Wednesday 30 October 2019

Another Call for "Respect" for Looters

Another detectorist attempts to tilt at windmills (a comment by one 'Chrisg' from Macclesfield, Cheshire in the UK under the post of Monday, 16 September 2019 "Cornovii Discoverers" Pay-to-Take Artefact Hunters' Club: Call for landowners to "help uncover Shropshire's history" (aka "fill our pockets")'). Note that he does not actually address the points made in the text, just says that it is disrespectful to raise them:
You have a total lack of respect of what metal detectorists have contributed to the knowledge of many coins and artifacts found. If it wasn't for detectorists, archaeologists wouldn't know half of what they know. The items found in farmers fields would never see light again if they weren't dug up. Most finds made are from land that has been ploughed over the ages so no ruining the strata. Be grateful and not against. All I can think is that you are extremely jealous that you are not discovering these artefacts yourself. You sir are a grave robber. How's that back at you.
My reply:
"How's that?" is playground talk.

But "coins and artEfacts" are not "knowledge" any more than spotting a Maserati in the high street adds to our knowledge of engineering or metallurgy or the demographics of who drives them. Who told you they were?

"If it wasn't for detectorists, archaeologists wouldn't know half of what they know"... that is baseless rhetorical ignorant bollocks. In reality, it reveals that you have not the first idea of what archaeologists know and how they know it. How could you find out about that, I wonder, before making pronouncements like that which only reveal your ignorance?

Conservation is not about shooting all the rhinos so we can see their horns in foreign shops, is it? Why do you think the archaeological resource is not something that requires conservation? Because YOU want to get your hands on all the goodies for yourself, hang the information lost every time when contexts are trashed by keyhole digging by artefact hunters? Context is not just "strata" (a term, you should know, used more in geology than archaeology).

Nothing to be "grateful" to the rhino poachers and bird egg collectors for.

"Jealous" of those who think it's OK to be an immature, disrespectful and ignorant oaf, gaily destroying what others value, for personal entertainment and profit? No, jealousy does not come into it. I think here you are ascribing your own emotions to others.
I find it very ironic that the comment appears below a text that exhorts:
"Now, when, oh when, will British archaeologists get up off their backsides and explain that artefact hunters cherry-picking the archaeological record for collectables to have or sell, is not (in ANY way) "helping archaeologists and historians" (sic) and hoiking collectable bits out of the archaeological record is damaging it, not "preserving" it. When will we see archaeologists explaining that to folk instead of the usual dumbdown? "
The reality is that of course ChrisG did not even READ the post before shooting off a comment on it. This was not comment ON the content of the post above it, but a reaction to its mere existence. 

 When are we going to see British archaeology responsibly explaining to these people what their 'arguments" miss? We've had an attempt to instil "responsible detecting", let's have now some responsible archaeology, dealing responsibly with artefact collecting issues.

The Eye/Leominster Hoard Saga So Far

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Leomister/Eye Hoard, Finder 'In it Fer the Munny'

Hoodie-wearing fag-puffin dealer in court
A metal detectorist accused of stealing a £3m Anglo-Saxon coin hoard and priceless jewellery was "in it for the money", a court has heard (BBC, '£3m Saxon coin hoard theft accused 'in it for the money'...' BBC 28 October 2019). Four men are accused of conspiring to conceal the find of a hoard dug up in Herefordshire in June 2015, Worcester Crown Court heard by George Powell and Layton Davies. In a statement in court, reportedly "co-accused Paul Wells said Mr Powell did not want to declare it treasure, instead wanting money". The court heard that the four disregarded the law about reporting such finds and attempted to sell the items in small batches
West Mercia Police officer Det Con Gareth Thomas told the court he spoke to coin dealer Mr Wells, 60, at his home in Newport Road, Cardiff, three months later. He was not under arrest at the time, but was detained after unexpectedly producing a key fob-type magnifying glass and then showing officers five Saxon coins concealed in the lining of the glass's case. He said he had been given them after meeting Mr Powell and Mr Davies in the summer and had been trying to give them back. He told police that Mr Powell rang him to meet up, along with Mr Davies, to show him more of the haul. He claimed Mr Powell told him the 10-12 coins shown at the meeting were all the pair had found, but he then produced three items wrapped in kitchen roll. One was a gold ring, "a bangle with a dragon or a lion eating its tail" and a "rock crystal sphere, an inch-and-a-half in diameter, with a gold attachment". "I realised why George had been so excited," said Mr Wells. He told Mr Powell they must be put into a museum, and felt Mr Davies agreed, "but George said it would be worth at least £30-£40,000" and was "in it for the money". 
The Worcester News has more information about the coins hidden in the magnifying glass (Charlotte Moreau, ' Detector men in court over Herefordshire buried treasure' 29th October):
Giving evidence on Monday, Detective Constable Gareth Thomas told how he spoke to coin dealer Wells at his home in Newport Road, Cardiff, on September 10 2015, leading to an unexpected discovery. At that meeting, Wells, who at that stage was not under arrest, was making a written statement to assist the criminal investigation. But he was detained after producing a key fob-type magnifying glass in front of police. He then showed officers that concealed within the stitched lining of the glass’s leather case were five of the Saxon coins. Wells claimed he had been given the items after a meeting with Powell, 38, and Davies, 51, that summer, and had been trying to give them back. On arrest, he told the detective: “I knew it would come to this.”
There is also more information on how Wells came by the coins before then:
Describing how the two metal detectorists came to hand over a larger sample of coins and three priceless artefacts, Wells recalled the day a “very excited” Powell had rung him some time that June. Retired builder Wells agreed to meet Powell and Davies at a basement cafe, with his business partner, Jason Sallam. Wells described how “Layton and George started pulling stuff out of their pockets” at the meeting. “I do recall the utter disrespect in the way the items - the coins - were produced,” Wells’ statement read. He described them as hammered coins, thin, small and dull grey, looking “extremely rare”. “I knew straight away they were something special,” said Wells. 
The Mail continues the story (Alexander Robertson, 'Metal detectorist, 38, accused of stealing a £3m coin haul and priceless jewellery was 'in it for the money', co-defendant tells court' Mail Online, 28 October 2019):
He [Wells PMB] claimed Powell told him and Mr Sallam that the 10 to 12 coins produced at the meeting were all the pair had found. It was then he had alleged Powell showed him three items wrapped in kitchen roll. One was a gold ring, 'shaped like a 50p', 'a bangle with a dragon or a lion eating its tail' and a 'rock crystal sphere, an inch-and-a-half in diameter, with a gold attachment'. 'I realised why George had been so excited,' said Wells. 'I said to them, they had to immediately be declared so they could go into a museum. 'But George said it would be worth at least £30,000 to £40,000. 'Layton was of the same opinion as me, but George remained focused on the money to the point I had to swear at him to quieten him down. 'We were sat in the cafe, surrounded by people, and I remember saying to George "shut the f*** up".' He added: 'I think Layton was intimidated by George. Both Jason and I were of the opinion Layton wanted to declare the items, while George was in it for the money.' The men agreed the items would be taken for detailed examination by Mr Sallam, who then returned them to Wells. 'Jason explained to me they were so rare it would change the rules of metal detectoring and again relayed the importance of their being declared to the correct authorities,' said Wells. Wells added that when Davies subsequently collected the objects, he passed five coins back to the dealer for safe-keeping, and 'explained to me they had' reported the finds.
Powell, of Kirby Lane, Newport, Davies, of Cardiff Road, Pontypridd, Wells, of Newport Road, Cardiff, and Wicks, of Hawks Road, Hailsham, East Sussex, deny any wrongdoing. The trial continues.

