Wednesday 27 November 2019

Antiquities Dealer Charged With Trafficking In Looted Cambodian Artefacts

Antiquities Dealer Charged With Trafficking In Looted Cambodian Artifacts (U DoJ press release November 27, 2019)
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Peter C. Fitzhugh, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today the unsealing of an indictment charging antiquities dealer Douglas Latchford, a/k/a “Pakpong Kriangsak”— with wire fraud, smuggling, conspiracy and related charges pertaining to his trafficking in stolen and looted Cambodian antiquities. Latchford remains at large, residing in Thailand. U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As alleged, Latchford built a career out of the smuggling and illicit sale of priceless Cambodian antiquities, often straight from archeological sites, in the international art market. This prosecution sends a clear message to the art market and to those who profit from the illegal trafficking of cultural treasures: the United States and the Southern District of New York will use every legal tool to stop the plundering of cultural heritage.”

Tuesday 26 November 2019

SAA Discusses Pseudoarchaeology, CBA Supports Metal Detecting as 'Archaeology for All'

The latest issue of SAArchaeological Record has a special section on Pseudoarchaeology. 
SAArchaeological Record vol 19, issue 5 (Nov 2019)
Meanwhile in the UK, the CBA still supports collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record and Bloomsbury calls it "citizen archaeology". Bonkers.

Monday 25 November 2019

Its quite Easy to 'Caveat Emptor' on a Truly Responsible Antiquities Market

Somebody called P Buhler has a question about Timeline Auctions antiquities (not the first) they wrote here, 25 November 2019 at 14:55 :
I am new to this Blog, but am very interested in the chain regarding Timeline. I have purchased a few coins from them in the past (which were fine), but am considering bidding on a Medieval sword they are offering now. Candidly I am also new to the Medieval weapons collecting area, although I do have some 17th Century pieces acquired elsewhere some time ago. I would be interested in anyone else's experience with Medieval weapons acquired from Timeline in recent years. From website photos some of the swords look to be in very clean and good preserved condition relative even to some museum examples I have seen. Cause to worry about good fakes?
Although I state clearly in my blog that for ethical reasons I refuse to offer commercial advice, they still naively ask. Anyway, in this case I answered honestly. There are estimates that up to 95% of the artefacts being offered online these days are either illegally obtained or fake. Nobody has disproven that.
Hmm. Something to think about. The prime leitmotif of THIS blog, the one you are writing to, is that the archaeological resource is damaged by selfish buyers who'll buy unpapered artefacts (portable antiquities that have no documentation of legal origins, no documentation of the transfer of title, no documentation of legal movement between countries). Here the interests of (responsible) collectors and conservationists cross. If the sword was made in 2008 by Slimy Fred the Faker in a garage in Sunderland, it'll have no documentation of these things. If it was illegally dug up in a the underground of the chapel of a ruined Lebanese Crusader castle and smuggled to Britain, it will have no documentation of these things. If the seller has ensured that the items he has in the stockroom are of legal origins and he has title to sell will be happy to share the documents of that with you - no excuses. If the seller offer excuses instead of proof, walk away, on that basis (and given the statistical chances), it is legitimate to suspect that it's probably either illegally obtained (and thus you cannot acquire title) or fake.
Interesting that Mr (?) Buhler is "new to the collecting area" but is willing to chance it on a "looks like" basis (plus asking an archaeologist online for advice). Mr Hammond's "ancient artefacts" have  been discussed here before (search). Ask for paperwork before you bid, take no excuses, anything that's passed through any dealer in this manner with no paperwork may be difficult to sell later.

Saturday 23 November 2019

Lack of Transparency on One Type of UK Heritage Crime Convictions?

In the BBC article 'How a treasure hunt led to a £3m 'heritage stealing' 21st Nov 2019, British Museum Treasure Registrar, Ian Richardson is quoted .
"I've been doing this job since 2007 and the number of cases of people being convicted for theft, which essentially derives from them not reporting their finds of treasure, has increased.
In another article about the Leominster haul (Harriet Brewis, 'Viking treasure thieves who stole hoard worth £12m with metal detectors are jailed', Evening Standard 22 Nov 2019)  we are told:
collector Wicks[...] had previous convictions for "night-hawking" - searching with a metal detector without the landowner's permission - going back to 2014 [...]
Where can we read about these cases?  Why is the PAS not trumpeting each one as it happens to raise public awareness of heritage crime by artefact hunters? Could it be that if there are "increasing numbers" as Richardson claims, that rather undermines the credibility of the old trope that a "minority" of detector users is doing anything that we should be worried about? Could it be that it also undermines the credibility of the idea that by "partnering" artefact hunters, they will somehow mutate into ersatz archaeologists?

The Hunt is on for the Leominster Stash

The hunt is now on for the Leominster stash, hidden away by dishonest knowledge thieves, George Powell, of Kirby Lane, Newport; Layton Davies, of Cardiff Road, Pontypridd; Paul Wells, of Newport Road, Cardiff; and Simon Wicks, of Hawks Road, Hailsham, East Sussex (Jon Sharman  Metal detectorists convicted of trying to sell £3m Viking treasure hoard on black market 21 Nov 2019).
Prosecuting barrister Kevin Hegarty QC told jurors the remainder of the hoard had not been located. “They must be concealed in one or more places or, by now, having been concealed, have been dispersed, never to be reassembled as a hoard of such coinage again.” [...] Adjourning the case for a hearing on Friday, Judge Nicholas Cartwright said: “I am not going to admit George Powell bail, he’s going to be sentenced for theft of items worth millions of pounds and is facing a very long sentence of imprisonment and in addition to that there will inevitably be a confiscation process. “There are hidden assets by way of unrecovered treasure worth a very large sum, probably millions of pounds, so there’s the prospect of a very long default period of imprisonment should the assets remain hidden.” [...] Speaking afterwards, Detective Constable Nigel Cleeton, who led the West Mercia Police investigation, welcomed the verdicts and appealed to the public for information to “help us find the rest of this hoard and put it back together”.
Interestingly, there is no reward (as yet) offered for this information, and one might reflect that while artefact hunters need the prospect of a Treasure award in order to get them to speak up about what they've found, ordinary non-metal-detecting members of the public are not thought to need one. That is surely discrimination.

Exclusive: Hiding Place of Leominster Haul Identified?

Who's that digging? 
As to the fate of the rest of the hoard, Powell's barrister James Tucker told the judge his client, who is a father of two, "isn't in a position to assist" their recovery.
Well, he won't, in jail. It's got nothing to with how many kids he's fathered. A late night phonecall to me from the West of England gave a clue to where the Leominster Four hid the remaining items (believed to be c. 270 coins and ingots and other stuff) from the infamous hoard and they say that it's right under everybody's noses. My anonymous interlocutor told me their reasoning behind the gang's decision. It cannot be the stockroom of the two dealers involved, the police will have searched there. (interestingly, what other artefacts did they find there and ignore - in Mr Wicks' stock for example?) It cannot be a deposit box in a bank or security firm as this would leave a paper trail. Obviously, metal detectorists would have buried it. But there is a snag, metal detecting buddies of these two metal detecting buddies will be thinking the same thing and locating the 'permissions' of everyone involved and fanning out there late at night for weeks (another reason not to let metal detectorists on your land in the first place). Or a nighthawk could stumble on it wholly accidentally if it's in a searchworthy location.

