Sunday 30 June 2019

Christianity Today and Export Licences

Jerry Pattengale
In an article in "Christianity Today", full of cutesy references to "Da Vinci Code lore" and "Hogwarts", Jerry Pattengale tries to paint a picture of himself as a responsible buyer of antiquities. His efforts to establish his credibility are at times risable:
We were approached by dealers and reporters in the oddest of ways, [...] One fellow kept calling about a buried boxcar of antiquities in Texas, another claiming ownership of something from Jesus’ birth stable, and yet another with plaster casts of the first-century tomb in Jerusalem. Of course, once I ask to see the Israeli Antiquities Authority documentation, the conversations usually change.
Yes, substantiating those collecting histories can be a bit of a deal-breaker.

From Crazy Cressy's Mate's Bonnet to Christie's - Still no mention of the Actual Findspot [UPDATE]

The bronze doggie that Crazy Cressy and his mate Andy were toying with the idea of mounting on the bonnet of Andy's car has turned up again, now in Christie's. The whole poorly-hoiked but money-making hoard is on offer as a job lot:
Estimate GBP 30,000 - GBP 50,000 (USD 37,980 - USD 63,300)
A ROMANO-BRITISH BRONZE DOG CIRCA 4TH CENTURY A.D. 5 ¼ in. (13.4 cm.) high; 8 ½ in. (21.4 cm.) long

Found in Gloucestershire, August 2017.
Registered with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, ref. no. GLO-BE1187.
For those who'd like to check the facts about where this stuff was come from and the manner in which it was hoiked from the archaeological context, trashing it, you need go no further than this blog (see here). In their efforts to make this sad episode look a bit respectable, Christie's offer the potential buyer something called a "lot essay" with a load of wikipedia  narrativisation ("Throughout antiquity, dogs were .... [yawn]...  companion of Asclepius, Greek god of medicine.... [yawn]...  in the Roman pantheon they were linked to the healing aspect of Mars.... [yawn]... in some Celtic rituals, 'licking dog' figures were dedicated to the local healing god Nodens"). Hmm, Mars the Healer and this one is not licking, its lolling.
Discovered within a sizeable hoard of Roman bronze artefacts, this expressive standing hound is a rare example of a healing statue in the form of a dog. Its short legs join the elongated body with distinctively engraved haunches, each styled with chevrons or feathered patterning. Engraved fur similarly details the hind haunches, genitals, and each clawed paw. [...] Among the remainder of the hoard (the entirety of which is included in the present lot) is a bronze face fragment from a statuette. The size of the fragment indicates that the original complete figure may have been connected to the bronze dog in some way. Bronze fragments of drapery hint at a much larger bronze statue over three feet high, which had been broken prior to the deposition of the hoard. The presence of a follis of Crispus, minted at Trier with a globe-on-altar reverse, proves that the hoard could not have been buried before 321 A.D. - the earliest this type of coin had been minted. The eclectic variety of artefacts in the hoard suggests that it may have been deposited with the intention of later recovering and melting the contents.
So that sword never turned up then?

The BM was "very concerned" once, perhaps now they'll get their fingers out and buy this off Crazy Cressy, Andy and that landowner - even though the archaeological context was trashed on recovery.

Hat-tip Dorothy King and Ellie.

UPDATE 3rd July 
Estimate was GBP 30,000 - GBP 50,000  Price realised GBP 137,500 -but of course we all know the UK's metal detectorists are only into their Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record from "a love of history", not fer th' munny at all...

Friday 28 June 2019

More Narrative Turns in the Sale of the so-called "First Century Mark" Saga [UPDATED]