Monday 28 October 2019

UK Detectorist Suddenly Closed You Tube Account Full of Videos Showing What He's Done

Oh dear dear, why could that be?

But, as they say, nothing in the cyberworld disappears for ever...

Tattooed Harry may be taking a break from posting over-long candid videos of his exploits on You Tube, but the sites he's trashed are trashed for ever.

How Did This Come on the Market?

Cyprus is to ask UK why a vase given to Margaret Thatcher by former Cyprus President George Vassiliou three decades ago was sold at at Christie’s auction house in May for €7,000 ($7,700).

Saturday 26 October 2019

Tattooed Harry: "You Fink I'm Fick? Nah, I'm Just Having a Laugh While Trashing the Past"

Tattooed Harry digs on grassland
On another of his ego-stroking over-long videos Tattooed Harry Moore asks 'YOU THINK IM THICK ?.. Metal detecting uk' (posted on You Tube 4 Dec 2018 - on the 'iDetect' channel). Well,... the guy found a fragment of a Bronze Age palstave, but did not recognise it (though has been in metal detecting for three years), made a film and this is the follow up.

"After my prev's video quite a lo'a people came to'th' assumshun that I was, absolut'ly fick', he says by way of introduction. Hmm. You can skip the superfluous 'I-got-a-drone' shots to hear why (here). You see, the tattooed guy explains, there are two types of people in UK artefact hunting, there are those who take their intervention with the fragile and finite archaeological resource with some seriousness, and those just out to have a laugh while out there trashing the archaeological record and filling their pockets with historical objects. He is denigrating the 'diehard' serious ('responsible') detector users, and seems unlikely to ever consider joining their ranks.

He did not know what he had found and when he showed the FLO (Katie Hinds), he discovered that he'd found a "free-fousand, foive-hundrid year old weppin" ... well, actually it was not the FLO (the object a year on is not in the PAS database) who enlightened him, but a fellow metal detectorist. Harry had just put the unrecognised "fing" in his bag. Which is good because he candidly says "Oi fought this wuz a piece uv scrap, and I (sic) am very lucky I kep' it [...], if oi wuz close t' a bush, wen I first foun' this, I would'da frew it in the bush, 100%". "So please..." he goes on, "when your findin' stuff an' your not shore, make shur yer savin' it and taking it home wiv you". Hmm.  I think if they are finding and removing archaeological evidence they do not understand, they have no chance of properly recording the site that they are trashing. 'Tattooed Harry' is just hoiking stuff to tick off items in his 'bucket list' of trophies to exercise bragging rights over. He is not, in any way, helping extend out knowledge of the past.

His videos are also crap, he needs to do a course on editing. Anyway for what it's worth here's more 'from their own mouths' evidence of just how far from on-the-ground (in-the-field) reality the pro-PAS spin actually is. Just a mouse click away.


