Wednesday 31 July 2019

FLO Dodges Question and Approves the Emperor's New Clothes Because that Brings "Funding"

PAS propaganda of success
It does not really seem all that difficult to me... but an FLO... an FLO seems to be in a different world. Over here I posted a text commenting on what an FLO had pretty crassly said in justification of artefact hunting: "Also worth pointing out that a large concentration of finds on arable land probably means that you have a site being destroyed by intensive agriculture, the latter being The Single Greatest Threat to buried remains in the UK (not that the anti-PAS lobby mention that often...)". That in itself dodges a whole load of issues (some of which I referred to in my blog text). In response to the FLO-fluff, I asked a couple of pertinent questions about what is "saved" by hoiking loose collectables out of the archaeological record willy-nilly (as tekkies do) and pocketing them with minimal record (as tekkies do, and do not report vast numbers of what they take). This is a question habitually dodged by the pro-PAS groupies. In any case, what in the view of finds-fondling-FLOs are those  "buried remains" and how should "Our Portable Past" be recorded?

I tweeted a link to that post - and attached to it the twitter handle of a FLO (the Salisbury guy) that had "liked' that justification. The gentleman in question has now attempted to pick up the discussion. In the spirit of outreach, perhaps? (To save space I've run three consecutive tweets into one here)
PASWiltshire@PasWiltshire·3 godz.W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues i @findsorguk
Hi Paul, in response to your question, we create a record of objects that would otherwise ended up in an anonymous collection or destroyed by exposure. This is all happening anyway, regardless of whether we approve of it or not.// By engaging with detectorists we can encourage best practice, including encouraging detectorists to stick to the plough zone (it's the first sentence of the code of practice, pretty much).//Sitting in an ivory tower will perpetuate a counter-productive cycle of animosity between detectorists and archaeologists, missing out on both data and funding, which is often linked to the demonstration of societal value/impact.
Actually, it is NOT "pretty much the first sentence of the code of practice", is it?

As for "we create a record of objects that would otherwise ended up in an anonymous collection" that's a load of junksense as well, because the non-Treasure objects that are the subject of PAS recording (or should be, Treasure items, the law says are reported elsewhere) are mostly handed back to their anonymised finders and end up in somebody's collection - it is not recorded whose (or they eventually end up in a car boot sale or a skip).

The question is whether archaeological outreach would be about "doing it because it is happening anyway" or whether it would be opposing it happening in the first place, or where it cannot be stopped, reducing the impact. Merely "recording random stuff" is not doing that.

My parting question was about the actual physical response to some jerk hoiking stuff out of pasture ("where is the firm and strident PAS-castigation of those metal detecting artefact hunters who venture onto pasture land (some of it with unploughed earthworks) and hoik and pocket artefacts there?"). A limp-wristed reminder that the umpteenth sentence of some code that nobody much uses (as all my readers know, it can be amply demonstrated that UK tekkies like the shut-the-gates NCMD one and ignore the one the FLO should be promoting and measuring standards by until his lungs ache).

Weakly parroting the MikeLewisPAS mantra "By engaging with detectorists we can encourage best practice" does nothing to pull the wool over anyone's eyes that this is actually in any way achievable. There have been twenty years of expensive and futile PAS "engagement" to perhaps 27000 tekkies out there... and yet progress as a result of this "partnership" has been - I venture to say - minimal. It really is an ivory tower attitude to go against what close acquaintance with the social media resources of UK tekkiedom shows to be the real extent of what anyone would see as best practice in that milieu.

In fact this is testable, isn't it? The PAS database entries at the bottom have a "landuse" field and a "discovered by metal detector" one. It should be pretty easy for the PAS current IT team to conjure up a tabulation of annual find statistics that show the degree to which that "engagement/partnership' has reduced irresponsible metal detecting on non-arable land. Let's see some cold hard statistics and not glib, meaningless soundbites from the PAS. Let us see them actually measuring their performance and presenting that for public scrutiny.

