Tuesday 26 February 2019

Gabor Wants you to Give Money so He Can Loot Britain's PASt

As we come up to Brexit month, Gabor Orban, apparently fresh from Szombathely in Hungary wants you to fork out some cash so he can go a-looting in the UK ('Weʼre raising £6,000 to Help me buy my first top metal-detector,to uncover relics, historical objects of old cultures' Just Giving Crowdfunding 26th Feb 2019)
Since I was a little kid, I have been walking the fields and rambling in the nature uncovering stones and rocks, various forms of nummulites. I have been lucky enough to have found several cultures artifacts and relics from past ages, which I gladly donated to museums. Technology has advanced tremendously in the meantime, pushing prices of devices down, still investing in a metal-detector that would make my job more successful is something I can't yet afford. I'm not making money by finding these items, I'd like to see myself as someone who contributes to realistic portrayal of past decades...  sort of like an Indiana Jones...but without the hat. :-) My searches will be conducted throughout the United Kingdom for the moment, I am researching documentations and publications and carefully choosing my locations before set out to explore. I hope many people will find value in what I do (besides my regular job) and help me invest in a device that could help me progress with my findings and shortens the time I am spending by walking and rambling around. Thank you all!
Researching documentations and publications means the intent is to target known sites. It is not looters that contribute to realistic portrayal of past decades (sic), is it?

RESCUE on Proposed Changes to ‘Treasure’ Rules

The long anticipated new review of the Treasure Act is out for consultation until the end of April 2019 (Anon 'RESCUE says: Proposed changes to ‘Treasure’ rules include some of our policy proposals', RESCUE 25 February, 2019|).
The most interesting part of the consultation is headed ‘The long term future of the treasure process and its sustainability’. RESCUE is pleased to see that this includes suggestions for discussion similar to our own policies (see RESCUE policy document sections 10 and 11), that there should be a permit system for all archaeological work and that all archaeological objects found should be the property of the state – very different to the current emphasis on the outdated notion of ‘Treasure’. Given the potentially controversial aspects of some of the consultation we would encourage ALL our members to consider putting in a response. We would also welcome any constructive comment on this piece, which is our first thoughts about our own response.
Cue: metal detectorists....

Friday 22 February 2019

Fourth Fragment of Stolen Relief Recovered

The last of four pieces of an ancient relief that had been smuggled out of Egypt in the 1990s has been recovered. It was a fragment of a stele belonging to a top official called Seshen Nefertum. (Nevine El-Aref , 'Last piece of stolen ancient Egyptian relief recovered from Australia: Ministry' Al Ahram Thursday 21 Feb 2019)
The relief was initially discovered in four parts during excavations carried out by an Italian mission in El-Assasif necropolis on Luxor’s West Bank between 1976 and 1988. In 1995 [...] the ministry discovered its disappearance while carrying out an inventory at Al-Gorna’s antiquities storehouse. Three of the relief's pieces were repatriated from Switzerland in 2017, and the fourth was found at Macquarie Museum in Australia.
The tomb is TT27 (Porter and Moss, Topographical Bibliography: The Theban Necropolis, pg 43-45)  It is rather interesting to note that the earlier repatriation of the other three fragments (and who was in their possession in Switzerland) seems to have received little, or no, publicity. And which dealer did the McQuarrie Museum get the item from?

Thursday 21 February 2019

Git yer Gen'ine Anchint Artefacts 'ere. Going Cheap for a Quick Sale!

Tourism and Antiquities police managed to seize 15 Pharaonic figurines and 111 ancient Greek coins inside a house in Asyut, inhabited by a 33-year old man who, according to the investigations, attempted to sell and smuggle them abroad (Egypt Today 'Police halts attempt of smuggling 15 Pharaonic figurines in Asyut' Wed, Feb. 20, 2019)
Investigations revealed that the defendant excavated a four-meter deep trench inside his house in the Upper Egyptian governorate to search for antiquities. The 15 seized figurines include 10 limestone sculptures, with lengths ranging between 10-20 centimeters, the investigation revealed. A specialized committee confirmed that the seized antiquities are authentic and ancient. The defendant admitted the allegations.
 I can see a jolly good business opportunity here - putting certain dealers selling this kind of 'antiquities' in touch with the members of this specialised committee who (no doubt for a small payment) will certify their garish goods "authentick" too, despite how they look on the photos.

My feeling is that a four-metre deep hole that takes up even a quarter of the ground floor of a typical Upper Egyptian house is extremely unlikely to have produced the shown artefacts, one shudders to think why the house owner 'admitted' to them coming from under his living room.

Tuesday 19 February 2019

SCOTUS says 'No' to US dealers

Oh, isn't life so "unfair"? The US Supreme Court  denies a petition for writ of certiorari to the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild's petition, which challenged the US Government over civil forfeitures under the Cultural Property Implementation Act. (18-767). Bad luck chaps, maybe now you'll just accept that you should be collecting antiquities with attention paid to getting the paperwork to show they really are kosher.