Friday 25 October 2019

Uncertainties about Parwich Hoard

Earthworks? Forest? Pfff!
Nigel Slater, 'Hoard of Roman coins found in Derbyshire field by treasure hunters' They date back almost 2,000 years Derby Telegraph, 25 Oct 2019
 A hoard of over 260 coins dating back almost 2,000 years has been found near a Derbyshire village. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th century coins were discovered by two people during an excavation of land in Parwich, near Ashbourne. The find was revealed during a series of treasure inquests at Derby and Derbyshire Coroners' Court. The 12 different types of Roman coins were found scattered in woodland by Thomas Dobson and Robbie Wilson who were metal detecting in the area last year. It was heard at the inquest how the pair had contacted authorities once they had found the coins, the majority of which are believed to be dated between 330AD and 340AD. [...] Exact locations of the find have not been released by authorities but it was heard how the finders dug down to solid rock to recover the hoard. Alastair Willis, finds liaison officer for Derbyshire, urged the pair not to dig any further due to the site being a suspected burial site.
Another case of artefact hunting in unploughed land ('Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting, anyone?'). It is not clear why this report mentions the woodland, while an earlier one - apparently the same hoard says something else: Sophie Wills and Gareth Butterfield, 'Ancient buried treasure dug up in Derbyshire field', Derby Telegraph 28th Jan 2019.
A hoard of buried treasure featuring hundreds of ancient coins has been unearthed in a Derbyshire field. Metal detectorists made the astounding discovery in a village near Ashbourne. The hoard of 260 coins, dating from 194 to 378AD, have been legally classified as "treasure" at an inquest. They were found by metal detectorists Thomas Dobson and Robbie Wilson at the side of a bronze-age barrow, in Parwich, in March 2018. The Derbyshire Times reported that the inquest, held at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court, heard the coins were buried two and-a-half feet underground [...]  The hoard was initially reported to the county's finds liaison officer Alastair Willis[...] He told Derbyshire Live: "The hoard is fascinating because it was found buried in the side of what may have been a Bronze Age barrow (burial mound). "The discovery of the coins indicates that the site probably had a sacred significance to local people during the 4th century AD. "The site is still under investigation by archaeologists, so more information about the hoard and the site might become available in the future."[...] Most coins in the hoard were [...] from the AD330s and 340s, but there were a handful of earlier and later coins. It was not clear if the coins, which could have been a votive or ritualistic offering given the nature of where they were found, formed a single deposit or were placed at the site over a number of decades.
The journalists missed the point that NO information about the context of the find comes from 'metal detecting' (collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record). The FLO may have been 'fascinated' by metal detecting partners digging down to bedrock through the side of a prehistoric earthwork, the rest of us think his job should consist of publicly and loudly condemning such selfish vandalism. 

Liechtenstein Raider with metal detector Caught in the Act and Deported

In Liechtenstein, a foreign Raubgräber ('thieving digger') with metal detector has been caught in the act on an archaeological site at Schellenberg and deported (Raubgräber mit Metalldetektor auf frischer Tat geschnappt,  23. Oktober 2019 12 ).
Als ein Mann in der Burgruine Schallenberg mit einem Metalldetektor auf die Suche nach archäologischen Gegenständen ging, erwischte ihn die Liechtensteiner Landespolizei auf frischer Tat. Der Mann war ausgerüstet mit Handspaten und Metalldetektor. Offensichtlich suchte er das Gebiet rund um die «Burgruine Schellenberg» ab und führte auch illegale Grabungen durch. Der Mann suchte nach archäologischen Gegenständen. Die Polizisten verwiesen den Mann nach einer Befragung des Waldes und nahmen im sein Werkzeug ab. Er wird angezeigt.
As the local media points out - something the British press would never do - Rabgräuber stehlen nicht nur Gegenstände, sondern zerstören auch Spuren und Fundzusammenhänge. Archäologische Objekte gehören dem Land und müssen dem Amt für Kultur gemeldet werden, schreibt die Liechtensteiner Landespolizei. [Thieving diggers not only steal items, but also destroy archaeological traces and find contexts. Archaeological objects belong to the state and must be reported to the Department of Culture, writes the Liechtenstein National Police].

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Metal Detecting Ancient Woodland

I was alerted by a reader to some metal detecting videos on the "iDetect" You Tube channel that shows a bloke hoiking aarttefacts out of what passes for ancient woodland in the UK: He says:
all the idiots/the uneducated/ the oafs of the world of Metal Detecting [should] have their contact with the outside world cut off. I refer specifically to a video from 'YouTube Superstar' iDetect uploaded on Sunday 20 October 2019 which very clearly shows him pilfering antiquities from [ancient woodland] These idiots need to be stopped before further damage to the record is caused. [...] Behaviour of this 'idiots' type hurts me to my soul. Where is the education? Where is the drive to learn about the area, where is the ambition to share their findings? All disregarded to increase their following. What is English Heritage doing to properly protect these sites and stop such oafs rampaging through British history?
The video (below) is pretty shocking, detecting in ancient woodland where there is no ploughing and the coins are within inches of the surface (No gates to shut as per NCMD, but "UKMetal Detectorists' Code of Best Practice for Responsible Treatment of the Archaeological Record" anyone?). ? He also notices that once he's stripped the artefacts out, no more are being brought to the surface, the site is simply trashed and 'gets more difficult to get fings from'. He says right at the beginning that he'd been metal detecting there a year earlier and spent a lot of time there. Refers viewers to the "fallen over tree' that he'd been hoiking stuff from earlier. He said he had the gamekeeper's permission - no mention there of the landowner that I heard. 

Near the end of this over-long look-at-me exercise in ego-stroking we hear the bloke say "Oi've got a bucket full of Roman coins, they don't do anyfink for me".

I reckon, listening to the way the man talks, "educating him" through PAS outreach or anything else would be a bit of an uphill battle.


TREASURE IN THE ANCIENT WOODS??? posted on You Tube by iDetect 35K subscribers ( 6,272 views) 

But it gets worse, my reader is convinced the Roman material coming up here is from a known and protected site:
Sparsholt Roman Villa. [...] I know this for two reasons. Firstly I spent a lot of time on that excavation and as it was one of my first it is in my memory as if it happened yesterday. Secondly another archaeologist I keep in touch with from that area walks their dog on the country park where the villa is sited. She sent me the link immediately, she is 100% sure it is that location. She is going there tomorrow to take images which match the exact location they filmed from to pass to Winchester City Museum who are the custodians of the artefacts discovered. 
The video channel has lots of films, how many of them are made on the same site?