As for contrasting an (my???) "ivory tower" approach with this FLO's own hands-on tekkie finds fondling, that really exposes an unhelpful "Fortress PAS" mentality. Surely there is, here in Europe, and over there in the UK too, just one archaeology, in which we all do our bit, but not in separate sound-proof cupboards. There is "thinking" and "doing", but they should be working together, surely. The PAS cannot afford to be (cannot offer anything by being) atheoretical, concentrated just on the pragmatics of weighing, measuring, imaging and identifying "things dug up" passively (and in retro-Kossinnist/ethno-cultural historical terms) regardless of the context in which it takes place ("because it's all happening anyway"). The PAS surely should be part (an integral part) of the heritage debate and so far is failing to be through its own self-representation only through a continuing propaganda of success ("WottaLottaFinds We Got in our Database"   1,428,348 objects within 918,392 records).

Yet reality could look very different, if there are 27000 tekkies and they are finding a pretty miserable number of recordable finds annually the number of finds the PAS have not seen since the beginning of the PAS could be somewhere in the region of 6 million (5,837,064). That does not look much like the postulate "By engaging with detectorists we can encourage best practice" is working, far from it, the number of recorded items is (still) about one in five. That's pretty pathetic return for all that money thrown at this foundering policy of engagement. And let the PAS instead of glib and unhelpful  Ixelles-Sixy denial, produce figures to show that these are way off - and by how much would they have to be way-off for the situation resulting from British archaeology's passive "engagement" with Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record be in any way regarded as anything other than an unmitigated archaeological disaster? By how much? Ten percent, thirty, fifty?

In what way is this "partnership" any less counterproductive when it comes to safeguarding the very subject of archaeological enquiry (which is sites, not the loose artefacts of the PAS-fans) from being looted away for collectables than the Salisbury FLO's "counter-productive cycle of animosity between detectorists and archaeologists"? At least calling a spade a spade does not dirty the hands as much as the tekkie back-slapping and pandering we see many British archaeologists engaged in when it comes to dealing with archaeologiically destructive (but shiny goodie-productive) Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record.

But then the FLO's next phrase is telling:
"missing out on both data and funding, which is often linked to the demonstration of societal value/impact".
So, we pretend that Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record is socially valuable (as "citizen archaeology" no less) and then we'll get the funding for the fifty or so archies to continue doing what they do at public expense while (see this blog) NOT informing the British public of what is what. The morality of that seems to me pretty questionable. Ugly, in fact.

The Salisbury FLO, should they feel the need (or anyone else from PAS for that matter), are - as ever - cordially invited to address these issues here in the comments, tweets are not a good way to communicate complex ideas.

UPDATE 1st Aug 2019
It seems that the FLO does not feel that exploring complex ideas is his forte, so we get a whole series of soundbite tweets. He's probably better at slapping tekkie backs and saying "you done well M8"  than discussing the nitty-gritty of the effects of current policies in the UK.  Still, if he changes his mind, we are waiting for his contribution here.


Iraq displays stolen artifacts recovered from UK, Sweden

Iraq displays stolen artifacts recovered from UK, Sweden. The seizures include foundation cones.... I think this is the group of items concerned, seized in the UK in 2003, and only now going back? And what happened to that dealer that had them and then mysteriously "went out of business"? Did he also disappear into a crack in the round that opened up and swallowed him? or will we see him in court? Or perhaps he'll appear in n Iraqi court testifying against the smugglers that he identified for the authorities there?

Tuesday 30 July 2019

Going Against the Grain on the Border of Europe

Mark Sugrue @marksugruek has been highlighting some of the problems EU will have safeguarding itself from intrusions from outside on the zone of contact between brexited UK and the rest of Europe. Making the European border tight here is going to need a lot of costly effort from both sides. Thread by @marksugruek : "Some fun @BorderIrish crossings between Ireland and the UK. Would love to see 'technology' solve this..."