Museums Carelessly Buying Stolen Artefacts - 'No Victims', you say?

No victims?
"Purchase, 2017 Benefit Fund
Lila Acheson Wallace Gift;
Louis V. Bell,
Harris Brisbane Dick, 
Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest;
Leona Sobel  Education and
The Camille M. Lownds Funds;
and 2016 Benefit Fund"

Sunday 17 February 2019

The 'Golden Brownies' Turkish Fake Manuscripts

There has been a whole series of codices and scrolls turning up in Turkey in police seizures from 'smugglers' that are being proclaimed as Syrian loot. They are characterised by being
1) nonsense texts and garish pictures loosely imitating Muslim, Jewish and Christian manuscripts
2) Often written using gold ink (or gold leaf?)
3) rough tatty edges
4) crumbly dark brown or brown-orange leather (I bet it's acid-treated). Sometimes written on heavily stained 'papyrus' (or is it banana leaves?)
5) pages - usually 20-30 - roughly bound with thongs of lightish or greyish leather 
They seem all to have turned up in recent years (mostly post 2016). When they first appeared, Sam Hardy and I considered they were fakes, a verdict that many have accepted, though Turkish policemen and eager journalists writing about crime in the Middle East do not seem yet to have got the message, and possibly buyers too, as the more recent ones are getting sloppier.

Where are they from? I pulled out the most accessible information and quickly plotted them, the codices are being seized in south west Anatolia, codices and ('torah' and other) scrolls in Northwest Anatolia while only two have in fact come from nearer Syria (Adana province - here and here). they seem part of the same series as the rest. A group of six came from Usak and another four recently seized at Denizli - is this perhaps near the centre of their production? But the map does tend to suggest that these items are not 'surfacing' on the Syrian-Turkish border.

Blogger: " I fell for a “Swiss Private Collection” lie, dammit"

Blogger: " I fell for a “Swiss Private Collection” lie, dammit" It's about that Nedjemankh coffin:
My only excuse [...] is that the Metropolitan Museum of Art fell for it too. Had they accepted a fraudulent ownership record starring a Swiss private collector a few years back I would have laughed mirthlessly at the very idea of it, but the sensitivity to potentially looted artifacts is so much higher now that museums and auction houses have been dragged kicking and screaming into giving a damn by source countries creating legal and PR nightmares for them. That such a recent, high-profile, much-publicized sale could be a looted artifact with phony papers is an ugly testament to how deep the rot runs in the antiquities market. [...] I don’t know exactly which day, but the coffin was taken off display this week [...] because the Manhattan’s DA Office had found evidence that the Swiss private collection and legal export document from 1971 were nothing but happy horseshit conjured up by traffickers in looted antiquities. Not only was it not legally exported in 1971, it didn’t leave Egypt until 2011 and I don’t need to tell you the circumstances were very, very far from legal. [...] Here’s one revision to any museum or collector’s acquisition policy that needs to be carved in stone from now on: buy nothing purporting to come from Swiss private collections. It’s a scam every damn time.
Interesting thread joining some dots by the indefatigable and well-informed Dorothy King here.

Bogeyman "Marxism" and the Tory Department of Media, Culture and Sport

Metal detectorist comment on the discussion document of the proposed changes to the Treasure Act:
 Thanks to the myopic and compliant Department of Media Culture and Sport, unsurprisingly, this Marxist nightmare is about to come true 
So perhaps we now have a clue as to the identity of the vandals who, the night before last damaged the Grade I-listed  Karl Marx memorial in Highgate Cemetery (Lucy Middleton, 'Karl Marx memorial vandalised for second time in two weeks' Metro Saturday 16 Feb 2019).

Heritage-hating metal detectorists or eastern European immigrants?

PS, it is worth following that 66 million figure back to see where it comes from, and who is using it most frequently and in what context.

Saturday 16 February 2019

"How do Remains Convey the Destructiveness of Antiquities Collecting?

Lynda Albertson links to a copy of the Met video about the Nedjemankh coffin that has not yet been removed. Curator Janice Kamrin and Conservator Anna Serotta "How do remains convey what's no longer present?" What is striking is the way (eg 03:34) so nonchalantly mention the damage done to the coffin 'portableising' it for the trade - removing and disposing of the human remains by the artefat hunters. At 4:43 they talk of the "individual" still being "present" through the imprint of the discarded body in the resins. The black goo suggests that the body laid horizontally a while and gums and waxes seeped out of the mummy bundle before the coffin was stood on end to allow other family members to be placed in the tomb - which means there will be other items on the trade from the same burial and which also entered in 2011.