There is an, at first sight, informative article by the motivational writer Jerry Pattengale (former executive director of education until last year in the MoB) on Obbink handling of "First Century Mark" (Jerry Pattengale, 'The ‘First-Century Mark’ Saga from Inside the Room My reflections after eight years of silence', Christianity Today June 28, 2019). The text reveals much that is not particularly 'Christian' behaviour, pretty scandalous, but delicately skips round certain questions and obscures other issues. The word sale is given in inverted commas when it refers to the allegedly First Century Mark, but then explicitly states that Green money actually changed hands.
Eventually, all four pieces were purchased in 2013 for a considerable sum—though at a fraction of their value (even taking the later dates our researchers suggested). [...] Obbink [...] was involved (he said he was selling the manuscripts on behalf of a private collection—a common practice) [...] nondisclosure was a non-negotiable from Obbink (allegedly on the part of the owners) [...] His name had started surfacing in connection with other rare pieces and our museum, like the Sappho manuscripts he published, and the contract with Brill Publishers for a series. [...] The sheer volume of all these new texts was raising concern.  
 As well they might, 'a private collection' is hardly enough of a collecting history to cover the surfacing of such items (and let us remember the Sappho case recently- where there are still doubts where those fragments actually came from). Jerry Pattengale says that
It wasn’t until November 2017 that I realized a serious ethical breach had occurred, either by Obbink, a collector he was representing, or both. [...] I discovered a cover-up was in the making [and] [...] this whole affair began to unravel. 
This 'realiseation' only happened it seems when ancient historian and Bible scholar Edwin Yamauchi, sitting with Jerry Pattengale at the opening gala dinner at the Museum of the Bible asked David Trobisch, then curator of the Museum’s collection about the date of publication of the alleged "First Century Mark" in the MoB collections:
Trobisch responded, “That fragment was never offered to us for sale, isn’t that correct, Jerry?” I about snorted coffee through my nose, then responded, “Some things are best discussed in other settings.” Then David continued, “A researcher in Oxford, I think a graduate student, discovered an image of it in a museum collection, and it has remained there. It was just a misunderstanding.” You could have hit me with a frozen salmon (sic). Apparently Obbink, or his alleged collectors, were unaware of filmed evidence of this rare piece—dating to the 1980s and rediscovered in 2008! [...] I excused myself and immediately sent a message to the funder and museum leadership outlining the seriousness of what had transpired. [...] Roberta Mazza, Josephine Dru, Candida Moss, Brent Nongbri, Ariel Sabar, and the host of scholars associated with Tyndale House Cambridge had been asking important questions, and finally some answers were no longer opaque. [...] yes, the “First-Century Mark” fragment “sale” was scandalous. 
Pattengale then explains - apparently trying to distance himself from the whole affair, since by then it began to look as if he was implicated (and this presumably gave the stimulus to write this text):
Last week, with enough evidence now to go public, Michael Holmes ([...] my replacement several years ago at the museum over the research side), released a copy of the purchase agreement signed by Obbink. He also included Obbink’s handwritten list of the manuscripts, a folded paper that I carried for years in my wallet. As this goes to press, an Oxford scholar informed me he traced the unidentified picture Holmes released to my house in Indiana using iPhone metadata. He knows what iPhone I used and when it was taken. I [had] sent the picture to the museum for its files before my retirement, realizing it might be a helpful artifact in this case. 
Where Holmes found it presumably. It seems that Peter Gainsford (Wellington NZ) also spotted the metadata discrepancy. Note, Pattengale  admits he was present together with Scott Carroll (in 2011??) when the manuscripts were allegedly first displayed by Obbink in Christ Church Oxford Pattengale. It is to him that Trobisch turns to confirm that the manuscript "had not been bought", and it is he that carried around (for seven years?) a folded scrap of paper in his wallet with the verses of the texts on those four manuscript scraps (why?). Pattengale then admits:
I have remained silent for eight years on this transaction, for the first several because the buyers agreed not to publicize or sensationalize in any way this research. Then, I remained silent after reporting this matter so it could be handled by authorities.
Which raises the question has it now been? In what way? Pattengale goes on to indicate what those authorities need urgently to investigate:
What we still don’t know, as Moss hints in her Daily Beast article this week, is whether Obbink was himself deceived by a collector who obtained items sometime after the photograph notes in the 1980s [...] In the Mark case, at the least, the items were under Obbink’s purview and some bold misstatements were made.
So once again, the Greens and their MoB get mixed up in dodginess and dishonesty through their simple greed.

Vignette: In fact, Pattengale's tale abridged here, of this case involves all seven of the Seven Deadly Sins - pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.

UPDATE 30th June 2019
Scott Carrol replied to Pattengale here (the version online at the time of writing is the second version, he deleted an earlier one and replaced it with variant wording in point 5). This account clarifies some of the timing surmised above (and places the sequence of events in the context of his own departure from the 'Green Team') but as far as I can see adds little. Brent Nongbri however on his blog ( Jerry Pattengale on Dirk Obbink and the Mark Fragment', Variant Readings, June 28, 2019) questions some of what Pattengale says and adds that there is still much to be clarified:
The picture that Pattengale paints of himself and Carroll being tricked by Professor Obbink is plausible, but the Green Collection and the Museum of the Bible, with their insistence on secrecy, do not help matters. The release of these documents by Michael Holmes is a step in the right direction, but there is more to be done.
as indeed there is.