After all, what is going to keep those grabby British artefact hunters  with their knowledge-thieving ways and metal detectors from crawling across the border under the cover of darkness and stealing bits of our common European archaeological heritage?

These anomalies are caused by the layout of the landscape in centuries preceding 1922. Probably the majority are caused by the modern border being drawn along old parish and estate boundaries, which need not relate to post-medieval and modern changes in road systems and property ownership. This in turn invites reflection on the meaning of 'borders' and strictly-defined political units that cannot cut apart communities, the links between which - sometimes going back to centuries past - cut across lines on maps.

The 'Archaeology' of the Plastic Age

The archaeology of our times
Lego Lost At Sea @LegoLostAtSea ·29 lip
Some of the plastic we find on beaches is decades old. The 1st figure here was given away with #SugarPuffs in 1957, the wagon driver is thought to date to the late 50s, the #RobinHood figure is 50-60 years old and the Tallon jet car is from 1962. #anthropocene #plasticarchaeology
Just as Bloomsbury tells us citizens can "do archaeology" (build a nuanced view of past societies) by finding metal objects with a metal detector, to what extent can the artefacts of just one type of material recovered from a specific range of deposits tell us about life today?

The Lego Lost At Sea twitter feed (2 086 Tweets) by Tracey Williams is quite thought-provoking, not only from the environmentalist point of view, but also on the nature of artefact hunting, study/analysis (narrativisation) and collecting in general. Worth browsing and/or following. The associated hashtags are also worth looking at   #anthropocene #plasticheritage #plasticarchaeology

Hat tip London Mudlark (Lara Maiklem)

Monday 29 July 2019

UK Man Jailed for Possession of Stolen Archaeological Artefacts

Ransacked archaeological stores at CAT
In the UK, a 37-year-old man has been jailed for five months after he was found in possession of stolen archaeological artefacts (Joe Wright, 'Raymond Roberts jailed after being found with stolen artefacts from Canterbury Archaeological Trust' Kent Online, 29 July 2019).
The Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT) was ransacked in January last year - with Roman bone hairpins and fragments of Anglo-Saxon combs being among the precious items to be pinched. Police arrested Raymond Roberts on Sunday, March 25 in connection with handling the stolen items. Charged with two counts of handling stolen goods and one count of theft of metal cladding, Roberts admitted the charges against him when he appeared before Canterbury Crown Court. [...] Officers originally located Roberts on March 19 after an alarm was activated at a business in Sturry Road.
As he was approached, he ran away but police caught him and made the arrest. 
Thief left a mess
He was found to be in possession of a collection of archaeological artefacts that had been stolen in the CAT burglary in January 2018. Following a police interview, he was released under investigation before being arrested again six days later.
Not all of the artefacts have been recovered, it seems the thief sold them off before he was arrested. Who did you say those coins in your collection came from? Have you got the paperwork?

PAS Social Media Outreach, "Don' Worry M8s, Anti-Collecting Brigade Are Hiding the Troof From yer"

This takes the biscuit:
Also worth pointing out that a large concentration of finds on arable land probably means that you have a site being destroyed by intensive agriculture, the latter being The Single Greatest Threat to buried remains in the UK (not that the anti-PAS lobby mention that often...)
Ixelles Six land this, so Wil Partridge, hoiking it out willy-nilly and pocketing it with minimal record "saves" what? That is actually a sensible and pertinent question, not that you'll see the pro-PAS lobby mentioning that it is one - let alone answering it. What in the PAS view are "buried remains' and how should "Our Portable Past" be recorded?

As for deep ploughing, is it actually true that it is the anti-Collection-Driven-Exploitation-of-the- Archaeological-Record-Lobby that is not telling it like it is?

See for example: Aren't Tractor Drivers Wonderful?, PACHI Sunday, 27 September 2009
Focus on Irresponsible UK Metal Detecting: "Refreshing the Field"  PACHI  Wednesday, 15 January 2014

PAS have yet to comment on this issue, in 20 years "outreach" - no surprise really. Some of them have not advanced archaeologically beyond excavating hoards in narrow hoik holes with paint scrapers and Sainbury's carrier bags.