Another Probably Looted Thai Antiquity Discovered in SOAS’s Collection

A FOIA request reveals that in 2013, SOAS, University of London, accepted the gift of a 2,000-yr old Thai ceramic from Ban Chiang, Southeast Asia's most important - and famously looted - prehistoric site, without doing any due diligence (SOAS Watch, 'Another Probably Looted Thai Antiquity Discovered in SOAS’s Collection'  15th Feb 2019):
In October 2013, Elizabeth H. Moore, then Professor of South East Asian Art and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London, donated to SOAS a ceramic vessel about 2,000 years old from Ban Chiang, Southeast Asia’s most important prehistoric site. The Ban Chiang archaeological site was rampantly looted, particularly during the early 1970s, which is when Prof. Moore said her former husband bought the vessel in Bangkok or Singapore. The vessel, if indeed a Ban Chiang antiquity as Prof. Moore stated, is very likely grave goods looted and illegally exported from Thailand. SOAS officials accepted the vessel without conducting any due diligence. This is the second example exposed so far of SOAS accepting a Thai antiquity without proper due diligence. [...] The role of SOAS art historians in both cases highlights the engagement of academic staff in the art market – and the lack of SOAS ethical guidelines for such activity.
The first example occurred in March 2018, when SOAS art historians encouraged and facilitated the university’s acceptance of an unprovenanced 13th-century Thai Buddha sculpture valued at 60,000 euros from a pair of Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art alumni. These cases raise the question of whether SOAS owns more illicit artefacts from other countries around the world. Very little information about SOAS’s collection, mostly held in storage, is publically available.

Friday 15 February 2019

Surely Some Mistake, Antiquities Trade Figure Named

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York bought a late Ptolemaic/Hellenistic gilt cartonnage coffin from the 1st century B.C. that was inscribed for Nedjemankh, a high-ranking priest of the ram-headed god Heryshef of Heracleopolis Magna. It went on exhibition in July last year. But this week the Met agreed to return the object to Egypt, after investigators determined it had been recently plundered from that country (Colin Moynihan, 'Met Museum to Return Prize Artifact Because It Was Stolen', New York Times Feb. 15, 2019).
 Museum officials said that they bought the object from an art dealer in Paris in 2017 and were fooled by a phony provenance that made it seem as if the coffin had been legitimately exported decades ago. But prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office presented the museum with evidence that suggested it had been looted from Egypt in 2011. This was the latest of several incidents that have raised questions about the thoroughness of the museum’s vetting procedures when acquiring antiquities [...] Museum officials said that the district attorney’s investigation showed that the Met had received a false ownership history, fraudulent statements and fake documentation, including a forged 1971 Egyptian export license for the coffin. The Met paid 3.5 million euros (about $3.95 million) for the coffin in July 2017, said Kenneth Weine, a spokesman for the museum. He added that it had been purchased from an art dealer in Paris [...] and that the Met planned to consider “all means” for the recovery of the money it had paid.
How awkward, there was a lot of publicity associated with this new acquisition and a whole exhibition was put on to celebrate it. The exhibition 'Nedjemankh and His Gilded Coffin' was supposed to continue to April 21, 2019 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Quite a lot of the web-related material on it seems to have disappeared from the Internet.

Unusually in such cases, the news item names the dealer that sold the item, as 'Christophe Kunicki', giving a link to a website for a fellow operating under that name at a posh Paris address (and the title “Mediterranean Antiquities”). The website says that Mr. Kunicki specializes in the valuation of “Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near East antiquities.” as Dorothy Lobel King notes. This  makes the naming of the guy in the article as the seller, contrary to normal practice, rather problematic. It is a shame that the man named as seller was not contacted before the article went to press.  There was no response to an email message requesting comment sent to an address listed on the site.

I have discussed this object before on this blog, being one of te first to note issues with the stated collecting history before Cyrus Vance and his folk swung belatedly into action (PACHI 13th Sept 2017: 'Why the Secrecy? No Shame in Collecting Antiquities, Surely?').

UPDATE 16th Feb 2019

There are more details in Lynda Albertson's post on the ARCA blog: 'Restitution: Met Museum agrees to return its 1st century B.C.E mummiform coffin, inscribed in the name of Nedjemankh, to Egypt':
The spartan collecting history information listed for the artifact on the Metropolitan Museum's website states that the antiquity was "officially exported from Egypt in 1971, the coffin has since resided in a private collection." A second page on the museum's website, which has since been removed, listed the artifact's provenance as follows:
"The coffin was exported in 1971 from Egypt with an export license granted by the Antiquities Organization / Egyptian Museum, Cairo. It belonged to the stock of Habib Tawadrus, a dealer active since at least 1936, with a shop Habib and Company in Cairo opposite Shepheard’s Hotel, and was exported by the representative of the Tawadrus’ heirs to Switzerland. An official translation of the export license was provided by the German embassy in Cairo in February 1977 for the use of the representative and now owner in Europe. The coffin has remained in the family of that owner until its acquisition by the Metropolitan Museum in 2017."
 Albertson also details two other items where C. Kunicki acted as expert in the acquisition of other items by the Met with 1970s collecting histories, in one of which Tawadrus also figures. It would be interesting to compare the three sets of supplied documentation. One of them is a battered granodiorite head of Apries, the other a 13th dynasty chapel-stele in the form of a naos.