Where is the one place nobody would look? Obviously a field so well emptied by archaeologists and subsequent intruders that there is now nothing likely to be left of what had been there. There is just one such field in the whole of Western England, and its not far from the homes of three of the Four. It's near a road junction, just off the motorway in a small remote place called Hammerwich. The field is completely sterile, but that, according to my informant is exactly the place where the Leominster Hoard has been redeposited, waiting for the first of the jailed men to get out and go and reclaim it. Perhaps it is worth the archaeologists mounting a proper investigation of that findspot and the area around it, just in case he's right. Time is running out.

Treasure, Money and Archaeology in the Eyes of the British Public

Dr Tess Machling @Tess_Machling 16 godz. commention on the sentencing of three of the Leominster Four
Such an important precedent. Big jail terms plus a Proceedings of Crime hearing later to decide the amount they have to pay back. Now to get rid of the term 'Treasure' and start valuing detected finds for their archaeological worth, rather than as personal money making schemes.
Start? We've had a PAS supposedly plugging that message 23 years now, obviously making hugely slow progress. I noted on Twitter an accidentally met long thread of comments - apparently mostly conservatives looking to Pritti Patel to "get this country sorted" - who were discussing this in relation to sentences recently passed down for rape, and was struck by how many who saw the sanctions as related to the monetary value of this hoard rather than the aspect (well enough stressed in ALL the news reports of the results of this trial) of the cultural damage the way it was handled by its finders. Almost without exception.

Friday 22 November 2019

Leominster/Eye Hoard Items Sold with False Provenance

Raven Saunt and Alexander Robertson 'Hunt for £12million hoard of Anglo-Saxon coins and jewellery as metal detectorists who found it but refuse to hand it over are jailed for ten and eight years' Mail Online 22 November 2019) have part of the judge's summary of the Leominster hoard case at the sentencing in Worcester Crown Court. He told the men that the 'responsible thing' would have been to stop digging and notify the authorities. But he added:
'The two of you, of course, acted very differently indeed. 'Having realised immediately this was a very significant and valuable find, even if you didn't have the detailed expertise to know exactly what each item of jewellery and these coins represented, you acted in a way that was greedy and selfish. 'You clumsily dug out everything you could find, put the soil back and left without speaking to the farmer, the farmer's mother or anybody else.'
Apparently, Powell's barrister James Tucker told the judge that 'if the coins had laid undisturbed, they wouldn't necessarily have been discovered. Reporting what was said in court, Saunt and Robertson reveal some of what Judge Nicholas Cartwright added to what we know from other reports. He starts off (of course) by praising responsible collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record:
'Most significant finds of historical artefacts and treasure come about as a result of responsible and lawful metal detecting. 'It has brought great benefits and will continue to do so. The reward system in this country is generous in order to encourage the declaration of finds. 'Items are valued accurately by a committee which includes a representative of the metal detecting community as well as other experts. A true value is arrived at and that is the value of the reward. 'George Powell and Layton Davies. You both knew this. On June 2, 2015 the two of you went to these fields to metal detect. 'On this day the two of you found and dug up a gold Anglo Saxon ring. It is a thing of astonishing beauty. It is over 1,000 years old. It is very valuable. 'Nearby you found a piece of jewellery even more spectacular and even older. 'Near to that you found an Anglo Saxon arm bracelet and some silver ingots which would have been used by vikings as currency. You also found coins. 'Those 31 which have ultimately been recovered are mostly Anglo Saxon coins. 'There are also others including a coin from ancient Persia. These items comprise a hoard of treasure and that was obvious. 'As to the number of coins found, the two of you have never been honest to the police or the court in saying exactly how many were unearthed.
After noting that the 'Two emperor' (sic) coins are very valuable and that other types of these Anglo Saxon pennies are also worth several thousand pounds each, Judge Cartwright went on:
'The financial value is only one part of the true value. The true value of this treasure is the archaeological value. The jewellery is of course also artwork in itself. 'You cheated the farmer, his mother, the landowner, but also the public. 'This treasure belongs to the nation. The benefit to the nation is that these items can be seen and admired. 'Exhibitions encourage visits to museums which supports them financially. 'Stealing items as you did, denies the public. 'When treasure is found it belongs, from the moment of finding, to the nation. The responsible thing to do is to stop digging and to notify the local museum.'
The judge said the metal detectorists 'realised immediately' the haul was a 'very significant and valuable find.' He added:
'There and then you acted in a way which was greedy selfish. You clumsily dug out everything there and put the soil back. 'You did not notify the farmer or any archaeologist. You took the items to South Wales and set about finding someone to tell you what they were and what they were worth. 'Because you did not have an agreement in place as to the share of the huge reward you would get, you set about a course of conduct designed to maximise your own return without any regard to the rights of anyone else. 'Your preferred option was to sell the coins through someone with better credentials than you.

The judge details how they went about this and reveals some details of the modus operandi of Wicks, the antiquities dealer:
'You George Powell swiftly contacted Simon Wicks and arranged a meeting at a motorway service station to show him some of the coins. 'He was plainly willing to sell on your behalf. You, Simon Wickes, took coins away and tested the water with a consignment you put in for auction. 'You had a false cover story ready should you need it. 'You later fabricated the contents of a letter to pretend that some coins had been above ground since the 1970s. 'You Layton Davies were the one principally involved in the conspiracy with Paul Wells. 'He as one of two Cardiff antiques dealers you first approached with a small part of the hoard. 'While his colleague behaved responsibly, he did not. He hid five coins by gluing them into a secret hiding place in the handle of a fold-out magnifying glass. 'He knew full well that the existence of these coins was being kept hidden from the crown, the farmer, and the landowner.
It would be interesting to know more about this other Cardiff dealer and his 'responsible' behaviour - did it go as far as to notify the police? Judge Cartwright expands on the guilt of the two finders:
'The only sensible inference to draw is that the objective was to manipulate the farmer and landowner with lies and limited disclosure in order to keep as much treasure as possible for yourselves and turn it into cash. 'Lies were told to the Finds Liaison Officer. Treasure was hidden and 90 per cent of the coins remain hidden. 'All four played your parts in these crimes. 'The irony is that if you George Powell and Layton Davies had obtained the permissions and agreements which responsible metal detectorists are advised to obtain [but no, they had not, the landowner did not give permission to search and take]. 'If you had gone on to act within the law when you found this treasure, you could have expected to have either a half share, or at worst a third share of over £3million to share between you. 'You could not have done worse than half a million pounds each - but you wanted more. 'There was significant planning. The theft involved visits to the farmer and his wife to trick them. 'It involved a charade at the National Museum of Wales in which you both played your parts telling lies which were never put right in the coroner's inquest
Presumably this refers to the inquest into the circumstances of finding the few objects that were handed in at the National Museum of Wales in July 2015, a gold ring, crystal pendant and gold arm-band. It is interesting to note that there is currently no apparent online trace of this inquest having taken place. What was the original Treasure case number? Neither are these three objects in the PAS database, while other Treasure finds are. Why? What is being hidden here and why? The article continues, and suggests one reason is that it was felt at the time that the men were lying: 