Some pasture detecting ("double dipping") too:

WTF! FIRST HOLE TREASURE FOUND..posted on You Tube by iDetect 27 May 2019 

The Sparsholt villa is of course a protected site (as I believe are parts of the woodland it is in - and of course no 'gamekeeper' can give permission to detect here in lieu of the landowner). The County Archaeologist has been informed.

Sunday 20 October 2019

Papyrology Bingo

Created by Jona Lendering @JonaLendering featuring frequent phrases heard in discussions in papyrology:

Spanish Police Arrest Men Handling Colombian Antiquities [UPDATED]

Spanish police arrest two members of alleged smuggling network selling antiquities looted in Colombia to buyers in Europe and beyond (AFP, 'Recuperan máscara de oro prehispánica sacada ilegalmente de Colombia', 17th October 2019)
They were stopped at Madrid airport while carrying a Pre-Hispanic gold mask from the Tumaco region, "of great artistic and cultural value," which was to be sold in Spain for 200,000 euros, the National Police said in a statement.
The information that these people would arrive in Madrid was communicated by the authorities in Colombia, who made several searches in that country of members of the band, which allowed them to find "more than 240 pieces plundered from the regions of Nariño, Cauca, Tairona y Tumaco, from pre-Columbian times and of incalculable value". The recovered items had been prepared for shipment "to Spain, Russia and China for marketing on the black market," the statement said.
Donna Yates makes a good case on Twitter for the pictured item being a (not very good) fake.

"Ancient Artifact" Yahoos Closed Down

The aptly-named Yahoo "Ancient Artifacts" discussion list run as a 'public group' by Tim Haines is at last closing down.
Yahoo Groups is shutting down after more than 18 years, and the Verizon-owned company is deleting all content from the site in mid-December. "Yahoo has made the decision to no longer allow users to upload content to the Yahoo Groups site," the company said in a notice to users. "Beginning October 28, you won't be able to upload any more content to the site, and as of December 14 all previously posted content on the site will be permanently removed. You'll have until that date to save anything you've uploaded." [...] Although the Yahoo Groups site will continue to exist after December 14, "all public groups will be made private or restricted," Yahoo said. Users will continue to "be able to communicate with your groups via email and search for private groups on the site," and admins will retain "limited access to group settings and administration tools," but that's it. [...] Yahoo launched Groups on January 30, 2001, saying in a press release that the site would help users "build relationships, stay in touch, share ideas, and discuss interests through the convenience of popular e-mail and Web-based tools."
In 2010, Yahoo said there were 115 million Yahoo Groups users and 10 million groups, eWeek reported at the time. Yahoo also boasted then that it had contracts with about 100 carriers and handset makers around the world to preinstall Yahoo apps on mobile devices.  [...] Obviously, Yahoo Groups lost prominence as social networks soared, and the Yahoo business in general declined throughout the 2010s. Verizon bought Yahoo's operating business for $4.48 billion in June 2017, forming a new subsidiary called "Oath" that included both Yahoo and AOL.
Oath (now called "Verizon Media") failed to compete effectively against Google and Facebook in the advertising market, and Verizon has responded by repeatedly cutting the division's budget and staff.
Here, before it disappears, is what it says in the blurb about the AA group:
Group Description
eBay is awash fake artefacts: it's a minefield for the inexperienced collector, and all too often even professionals need to compare notes to keep abreast of what's happening in the marketplace. This group came together to fight antiquities fraud on eBay and the Net in general.  We're an open group and very broad based in the range of subjects that we like to talk about, but NO POLITICS PLEASE, since we are a peaceful tribe and greatly dislike flame wars. Any artefact dating from China's Ming Dynasty or earlier is sufficiently 'ancient' to attract our interest. We welcome many new collectors, and have many highly experienced and qualified members willing to offer help and advice, including many of the best antiquities dealers on the net, as well as Phd's, university professors and museum curators. Feel free to ask for help identifying items, ask for approximate values, background information, whatever. If you have some news from the world of antiquities to pass on, this is the place to do it. We are committed to responsible antiquities collecting, and members have compiled a voluntary code of conduct for collectors: [dead link for many years]
Dealers and individuals are welcome to post details of their own items for sale here, as well as links to eBay and other sales.
Tim Haines (listowner)
Group Information Members: 3384 Category: Antiques Founded: Jun 7, 2002 Language: English Group Email Addresses Post Message : Subscribe : Unsubscribe : List Owner :

Saturday 19 October 2019

Archaeology's Artefactual Backlog

Michael Press @MichaelDPress criticises archaeology's greed to acquire "new' material that cannot possibly be processed (19th Oct 2019):
One thing that strikes me about the Hobby Lobby/Oxyrhynchus fiasco: It points to the unfathomable amount of ancient documents and other artifacts that remain unpublished -- and not even fully processed! The Oxyrhynchus papyri consist of hundreds of thousands of fragments gathered more than a century ago, and yet we still have little idea what's contained in most of these documents. The same is true of the Cairo Genizah -- witness recent crowdsourcing efforts just to sort these hundreds of thousands of documents over a century later: Or the recent post on a previously unknown Ibn Gabirol poem: Fragment of the Month: October 2019 In October 2019's Fragment of the Month a new poem by Solomon ibn Gabirol is found in plain I can't even count the number of excavations in Israel from 50 or 60 years ago that have seen no final publication. And yet -- rather than process this material, everyone is rushing to gather new material! New excavations! Or, even worse, embrace unprovenanced material! There is a real lesson here about the dire need to process this material. What we have are discipline-level failures in archaeology, papyrology, and more, to deal with this problem. Material is stolen or disappears, huge amounts of data lost. What will we do about this?
The same goes for the greed to get our hands on the hoiked hauls of artefact hunters who've raided the archaeological record for collectables. How many of the Treasure finds from the last two decades of activity of the Treasure Act have seen proper, monographic, professional publication? That is a serious question. may are displayed in museums up and down the country, how many have more than a summary publication?