Wednesday 13 February 2019

The 'Curse of Sekhemka' Strikes Again?

Words not to be taken lightly
Andy Brockman notes 'sometimes it is hard not to believe in the #CurseofSekhemka. Four pump fire at Northampton Museum which is undergoing renovations, which Northampton Borough Council says, are paid for by the controversial sale of #Sekhemka. Council Leader states artifacts had been removed'. For the Curse itself, see here - and the possible consequences of ignoring it here.

I put this down to coincidence, but readers may remember the post I wrote on the 'Curse of Ka Nefer Nefer' (note the date), the writing and publication of which coincided with freak weather conditions at St Louis (the region of the airport to be precise) in which lives were lost - so when I found out about it, I did not publicise it at the time). Though not superstitious, I am not going to be doing any more 'ancient Egyptian curse' stunts on this blog.

But the point raised - about the deliberate appropriation and use for decoration and entertainment of loose objects taken from mortuary deposits is a moral and ethical issue that needs confronting by archaeologists and collectors.
I think we tend to forget that, in the case of Ancient Egypt, many of the eagerly collected trophies (portable antiquities) which find themselves in foreign hands had for their original users deep religious significance, not to mention were intimately connected in their minds with their future fate. Sekhemka's 'shadow' (stature in his likeness) was (is) the house for his ka-soul. Only the maintenance of offering to this statue according to the prescribed rite (hardly likely to have been continuing in Castle Ashby or Northampton) prevented the akh-soul (a combination of the ba and ka) from experiencing a second death. By removing him from his tomb, looters killed Sekhemka, who, in the eyes of his culture, now wanders the earth as a homeless living dead. Perhaps some of my less culturally-sensitive readers are scoffing at such notions, but in what way does this tomb-statue differ from a Hopi mask, Native American kachinas, sacred artefacts, African fetishes, Jewish Torah scrolls, Australian tjuringa stones or the sacred objects of any other culture (including our own)?

Once upon a time some artefact collectors, wanting to create a good impression, wrote a "Code of Ethics"  (most of which they pinched from me) which said they'd not touch such items. Let us see tomorrow afternoon how "ethical" collectors will be faced with a trophy item as unprecedented as Sekhemka's soul. How many millions is a dead man's soul worth?

Google+ Notes to Commenters

Google+ is being phased out, but from what I gather, this affects this blog mainly in the area of comments:
If you’ve used Google+ for comments on your own or other sites, this feature will be removed from Blogger by 4 February and from other sites by 7 March. All your Google+ comments on all sites will be deleted starting on 2 April 2019. Learn more
I think there have been quite a few of these. If anyone has comments up here and said anything that you want to remain part of this resource, you can repost them but PLEASE mark them as such and attach the original date and time of publication to the text, as the new comment will appear out of sequence.

Sunday 10 February 2019

Doubts About ISIL Organized Antiquities Trade

Re:United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 etc
Interesting details in latest UN 1267 Monitoring Team report querying that ‘ISIL ever generated significant funds from human slavery or sexual violence’ or fully exploited ‘the funding potential of looting and trading in antiquities and cultural goods’.  

I cannot find the full reference online at the moment (1267 refers to Afghanistan).

Saturday 9 February 2019

Prof. Archaeodeath and the Skeleton in the Closet of British Portable Antiquities 'Policy'

Anglo-Saxon treasure including jewellery, scissors
after being first discovered by a history teacher in 1962

Prof. Howard M. R. Williams ( Researcher and teacher in early medieval archaeology, contemporary archaeology, mortuary archaeology, the archaeology of memory and the history of archaeology. MA Archaeology of Death and Memory) Prof. Archaeodeath ‏ @howardmrw has a lengthy blog post on the Welbeck Hill Flog-off Fiasco hosted by Hanson's auctions ('Selling dead bodies and mortuary artefacts in the UK today: Welbeck Hill'):
Taylor was not a trained archaeologist and clearly was unable to publish his finds in a coherent and professional manner. Upon Taylor’s death, the collection has been inherited by his family. Two years subsequently, it is being sold off by auction, rather than donated to a museum, by Taylor’s widow and four children.
These are two of my concerns about private collecting in a nutshell. The first is that many artefact hunters we meet online are barely literate, totally incapable of framing their thoughts (such as they are in many cases) in words. I am often criticised as non-'pc' for emphasising that incontrovertible fact. Yet, note who is involved in the barford-bashing, the very same people that want us to believe that artefact hunters are "citizen archaeologists' who are "rescuing (sic) the archaeological record (sic)". You cannot rescue a record by demolishing it into component fragments and not making a record of what you've done. That is simply destruction and knowledge theft.