Only 31 of the coins have been recovered, although mobile phone photographs - later deleted, but recovered by police - showed the larger hoard, still intact, in a freshly dug hole. Davies, who chose to give evidence in his defence, claimed during the trial that the pair dug the jewellery out of two separate holes but photographs taken on his phone and later deleted clearly showed the trove as one. He also alleged Powell had then planted some coins, which he already owned, in the hole for 'staged' photographs, to give the items greater provenance and value. One of the images appeared to show many more silver ingots than the one recovered by police but the men claimed these were simply bullet casings. Both men also claimed talk of a 300-coin hoard had been a rumour, insisting that the only coins they found were declared to the National Museum Wales, in Cardiff, at a meeting on July 8. However, they were undone by evidence including deleted photos of a much larger hoard on Davies's phone and the recovery of various coins, including five concealed in a magnifying glass case and volunteered to police by Wells. 

Friday Retrospect: Simon Wicks Opens a Shop

Back in 2011:

Thursday, 31 March 2011

It's (shrug) legal innit?

I came back from Egypt to find 1000 or so unread emails in the inbox in my deliberately stationary office computer. One of them was the link I want to discuss here, this one from a British archaeologist (and why can't he discuss it himself?). Its about a month out of date as a news item, but still worth highlighting. It is about a new shop opened by a father and son team speaking about their treasure hunting (and now treasure-selling) passion. Sadly you do not seem to be able to embed the video, readers will have to make do with clicking here. The BBC-blurb to the video says:
A new shop full of unearthed hidden treasure is opening in the East Sussex town of Eastbourne. The artefacts, some of which are thousands of years old, can be legally offered for sale under treasure trove rules.
Here's an edited transcript of part of the script...

Cultured voice over [Robin Gibson](dramatic mood music):"They are hundreds, even thousands of years old and they are here because they were dug up by Treasure seekers",
Estuary English bloke in a suit: "[...] some roman keys, we find hammered silver coins, there's a Celtic toggle",
Cultured Voice over: "Coins, rings, daggers, you'd think this was a museum, but in a few days' time anyone will be able to come in here and buy them".
Estuary English bloke in a tie (notably avoiding eye contact): "One or two pieces are for display, um, but, yeah basically, you know, legally you can buy all of these items (shrugs) and, you know, its basically a pleasure to see these people's faces as they open their wallets..."
[...] [more stuff, like son filmed against the backdrop of a case full of gold artefacts, ending with]
Cultured Voice Over: "It's likely to be a talking point - the shop where, if you can afford it, you really can buy buried treasures".

This gratuitous plug for a newly-opened business does not state the shop's name, but we learn that the owner's name is Simon Wicks, and he has "spent his whole life digging for artefacts and curios underground". We learn more from the Eastbourne Herald - the shop is called Britanicus and its in Terminus Road, Eastbourne. He also sells (what else could he sell?) metal detectors. There's a nice bit of calling-a-spade-a-spade in the newspaper article: "Simon Wicks has been legally plundering historical sites for the past 40 years [...]" Thank you Eastbourne Herald for getting it right and using a word (the P-word) few British archaeologists would dare mouth with regard their "partners with metal detectors". If the British archaeological community is not going to do conscientious public outreach about artefact hunting, its good to see some journalists who are not swallowing the PAS-fluffy bunny "partnership" pap. (Some "metal detectorists" did not appreciate the collocation, but do not seem really to explore the issue of the sale of these items very deeply.)

Coming back to the BBC (which does not use the P-word). How many times do people have to be told what the law is CALLED? IT IS NOT THE "TREASURE TROVE LAW" ANY MORE. Millions of pounds worth of PAS outreach and not even the BBC can get it right.

What about this statement "yeah basically, you know, legally you can buy all of these items"? Well, that is indeed so if (Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003) they are not tainted . Let's assume that all the potential treasure items of English and Welsh origin have been reported to the Coroner and released, let us assume that none came from Scotland or northern Ireland where different rules apply. But what about that plate brooch at 1:35? That's not a British find is it? Crimea? Danubian Plain? Southern Europe? (I've seen some very good fakes of these recently, from the Ukraine, is this one of them? We'd have to see the back to resolve that one, I'm a bit puzzled by what we can see of the pin mechanism). Not to mention the copper alloy Roman cavalry helmet mask, if real.

How many of those copper alloy artefacts were bought direct from local metal detectorists able to show the purchaser a valid landowners' agreement, and how many come from job lots of metal detected stuff from unknown foreign sites? Those arrowheads fleetingly shown at the beginning of the film are not typically British types, very similar ones do occur in the Balkans and across eastern Europe and central Asia. If those finds were dug up on the continent and came into the UK without the relevant paperwork (including export licences) they would fall under the definition of tainted artefacts in the terms of the 2003 Act (and before anyone suggests, "well those items might not be for sale", first look properly at article 3 of the 2003 Act). Britain has in fact some very strict laws about even handling this type of material - but of course it is all a hopeless sham, because that law has never actually been enforced (I stand to be corrected, but I believe it is still the case that - despite the tonnes of items on the UK market of dodgy provenance - that act has never once resulted in a successful prosecution). You will note as an indication of its irrelevance to the treatment of portable antiquities in the UK that there appears not to be even a link to its text on the Portable Antiquities Scheme website (not even here, though it is mentioned in passing right at the bottom).

But is "it's (shrug) legal innit" actually a justification for this? Legal, maybe, what about the ethical and moral issues? Is this the way to treat the archaeological record, as a source of collectables a resource to be eroded away for entertainment and profit? Now what Britain does with its archaeological heritage is up to the Brits to decide (which they can't do when the knottier issues are eternally skated over in the interests of maintaining an erosive "partnership"). It is however quite clear that, like the US antiquities trade, it is not just local sites which are being trashed to keep up the supply of goods in these markets. To those who follow such things, it is obvious that British artefact dealers, both the bigger auction houses but especially the dealers in so-called "minor antiquities" (a classification I do not accept) are not being supplied from the "legal plundering" of the archaeological record in their own country alone. The whole trade is all-too-obviously bolstered by dugup goods imported from other countries, in most cases where the exploitation of the archaeological record in this manner (to the detriment of the whole of society) is illegal. These artefacts are tainted because they were obtained by illegal activity, an activity which their incorporation (no-questions-asked) into the foreign market facilitates and encourages. In the case of the bigger dealers, its things like Greek pots and Egyptian sculptures, much of it from tomb-robbing. In the case of the "minor" (sic) dealers, the damage done by their source of supply is (though they will vehemently deny it) the wholesale destructive metal-detecting (sometimes accompanied by the use of heavy earth-moving plant) of archaeological sites to produce job lots of "partifacts" and coins which after sorting find their own niches in the market. Mr Wicks too has a pile of "uncleaned ancient" coins on display in his shop.