Cunies as "Western", Christie's?

Coming up in an auction house near you within a fortnight: 'The History of Western Script: Important Antiquities and Manuscripts from the Schøyen Collection' London8 King Street St. James 's 10 Jul, 10:30am (Lots 401 - 461). Including....
 2 godziny temu2 godziny temuWięcejIraqi artefacts from Uruk DhiQar being sold at Christie's in London on 10th July 2019. Just absolutely appalling and disgusting.
Both are said to be: "Provenance: (1) Ancient Near Eastern Texts from the Erlenmeyer Collection; Christie's, London 13 December 1988", the first is "lot 35", the second "lot 114". This old (Swiss!) collection was flogged off in parts between 1988 and 1992 and among other things was responsible for the rise in price of Mesopotamian antiquities on the international art market.

Why is this "western script"? More "west" than what?

Thursday 27 June 2019

How 'Citizen Science' Becomes Pseudoscience

Relevant to the British archaeological establishment treating collection-driven exploitation of the aerchaeological record as "citizen science', it's replacing real knowledge construction by the populist dumbdown the public seek:

(From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Wienersmith)
hat tip David S. Anderson

Dismembered Ancient Egyptian Mummy Parts Seized at US-Canada Border

It seems there are no limits to which collectors of and dealers in portable antiquities will not go to fill their pockets. On May 25th, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized ancient Egyptian mummy linens during inspection of a vehicle crossing the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, Michigan ('Ancient Egyptian mummy linens seized at US-Canada border' USA Today June 26, 2019)
A Canadian mail truck was selected for an enforcement examination at the Customs and Border Protection station in Michigan. During the inspection a package included five jars of ancient Egyptian mummy linen, according to a Customs and Border Protection news release. CBP began to coordinate with a Washington, D.C.-based archaeological organization in determining the admissibility of the presumed antiquities. The seized artifacts are believed to be from the Ptolemaic Dynasty 305-30 B.C. and the importer was unable to prove that the artifacts were removed from Egypt prior to April 2016, which is in violation of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.
The place of mummy linens is on the mummies which were piously wrapped in them. Not in a selfish US collector's self aggrandizing curios display.

It is believed that no brown-skinned children were harmed in this US Border Control operation.

Vignette: even in the Victorian period... gratuitous mummy unwrapping lost  favour with the elite, as the preservation of the past overtook ghoulishness in popularity. Not in 'modern' collecting circles it seems. 

Battlefield Looting and the Ethics of FLOing

EBay seller durhamdigger22 is at it again, now he's flogging off:  >CIVIL WAR MUSKET SHOT FROM A YORKSHIRE BATTLE SITE METAL DETECTING FINDS FROM A RALLY ON SITE WITH FLO. That's it, that's provenance "a Yorkshire battle site", but not to worry "a commercial rally on Yorkshire battle site with a FLO present" ah, so that's OK then? The FLO might have been "present", drinking tea in a tent and chatting with tekkies about Roman denarii - or last night's match results, but it is what kind of record was made of the context of discovery of each of those individual artefacts that is what differentiates battlefield archaeology from mere hoiking. Can the FLO "present" come forward and show us those records? Because personally, I feel that NO FLO should take part on a rally willfully targeting such a sensitive site as a battlefield unless they were sure the recording taking place was of the highest quality. Was it? Show us please.

Regulations On The Import Of Non-EU-Cultural Goods Are Now Coming Into Effect

There is a useful overview of new EU regulations on cultural property by the Withers'  LLP international art team (Simon Chadwick, Eleni Polycarpou, Amanda A. Rottermund and Diana Wierbicki UK: Tick Tock: Regulations On The Import Of Non-EU-Cultural Goods Are Now In Effect. How Will This Affect The International Art Market? Withers LL 9 July 2019): 
The Regulation on the import of cultural goods (EU 2019/880) (the “Regulation”) was formally adopted by the European Parliament and European Council on 17 April 2019. The Regulation addresses the import and storage in the EU of cultural goods. The impetus for the Regulation was the EU’s intent to prevent the illegal removal of cultural goods from non-EU Member States in order to combat the illicit trafficking of cultural goods and the overall preservation of cultural heritage. Following its official publication on the website of the Official Journal of the European Union on 7 June 2019, the Regulation has entered into force today, on 27 June 2019. [...] The prohibition of the import of cultural goods that have been unlawfully removed from their non-EU country of origin will apply from December 2020. For non-EU cultural goods exceeding 250 years in age, as well as those older than 200 years valued at more than EUR 18,000, the Regulation, dictating the requirement of an import licence and an importer statement respectively, will apply from the day the electronic database system becomes operational, or at the latest from 28 June 2025.
The article considers some of the implications of this new regulatory regime. Among the more interesting developments is that the regulation forsees the creation of a centralized electronic database system  that will be accessible across Member States.  This will facilitate the storage and exchange of information regarding import licences and importer statements and supporting information.