The PAS collects what it calls 'data' about some of what artefact hunters hoik out of the archaeological record, yet where is there a properly-presented study of collecting habits based on this information? Indeed where is the one on how it looked ten, fifteen years ago, and the one on what has changed since? Such a survey is vital in order to understand what is collected in terms of the archaeological evidence it would have been (and which supporters of the PAS approach fondly think it still is).  Yet all we get is "wotta-lotta-stuff-we-got" jubilation (and "look at this interesting thing-gonna-tell-you-a-story" superficiality), and no holistic meaty synthesis of what it all means. All those 'data' - on what?

UK's "Floating Culture" Crisis in the Making

EBay seller  (uksales(9054)'Lizzy's Bits and Bobs', Nottingham NG13 8BA) has a 'Matching Pair of Large Anglo Saxon Saucer Brooches, Chip Carved & Gilt, 5th - 6th Century ' for sale. They are not on the PAS database, or any other:
I’m selling these on behalf of the same lady whose husband had all the cut half and quarter Hammered Silver coins. I’ve been advised that these are a matching pair and as such, rarer than the sum of the individuals. Comes with a ticket saying what they are, where he bought them and how much he paid (I’ve digitally redacted that).
I don’t know if weight is important but I’ve included images of the brooches in my scales. All the proceeds of this sale, and that of the other Saxon brooch she has (I’ll list that for her once these sell), after Ebay fees, will go to the widow. [...]
In fact she has what she says is a shield knob:
Anglo Saxon Chip Carved Gilt 6th Century Shield Stud - Beautiful!! (B371) From the same source as the large saucer brooches and again, I’m selling on behalf of the widow.
The most likely source of a matching pair of saucer brooches reaching the antiquities market would be from the robbing of a female grave. Some time before 1989 the grave was penetrated and stripped of some of the diagnostic finds, and without any problems were on open sale in the centre of York (just down the road from the CBA) when an anonymous bloke bought it 30 years ago but did not enquire (or if he did, preserve) any findspot data or information about title to sell and whether the landowner was part of the deal. Now he's died, his widow is also cashing in on the deal. An archaeological context has been damaged, leaving so many questions unanswered. And what happens when 27000 metal detectorists with collections all die? Have we any archaeologists who want to discuss the issue of all that "floating culture" they've turned archaeological evidence into? Any?

Not Just an Oxford Prof?

Candida Moss, 'Hobby Lobby Scandal Widens as Museum of the Bible Admits Oxford Prof Sold Illicit Papyri to Green Family' Daily Beast 14 Oct 2019
In an online comment Mike Holmes, who heads up Museum of the Bible’s Scholar’s Initiative, stated that the second buyer was “Khader M. Baidun & Sons/Art-Levant Antiquities of Israel. The exact circumstances of how those two items moved from Oxford to Israel are unknown to” the Museum of the Bible. [...] Additionally, a member of the Baidun family was arrested in Israel in 2017 following investigations into a separate antiquities smuggling scandal involving Hobby Lobby. As revealed by The Daily Beast in 2015, Hobby Lobby was subject to a federal investigation for illegally importing illicit antiquities in 2011.

Statement from Prof. Dirk Obbink

Thursday 17 October 2019

Oxford Academic Under Investigation

Robert Mendick, 'Mystery deepens over Oxford academic accused of illegally selling Bible fragments to US ' Times 16 October 2019
The mystery over the ‘unauthorised’ sale of ancient bible fragments by an Oxford academic deepened last night amid claims matching texts have been sold to other private collectors. Dr Dirk Obbink, 62, an associate professor at Oxford University’s classics faculty, has been accused of selling without permission fragments belonging to the vast Oxyrhynchus collection. Dr Obbink has denied any wrongdoing but is now under investigation by Oxford University, which continues to employ him while inquiries are ongoing.
Let us not forget the - as yet unresolved - issue of the origins of Obbink's new 'Sappho' pieces discussed on this blog and in other places earlier and also this: Brent Nongbri, ' The Green Collection Mummy Masks: A Possible Source ' Variant Readings January 30, 2019 ["It would be interesting to learn whether the masks in these images are the personal property of Professor Obbink or the results of EES excavations"] - 'Peter Gurry , 'The Source of Scott Carroll’s Mummy Masks?' Evangelical Textual Criticism, Jan 30, 2019.

Interestingly, a number of links to Obbink's work are already dead:  'New poems by Sappho' by Obbink on the TLS webpage, on the National Geographic: 'Papyrus Reveals New Clues to Ancient World'

Initiative to protect targets of online harassment and hold perpetrators accountable

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Timeline Auctions Ancient Art, Antiquities and Coins November 2019

brzzzz- brzzz, five-legged cow... (Timeline)
Another year has passed, another auction, lot of objects from anonymous "old collections"... Mr Hammond has some items on sale that are full of interest for those of us researching the antiquities market.

Just to take one example, a "Western Asiatic Sassanian Stag Money Box £30,000 - 40,000" for putting all that Sassanian small change in... The coin slot is obviously wheel-cut.
Provenance Property of a London gentleman; formerly with Naoxs (sic) Art Gallery, London, UK; accompanied by a detailed report by J.W. Allan and a copy of the purchase invoice from Naoxs (sic) Art Gallery dated 12 October 1986 (£35,000). Literature See Trever, K.B. and Lukonin, V.G. Sasanidskoe Serebro, Moscow, 1987.(sic)
but, wait a second, it is dated by Mr Hammond as "8th-9th century AD", so what kind of Sassanian is that? I think his problem is he'd have to explain why he has what is supposed to be an Umayyad (or Abbasid) zoomorphic vessel on sale. What dealery-nonsense is this? Trade descriptions Act 1968 anyone?

