Sunday, 15 September 2019

Come on you Guys, WTF?

As much as I support activists such as  the ATHAR Project ("The Antiquities Trafficking & Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project investigates the digital underworld of antiquities trafficking on Facebook."), there are limits. WTF is this?
@ATHARProject · 1 godz.  By cross-referencing information in posts we collect we’re understanding more about how objects move and when The Roman mosaic below was offered in an antiquities trafficking group on #Facebook in June 2017. The profile and group context suggest it was in Syria... 1/
In June 2017 some creep showed the world a pornographic mosaic totally unlike any ancient representation - yeah really, but entirely the sort of thing that a Muslim might think would appeal to corrupt western tastes.  It's probably a rape scene. The guy looks like the sort of hirsute hunk you'd find in an eighties porn or 'nudist interest' mag, his rather large (depilated) member is depicted in detail thrust into the protesting mermaid who is struggling to escape his grasp but he uses his free hand to grope her breast. As mermaids are not really a Classical thing (sirens were half avian), I am wondering, if this is really a Syrian product, whether there is some connection with what Lucian of Samosata wrote about the Phoenician and Syrian temples he had visited in his treatise Περὶ τῆς Συρίης Θεοῦ/ De Dea Syria and in one of them the image of a female deity with a fish tail. Anyway, this mosaic is not really to my taste, so I've blurred out the bit in the middle of the picture, but I think you can use your imaginations.

So then ATHAR join the dots (the central red modesty square is mine too):
ATHAR Project @ATHARProject · 2 godz.
W odpowiedzi do @ATHARProject 
The video here was captured by activists on the ground. It was taken in Istanbul in January 2019. 2/2 Reminder: illicit antiquities are not banned goods on #Facebook even though pillage and trafficking in conflict is a war crime 2/2
The crime here though is fraud if that is being sold as authentically ancient. I have no doubt that its on a phone in Istanbul, though am less sure that what seems to be the same object really was in Syria two years earlier and not 'made in Istanbul'.

It does not matter. It's  accepting fakes like this as authentic artefacts and promoting images like this as 'evidence' of claims about the trade do us all a disfavour.  Like this one which is a bizarre piece of 'bazaar archeology' to use Muscarella's term (and I've discussed this before14 August 2018 and yet its still being used).  

But as a general rule, although I would not go so far as to say as some (allegedly) have that "95% of antiquities on sale online are fake", in some categories of online portable antiquities in my opinion, it looks like it is close to that. In others less so, but even in those groups (forgive me for not saying which) there are fakes, some obvious, some things looking "iffy" if you know what you are looking at. Buying things in shops allows you to see up close, look underneath and behind, heft it. Judging something in a poorly-lit photo with just two views of something hinders getting to see it properly before you buy it. Some dealers deliberately cultivate the home-made 'not-very-good-at-taking-photos' mannerism - like the three above, so the buyer is lulled into thinking that the thing they covet may "look better in the hand than in the photo" (it generally does not). 

The internet is full of fake antiquities, and while that is sad (because it creates a false impression of what 'the past' looks like) selling them is not (directly) connected with looting. And if anyone believes that faux porno-mosaic is just what they need to bring a bit of 'cultcha' to the bathroom in their pied à terre somewhere, then (while sad) that's fine by me. It's a piece of kitsch, and rather poorly-made, but hey, de gustibus non est disputandum... Keeps classless numpties buying the real stuff.

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