The article discusses the effects of these EU regulations on the UK market, which depends on unknown factors such as whether the UK remains in the  customs union or not on Brexiting. The authors also discuss the anticipated impact through potential buyer deterrence at international art fairs.

Major dealers' associations have been opposing these measures because  they  “set levels of due diligence that are unattainable, imposing licensing costs that would make a significant part of the market uneconomic and cause lengthy delays that would make the temporary import of goods for exhibiting at fairs impossible.” CINOA [Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d'Art, or International Confederation of Art and Antique Dealers' Associations] opposes the regulations because they would “add costs and paperwork to the operation of art and antiques businesses throughout Europe.”

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Ancient Mideast treasures looted on Facebook

Ancient relics, antiquities and treasures from the Middle East are being looted and trafficked on Facebook, according to a new report by the ATHAR Project. It found extremist groups and criminal organizations are selling pieces of history like mosaics, statues and historical architecture online. The project's co-directors, Amr Al-Azm and Katie Paul infiltrated the illicit black market and highlight Facebook's role in the trafficking.
An analysis of 95 Arabic Facebook Groups involved in antiquities trafficking shows that the administrators managing the Groups are highly interconnected and have a global reach. There are 488 individual administrators controlling a collective 1,947,195 members across these 95 Facebook Groups.
And that is just the Arabic pages. Globally, the use of social media like Facebook is having devastating effects on the archaeological record.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

An Odd Document [UPDATED]

Christ Church 
The document(s) at the heart of the Dirk Obbink 'Biblical Brouhaha' (see here) are really quite odd if you look carefully at them.  The version in the internet has clearly been tampered with.

1) There are four pages in the internet form, the first three numbered (1-3) the fourth has no number. But page '1' has internally the information that it is 'page 2 of 4' (and the 'seller's initials' - but was not initialled by the buyer) and page 2 has no such information (but the seller's signature). Page '3', 'EXHIBIT (sic) A', has the information internally that it is 'page 4 of 4' and the same initials. So what did the original page 1/ and 3/4 look like and why are they not included as 'evidence'? The fourth page has no title, no page numbers of any kind and no caption to the photo of two nail-bitten fingers holding a scrap of folded and torn paper with the names of the Four Gospels and some chapter and verses, written in capitals and in pencil. What is this supposed to be? Why was part torn off before the photo was taken? Was this tattered scrap part of the original invoice, and if so, what purpose did it serve? In any case, if the invoice had four pages and the present page three is that fourth page, the photo on an unnumbered page.  Odd.

2) Pages '1' and '2' of the internet document have the heading 'Book, Art and Collectibles Purchase agreement' (note US spelling of collectables) and this document is dated internally ' 4 (note US usage again) Feb 2013' (and 'Christ Church' is written as one word)

Page three is just 'Exhibit A' (so is an appendix detached from another document - from what?) and refers to a 'purchase order 77' and 'invoice 017' - and where is that invoice ? There is also the date 12-2[?]-2012 (20th Dec? 2012). Presumably this refers to the date of issue of that invoice. Note that it is several weeks earlier than on the purchase agreement. The purchase agreement refers however to 'Exhibit A' in point two of the agreement.  The loose nail-bitten photo is undated.

3) There are carefully-drawn black rectangles blocking out the following information:
page '2', the signature of the representative (unnamed in the document) of Hobby Lobby and the date on which that signature was applied to the document - we have note the lack of initialling of this representative of the side.
on page '3' the name of the representative of Hobby Lobby is likewise redacted out (why, if the deal was considered legal?), the bank information of the seller and the total sum paid for six items. But less explicable, the first and last items in the list of 'Exhibit A'. Does this mean that there are two documents to which the conditions of the Purchase Agreement also apply?