If you are interested in the technology of 'ancient stone cutting', I reckon you'd be intrigued by a couple of Mr Hammond's offers. Like this 'cylinder seal'
Provenance From the private collection of a North West London lady; previously with a central London gallery; formerly acquired before 1990.
but the whole range of cylinder seals (and their 'provenances') is really thought-provoking:
'cylinder seals' on open sale in UK 
and then this one that looks like Boris Johnson. And what are we to make of him selling a gay-sex scene intaglio as 'Roman'? (Roman Gemstone with Erotic Scene3rd-4th century AD or later [...] provenance:  Property of a Belgian gentleman; formerly the property of a gentleman; acquired in the late 1960s-early 1970s.). I think the whole thing is neatly summarised by the five-legged cow crudely cut apparently with rotary discs:
Phoenician Stamp Seal with Cow and Calf 6th-4th century AD A carved agate stamp seal with intaglio cow and calf beneath a crescent moon. 5.11 grams, 19.2mm (3/4"). Very fine condition. Provenance Property of a Bristol collector; formerly part of his father's collection formed between 1960-late 1970s.
Look at that "Phoenician 6th-4th century AD". How much more or less truthful is that 'provenance' - and anyway, why is that significant in any way when what is in question is whether the object left the ground and source country by legal means? That "some guy in Bristol" had it means nothing

Personally, I am not convinced that all of the intaglios (and a number of the other artefacts) Mr Hammond identifies as 'ancient' are anything of the kind. And anyway the way their collecting histories are presented is no guarantee of legal origins (note that, as far as I can see, in not a single case is the name of the country the object was allegedly legally imported from is given, and that has a significance in that their antiquities laws were introduced at different dates).

Surely such a visible British a dealer should aspire to do better than that. 

Monday 14 October 2019

US Museum "Helps Recover Antiquities"

Hypocrisy is not one of the Deadly Sins, so it's OK then for the MoB to spin them discovering other institutions' property in their own collections as "helping recover antiquities". But they shouldn't have been in possession of these trophy fragments because they should have asked for provenance.

US Museum in Possession of More Stolen Artefacts

Statement by Egypt Exploration Society (EES) Professor Obbink and missing EES papyri Published: 14th October, 2019.

 An investigation has been going on prompted by the online publication of a leaked document (a contract of 17 January 2013 for the sale of six items to Hobby Lobby Stores, including four New Testament fragments probably of EES provenance. For earlier instalments of this saga: Monday, 24 June 2019, 'Biblical Brouhaha: Oxford Scholar Accused of Dealing in Manuscripts', Friday, 28 June 2019, 'More Narrative Turns in the Sale of the so-called "First Century Mark" Saga [UPDATED]'. Part of the statement reads:
With the help of photographs provided by the MOTB, the EES has so far identified thirteen [other] texts from its collection, twelve on papyrus and one on parchment, all with biblical or related content, which are currently held by the MOTB (see the attached list). These texts were taken without authorisation from the EES, and in most of the thirteen cases the catalogue card and photograph are also missing. Fortunately, the EES has back-up records which enable us to identify missing unpublished texts. [...] [...] The Board of Trustees of the MOTB has accepted the EES claim to ownership of the thirteen pieces identified to date, and is arranging to return them to the EES. [...] Oxford University is now investigating, with EES help, the removal from University premises and alleged sale of EES texts. The EES is also pursuing identification and recovery of other texts, or parts of texts, which have or may have been illicitly removed from its collection.
. "Illicitly"? Or "illegally"? Strange language used here.
We cannot comment here on any broader legal issues arising from these findings, except to note that they are under consideration by all the institutions concerned.
I find odd the reference that eleven of the 13 were sold to the MoTB by the same seller, most of them in two batches in 2010 - which means that a second seller had access to one or more intems "illicitly removed" from the EES collection - how many "nighthawks" were there raiding their storerooms? secondly if two batches came in to the museum in 2010, why do we get this utterly chaotic sequence of MoTB inventory numbers for them? 'PAP.000120 three small fragments', PAP.000121, PAP.000122, PAP.000377, PAP.000378, PAP.000388, PAP.000395, 'PAP.000425 one part', PAP.000427, PAP.000446, PAP.000463, PAP.000467, and for the single parchment: MS.000514. Bonkers, or just a total MoTB mess.

What also needs explanation is how the Green Collection/MoTB just accepted such texts as these would just "surface" and be available for legal sale all about the same time without - presumably - any firm documentation of where they'd been before being produced to them. Note, no mention is made of them challenging the EES claim by producing alternative documentation.

I assume that Mr Green is now beginning to catch on that buying such a large number of "biblical artefacts" in the way he did was not a good way to go.

Update 14th October 2019

Brent Nongbri, 'How Many Oxyrhynchus Papyri Have Been Sold?' Posted on October 14, 2019. It turns out we know that :
Mike Holmes of MOTB confirms that the seller of the other two pieces was Khader M. Baidun and Sons/Art-Levant Antiquities of Israel
Candida Moss points out that the Baiduns were accused of selling other stuff to the Green CollectionThere are also comments by Nongbri on Scott Carroll and 'the Stimer Collection' in connection with other Oxyrhynchus papyri. It seems more revelations are going to follow. 

Sunday 13 October 2019

Brexit: Keeping British Metal Detectorists on their Island of Confusion

Ending Freedom of Movement creates a prison not a fortress. from here

Turkish Invasion of Kurdistan: Tell Halaf and Tell Fakhariya Occupied

12th Oct 2019: After heavy artillery and air bombardment, Turkish troops and Jihadi auxiliaries have entered the city from the east and south. It is likely the urban area will soon fall. To the south of the town where the Turkish army and its Syrian allies are gathering is where the major archaeological site of Tell Fakhariya is located. Just to the west of the city, also in the combat zone is another major tell site, Tal Halaf.

