver James Brown wrote Claire Rattée bought him a human skull [...] In his own social media post from February, 2019, Rattée’s boyfriend, Oliver James Brown, thanks her for getting him his “first real human skull.” Brown writes that the skull is from the 1700s. He wrote, “So happy what an amazing gift babe thank you so much!”[...] Rattée says she can attest where the human remain came from. “The skull that I purchased, it’s actually a European skull,” Rattée said in a phone interview. “The main reason behind it is that it’s something he wanted for a very long time, we’re tattoo artists so it’s really important for us to have a good reference for art.” Rattée said the skull was also very expensive and came with documentation.
JHm, so it's "just" taken from a grave over in Yurope, so it does not matter, especially if you are a pierced tattoo "artist" with no conscience. 'Very expensive' or not, if there is documentation of where it comes from, it can go back to be reinterred. This woman is apparently a Canadian politician.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Bonhams: Heavily Restored Apulian Red-figure Janiform Kantharos

Lynda Albertson 'Auction Alert - Bonhams Auction House - An il(licit) Apulian red-figure janiform kantharos?' Art-crime Blogspot, Tuesday,  July 02, 2019
As is often the case with objects originating from these known dealers and middlemen one is curious as to the extent of the documentation, if any, was used by Bonhams to evaluate whether or not this particular ancient object had legitimacy on the ancient art market.
UPDATE 3rd July 2019
Bonhams Auction House - Apulian red-figure janiform kantharos... object Withdrawn before auction. Dozens of objects in similar states of unpaperedness not withdrawn because no photos came into activists' hands.  #CantTouchYerForIt-legitimacy.

Heritage Watch says: 
 17 godzin temuWięcejUp for auction today in London, more artefacts of dodgy provenance. Let's stop commodification of heritage and the OTT art restoration that goes with this industry, turning archaeological finds into desirable (hence financially valuable) decorative objects

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