4) On 'Exhibit A', we have the name and address of the dealer, "Oxford Ancient'" based in Clarendon House, Cornmarket Street, in the centre of Oxford. What is this firm? Who founded it and when, and is it still in existence? [update 25th June 2019, see Candida Moss on this now)

5) On 'page 1', the terms and conditions have been redacted. After the "for good and valuable consideration, the parties agree" bit, points 3-9 of that agreement have been replaced by a dotted line. This is probably why point ten (with four sub-points) is above the bit of the page that says that its on 'page 2 of 4' - points 3-9 were on the lower two thirds of the original page 1 and top half of page 2 of four. Someone has just cut the text up and remounted it and made a photocopy. Obviously we cannot make much sense of the tenth (and final) point, without seeing the second to ninth above it. The current page '2' now contains the original end of the document (which has the final sub-point of 10).

6) Point 10 of the agreement refers to the four year research period required to deal with 'the property' (presumably all six items mentioned in 'Exhibit A') which are to be published in the Brill 'Green Papyri Series' and the last point is puzzling, after that period is up and subject to the lack of extensions, the seller is to surrender to the buyer the 'property', but then it says '(if in the custody of Seller)' - which raises the question of where else it might be.

7) No mention is made of the responsibility of arranging an export licence to move the item after the study period from the UK (EU) to the USA.

Who was responsible for the redaction of this material before it was leaked? What was the purpose of leaking it? Was it a deliberate attempt to incriminate Dr Obbink?

Monday 24 June 2019

An Oxford Scholar and the Antiquities Trade

An antiquity dealer's home
As a followup to the alleged sale of the so-called "First Century Mark" to the Green Collection Brent Nongbri ('Dirk Obbink and the Oxyrhynchus “Distribution” Papyri', Variant Readings ) has done some searching in the Green Collection provenance records, online and found something that escaped notice earlier not only of heritage activists, but also - it would seem - Oxford University:
Now, the buying and selling of these “Distribution Papyri” is legal. Whether it’s ethical is a separate question (the Egypt Exploration Society has taken a stand against the sale of “Distribution” items). These records, if accurate, show that Professor Obbink was active in the antiquities market, and it is fascinating to see that Professor Obbink was buying and then almost immediately reselling these pieces to the Green Collection. It’s not just this Psalms fragment [P.Oxy. 1779,  PMB]. It’s several pieces bought from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio: P.Oxy. 1353P.Oxy. 1459P.Oxy. 1678P.Oxy. 1688P.Oxy. 1728P.Oxy. 1756; and P.Oxy. 1775, as well as a Tebtunis papyrus.  It’s also noteworthy that this was happening quite early in the formation of the Green Collection–in 2010. If these records are accurate, then almost from the beginning of the enterprise, Dirk Obbink was not just an advisor, but also a supplier of manuscripts to the Green Collection.
How is this possible? There are eight fragments listed, the invoice discussed earlier today is number 17 - what else did the academic seller sell and to whom?

Biblical Brouhaha: Oxford Scholar Accused of Dealing in Manuscripts

Papyrology, new nail-biting
 installment of long-running
controversy (Daily Beast)
Newly surfaced documents raise questions about the purported 'First Century Mark' manuscript and an Oxford scholar is allegedly involved (Candida Moss, ' Did Oxford Scholar Secretly Sell Bible Fragment to Hobby Lobby Family?' Daily Beast 24th June 2019).

A supposed first-century antiquity is part of a collection at Oxford, but paperwork reportedly suggests it was somehow sold by a professor. Eh? The allegations seem to come from Michael Holmes, Director of the Museum of the Bible’s Scholar’s Initiative (more discussion of the invoice by Elijah Hixson here).  Let us hope the scholar involved presents the evidence to show that he did not do what his accusers suggest...

I've not seen anyone mention one other factor that adds to the saleability of this particular fragment of the text to the Evangelical MoB:
I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan [...] Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
On further study (as I and others have already discussed), the fragment also seems now not to have been first century at all. The background of this dispute and how that confusion arose is nicely presented by Bart Ehrman here.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Collectors' Corner: UK Dealer Selling Iraqi Cuneiform, Where From?

UK dealer SimonWicks (ace-antiques, ancient- antiques) has some cunies to shift, right under the nose of the British archaeological community that is not going to lift a finger of protest or to help collectors differentiate kosher from dodgy. Snowflakes. Here you are:
With literacy skills like that, you can see why this gentleman entered the world of antiquities collecting and dealing. I think we have a number of "questions" about this item.

A passion for forming collections

"The British Character. A passion for forming collections"
by Pont (Graham Laidler) in Punch Magazine (1937).