And anyway if it is arable farming that is destroying "buried remains" where is the firm and strident PAS-castigation of those metal detecting artefact hunters who venture onto pasture land (some of it with unploughed earthworks) and hoik and pocket artefacts there? Where is it?

"Worried I might lose My Gold Coins Before I can Sell Them On"

Over on the lootier Facebook, one 'Henry Francois' seems confused about the proposed tweaking of the treasure Act, for some reason, he asks about recording of finds 'worth over a certain amount found after 1979'. A fellow member (Paula Pennington) assures him
No one knows yet, if they bring in the rules Gold coins from 43AD onwards may have to be recorded if you want to sell them on. I should imagine that would be a headache for them to impose though
Ah so that's OK, they cant touch yer for it then. But Henry Francois is still worried:
oh I see I’m recording my gold Roman now thought it would give it more providence (sic). Worries I might lose it
and Paula again reassures him
No you will be fine, new rules aren't in yet so wont apply.
The detectorists' own expert on criminal law and NCMD rep John Maloney reckons:
Legislation can not be applied retrospectively. If you have evidence it was in your possession when the law changed then all is well.
And what evidence would that be, if not a signed finds release protocol for that object from the landowner. In other words, precisely the sort of documentation that most metal detectorists do not bother to get to prove title.

Sunday 28 July 2019

Port Talbot Pavement Art Portableised

A piece of pavement art has been ripped out and stolen in Port TalbotLaura Clements, 'Bronze pavement art stolen in Port Talbot' Wales Online, 27 July 2019.
 The large swirl, which is in the car park behind Station Road, has been in the town for more than 10 years. It was made out of bronze tiles and words were engraved onto them to make a poem. It is thought the thieves nicked the tiles [...] some time between 7.30am and 3.30pm on Saturday, July 20.
In broad daylight, as most hobby metal detecting and taking is done.  But it's OK in this case, the FLO has already made a record of the hole left behind - which is more than they do in the case of endemic Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record in the same region.

Selfish takers spoil it for everyone else, a shadow of what has gone.

Friday 26 July 2019

Bead Collecting and Looting

Some beads sold online possibly come from heirloom strands bought from locals willing to part with them (why?) that contain reused older beads. But where would one go looking for ancient beads? Wandering the bare hectares to find scattered losses that were not retrieved in the past as a lover tugged at his paramour's clothing behind some long-vanished bushes, or would you scoop them up in a looted cemetery where people were interred in their costume and ornament?
Just another day with #looters selling ancient beads on #Facebook this is so rampant its impossible to #report and most activities happen in non-English social media sites.
What kind of activities are supported by bead collecting?

Wednesday 24 July 2019

What "New World"?

Dr. Michael B.C. Rivera @riveramichael·13 godz.
Don’t use ‘new world’, everyone. 🙅🏻‍♂️ Whether you’re in bioarchaeology, primatology, genetics, or any field of #anthropology and #archaeology!
Arslan Zaidi @A_A_Zaidi · 13 godz.
Hey #SMBE2019. Truly enjoying the conference but now heard the term "new world" used several times when referring to the Americas. Can we please move away from this, as it erases millennia of indigenous history pre-colonization. Thanks.

'Grave Finds: Mortuary-Derived Antiquities from England and Wales, by Adam Daubney