The second point is that

Prof. Archaeodeath, the Hard Liners versus Archaeo-Jobsworths

I get a mention in the blog post of Howard Williams / Prof. Archaeodeath about the Muriel Taylor Sale of her late husband's artefact collection ('Selling dead bodies and mortuary artefacts in the UK today: Welbeck Hill'): 
Paul Barford’s blog unsurprisingly regards it as a ‘disgrace’ that money is being made from the sale of artefacts and human remains. He poses a succinct series of questions unanswered by this scenario as it has accrued over six decades to this depressing situation [...] While not everyone takes the hard-line of Barford regarding these situations
He seems to regard it as obvious that not every archaeologist (for example) would take the same line. in reply, I have one more question: 'why not?'

MDAs and the Ethics of Portable Antiquities Collecting

There is an interesting thought in the blog post by Prof. Howard M. R. Williams [Prof. Archaeodeath] on the Welbeck Hill Flog-off Fiasco hosted by Hanson's auctions ('Selling dead bodies and mortuary artefacts in the UK today: Welbeck Hill'):
 while human remains are the most emotive and particularly contentious sale items that prompted the ire of archaeologists, the integrity of collections of mortuary-derived artefacts are equally deserving of our attention. Indeed, I would suggest that the sale of mortuary-derived artefacts without human remains should be considered no less controversial and unethical. I’m looking forward to a forthcoming paper by Adam Daubney reflecting on the ethics of the sale of artefacts unquestionably from mortuary contexts, since splitting bones from artefacts doesn’t make the latter any more ethical as sale items!
Indeed, sounds interesting, especially as coming from an FLO (FLOs generally keep out of discussions of the ethics of antiquities collecting - which is a shame as the perspective on it will necessarily be of a specific character). I am not sure about the idea that Prof. Archaeodeath seems to be pondering about not splitting grave goods from human remains, so if a collector collects the grave goods, he would have to curate the body too - for example in collector's wife's bedroom wardrobe.

This while thread of thought raises an important issue about the 'portable antiquities' that are deemed collectable as 'ancient art'. Many of them come from graves. So ancient Egypt we think of shabtis, 'mummy beads' (not all from mummies), amulets (ditto), Fayum portraits, the front part of mummy cases ripped off and 'portableised' as "mummy masks", cartonnage frafments, including mummy masks, canopic jars and their lids, heart scarabs, tomb models etc. In South American archaeology we have all those West Mexican figurines made as accompaniment in the grave Colima, Jalisco, Nayarit. The textiles from mummy bundles, gold ornaments such as those from Sipan. In Asia, Han and Tang tomb figures. In Europe, complete red figure vases from Etruscan tombs, complete fragile Roman glass vessels and lamps from graves. Roman and Greek grave stelea. The list goes on. In fact, a very large proportion of the portable antiquities collectables on the market today come from graves. There's two reasons for that, firstly graves contain buried objects of - quite often high quality and complete, but also graves tend to occur in groups (family, community, group) - so if you find one and dig around there will often be more - and are often still marked on the surface or figure in local folklore. So if you want to find old objects to sell to some graspy middleman, these are good places to look for them. Metal detectorists find the 'partifacts' in open fields that feed the lower end of the market, tomb-robbers' finds tend to go more to the upper end of the market.

Perhaps it is worth taking a good look at the ethics of the portable antiquities trade as a whole with regard to mortuary-derived artefacts (MDAs).        ,

Thursday 7 February 2019


ALIPH, a new international foundation headquartered in Switzerland, has announced grants to support initiatives that address the prevention, protection and rehabilitation of cultural heritage threatened or damaged by conflict.
ALIPH – an acronym which also designates the first letter of the Arabic alphabet – has been created to act in favour of cultural heritage in conflict areas via an aid programme which enables it to be flexible and to react quickly. ALIPH’s three areas of intervention are: preventive protection to limit the risks of destruction, emergency measures to ensure the security of heritage, and post-conflict actions to enable local populations to once again enjoy their cultural heritage. As a result of the widespread destruction of monuments, museums and heritage sites in conflict areas, the President-Director of the musée du Louvre Jean-Luc Martinez published in November 2015, at the request of the President of the French Republic, Fifty proposals to protect the cultural heritage of humanity. These included the creation of an international fund to protect heritage in situations of armed conflict. On the initiative of France and the United Arab Emirates, this idea became a reality after the international conference on heritage in danger held in Abu Dhabi in December 2016, with the creation of ALIPH in March 2017. Since then, the initiative has taken a number of other countries and private partners on board.

Profiting From Disturbing the Dead: UK Grave Robbers and a Skull Called "Charlie"

This blog does not show skellie-
porn unlike certain auctioneers

There are it seems no bounds to human indecency, Muriel Taylor, the widow of a UK amateur archaeologist/artefact hunter who dug up a load of graves at Welbeck 'Anglo-Saxon ' cemetery, stored human remains in a wardrobe in her home for years and now is selling them off. She's expecting between fifty and eighty thousand quid for a group of objects her husband dug up and kept at home. She says the skull is called "Charlie".