Monday 17 June 2019

Egypt's Ousted former President Mohammed Morsi dies in court after collapsing during trial

رحم الله الرئيس الاسبق محمد مرسي العياط الذي توفي عصر اليوم

Mursi, first democratically elected president in Egypt’s modern history, had been in jail since he was toppled by the military in 2013.

Sunday 16 June 2019

UK Metal detectorist 'had no idea' [UPDATED]

A UK metal detectorist kept a Roman coin in a farmer's field in Berkshire for nearly 30 years before realising it was worth £10,000, on learning which he decided he was more interested in the money than finding out about history (BBC 'Metal detectorist 'had no idea coin was worth £10k' 10th June 2019).
Retired police officer Tom Thomas, from Reading, made the rare discovery in the 1990s and kept the coin in his small collection. The hobbyist only realised it was a one-of-a-kind coin when a fellow detectorist pointed out its rarity at a family barbecue [...] Mr Thomas, who has been metal detecting for more than 30 years [said] [...]"I didn't know what it was as such. I put it with my small collection and thought nothing more of it".
The coin is in fact the only known example of a Carausius denarius coin that features the Roman goddess Salus feeding a snake rising from an altar. And how many other unrecognized and unrecorded Roman finds has Mr Thomas got hidden away in his 'small personal collection'? How many did he throw away not being able to work out what they are, and not responsible enough to take them along to the PAS for identification and recording?  The coin will be auctioned at Hansons Auctioneers on 27 August, and has an estimate of £10,000. The digger reckons he is forced to shift it because (he says):  "The only reason I'm selling it now is because it's so unique and valuable it has to be locked away in a bank vault". Using that line of argument, he'd better sell his car too - because that's presumably worth about the same amount or more and the paranoid ex-cop presumably would therefore regard it as in equal danger of being stolen too. Anyway, the family of that landowner in Berkshire will be delighted, I am sure, to receive their 50:50 share of the proceeds of the sale (unless, that is, Mr Thomas has a copy of the protocol of assignment of full title to the coin in the event of such a sale signed by the original landowner). 

And for all those enthusiastic British coin fondlers fondly imaging that the pirate emperor Caruasius was doing "the first Brexit", let's have a look at the coin Mr Thomas found alongside a contemporary Salus issue of Maximianus - spot the difference in execution. That's what happens when you break away from civilised Europe... Meanwhile some on Twitter are less than forgiving towards the evidence-hoarding artefact hunter than the excited BBC:
W odpowiedzi do 
Can't help but think that Tom Thomas is a shit of the first water; made no attempt to register the coin with until ~2 years ago & thinks the coin should be in a bank vault rather than a museum. The man is basically a walking heritage crime.
I have corrected the denomination of the coin for accuracy (thanks Duncan Finch). Denarii were only rarely issued after Gordian III (AD 238–244) but this, apparently is one (the picture on the front is the clue, apparently - see comment below)

Friday 14 June 2019

The Same Old Arguments

The same old special pleading arguments from the antiquities trade....
Thanks to ⁦⁩ for publishing my letter on ⁦⁩ Tutankhamen head today. We need a better public information campaign on issues like this to defend legitimate trade while fighting crime

The point is though, if - since 14th November 1970 - there has been an internationally-agreed definition of what constitutes the licit import, export or transfer of ownership of cultural property (1970 Convention Art. 3), why would any careful dealer or collector "not keep" the evidence that those guidelines have been followed? And why would any responsible dealer even think of acquiring an artefact where the seller cannot supply proof that the object is of licit origins? What kind of cowboy business would repeatedly do that just in order to keep going? 

Mr Macquisten suggests this is a case of 'not striking a balance' between 'private property rights and crime prevention'. It is not, it's about the responsibilities of dealers and collectors of portable antiquities.

Monday 10 June 2019

UK Antiquities Trade Watch: Ungrounded, unpapered Christie's statue fragment, does it really "look like" Tutankhamun?

Ungrounded, unpapered Christie's statue fragment, does it really "look like" Tutankhamun?

Left: Luxor cache, middle, in Karnak, right the newly-surfaced fragment. The lips, the eyes, the proportion of the face, the height of the crown... One came off the market, Jus' saying....