At the moment there are 14 'Tel Halaf' figurines, obviously fake_+some more plausibly real on EBay (nine from the US, most of the rest from UK sellers), let's see how that goes.

Friday 11 October 2019

Friday Retrospect: Alexandrian Tetras and US Coiney Dishonesty

THis post, from five years ago has not lost its relevance and the point it makes seems worth reiterating:
Monday, 2 June 2014 Alexandrian Tetras and US Coiney Dishonesty
PAS NARC-675913
There is a group of Philistine coineys in the US who are opposing treating Egyptian artefacts in a civilized manner (requiring evidence of licit export for ones freshly entering the US). They are making much of the fact that:
"While a “closed monetary system” argument may be of greater validity when we speak of Roman Egypt, new research based on finds recorded under the Portable Antiquities Scheme also demonstrates that Roman Egyptian Tetradrachms --which had the value of one Roman silver Denarius-- travelled as far away as Britain". 
There is of course no link or reference given to this alleged "new research". What the paid lobbyist of the dugup coin dealers is doing is  of course presenting something which is only partly true. Most of the just over four dozen coins to which these people refer were struck in the third quarter of the third century and were types in circulation after the Diocletianic reforms. The breakdown of the PAS database figures looks like this:
Antoninus Pius (1 - IARCW)
Commodus (1 
Gordian III (1
- LEIC-50AA45 - provenance totally unknown
Gallienus (1
Claudius II (2
CORN-3A5788, garden find, + Ludgvan CORN-B5B026 )
Vabalathus (2 - IARCW two from same findspot [!] -
'Whitland Abbey')
Aurelian (2 - IARCW + 
BH-4B0A84  [little wear or corrosion])
Probus (9 - including SF-D219E1: 

The appearance of this coin (very little patina) [and]  the fact it was found in a garden suggests that it might not be an ancient loss. Also WMID-20F988 "this coin was mostly likely found in Egypt recently (possibly during World War One or World War Two) and was then brought back to this country" and LVPL-5C9983 a garden find and two IARCW notes)
Carinus (2 IOW-4C0444 and   LVPL-7EDC65 )
Maximian I (4, two IARCW notes,
BH-358945 "Coin has little wear or corrosion")
Diocletian (14 - including
"This coin was found over 60 years ago, perhaps in the 1930s, by the grandfather of the person listed as finder. It was found in a river, but the condition of the metal suggests it had not been in the ground or water for very long, and it would be an unusual find in the UK. It is therefore much more likely to be an antiquarian loss, curated in a collection before becoming lost, rather than being deposited through archaeological means"LVPL-221354 "Found in Laindon, Basildon, Essex while building a summer house on their farm land before the war"- little patina, an old collection object [the photo looks very much like a cast fake]; Apparently found with: LVPL-21DE60 "Found in Laindon, Bassledon (sic), Essex while building a summer house on their farm land before the war. From old lady now living in Meols, but found in Essex" [excruciatingly bad photograph seems however to show artificailly patinated tourist fake]. Both records in 2009 by Ms Vanessa Oakden, finds returned to finder - record not yet verified. There is also  NCL-AE9AE1: "found on the coast at South Shields in the 1890s, where Eastern coins are known from a hoard, possible shipwreck, and as individual finds" [no other of these "eastern coins" is in the database, South Shields has been in the past a favourite made-up provenance in the region]. BH-358515 "Coin is in good condition with little wear or corrosion" )

After AD 295 Alexandria produced coinage to the same pattern as the rest of the Roman mints. "4th century issues distinguished by the AL or ALE mintmark are rare as UK finds" (24 listed here and here).

As can be seen, if one examines this group of objects with care, it emerges that it is extremely problematic. The coineys slyly skip over the fact that in the records of many of them either explicitly mention the possibility that these coins are 'planted' ("old collection losses") or their state differs markedly from what one would expect from a metal object freshly excavated from a southeastern English field. It seems to me that there is a possibility that a fair number of these coins are modern imports scattered from the ephemeral collections of once-enthusiastic schoolboys, the frequency with which they turn up in gardens and in a condition much different from normal finds seems very much to support this conclusion - and illustrates another danger of private collecting). 

George Boon in 1973, so just before the impact of metał detectors, published a neat little booklet in the National Museum of Wales, 'A Hundred and One Coins' (Cardiff 1973 ISBN 0 7200 0052 1) which describes the coins that were commonly being brought in to the museum by members of the public for identification. The fourth type is an Alexandrian tetra:
This is a typical tetradrachm (four drachma piece) of the later 3rd century A.D. Such coins are extremely common. They were brought to Britain recently by soldiers and are often dug up in gardens. They did not circulate at all in Roman Britain [...]
If one strips out the information about both types of occurrence in the PAS database, the latter with its 324,652 Roman coins presents the opposite picture to that claimed in the superficial arguments of careless and perhaps deliberately deceptive US coin collectors together with dealers and their lobbyists. Alexandrian tretradrachms and drachms were only a very incidental part of the coinage circulation in this region of the Roman Empire. The PAS record FAKL-EB9B86 calls these coins "a highly unusual find for Britain", a comment wilfully ignored by those who wish to employ the PAS database for political ends. When will we see some proper arguments and an end to all the deceptions of the collecting lobby?