Has the local FLO visited Mr Wicks' shop? I think we'd all be interested to hear what she said to him about it as part of the PAS archaeological outreach to the public on portable antiquity matters. For Sussex that's Stephanie Smiththe Sussex Archaeological Society in Lewes, just down the road.

[Concerning one reaction to the news of the reputed find by Simon Wicks of Anne Boleyn's jewellery see here].

Illustrations: screen grabs from BBC video
Mr Wicks attracted a lot of attention from collectors as many of the goods he's been offering seem of dubious antiquity. It seems there is another side to him that we did not know about, according to an article by Harriet Brewis ('Viking treasure thieves who stole hoard worth £12m with metal detectors are jailed" 22 Nov 2019 in the Evening Standard:
Coin collector [sic] Wicks, who had previous convictions for "night-hawking" - searching with a metal detector without the landowner's permission - going back to 2014, was jailed for five years.

Metal Detecting and the Proceeds of Crime

The Leominster hoard thieves will also face a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act that allows the Government to reclaim stolen assets, or the money gained selling such assets, it's going to be a tense Christmas in South Wales this year. Families suffer because of metal detecting gone bad.


"Now, Don't Do It Again!" Metal detectorists jailed for stealing Viking treasure hoard

All in black and hiding their
faces: Powell and Davies
 arriving at court yesterday
 (Image: PA)  
The saga of the Leominster (Eye Court Farm) Hoard reached some kind of a resolution as a pair of metal detectorists who found and tried to keep Viking treasure worth £3million have been jailed for a collective 18 and a half a years (Milo Boyd, 'Metal detectorists jailed for stealing Viking treasure hoard worth £3 million' Daily Mirror 22 Nov 2019). Sadly, much of the hoard has not been recovered, only these four (or perhaps fewer than four) know where it is.
George Powell, 38, and Layton Davies, 51, found the trove,[...] they tried to hide its true nature so they could make a fortune on the black market. They decided to sell the coins instead.  [...] Coin sellers Simon Wicks and Paul Wells were also convicted on the concealment charge after Powell and Davies contacted them in order to sell the treasure [...]  Sentencing on Friday, Judge Nicholas Cartwright said the men had "cheated" not only the landowner, but also the public of "exceptionally rare and significant" coins. He said: "You cheated the farmer, his mother, the land-owner and also the public when you committed theft of these items. [...] Powell was jailed for 10 years while Davies was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years behind bars. Wicks, 56, was jailed for five years while Wells, 60 - who became unwell during Thursday's hearing - will be sentenced on 23 December.  
Simon Wicks
This gives the message loud and clear that all heritage crime is serious. There are additional details in the ITV REPORT ' Three men jailed after stealing a Viking hoard worth £3 million' 22 November 2019
Two detectorists and a coin seller have been jailed for stealing a Viking hoard worth £3 million. George Powell, 38, and Layton Davies, 51, and Simon Wicks, 57 discovered the treasure at a site in Eye, Herefordshire in 2015. The men stole, concealed and then broke up the coin hoard, offering items for sale to private dealers and auctioneers. [...] They were caught after deleted photos showed a much larger hoard on Davies's phone. The recovery of various coins, including five concealed in a magnifying glass case and volunteered to police by the forth member of the group Simon Wells, 60. Powell, of Newport, Wales was described as having the 'leading' role after appearing alongside his co-defendants at Worcester Crown Court today (November 22). He was jailed for 10 years while caretaker Davies, of Pontypridd, Wales received eight-and-a-half years. Wicks, of Halisham, East Sussex, was jailed for five years. All three men were convicted of conspiracy to conceal criminal property, conspiracy to convert criminal property following a six-week trial. [...] Wells, of Rumney, Cardiff was found guilty of conspiracy to conceal criminal property and will be sentenced on 23 December.
See also BBC:  'Detectorists jailed for £3m Viking hoard theft' 22nd Nov 2019.
Harriet Brewis, 'Viking treasure thieves who stole hoard worth £12m with metal detectors are jailed', Evening Standard 22nd Nov 2019.

CPS Press Release on Leominster Artefact Theft Sentences

Through the activities of the PAS, even the Criminal Prosecution Service has problems calling a spade a spade: 'Archaeology enthusiasts (sic) who hid their haul of valuable Anglo-Saxon coins jailed' CPS 22 November 2019
A pair of metal detectorists who discovered more than 300 Anglo-Saxon coins and historic jewellery, then hid the £2.9million haul, have today (22 November) been jailed.

George Powell, 38, and Layton Davies, 51, were scanning farmland in Leominster when they struck gold, discovering hundreds of Anglo-Saxon coins, jewellery and ingots.

Instead of disclosing this significant treasure find to the landowner and the coroner, as law dictates, Powell and Davies kept the haul for themselves.

Separately, the detectorists contacted the National Museum for Wales explaining they had found only one coin each, at different locations, which meant they would not have been subject to the regulations of the Treasure Act.

It came to light that the defendants had started releasing coins onto the market, through specialist sellers Paul Wells, 60, and Simon Wicks, 57. Evidence was gathered which showed Powell and Wicks meeting at a service station to hand over the coins.

Wicks contacted a collector and sold him two coins, telling him there was more in the collection if he was interested.

Lesley Milner of the CPS said: “The coins Davies and Powell found were more than 1,100 years old and bore the inscriptions of Aelfred and Ceolwulf from the Saxon-Viking period. This find had immense historical value and should have been disclosed to the relevant authorities. But Davies and Powell actively hid their haul for their own selfish gain.”

Unearthing the truth

Powell said that he had found a couple of gold coins when metal detecting, however images on his phone contradicted this account as they proved he had uncovered around 300 coins with Davies.

The prosecution used the five coins hidden in a magnifying glass at Wells’ house, which were clearly of the same origin as the treasure the detectorists had found, to prove that Powell and Davies had passed on the coin without disclosing this through the correct channels.

An expert testified that the coins seized from Wells, Davies and Powell had come from the same source due to the rarity of the coins.

Lesley Milner continued: “The treasure found would have been worth at least £2,900,000. But regardless of the value, these men collectively conspired to hide genuine treasure from the authorities. Undetected, this could have prevented the public from viewing and studying the full contents of such a historically important find.”

On Thursday 21 November at Worcester Crown Court Davies, Wicks, Wells and Powell were all found guilty.

Today (22 November) Powell has been sentenced to ten years in prison, Davies has been sentenced to 8.5 years in prison and Wicks has been jailed for five years. Wells will be sentenced in December.

Notes to editors

Lesley Milner is a Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS West Midlands

Layton Davies (18/06/1968) was found guilty of Theft of a quantity of coins, jewellery and silver ingots contrary to Section 1 (1) Theft Act 1968 Conspiracy to conceal criminal property contrary to Section 1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977 Conspiracy to convert criminal property contrary to Section 1 (1) Criminal Law Act 1977

George Powell (22/01/1981) was found guilty of Theft of a quantity of coins, jewellery and silver ingots contrary to Section 1 (1) Theft Act 1968 Conspiracy to conceal criminal property contrary to Section 1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977 Conspiracy to convert criminal property contrary to Section 1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977

Simon Wicks (16/10/1962) was found guilty of Conspiracy to conceal criminal property contrary to Section 1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977 Conspiracy to convert criminal property contrary to Section 1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977

Paul Wells (29/07/1959) was found guilty of Conspiracy to conceal criminal property contrary to Section 1 (1) Criminal Law Act 1977.