Saturday 8 June 2019

Magnet Fishing 'illegal' in France, status in UK unclear

HAPPAH says:
Suite à l'essor de la pêche à l'aimant, le Ministère de l'Intérieur par sa Direction Générale de la Sécurité Civile et de la Gestion des Crises expose dans une circulaire nationale ce 5 juin que cette activité de pêche à l'aimant est illégale.
Obviously this is an even more 'blind' manner of removing archaeological evidence from the archaeological record than metal detecting, and nobody has been tempted to even think of creating a Code of Practice for Responsible Magnet Fishing in England and Wales. This rather begs the question whether one type of Collection Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record can be done "responsibly" (sic), if another cannot. Perhaps in fact the real answer is that in fact none of it can.

A chaîne opératoire of the creation of a 'monument'

The original is unsigned:

Maybe somebody knows who the author is?

Thursday 6 June 2019

UK Ecstasy and Embarrassment of Archaeological Outreach Gone Wrong

 "As well as being one of the world’s most 
expensive Roman coins, it is the most money ever paid
 for one of Allectus. It is now the most valuable Roman coin
 minted in Britain to have been sold at auction."

Not 'Brexit' at all, coineys
should read the reverse
 with understanding
Dumbdown narrativisation for the proles (Sam Lennon, 'Roman coin of killer emperor found near Dover sells for half a million' Kent Online 06 June 2019).
An ancient Roman coin showing a killer emperor has sold for more than half a million pounds. It went under the hammer today for £552,000, more than five times the maximum estimate of £100,000. It shows the head of Allectus, a finance minister who rose to the top by murdering his predecessor. The coin was discovered near Dover. The gold coin, found near Dover, went this afternoon at an auction by Dix Noonan Webb, the Mayfair-based international coin, medal, banknote and jewellery specialist. [...] It was found by a 30-year-old metal detectorist and his brother in March, next to a Roman road. The detectorist, who wishes to remain anonymous now says: “I cannot believe it, we are ecstatic. We expected it to sell for a little over estimate, but not five times. "We are sharing the money with the farmer, who is also thrilled.”
Yep, I bet they are.  Archaeologists are also enthusiastically hailing this find (an Oriens Aug aureus) as being super-glittery. It seems that theere are only 24 aurei of Allectus known worldwide. And where is this new find in the PAS database, please? Because its not this one, is it? The metal detectorist may be 'overjoyed' at being able to pocket his share of half a million quid without being in any way constrained to truthfully and responsibly report exactly what he found, where and how. But this is scandalous mismanagement of the heritage in the UK. Yet do the media in any way hint at that? Where are the staff of the British Museum's press office?

This is the message the public are getting as a result of the PAS current style of 'say nowt outreach'"
Independent: ' Metal detectorist 'ecstatic' after find on farm turns out to be  ultra-rare Roman coin fetching £552,000 at public sale'
and a variant form 'Steel detectorist ‘ecstatic’ after discover on farm seems to be ultra-rare Roman coin fetching £552,000 at public sale'  The Today press (shame they misspelt 'steal' as in knowledge theft).
An Ancient Roman Gold Coin Found in a Field Just Sold for $700,000
Rare Roman gold coin found in Kent field sells at £460,000
Rare Roman Coin Found in a Field in England Sells for $700,000
Incredible 2,300-year-old Roman coin sells for £550,000 at auction

And the dumbest of dumbdown ever from the Express: 
(but Britain then decided to Remain until it got kicked out 115 years later which led to the Dark Ages, yeh - and that reverse means what, in fact, losers?). This is not the first time this cheap argument has been used by UK coineys - see here. This is where PAS clickbait dumbdown 'archaeological outreach' gets us. 

Wednesday 5 June 2019

UK Antiquities trade watch: Ungrounded, Unpapered Brown Quartzite Statue of Unknown post-Amarnan ruler Expected to Fetch £4 Million [UPDATED]

The brown quartzite head will lead Christie’s
 The Exceptional Sale in London on July 4. Public
 viewing will run from June 29 till the auction day.