Adam Daubney, 'Grave Finds: Mortuary-Derived Antiquities from England and Wales'
Artefacts deriving from mortuary contexts form a unique group among the vast numbers of unstratified portable antiquities found every year in England and Wales. Such finds, usually discovered by hobbyist metal detectorists, have great potential to tell us about the character, state, and preservation of the mortuary environments from which they derive. Yet, unlike the situation regarding the discovery of human remains, the reporting of unstratified grave goods is not compulsory. This presents a strange paradox in view of contemporary theory in mortuary archaeology and practice in indigenous heritage overseas, where funerary objects are usually regarded as a fundamental aspect of the archaeological deceased, if not an inalienable part of it. At present, grave goods — whether found on the body or dislodged from it — are normally the property of the landowner and as such can be lawfully privately owned or traded on the antiquities market. This paper outlines the current ethical and legal status of unstratified grave goods sourced from England and Wales, and explores current trends in their discovery and subsequent sale on the antiquities market. Throughout the paper, consideration is given to the question as to whether mortuary-derived antiquities should be given some form of enhanced legal or ethical status; however, the discussion reveals a range of complexities that present significant challenges.
The text raises an interesting point. It suggests that artefacts deposited as grave goods have at present no form of protection. a lot of items on the antiquities market also come from graves - such as a lot of Pre-columbian ‘art’ and of course Egyptian (but then where do Red-Figure vases and complete Roman glass vessels come from?). There are huge inconsistencies that would be very good to thrash out and discuss. So of course in the USA being from a grave immediately initiates NAGPRA if its not a White man’s grave. In some countries there are religious sanctions on touching graves... In others – such as the UK – it’s not an issue, but should be.

 Another thing that might be worth discussing is the whole issue of hoards that could be analogous. Some are just dumped metalwork for salvaging later - like the Inchintuthil nail deposit. But many hoards can also be interpreted as votive deposits – buried with piety to remain buried– something even Detectorists season 3 got in... (!) So surely, this too can be argued to involve the same issues as removing grave goods.

Textile Traffickers, Mummy Mailers, Silver Smugglers, and Virgin Vandals

'Cultural Heritage Offences in Latin America: Textile Traffickers, Mummy Mailers, Silver Smugglers, and Virgin Vandals’ by Donna Yates in "The Palgrave Handbook on Art Crime". Available here.
Abstract This chapter explores crimes related to the looting, trafficking, and illicit sale of cultural objects from Latin America. After a brief summary of the market for Latin American antiquities, the nature of crimes against those antiquities, and the policy that is meant to regulate the situation, four contemporary case cultural heritage crime case studies from the Andes are discussed: trafficking of ancient textiles, the trade in mummified human remains, the theft of colonial silver, and sacred art theft. The chapter concludes with a call for market reduction and context-specific, targeted responses to threats to Latin American cultural heritage.

Tuesday 23 July 2019

The 'Searcher' Team in the House of Commons

Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham and Dr Michael Lewis, Head of PAS at the Houses of Parliament this morning at the judging of The Searcher’s Nations’ Greatest Finds Competition. 

And MP Loughton just happens to be sitting by a pile of metal detecting magazines that his mate has brought to the House to pose next to, pen in hand. The latest issue strategically placed at the top of the pile to promote collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record straight from the seat of Her Majesty's Government. Why?  

Monday 22 July 2019

Question on Cultural Heritage Policy

A question that may upset friends devoted to preserving cultural heritage: given that looting and economic development destroy cultural heritage, is focusing on repatriation a help or a distraction? How does focusing on restitution help prevent future destruction of the not yet known past?

Saturday 20 July 2019

"On this day" Dumbdown From Bloomsbury

It is difficult, I suppose, to be a curator in a self-proclaimed 'encyclopedic museum' that presupposes that its audiences can make meaningful connections between the looted material of different countries if it is displayed in adjacent galleries, but actually knows that the majority of them are not in fact cognitively equipped to do so. So you resort to mindless dumbdown to attempt to 'make the collections relevant' (anyhow you can) to justify their continued existence. So this is what happens when you do not have any lunulate pendants, dedicatory inscriptions to Luna, Islamic crescent emblems or other moon-related items to hand and really, really want to write something on Twitter:
Sue Brunning ‏ @SueBrunningBM 10:36 - 20 lip 2019
I'm stretching a bit to link @britishmuseum's #AngloSaxon collections with today's #Apollo11 anniversary - so here's a 6th century #crystalball from the #IsleofWight that not only looks a bit #moon-like (esp in BandW) but also has half-moon stamp marks on its silver frame. Tenuous?
Pointless, lacking in respect and totally unhelpful. There is a story this archaeological object and its context of deposition and discovery tell, but its nothing to do with Buzz Aldrin and NASA.