Thursday 21 November 2019

Metal detectorists convicted of trying to sell £3m Viking treasure hoard on black market

The real reason why metal detectorists are often cagey about what they found where? A pair of metal detectorists have been convicted of stealing a hoard of Viking coins and jewellery potentially worth £3m – much of which is still missing (Jon Sharman Metal detectorists convicted of trying to sell £3m Viking treasure hoard on black market 21 Nov 2019). 
George Powell and Layton Davies covered up their once-in-a-lifetime discovery  [...] and planned to sell it off in small batches. [...] By law, the experienced detectorists should have reported their rare discovery but instead decided to sell the items in small batches on the black market. [...] Davies, who elected to give evidence in his defence, claimed he and Powell retrieved the jewellery from two separate holes – but photographs taken on his phone which he later deleted, but police recovered, clearly showed the trove as one. One of the images appeared to show considerably more silver ingots than the single block found by police, but the men claimed they were just bullet casings. [...]  All four defendants denied the charges but were convicted after a jury of six men and six women deliberated for eight and a half hours following a seven-week trial.   

Guardian Coverage of Leominster Hoard: The Landowner's Point of View

Metal detectorists George Powell and Layton Davies tried to sell treasure illegally, Worcester court hears ( Steven Morris, 'UK metal detectorists guilty of theft after concealing £3m hoard' Thu 21 Nov 2019)
Powell and Davies made the discovery on land owned by Lord Cawley near Leominster in June 2015. The Guardian broke the news of the verdicts to Lord Cawley, who could be in for a reward as the treasure was found on his property. He said: “I suppose it’s good news for me. I could possibly be in for a reward. It would be nice.” Cawley said he had not given the pair permission to detect on his land. “What they did was illegal, they shouldn’t have done it.” He doubted the missing coins would be recovered. “I don’t suppose they’ll find them now.” Experts say the pair would have been handsomely rewarded had they handed the coins in. Instead they are due to be sentenced on Friday along with two others who were involved in hiding the hoard. They could be given prison sentences.
It seems to me that if two spivs entered Lord Cawley's property without his permission and took his Bentleys and tried to flog them off with the help of two dodgy dealers, and they were caught, the property (all the stolen Bentleys) would be returned to him. Therefore, the Treasure is his by rights, so when an inquest is held and a Treasure award is ascertained, ALL the money should go to him, no need to share it with then "finders". Secondly Lord Cawley should sue the two individuals that removed the property for damages, it means the value of the part of the hoard - potentially its most financially valuable elements - that was not recovered (and which they still have).  Whether or not he can also sue the dealers is up to his lawyers to decide.

Mirror Coverage of Leominster Hoard

George Powell and Layton Davies found a hoard on a farm in Leominster, Herefordshire, and tried to sell it when it should have been disclosed (Adam Aspinall, 'Metal detectorists who kept £3million Viking treasure haul found guilty of theft' Daily Mirror 21 Nov 2019)
Treasure hunters who swiped a £3million hoard of historic coins have been convicted of theft. George Powell, 38, and Layton Davies, 51, found the trove [and] [...] tried to hide its true nature so they could make a fortune on the black market. The metal detectorists decided to sell the items in small batches via coin experts Paul Wells, 60, and Simon Wicks, 57. Only 31 of the coins and a few pieces of the jewellery have ever been recovered, and the hunt for the rest of the loot continues. [...] Coin experts Paul Wells of Cardiff and Simon Wicks of East Sussex denied conspiring to conceal the hoard but were also found guilty. Powell, Davies and Wicks were denied bail. They will be sentenced later.
The seven comments under it shows just how 'just' the average Mirror reader thinks the Treasure Act is:
mud 1 HOUR AGO
they did what i would have done' if the landowner or tenant wanted it, they should get off their backside and find it

Bantyrooster 5 HOURS AGO
They haven't done anything wrong they found the stuff the owner wont be back looking for it

yayaaaaa 5 HOURS AGO
no doubt not inuff to set them up for life, and it would have effect their dole

Koerner 5 HOURS AGO
They haven't mugged or burgled anyone.

KloppsNo2 5 HOURS AGO
i know! we will read about a proper criminal let off next

caitlinmforester 5 HOURS AGO
finders keepers!
This is actually what the PAS and its "citizen archaeologists" approach is up against. I bet every single one of them will be voting soon to "get Brexit dun".

Dealer Proffers 'Sone Erly Form of Writing'

Among the 155 objects being sold by antiquities (I use the term loosely) dealer 'ace-antiquities' (ancient-antiques (4102 - that's Simon Wicks, Hailsham East Sussex with 99.2% positive feedback),  David Knell has pointed out in an earlier comment on this blog this "EXTREMELY RARE ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN SONE (sic) TABLET EARLY FORM OF WRITING 2000BC", yours for just £650.00. Item location: Hailsham, East Sussex, United Kingdom. No mention of an export licence:
I do not know what the inscription says (if anything), but the drying cracks in the glue-and-slurry encrustation give it away more than anything. If this has been in private collections since the 1970s. it shows that there are not a few totally gullible people out there buying antiquities from folk such as this. No papers - Caveat emptor.

Convictions in Leominster Stealing History Case

Layton Davies, George Powell (top), Paul Wells and Simon Wicks
were convicted by a jury at Worcester Crown Court (Photo: West Mercia Police)
Four artefact hunters and two dealers have been convicted of theft and concealment of a Treasure find after they failed to report a ninth century hoard and instead tried pass the finds onto the commercial market. It seems that as much as 90% of the hoard is still missing (BBC, 'Detectorists stole Viking hoard that 'rewrites history'' 21 Nov 2019)
George Powell and Layton Davies dug up about 300 coins in a field in Eye, near Leominster, Herefordshire, in 2015. They did not declare the 1,100-year-old find, said to be one of the biggest to date, and instead sold it to dealers. They were convicted of theft and concealing their find. Coin sellers Simon Wicks and Paul Wells were also convicted on the concealment charge. The hoard included a 9th Century gold ring, a dragon's head bracelet, a silver ingot and a crystal rock pendant. Just 31 coins - worth between £10,000 and £50,000 - and some pieces of jewellery have been recovered, but the majority is still missing. "They must be concealed in one or more places or by now having been concealed have been dispersed never to be reassembled as a hoard of such coinage again," prosecutor, Kevin Hegarty QC, said. During their trial at Worcester Crown Court, Powell, 38, of Newport, and Davies, 51, of Pontypridd, had denied deliberately ignoring the Treasure Act, which demands significant finds be declared. [...] As the verdicts were read out, an ambulance was called for Wells who became unwell. Court was adjourned until Friday for sentencing and the other defendants were remanded in custody.
The men in court (BBC)
This is another hoard of coins of Alfred the Great and Ceolwulf II of Mercia and was buried around the year 879. Once again the trope is trotted out that hoards like these in some way " provide fresh information about the unification of England and [...] enable us to re-interpret our history at a key moment in the creation of England as a single kingdom". Hooray.
When Powell and Davies made their discovery in June 2015, they did not inform the farmer who owned the field and instead contacted dealers to find out the worth of the items. A month later, they contacted the National Museum of Wales but only declared one coin each and three items of jewellery. Both men claimed talk of a 300-coin hoard had been a rumour, but suspicions were aroused and police began to investigate. They recovered deleted photos on Davies's phone which showed the hoard intact in a freshly dug hole. The court heard the detectorists had been meeting Wicks, from Hailsham, and Wells, from Cardiff, to release the coins on to the market. Wicks, Powell and Davies were also found guilty of converting the stolen hoard into cash after police traced several coins which had been sold to private collectors. Wells told the court he knew the coins should be declared, but was himself found to have hidden five in a magnifying glass handle. 
Interestingly, this find seems to have prodded some action:
Amanda Blakeman, West Mercia Police's Deputy Chief Constable, said [...]  "It's absolutely critical that we protect our heritage, our history, and we bring offenders to justice who are looking to profit from something that is owned by the community," she said. Ms Blakeman has recently been appointed as the national leader for heritage and cultural crime and has established police and expert networks to help tackle these "complex and protracted" investigations in the future. "We must recover that property and we must cut off those markets that are available to be able to disperse our history, not only across this country, but across the world," she said
and about time too.