Laetitia Deloye
A couple of private collectors somehow got their hands on a portableised fragment of a monumental quartzite sculpture of a late 18th dynasty pharaoh that is being ('looks like') hyped as from a statue of the most famous (Fang Block, 'A Brown Quartzite Statue of Tutankhamen Expected to Fetch £4 Million', Barrons June 3, 2019). the fragment is uninscribed and more importantly, seems to be lacking in paperwork:
A 3,000-year-old brown quartzite statue of Tutankhamen, the most famous Egyptian Pharaoh, is expected to realize over £4 million (US$5 million) when it’s auctioned at Christie’s London this July. The 28.5-centimeter-tall (11-inch-tall) head, part of a statue of the God Amen (ancient Egyptian god of the sun and air), is “a remarkable representation of the legendary young king Tutankhamen as the god Amen,” according to Laetitia Delaloye, a specialist in antiquities at Christie’s London. The head is “recognizable by the superbly modeled face showing sensitively carved, naturalistic eyes, eyebrows, and sensual lips, a style inherited from the important Amarna Period,” she says. Similar representations of the God Amen, also with facial features of Tutankhamen, were carved for the temple of Karnak in Upper Egypt.
Fragmented statue (Christie's)
Now, actually, if you compare this head with those recovered from the rubble at Karnak, the resemblance actually is not all that conclusive. This one has dissimilar facial features to my eye. There were other rulers in this confused post-Amarnan period, so the Tut label is to my mind dealer's hype, unless it can be grounded this is an unknown post-Amarnan ruler. Full stop. But according to the sellers, despite the rest of it still lying somewhere near where found (and disregarded by the artefact hunters):
The sculpture head is accompanied by an excellent publication and exhibition history, and strong provenance, Delaloye says. It’s offered from Rosandro Collection, one of the world’s most renowned private collections of Egyptian art, part of which was sold in 2016 by Christie’s for over £3 million.  An anonymous Geman collector acquired the piece in 1985 from Heinz Herzer, a Munich-based dealer. Prior to this, Joseph Messina, an Austrian dealer, acquired it in 1973-74 from Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis, who reportedly had it in his collection by the 1960s, according to Christie’s. 
A Joseph Messina is still associated with the Kokorian Gallery in Vienna, it is not clear whether his business records from the 1970s exist. As Jason Felch has pointed out, Heinz Herzer is best known for selling the disputed Getty Bronze. This object is said to have passed through the hands of three dealers (1973/4 to 1985) without being sold. This is known to have happened to many antiquities that turn out probably to have been illicitly acquired, and is intended to 'launder' them. What is the reason here? The exhibition history given in the catalogue appears to be all post-Herzer, did Messina and Arnaulrf Rohsmann not have the need to show it anywhere to attract customers? So, assuming that the item exhibited was this one and records exist of that exhibition, given the non-mention of any business documentation prior to that, in fact the first verifiable presence of the object on the market is from that 1992 Berlin exhibition (with at least one other 'Resandro' piece - lot 112). The German collectors appears ashamed that they bought this trophy piece so want to remain anonymous. 

The Christie's catalogue collecting and exhibition history
There are other problems with the earlier part of this object's collecting history. Felch notes that the collecting history is only 'understood to have been' in a modern aristocratic collection. Likewise, it would be instructive to look at the collecting histories of other (if any) items known to have been in any 1960s antiquities collection of Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis. Indeed as much as collecting histories of objects, in provenance research we need collection histories. What antiquities do the family still hold? Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis himself died in 2004, so he cannot confirm whether or not or how the piece came to his collection.

Also, if I were looking at this thing in the showrooms, I'd certainly take a closer look at that squiffy right eye, is there a bit of (ancient or modern) recutting or repair here, or is it just a wonky royal sculpture? What does the 'condition report' say about it? Something laughably vague as the collection history?

Caveat emptor.

UPDATE 26th June 2019

I suspected as much...
Owen Jarus‏ @ojarus June 25, 2019 03:43pm ET
Family of Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis deny that he owned Tut statue say that he had no interest in antiquities
This was easy enough to check, why did Christie's NOT? So, where in fact was this before Heinz Herzer was showing it around in the 1980s? Where and how did it really "surface"?

See:  Owen Jarus, 'Exclusive: Controversial King Tut Statue Has Sketchy Origins. Now Christie's Is Selling it', Live Science June 25, 2019
Christie's claims that the sculpture was owned by Prinz (Prince) Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis (who lived from 1919 to 2004) in the 1960s and that he sold it in 1973 or 1974 to Josef Messina, the owner of Galerie Kokorian and Co, Vienna. [...]  To discover its origins, Live Science researched Wilhelm's life, talking to surviving family and friends and gathering documents on the prince's life.  Both Viktor von Thurn und Taxis (Wilhelm's son) and Daria von Thurn und Taxis (Wilhelm's niece) told Live Science that Wilhelm never owned the sculpture. Furthermore, Daria said in an interview that Wilhelm had no interest in ancient artifacts, or art in general. He was "not a very art-interested person" she told Live Science. 
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