Collectors' Corner, John Boy's Ring Factory [UPDATED]

There is one born every minute, as metal detectorist 'johnboy2954 from Stockton-on-tees, United Kingdom (3558 sales) has found out. He's offering an 'ANCIENT ROMAN BRONZE 'GLADITORIAL' RING--DETECTOR FIND' that all those UK archaeologists who think metal detectorists are a jolly decent truth-telling lot ought to take a look at. It's going to sell, if EBay do not take it down, on 24th July 2019 at 10:08PM . He's been finding and selling a lot of rings recently, has John. Anyway, this one is:
So, I guess 'found metal detecting in Europe' means not in England or Wales, which is why the PAS have not recorded it. So he'll have a search permit and an export licence from the source country then. Now this is not a gladiator's ring, nor is it Roman workmanship. It is a ring really rather inexpertly cast incorporating a cast (dendrites visible) representing the reverse of a republican denarius of L. Livineius Regulus (42 B.C.) showing a combat scene of bestiarii, one combatant attacking a lion with a spear, another, armed with a shield and sword attacks a panther, a wounded bear sits on the left, L.REGVLIS (sic) in the exergue. I do not have the relevant reference works to hand, so cannot say if REGULIS appears on any real coins. Anyway, the cast is unlike the 'stickmen style' of many of the examples of this coin online (except this one). That this is not a real coin is shown by the views showing inside the ring (the underside of the bevel) and its general profile. Also he fact that the whole ring is described as 'bronze' is a bit of a giveaway..

This nonsense about 'leaving the patina on' is a bit misleading. What the photos actually show looks for all the world like the ring has been scorched with a blowtorch, and nothing at all like what an object dug out of any European soil would look like. Indeed, if you look at his other objects, they all have a remarkably similar 'patina' - despite being attributed by the seller to different dates and cultures... Something for the seller to explain to the buyer, I'd say. And the emptor eager to part with their money to UK artefact hunters would do well to jolly well caveat a bit, I'd say. I'd not bid on this one, personally - and that's not just because the seller does not take his responsibilities carefully enough to say where he found the object and what paperwork will accompany it to the buyer.

UPDATE 24th July 2019
It's getting exciting now... Time left: Time left:32m 22s Current bid: GBP 124.00 [Approximately US $154.23] with as many as 51 bids. The bid that's leading at the moment is one 'h***4' apparently a newbie with only 20 comments and who's been bidding steadily away for the last few days. What a shame that collectors do not read this blog, they'd save themselves a lot of trouble when they want to sell their 'treasures'.

Of course, there is another explanation, the pattern of bids of 'h***4' could also be shill-bidding, but of course it cannot be because that's illegal, and we all know that metal detectorists are as pure and law-abiding as the driven snow. They'd never do anything like misrepresenting a findspot or shill-bidding would they? Anyway the auction is ending .... will it be a fingernail-biting faceoff between bidders?

UPDATE UPDATED 24th July 2019
Oh yes, nail-biting finish, for some reason 'h***4' who'd been pushing the price up and up, dropped out in the last few hours, and another two bidders competed for this ugly piece:
k***s(29) GBP 225.00 24 Jul 2019 at 12:45:05PM PDT
o***r(575) GBP 220.00 24 Jul 2019 at 1:08:19PM PDT
h***4(20) GBP 135.00 24 Jul 2019 at 11:33:15AM PDT
Well, k***s, let's hope it brings you 225 quid's worth of joy. Some people will think you bought an over-priced piece of crap, but it was you who set that price... I wonder what your antiquities collection looks like...