How a treasure hunt led to a £3m 'heritage stealing'

BBC, ' How a treasure hunt led to a £3m 'heritage stealing' 21st Nov 2019.
"It's not a victimless crime, it's depriving us all of our heritage." Those are the words used to describe the actions of two Welsh metal detectorists who have been found guilty of stealing one of the most valuable and historically significant treasure hoards in British history. George Powell, 38, and Layton Davies, 51, found £3m worth of Anglo-Saxon and Viking treasure in Herefordshire, close to the Welsh border. They should have declared the valuable coins but kept them for themselves. A coin trader and antique seller were also convicted of their roles in the crime.[...]
The report gives some more details:
Powell and Davies found the jewellery and 300 coins in fields in the Welsh Marches in June 2015. The court heard Davies was "amazed" and posted a picture of three of the coins on the web forum Detecting Wales [oops, picture inexplicably now gone -PMB]. Jurors heard he was an experienced detectorist, held a certificate for "best find in Wales" in 2014, and had been a member of various Welsh detecting clubs, including Detecting Wales, Gwent Detecting and Cardiff Scan Club. He had previously donated more than 100 items to the National Museum Wales in Cardiff. [...]
Which now raises questions about the legality of those finds. Has the NMW got protocols of assignation of title from the landowners for each of those items? If not, how do they know that the items are legally obtained? The hoard finders decided not to report them as the law requires.
The artefacts were taken back to Wales to coin trader Wells, who had a stall at the Pumping Station antiques centre in Cardiff. It was there it was agreed the coins would be taken to London, where antiqu[iti]es trader Wicks tried to sell them to the world renowned Mayfair auctioneers Dix Noonan and Webb. Wicks took two batches of coins to the auctioneers. Its expert said the coins were "extraordinary and very valuable", but was "suspicious". [...] Wicks admitted he sold several of the coins to his friend, who bought them in a deal at a service station, paying £28,000 in cash divided into three brown packets. Wells was later arrested after handing over five of the coins to a police officer that had been stitched into his leather glasses case. [...] The men did declare the gold ring, crystal pendant and gold arm-band with the National Museum of Wales.
It seems that monitoring of the antiquities market led museum officials to the crime:
British Museum treasure registrar, Ian Richardson, carried out his own inquiries into the coins after hearing of the discovery.[...] He said: "I've been doing this job since 2007 and the number of cases of people being convicted for theft, which essentially derives from them not reporting their finds of treasure, has increased. [...]  Wells told the court he was aware the men were in trouble when a global alert was issued online to coin collectors, warning them to stay away from undeclared treasure, "of extreme rarity", found in the Welsh Marches.
The detectorists' haul contained rare (and therefore characteristic) "double emperor" coins that feature Alfred the Great as a co-ruler with Coelwulf II of Mercia. These coins are worth about £75,000 each on the market. The convicted are:
Layton Davies of Cardiff Road, Pontypridd, was found guilty of theft, conspiring to conceal criminal property and converting criminal property by selling it
George Powell of Coulson Close, Newport, was found guilty of theft, conspiring to conceal criminal property and converting criminal property by selling it
Simon Wicks, 57, of Hawks Road, Hailsham, was convicted of conspiring to conceal criminal property and converting criminal property by selling it
Paul Wells, 60, of Newport Road, Cardiff, was found guilty of conspiring to conceal criminal property
Many of the coins have still not been recovered. I think the landowner should sue them  for compensation of lost Treasure award.

Thankful EBay Seller Still Selling

A dealer going under a number of different names on EBay has just been convicted in Worcester Crown Court, is in custody and will be sentenced tomorrow. Meanwhile, he is still offering a wide range of artefacts from his account: ancient-antiques, like this
Thank you. David Knell says we should not call them "oil" lamps, as there was no other kind of lamp. I'd say the only adjective in the object name that is likely to be accurate is "terracotta". It is quite nice in an awkward kind of way, but not "superb", and whether the scene actually is "erotic" is a question of taste I guess.

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Artefacts Left on Train in Durham

British Transport Police are looking for an individual who took a bag left by a passenger from London who forgot to take it when they left the train in Durham. The bag contained a Late Medieval ring and a Late Roman fibula (BBC Ring and brooch 'treasures' taken from Edinburgh-bound train 20th Nov 2019):
Police said the items, valued at £1,000 and £500, were taken from an Edinburgh-bound service travelling from Durham. The rare jewellery was left in a red plastic bag in the overhead locker by a passenger who disembarked at Durham. However, the items were not handed into lost property and are now presumed stolen, said British Transport Police. The medieval ring, which was left with the brooch in a red plastic Aldi bag, has the inscription "o mi hart is yovrs" (oh my heart is yours) on its inside. The passenger who left the items was travelling from London to Durham on an Edinburgh-bound service. The jewellery is thought to have been taken sometime between the evening of 4 October and 12.30 on Saturday 5 October. Anyone with information is asked to contact the British Transport Police.
The ring was recorded by the PAS: DUR-05020D on Weds Oct 24th 2018 (Treasure case 2018T790). The brooch was also recorded by the Durham FLO (on Monday 18th June 2018, DUR-7DDAA3, Treasure case 2018T429). Interestingly, both records were 'updated' Monday 18th November 2019 - but not with the information that they'd been stolen. The photos used in the article are attributed to the Transport Police, but are in fact PAS photos. It seems a lot of the details are (deliberately?) fogged. How did the person with the red plastic Aldi bag come by these artefacts? The PAS has in the past used orange plastic Sainsbury's bags.

Cline Miles Ahead of the UK's PAS

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Button Collectors Flock to the PAS

Mike Lewis tells me that
we have had a very positive response to this tweet with lots of people interested in buttons now following the Scheme on Twitter.
People interested in buttons. A “future direction” of the PAS no doubt. The British Museum becomes the shangrila of button collectors. They will join the forelock-tugging coin fondlers, buckle buffs and the crotal bell aficionados.


and that's what all that public money has been going on. All we need now is for them to do some social media preening on 'archaeology on postage stamps' and they'll get the philatelists in tow too. 