Wednesday 9 October 2019

Focus on Metal Detecting Dishonesty (VI): Fake Coin Malarky

Not all artefact hunters in the UK are as "responsible" or even "law biding" as claimed by their supporters. It seems the time is coming where we might look at some of those that got caught, and consider how many dishonest tekkies are simply 'not caught yet'?
Tuesday, 17 March 2009 Metal Detectorist Malarky: Guilty M’lord

Readers of this blog may remember the story I reported here last year of the metal detector using artefact hunter and collector from Nuneaton who was facing trial over some ancient coins he claims to have found and offered UK coin dealers who reported him to the police for attempting to sell what they say are fakes.

As we know, Britain has some totally laissez faire approaches to portable antiquity hunting, digging and collecting which do nothing to curb the abuse of the system by those who would for one reason or another give artefacts false provenances. I discussed a newspaper report of a worrying case here a few weeks ago - which prompted the head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme to threaten to "have the law onto me" for daring to draw attention to it and discuss it... [this is despite the fact that the "Nighthawking report" (page 98, point 9.3.9) also discusses this as a concern of the staff that work for Mr Bland, maybe he needs to listen to their concerns more, or "have the law on" Oxford Archaeology too].

Anyway, there has been a development in the Nuneaton case. It was being reported yesterday on various metal detecting forums that the accused has changed his plea to guilty on five of the seven offences he was charged with. The case has apparently been adjourned for reports to be made prior to sentence being passed, and the metal detectorists' forums report that the accused will be reappearing in court on April 22nd. Interestingly it turns out that the mysterious owner (“Crusader”) of the previously rather moribund “Coldfeet uncovered” blog which has been covering (somewhat vindictively) this case very closely revealed himself on the forum to be somebody who has commented on this blog. It’s a small world.

This is a satisfying outcome for me personally, as I had a run-in with this gentleman and his truculent supporters five years ago when (before he changed his name). He accused a British museum of "losing" (stealing from him) a valuable gold coin which he had lent them for identification. This matter went to court, which found that there was no evidence the coin had been deposited in the museum (which led to all sorts of accusations from various segments of the "metal-detecting" community opposed to co-operation with archaeologists and museums). I was interested to see the basis for these allegations against my colleagues, and obtained copies of the original documentation and was satisfied that the court was right to maintain that the claim that what was documented as being loaned to the museum was anything different from what was returned was not tenable. It was clear that the conspiracy theory about the museum employees stealing this coin had no basis in fact, but equally clear that certain metal detector users were utilising this imagined scandal to justify their own and fellow "detectorists"' non-cooperation with archaeological institutions. The accuser then produced what he said was a photo of both sides of the coin which the museum had "lost". It was a relatively rare type, a 'Celtic' trefoil stater. Interestingly - and impossibly - the obverse was struck on a different shaped flan than the reverse. Canadian celtic coin buff John Hooker suggested - and I am inclined to agree with him - that what had happened was that somebody had faked the photo with a computer graphics program by manipulating photos of other known examples. This of course did not go down well in the metal detecting community. This latest court case and reported guilty plea suggests that we were right to question the evidential value of this photo. Its all on Britarch, if anyone wants to follow it up (June 2004 "Museum loses coin" and related threads, though I believe the relevant threads on the metal detecting forums with have since gone - a shame because the tenor of the "discussion" was rather telling).

I note that a day after these revelations, the record of his "find" of a controversial coin (though apparently validated by detectorist-database coin expert Rod Blunt) is still in the UKDFD database as I reported earlier. I would like to ask whether in the light of these five reported 'guilty pleas', and the fact that two of the coins involved were said to be from a hoard reported to the BM as "Treasure", any records of finds made by this metal detectorist and incorporated in the PAS database will now be verified. Unlike the UKDFD records, the PAS records are for some reason anonymous, so there is no way for the observer unaided to determine which records in it were made of finds from a particular finder who, if yesterday's reports are true, it now turns out was less than trustworthy in reporting where some of the items he was claiming to have found had actually come from.

UPDATE March 2010: I see that on the UKDFD website there is this statement:
UKDFD STATEMENT Removal of Records from Database
The recent conviction of David Hutchings ('Coldfeet') for selling fake coins inevitably raises doubts about the reliability of information he provided for the finds that he recorded on the UKDFD. The decision has therefore been taken to remove all the records of his finds from the public database.
I do not recall seeing a similar announcement from the PAS.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

UK detectorist: "pleased he has been jailed — we don’t need people like him damaging the reputation of detectoring”

The Times has a story about the metal detecting fake coin seller I mentioned the other day (David Brown, 'Metal detector user David Hutchings jailed for selling fake coins ', The Times May 11, 2009). It mostly repeats the story as told in the Metropolitan police source I gave a link to last week, but there's a nicer photo. "Hutchings, 43, was the organiser of the Coventry Moles metal detecting club, which held archaeological searches across the Midlands. He used legitimate digs to “discover” fake items before passing them off as genuine antiquities. Some buyers were told that the items had been verified at the British Museum. Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit raided his home in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, after an Essex-based dealer raised concerns about a set of coins Hutchings was trying to sell".
Here's an odd statement: "Experts from the British Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, assessed the coins and concluded that all had either been manufactured by casting in a mould or struck using forged dies". Hmmm, what kind of "coin experts" cannot tell the difference? I suspect (hope) this is a misquote. Somehow Rod (not "Roy") Blunt of the UK Detector Finds Database is quoted, Hutchings "recorded" many of his finds with this privately owned detecting showcase.
Another metal detector user is quoted as having said: “Coldfeet was known as a bit of a rogue. We are pleased he has been jailed — we don’t need people like him damaging the reputation of detectoring.” Well, the "reputation" of artefact hunting with metal detectors really suffers just as much from other issues that are rarely addressed by its many supporters.
Photo: Hutchings in happier days and fake Dark Age coin (Times)
See also: PACHI Tuesday, 19 February 2013  "Coldfeet" Back in the Field

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