Hanson's has no qualms about shouting it from the rooftops, no doubt posting a full frontal picture of a naked human skull is intended to get people talking about the material and then somebody will set up a crowd-sourcing page so he can get his money and the objects get in a museum. Oh yes, let's talk about it then.

1) Who gave anyone the right to dig up these remains out of curiosity and put them in a cupboard at home? Where is the publication? What documentation is there, and what state is it in? Why were the objects not deposited in a museum right away instead of forming a private collection? Here is a very good argument for a permit system in the UK.

2) But if the body called by Mrs Taylor "Charlie" (why? Who gave anyone that right?) was buried with the Square headed brooch, it was a woman anyway,.

3) If the objects are sold off for fifth to eighty thousand, how much of a cut will the landowner get?

4) Has Muriel Taylor a document from the landowner confirming transfer of title (and under what conditions) that has been deposited with the collection being handled with such gay abandon by Hanson's ? 

5) What ethical code governs the treatment of human remains by the British antiquities trade? Is publishing disrespectful skellie-porn photos of naked ancestral human remains in accordance with that ethical code or a breach of it?

And actually, once the objects and their labels are mixed up by the collector or his wife when she decided to profit from the past by flogging off her dead husband's artefact collection, is the 'project archive of this amateur excavation not now just a few boxes of loose artefacts?

What a disgrace.

Julian Bird and the Tomb Robbers

Hansons auctioneers and valuers antiquities - 'the Julian Bird private collection acquired 1970-2012' Feb 11th, both the catalogue photos and some of the bids show there's one born every minute. ... Let's start by discussing what the word 'faience' means when applied to ancient Egyptian artefacts and souk-bought items. The vast majority of these objects would have come from looting of tombs. 

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Five People Arrested in Antiquities Bust in Spain [UPDATED]

It has been reported that three looted sculptures (VI century BC) have been seized in Spain and five people have been arrested by Spanish Police on suspicion of handling stolen items. Allegedly, among the detained are three antique dealers from Barcelona, and one of the other people reported to be involved is the daughter of the founder of a major national bank. The usual presumptions of innocence until proven guilty apply.

Last March, two dealers in Spain were arrested during an operation against terror financing. They are accused of were trading antiquities looted from Libyan regions controlled by ISIL, and it looks like there might be a connection between these two antiquities cases.

The online article announcing the arrests and naming the accused was taken down a few hours after being published. 

Sunday 3 February 2019

Response to DCMD Treasure Consultation Dumbdown

The continuing Brexit farce clearly reveals, if there was any doubt earlier, that the UK is currently being governed by clowns, thus it will be no surprise that the DCMS could not announce the Treasure Act Consultation without dumbing it down ... as entertainment:
Dr Matt Pope has a suggestion:

And Raksha Dave is rather scathing:

'Creativity' in the Fields, Blinkered Ivory Towerism in Bloomsbury

Creativity before creativity
Heritage Action are questioning Herr Fischer's Heritage Heresy ('BM’s director inadequately briefed by PAS?' 03/02/2019). Herr Fischer has infamously 'used awkward verbal gymnastics to justify keeping the Parthenon marbles: “When you move cultural heritage into a [collection], you move it out of context. Yet that displacement is also a creative act“...'. As HA drily remark: 'surely creating a colonial narrative at the expense of the Greek one is damage not creativity?'. They continue:
Worse (given his position): does he think “displacement” of 12 million recordable finds from Britain’s fields without reporting them to PAS or anyone else is creative? Last week we complained MPs are underinformed about that scandal. Is Mr Fischer equally unaware, else why say something so at odds with the domestic experience of his organisation? It’s not a good look: the Head of the BM saying “the marbles will never be returned” while tens of thousands of detectorists are signalling to him “You will never be told what I’ve found.” Perhaps there’s a conversation to be had between Mr Fischer and PAS about the reality of most “displacement” in Britain?
Perhaps the PAS can rope in Herr Fischer to explain how the displacement of millions of artefacts ripped out of the archaeological record by selfish collectors is not destruction, but 'creativity'. Like this:

Saturday 2 February 2019

Keeping the CPAC in Work

Jordan has requested U.S. import restrictions on Jordanian artifacts and other archaeological material.
Notice of Receipt of Request From the Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property
The 1970 Convention has other articles too. Why does the US ignore them?