In Bed with the Detectorists: The British Museum's PASthetic Response to Comment

Mike Heyworth announces:
Looking forward to chairing the meeting to guide the future direction of @findsorguk
and meanwhile I guess I, for one, will never know how it turned out, as I find this on following the link the CBA director gave:

"Blocked, you cannot observe or read the tweets of the user @findsorguk ..."  [but then, neither can they see what I write about them, which shows how interested they are in any kind of heritage debate about portable antiquities issues - about as much as their 'metal detecting partners']

Now, what kind of British Museum 'outreach' is that? I guess then I will not hear anything more substantial from them about the archaeological values of "buttons as artefacts in their context" as it really looks like this is revenge for my pointing out that celebrating "international button day" and "collecting" by a public-funded British archaeology outreach organisation is not a particularly useful way of promoting any kind of archaeological values. Please note that the response of the PAS to a request that they be more transparent and honest with its audience is simply to block observation to dodge (perfectly justifiable) criticism.

I trust I am not alone in believing that the "future direction" of any official response to Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record in the UK does not lie in institutional dumbdown, spin and obfuscation. Any institution going down the fakenews path, ignoring justifiable concerns raised by its activity, deserves to be scrapped.

PASthetic. Just PASthetic.

Monday 18 November 2019

Treasure Trial Behind Closed Doors?

Worcester Crown court
court 2, case number T20180300, George Dennis Powell,  Layton Allan Davies,  Paul Wells,  Simon David Wicks.
The Leominster Treasure case enters its eighth week today. Initially it was expecting to last "about a month". Sadly, newspaper editors and journalists in the UK seem to think metal detectorists finding Treasures is only news if the state is joyfully paying them large sums of money to buy back the ransomed heritage. That millions of objects are being pocketed by the 'grey detectorists' (aka 'knowledge thieves') and archaeological contexts are being trashed by them is something they are not so keen to write about. I'd hate to think there was actually an official policy preventing that (remember Hollingbourne and the Newark torc?). But one might be forgiven for hatching the suspicion of a conspiracy theory to explain that, despite a whole series of downright puzzling aspects, and colourful characters, reported at the beginning of the trial (unless I have missed something), not a single journalist has bothered  to go along lately and see how it's developing.

120 pieces of Oxyrhynchus papyri missing from EES collection

About 120 pieces of Oxyrhynchus papyri have been identified as missing from EES collection so far:
The following statement was provided to members of the EES during the Society's AGM on 16th November 2019:
Chairman’s statement to EES membersInvestigation of the Society’s collection of papyri from Oxyrhynchus, which is estimated to hold some half a million fragments, has to date identified around 120 pieces which appear to be missing, almost all from a limited number of folders; it is possible that a few more cases may emerge. So far 13 of the missing pieces have been located in the Museum of the Bible in Washington and another 6 in the collection of Mr Andrew Stimer in California, and both collections are returning these texts to the EES. The EES is working with the University of Oxford and the police to establish how the papyri located in these and any other collections came to be removed and sold. While the police investigation is in progress, the EES cannot comment further on these matters, but will report on developments as and when it is possible. [...] The EES is also working with Oxford University to enhance the current accommodation of the collection and to determine how best to ensure its care and publication into the next generation.  
So somewhere out there in the market (unless the person/persons who took them is/are still hanging onto them, or have destroyed the evidence)  are somewhere in the region of one hundred (plus?) stolen artefacts.  Which other collectors have recently bought some papyri? Were any of the eBay papyrus sales that observers have been documenting in recent years from this theft? Hopefully a full police investigation will make this clear.

What you will note is absent from that statement is any indication when the last thorough inventory was undertaken. In relation to what state, from when, did those pieces go missing?  Perhaps the latest movements of objects from the collection are just the last of a series going back episodically over a period of time? I would like the EES to not shield themselves behind some "ongoing investigations" excuses for proper transparency about the material they are entrusted (I use the word deliberately) with.

Sunday 17 November 2019

Kevorkian, Safani, Unnamed London Gallery and a Poorly-Papered Dugup Head of Alexander

A New York art gallery filed a lawsuit last week asking a federal judge to block the forfeiture of a marble antiquity that was seized last year by the Manhattan district attorney and ordered to be returned to Italy (Josh Russel, 'In Pursuit of Alexander the Great: Establishing Ownership of Ancient Art', Courthouse News November 13, 2019)

Safani Gallery, one of the oldest galleries of ancient art in the United States, bought the statue, a broken off head reputedly of Alexander the Great, from a private collector through an unnamed London-based dealer in June 2017. The following February, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office executed a warrant for the seizure of the head from Safani’s Upper East Side gallery. It is reported that the "fragment of the statue was exported from Italy without permission, and as such, it was and remains exclusively the Italian Republic’s property under Italy’s patrimony law". Manhattan prosecutors alleged that the statue turned up at auction at Sotheby’s in 1974 and then disappeared for 37 years until it was sold there again in 2011 for $92,500 to the private collector from whom Safani purchased it for approximately $152,625 in 2017.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said in court filings that the statue lacks the kind of paper trail that typically accompanies ancient artifacts exported out of Italy.
“To date, no one has ever produced any records of bill of sale for any pre-1974 transaction for the Head of Alexander. Nor has anyone ever produced any records or invoice for the 1974 sale by Sotheby’s to ‘Alterrtum Ltd.’ Nor has any party ever produced an export visa or stamp authorizing the Head’s removal from Italy. No bill of lading. No transportation documents. No mention in any written record of any kind,” Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos wrote in July 2018.
“Nothing exists except questions: How did the Head leave Italy? Directly from Rome to New York? Or were there intermediary, laundering countries?” Bodganos wrote in the city’s application for a turnover order. “Experience tells us that this is exactly what the black market in looted antiquities always looks like: a disappearance from a source country and then a miraculous reappearance many years later in a market country with no paper trail followed by a questionable sale designed to created an ownership history,” Bogdanos wrote. “A neon sign flashing ‘stolen’ would be less subtle.”
Safani Gallery is now seeking a federal judge’s order to stop the statue from being returned to Italy, arguing that "no sufficient evidence establishes a claim that the artwork was ever stolen from Italy or that the Italian government is the rightful owner [and] [...] that any valid theft claims would be barred by the applicable statute of limitations". This turns the argument around, the people handling this antiquity feel under no obligation to pay any attention to having and paperwork for it, establishing their title, but in its absence defy anyone to prove that they don't. Furthermore, they want us to accept that because nobody saw any irregularity had taken place, it follows that it cannot be considered in any way important when somebody sees it now:
“Upon information and belief, at no time ever, prior to February of 2018, has any agent of Italy or any custodian of the Head of Alexander, notified any law enforcement official or made any claim in any forum in any way contending or even suggesting that the Head of Alexander ever was stolen or constituted stolen property,” the complaint states. “There is no competent evidence at all that the head was ever stolen.”