India's Stolen Gods on Film

'Blood Buddhas' is a documentary short directed by Nikhil Singh Rajputt on the repatriation of stolen Gods. Shot in Delhi, Surat, Hyderabad, Singapore, London, New York and Washington DC. Here is a trailer:

posted on YouTube by VideoBanao on 25 Jan 2019

US Lawmakers Apply Another Selective Approach to US Cultural Property

US lawmakers hope to ban exporting of Native American ceremonial items to foreign markets. The 'Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony (STOP)' Act, would also increase penalties within the US for trafficking objects that tribes hold sacred by increasing prison time from five years to 10 years for violating the law more than once (Mary Hudetz, 'U.S. lawmakers propose ban on export of tribes’ sacred items', Associated Press 19th July 2019).
A group of U.S. lawmakers made another push Thursday to ban collectors and vendors from exporting Native American ceremonial items to foreign markets, including Paris, where there has been uproar over auction houses listing tribal pieces for sale over the years.[...] The change was proposed by a group that includes Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., Deb Haaland, D-N.M., Don Young, R-Alaska, and Tom Cole, R-Okla. In 2016, Heinrich blamed federal legal loopholes for stifling efforts to retrieve a ceremonial shield from a Paris auction house that year. “It is only right for other countries to respect ownership of the sacred treasures, artifacts and other items belonging to Native Americans,” Cole said Thursday. He and Haaland are among four Native American representatives in Congress. [...] U.S. law prohibits the trafficking of certain items domestically but does not explicitly ban dealers from exporting them, according to lawmakers.
If the principles of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property were properly applied in US law instead of the current facadist resolution (CCPIA), there would not be this problem. Collectors of course 'have expressed concern that the legislative efforts hurt the market for Native American artifacts'.

Friday 19 July 2019

Trafficking of metal-detected cultural goods from South Asia

Sam Hardy continues his source-based study of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record, with a thought-provoking article on SE Asia (Hardy, S A. 2019: "To get a good price, 'you have to sell in international bidding sites': Trafficking of metal-detected cultural goods from South Asia". In Hufnagel, S and Moiseienko, A (Eds.). Criminal Networks and Law Enforcement: Global Perspectives On Illegal Enterprise, 93-119. London: Routledge). Not that you'd find many archaeologists like the Ixelles Six giving the matter much actual thought.

This chapter analyses open-source evidence, such as data from online forums and social networks, to advance understanding of the trafficking of cultural goods from South Asia, particularly Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. As the simplest identifier of potential participants in the illicit trade, it targets metaldetectorists and treasure-hunters. It explores training in and methods of trafficking by individuals, networks and groups, including the trafficking of metal-detectors into territories by transnational detectorists, to enable extraction of cultural objects. Other insights include the exploitation of military structures for the trafficking of antiquities, by elements within military forces during international deployments. They also include the exploitation of international relations and their economic implications, as metal-detecting ‘tourists’ from powerful countries have threatened international diplomatic incidents to (successfully) deter action by law enforcement agents in disadvantaged countries. More commonly, local and transnational heritage crime is realised through exploitation of loopholes and grey areas in law. Usefully for law enforcement agents, some cultural property criminals discuss which laws can be circumvented and how and which laws are effective deterrents. Public knowledge of territories’ vulnerability also appears to facilitate antiquities fraud, wherein forgers use metal-detectors as false evidence that they have looted genuine antiquities, instead of manufactured fake objects. Such research advances understanding of transnational antiquities trafficking and its policing.

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 (a shortened version is 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. In its current form, the film 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.

Here's a screenshot of one of those collections.'The Al-Aqqad Museum' in Khan Yunis a city in the southern Gaza Strip that is apparently the home of "amateur archaeologist" Waleed Al-Aqqad

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
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.

Saturday 13 July 2019

Commercial Evidence Scrubbing

Antiquities auctioneers think of only one thing:
Yet what the land contains is the archaeological record which is being stripped of part of the evidence by commercial artefact hunting to feed the collectors' market. It's like bringing in a cleaning lady to tidy up before the police come to a crime scene - metal detectorists are mercenary evidence scrubbers.  

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.
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