'Iran Says It Has traced Two Ancient Sculptures Stolen Decades Ago'

A limestone bas relief was on show in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from 1951-2011 when it was stolen. When I reported on this at the time, I suspected for a number of reasons that the head was in fact a fake and wrote so here. I was wrong (OK, we all make mistakes), the object really was looted from Persepolis. the object subsequently was found, the Museum had already taken the insurance money, so the insurance company sold it and it ended up on the stand of Rupert Wace Ancient Art at TEFAF New York in October 2017. It was then seized as illegally removed from Iran in the 1930s. The object returned to Iran on September 27, 2018 and is no being exhibited there. What is interesting is that Iran is now claiming
that it has traced two more Achaemenid bas-relief sculptures stolen from Iran nearly ninety years ago. "We have exactly located the stolen pieces and already started negotiation to take them back," the chief of Iran Cultural Heritage Organization, Ali Asghar Mounesan maintained in a radio show..
Have the records of the Montreal Museum led to the dealer that handled their piece and then other dealings of the same people led the Iranians to another two removed in the same way? Time will tell.
Iran News 'Iran Says It Has traced Two Ancient Sculptures Stolen Decades Ago' January 31, 2019

Friday 1 February 2019

Auschwitz registration photos in Colour

Czesława Kwoka
Marina Amaral, Digital colourist, ' I add colour to Auschwitz registration photos to educate people about the Holocaust' Metro.co.uk   Sunday 27 Jan 2019
 Czeslawa, pictured above, was a 14-year-old girl who was killed in Auschwitz. She was a Polish Roman Catholic and was murdered one month after the death of her mother. [...] The photo went viral in a matter of minutes. The reaction was absolutely incredible and shocking. I was contacted by TV channels, newspapers and magazines from all over the world wanting to know more about the photo and about Czeslawa. More importantly though, I received messages from teachers asking if they could use the photo in their classes and a 12-year-old girl wrote a poem inspired by the photograph and sent it to me. That’s when I realised how much people still had to learn about the Holocaust and the potential of something so simple as a colourised photo in helping to educate. It’s important to share individuals’ stories and photos because it’s very easy to get lost in the sheer scale of the Holocaust. [...] Six million Jewish lives and more than 3million non-Jewish people’s lives were taken and that is a huge number, but when we break down this number and transform it into individual and different lives, pairing a picture of their face when we can, people can begin to understand the impact that the Holocaust had, and still has, on lives. They had everything taken away from them due to pure bigotry and hate. In the same week as the photo went viral I asked the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum permission to colourise more photographs. They gave me access to their archives, where almost 40,000 concentration camp registration photos are stored. The photographs were taken between February 1941 and January 1945. The preserved photos, 31,969 of men and 6,947 of women, constitute only a fraction of a vast Nazi archive destroyed during the camp evacuation in January 1945. [...] By the end of this year I would like to have colourised at least 200 of the photographs. Ultimately, I hope that our project and upcoming documentary reaches a broader audience and we can continue to share the stories and faces of those who so tragically had their lives taken away by hatred.
You can find out more about Faces of Auschwitz here, and Marina’s work here.

Friday Retrospect: How Many 'Metal Detectorists' are there in England and Wales?

The opening of discussion on the Treasure Act and its operation invites deeper reflection of how Collection Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record has changed since it was established and set up in the middle of the 1990s. This post from PACHI, Sunday, 15 July 2018 seems very relevant:

How Many 'Metal Detectorists' are there in England and Wales?

The Ixelles Six /Helsinki Gang debacle got me thinking about the data they were trying to ignore. For the past two years I had been struggling with the implications of some of Sam Hardy's recent research and the numbers he came up with. I have long asked the question concerning the scale of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record as the only true background against which to measure the incessant 'propaganda of success' of the PAS and its supporters. They saw 'x000' more metal detectorists than a few years ago, and got 'y000' more artefacts in their database, all well and good, but to what degree are these figures representing any true mitigation of the information loss?

Back then (first years of the 21st century), there were some wild estimates of overall 'metal detectorist numbers', but nothing concrete. So I began to look into it. The figure I came up with in 2003 was quite a low one, 10000, with just over a thousand in Scotland. That was the basis for the figures used in the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter. About 2010, I was forced to reassess that original estimate, it seemed to me that by that time the number had probably gone up to 16000 (Thomas 2012, 58-9 has a similar estimate), and I ascribed this to the PAS popularising the hobby through their support and promotion. That's when I really began to see the PAS as having a totally negative influence on the very problem that they had been set up to solve.

In 2011, the NCMD was claiming there were around 20000 metal detectorists in the UK. By 2015 the NCMD estimate appears to have risen to 25000 (see here and here), which I was inclined to dismiss at the time. But then in 2017 Sam Hardy produced his figures of 27000 'metal detectorists' (in England and Wales) and another 1000+ in Scotland. I must admit, though I thought his methods were sound and the figures he was using were the best available at the time, I really was a bit sceptical of such high numbers. Until I sketched a graph out. The two lower-left points are my own estimate, the three on the right are the NCMD's and Dr Hardy's. They seem to work together quite convincingly to tell a story of expansion of this damaging hobby on the PAS's watch. What however has not increased by the same degree is the proportion of the finds they are currently making being recorded in the public domain.