That's like a sex pest claiming that if the victim did not complain at the time it happened, but only much later and nobody suspected or saw it going on, we should consider that the offence never actually happened and the victim's lying? But the dealers' old standby is rolled out:  

According to Safani’s suit, in June 2017 the Art Loss Registry confirmed that it knew of no claims that the Head of Alexander was missing or stolen and confirmed that it been had been acquired by Armenian-American archaeologist and art collector, Hagop Kevorkian, likely prior to World War II. The provenance in Sotheby’s 2011 auction listing corroborates Kevorkian’s ownership and the likely timing of his acquisition.
The ALR confirms who was the buyer pre-1939? Odd. Since Kevorkian died in 1962, if there was no paperwork how he got it, he cannot be asked about the details of the transfer of ownership. But anyway, in the hands of X "by" a certain date is (if verifiable) proof only that an object was in somebody's hands by that time, not how it got there.  As a result of their lines of argument:
The gallery seeks a judgment declaring that it is the exclusive owner of the bust and that Italy has no claim to it. Safani also seeks the immediate return of the statue and damages for the losses incurred as a proximate result of Italy’s alleged conduct.
We will see soon where this line of argument gets the dealer.  

UPDATE Dec 3rd 2019.

Same goes for the Heritage...

Metal Detecting Time Travel in Deepest Essex

Heritage Action: 'Metal detecting time travel in Essex' 17/11/2019
This week an article about metal detecting in an Essex newspaper …. fell into a black hole – and came out in the early 1950s !
The Essex FLO however probably will not go to the press about that, though she might go to the police again about the fact that people are discussing it. In fact, instead of shooting off a letter to the school director and arranging to go there herself to repair the damage done, I bet she's going to stay very very quiet.

Saturday 16 November 2019

Misleading Arkie-Dumbdown like Nobody Else Does: The case of Buttons [UPDATED]

Today in the social media you can find an example of public-funded arkie-dumbdown par excellence done like nobody else does. The Portable Antiquities Scheme is celebrating the collectors' approach to historical artefacts, and apparently they've not a lot more to say than its "Button (sic) Day". Really, I'm serious, look. I really think that the archaeological community (and the general public that has footed the bill for this 'Scheme' for coming up soon to two-and-a-half decades) are entitled to expect more from this team. Let the haberdashers celebrate the foibles of those that collect buttons, let public-funded archaeologists enlighten the public about the the archaeological aspects of material culture. Archaeology is not just 'digging up old things'.

There are some predictable reactions to this text from non-archaeologists also observing the Scheme on social media who seem perfectly happy with the seductive but expensive dumbdown that it fobs off its viewers with:
Stephen Marnick @StephenMarnick W odpowiedzi do @findsorguk
Superb collection shown. Great system @findsorguk that seems to work very well indeed. I use it often to assist me with my, often unusual finds, before I get them off to the LFO - I also find this site very useful too.
The Colchester lot are a commercial setup organising "metal detecting hiolidays" for Americans. The sender of that ebullient endorsement was unable to say what the PAS as a "system" in fact "works very well indeed" doing. When asked if he thought it was doing very well "fully mitigating the damage caused by commercial collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record like that done by Colchester Treasure Hunting", he just said that the PAS  "seems to work very well in keeping good records of finds in one comprehensive catalogue. The rest of your point is out of my depth sorry". I might have guessed. It's about "collections" for Stephen (17, merchant navy, Mold, got a metal detector).

Another real-live numpty appears to be a button fetishist from North Wales
richard wills @rickwills40 · 39 min
W odpowiedzi do @findsorguk
Love a good button, nice collection. With modern farming methods so much is being broken up an lost year on year, nice to see some being saved for future generations ­čĹŹ
Same old themes: object and collection centred (quite the opposite of what PAS was set up and was being funded to promote); collection-as-rescue (as evidence show me just one percent of the millions of "broken buttons").  Is teh PAS going to respond to correct these erroneous viws being promoted in the social media in their own Twitter feed? Can they use social media as a tool in their institutional outreach, or do they just keep pushing out dumbdown soundbites as clickbait to make it look as if they are "doing something" (it'll be mentions as "social media activity" in the 2019 annual report).  

Now here's some news, the Portable Antiquities Scheme represents itself now as merely: "a DCMS funded project to encourage the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public". Now that is not actually what it was set up only to do. With that in mind I added something to that thread:
Paul Barford @PortantIssues · 38 min
W odpowiedzi do @findsorguk
It'd probably be helpful here to show how 23year public-funded "recording archaeological finds in their context" has revealed info about society and changing daily life 900-300 years ago - rather than just use loose objects as "illustrations" of history known from other sources and celebrating artefact #collecting. You know, archaeology, not antiquitism.
Let us see what response it generates from Bloomsbury's heritage heroes. 

Here are the "Buttons" . Here they are chronologically: "EARLY MEDIEVAL (5)" [on what basis are they "dated"?]; MEDIEVAL (901)POST MEDIEVAL (5,877)MODERN (468) [eh?]; UNKNOWN (24) [35 apparently older ones omitted here]. "Funnily enough", they are almost all of metal (!) of the just 11 "other material [mostly mother of pearl]", five are search engine fails, they also are metal [the search engine is not recognizing pewter and tombak as a metal].  So that means that out of 7,316, only six recorded buttons are not metal (and one of them is tortoise shell [? plastic?] with a metal insert.

For Mr Wills, a search of Buttons with the word "broken" in the description: The answer is 666 [ignoring the earlier ones: no "early medieval" ones;  MEDIEVAL (81)POST MEDIEVAL (459); MODERN (21)]. That is 9.1%. So 91% of the recorded buttons recovered from ploughsoil are not broken at all.  The same goes for many of the bulk lots you can see on EBay - in total annually probably passing through EBay is the numerical equivalent of what PAS have handled in 23 years "recording". If however you skim through the 666 pictures of "broken" buttons on the PAS database, what you find is "broken" in the majority of cases is the loop at the back. In a page of 100 records the ratio of substantially complete to fairly badly damaged buttons is usually 91:9. 

So in answer to that "collection as rescue" justification of  collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record, the actual DATA from the PAS database accumulated from the material "rescued' by hundreds of detectorists, from soil and agricultural regimes all over the country, in a substantial (?) data set, that damage is 9% of 95% of the whole. Is that a "justification" for digging the whole lot up?  

OK, anyone who wants to prove it is can, in the comments below add their answer to the question I posed. HOW has  23year public-funded "recording archaeological finds in their context" revealed info about society and changing daily life 900-300 years ago - rather than just producing loose decontextualised objects as "illustrations" of history known from other sources and celebrating artefact collecting. Archaeological comments only please. 

Update 19th Nov 2019
"Let us see what response it generates from Bloomsbury's heritage heroes", well,  so far we have no archaeological response about the archaeological values of the PAS database records apart from being a springboard for some trite commemorative guff about a "button day". But in true metal detectorist fashion, PAS have blocked me from seeing their (government supported) twitter account. I have no faith that in my absence that account will suddenly start doing any actual archaeological outreach or start providing a balanced picture of Collection-driven exploitation by members of the public of England and Wales of the archaeological record. PASthetic. 

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