The implications of these figures would seem to be that the increase may have been of the order of 17000 more detectorists' in 17 years. That is that while PAS has been legitimising and promoting Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record, numbers of metal detector-using artefact hunters have been quite steadily rising by 1000 a year.  We have no statistics on the number of scattered ephemeral private artefact collections formed in the UK at the same time.

That post ended: "At what stage are Britain's heritage professionals going to get up off their complacent jobsworth backsides and stop shoulder-shrugging and do something about this other than just smile and pat the collectors on the head?". Let us see how many people take part in the consultation  urging far-reaching changes in how this problem is dealt with. 

UK Government Announces Plans to Redefine Treasure and Prevent Sale of Unreported Finds.

"We welcome comments and observations,
particularly where these are supported by empirical evidence".

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Press release, 1 February 2019: 'Government announces new plans to protect treasure finds'. 
Plans to widen the definition of treasure so more archaeological finds can be protected for the nation have been outlined by the government today. Heritage Minister Michael Ellis announced proposals that would allow more artefacts to be acquired by local and national museums and put on public display. Under the plans, the definition will be changed so that finds worth more than £10,000 will be considered treasure and made available for acquisition by museums. [...]  Each year, dozens of items of national importance are believed to be lost to private sellers because they do not meet the treasure criteria or are sold by those who do not declare the find. [...]  The proposals are to be consulted on and aim to clarify, improve and streamline the process for reporting treasure to ensure that museums can continue to acquire important finds for the nation. There are currently no sanctions on someone who knowingly buys an unreported find and the growth in online markets has given opportunistic finders an outlet to sell unreported finds under the radar. The changes will also mean that the duty to report treasure will be extended to those acquiring it. The measures would be the first major changes since the Treasure Act came into effect more than 20 years ago. Heritage Minister Michael Ellis said: [...] "These new proposals will [...] make it harder for nationally important finds to be sold for personal profit. 
the Press release also shows that the threat to the British archaeological record is increasing annually:
More items than ever are being discovered by treasure seekers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland with the number of finds increasing by over 1,500% since 1996. The latest figures show that 2017 was a record-breaking year for treasure finds with a total of 1,267 items unearthed, including ancient Roman statues, Bronze Age rings and a Stuart pocket watch. In the last 20 years, 13,000 finds have gone through the treasure process. Of these, over 30% are now in museums and can be enjoyed by millions of people each year.
That means 70% of them are not. Is this additional evidence that Treasure Rewards will be slashed, post Brexit. Surely the limited resources available for heritage conservation will be stretched by an increased number of Treasure finds.

It is rather sad that after twenty years, the best lawmakers can come up with as determining 'value to the nation' is still market value. I hope this is brought up in the consultation process by archaeologists concerned about knowledge loss through Collection-Driven Exploitation (CDE) of the archaeological record.

One way that I have long advocated could be by making reporting by artefact hunters of all artefact finds to the PAS mandatory (perhaps with a recording fee) and the PAS in their record making the assessment (as is already IN the PAS database records) of what is important on archaeological grounds and in the local context. This would strengthen the PAS buy giving it an established place in the heritage management system, and strengthen the archaeological response to CDE, as well as strengthening the system of mitigating information loss.

In fact one finds that the consultation document includes a section on The long term future of the treasure process and its sustainability (sections 136-43). One of the biggest difficulties with regard to the Treasure process is its long term financial sustainability. The rise in administrative costs resulting from the substantial increase in the amount of cases is a matter of concern, "if, as seems likely, the number of treasure cases continues to rise, a revised approach will be required". In order for the Treasure Act "to encourage positive behaviour", the Treasure Process "must have a sound financial underpinning" (141).
142. To this end we are putting forward several initial suggestions as the basis of discussion on the future form of the treasure process. These are:
● the introduction of a process similar to that in Scotland, whereby all archaeological objects become the property of the Crown;● strengthening educational outreach to the full spectrum of the metal detecting community in order to encourage the proactive reporting of finds and adherence to the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting and the treasure process; and
the introduction of a regulation as in Northern Ireland where archaeological digging of any sort (both by professional archaeologists and others) is only allowed by permit
143. We are aware that these suggestions would involve considerable changes to the current process. We emphasise that the aim in raising them within the current consultation is to open some initial debate and to encourage other suggestions for the long term sustainability of the treasure process.
One thing, if artefact hunting with metal detectors was made into a permit-led archaeological activity, on what grounds would a Treasure Reward be issued to artefact hunting permit-holders and not to archaeologist permit-holders? Perhaps the answer is to only allow rewards to accidental finders who are not out going equipped with tools to actively find buried metal objects?

The second and third points of section 142 may be taken as an admission that the PAS-voluntary reporting of metal detected finds is not working. This comes twenty years after the PAS was set up precisely to avoid introducing mandatory reporting and a permit system as required by articles 2 and 3 of the Council of Europe 'Convention for the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage of Europe (revised)' -Valletta, 1992 (doubly ironic that it comes in the year the UK leaves Europe!).

 hat tip Alan Simkins
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