Friday 28 February 2020

Winds of Change? Not All Artefact Centred

Satisfyingly odd this title to a Times article by David Sanderson (28th Feb 2020): " Gangs of detectorists plunder UK’s historic sites at night". Where's the phrase "a Minority of Illegal..."? Jolly good. It gets better:
Win Scutt, a senior curator with English Heritage, said that while they would be sorry if a coin was illegally taken from the soil, “what is more serious is the damage they are doing to the archaeology underneath. “We are trying to keep these sites intact for future generations because it is that precious information in the soil,” he said. “What they are doing is like burning a ­library of early manuscripts that have not been copied down. This is our last chance to get that information about centuries of history, particularly pre-history.” [...] “What really upsets me is the damage they are doing to the very fine archaeology that we would normally take apart very surgic­ally,” Mr Scutt said. “It makes you weep really. They are stealing our history. We are trying to preserve these incredible libraries of information that is buried under the soil for when scientific techniques get better and better.”
Ixelles Six/Helsinki Gang of artefact hunting supporting object-fixated archaeologists, please comment. Put Mr Scutt in his place. Or, maybe, admit he has a point and you were wrong.

Helsinki University Leaps to Defence of Collaborating with Collectors of Archaeological Artefacts

Whoahhhh....  Helsingin yliopisto is Finland’s largest, oldest and internationally most esteemed research university.
Really? Where? In what way is it "bullying" to say that one disagrees (strongly) with an academic position and saying why?

and who, actually, at ten o'clock in the morning today asked "the University of Helsinki" (all of it?) to respond to a British archaeologist's tweet criticising collaboration with artefact collectors?

I'm going to ask them again, their researcher was handling material from several somewhat-infamous already private collections containing material that really does require careful scrutiny, writing: (p 102)... "The tablets are of unprovenanced origin and they have found their way into several private collections, including those of [...] Moussaieff, [...] Schøyen, and [...] Sofer" I queried the coy phrasing:
 "found their way"? Coy but uninformative about the true nature of some of material author is working with. ][...] Jozef Mengele also had access to a lot of potentially useful medical information from his experiments, as do Chinese doctors who experimented on convicts there too. Somehow medical science does not agree to publishing or using these data. So why does Brill and historiography?

By the way, "Brill and historiography" NOT Helsinki University, but it would appear that the latter might feel empowered to consider itself as representing the whole of historiography...
Then there is this bit of self-justification in that 'discussion of ethics' (publication, pp. 39-43):
"the failure of the Iraqi and Syrian states to protect their cultural heritage [...] states have not been able or willing to enforce the statutes of the convention to their full extent" yeah? Syria and Iraq it means, it is THEIR fault? You'll forgive me for saying that the author seems to have lost the idea of "ethical" here. And "As the tablets have already been removed from their archaeological context and the damage cannot be undone, there is no reason to leave them unpublished". Really? Apart from the fact that the collectors with whom this author is gaily collaborating get vindicated by this "the academic community has a responsibility to preserve this [sic] data for future generations". The academic community has OTHER responsibilities too, doesn't it? [...] sheltering behind "the academic community", the author does not declare their own personal (career) interest in being the gatekeeper to and facilitator of stolen information. No, this discussion wilfully skips across a whole load of issues while claiming to want to "initiate discussion". What the author actually wants is, in my opinion, something else entirely. And that's what we as academics should be discussing, putting responsibilities before personal needs.
So, University of Helsinki, let us genuinely debate the ethics of research on this type of material, the ethics of collaborating with artefact hunters dismantling archaeological sites as a source of choice collectables (as is also seen in the project European Public Finds Recording Network hosted on the Helsinki University's website). Where are we going to do it, here?

What is the current position of the "University of Helsinki" on the looting of the archaeological heritage as a source of material for the collectors' market"?

Maybe you could sign your contributions to this "genuine debate". My name is Paul Barford and I am not ashamed of that and have no need to hide behind institutional names. Why do you?

PAS Legacy: Illegal metal-detecting at English Heritage sites doubles in two years

Wrecking sites the English way
Quelle surprise: Illegal metal-detecting at English Heritage sites doubles in two years. Britain encourages more and more people to take up artefact hunting and collecting, calling it "citizen participation', without bearing in mind that the resource is increasingly limited, as is accessible land.

English Heritage has urged the public to help fight the rise of illegal metal detecting at its historic sites. Ancient locations such as the site of the Battle of Hastings and Old Sarum in Wiltshire have been targeted by illegal detecting, the organisation said. The conservation body said such action, known as "nighthawking", was "robbing us of our past". There were more than double the number of metal detecting activities recorded in 2019 than two years ago, it added. The charity said that December was the worst month for reported incidents in more than four years. [...] The site of the Battle of Hastings in East Sussex and Goodrich Castle in Herefordshire are among the sites that have been targeted. There have been multiple incidents at Old Sarum, the site of Salisbury's original cathedral, and Wiltshire Constabulary has appealed for witnesses.  [...] English Heritage said that in 2019 there were 12 recorded incidents of illegal metal detecting at its sites, with four sites alone targeted in December. It said that "the sheer scale of the attacks, with up to 75 holes found to have been dug at each site" was of particular concern.
What I am concerned about is that somebody here is not singing from the official songsheet. So somehow they forgot to say that "the majority of metal detectorists are law abiding angels who do no harm at all to anyone and anything hoiking all that stuff". Why not? They always have done so far, English Heritage, PAS, the police, artefact-struck archaeologists... Oh well. But more concerning, look at this (we are talking about archaeological sites here):
"Illegal metal detecting robs us of our past, [...] once items are spirited away they can never be replaced
"Illegal metal detecting is not a victimless crime. "We may never see or fully understand the objects taken or damaged because they have been removed from their original sites with no care or record as to their history or context."
See that? It's depicted as being about the precious things, not the destruction of contexts and site patterning. Portable antiquities, not archaeological evidence. Even for the British authorities it has become about ownership and not conservation. Just like the collectors themselves. In a word: PAS legacy.

Thursday 27 February 2020

Collectors Being Enlightened: Study in Artefact Fondling

Picture worth a thousand words, postures, gestures, setting, tribal costume:

Roundtable Justifying Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record at EAA 2020, Bud­apest

The European Public Finds Recording Network based in Helsinki is organising a 'Roundtable on the im­pact of avoca­tional metal de­tect­ing' at EAA 2020, Bud­apest (Session #330). But since the session is going to be called: 'Beyond dogmatic and pragmatic: Debating the relative impact of avocational metal detecting' (or alternatively, 'Towards a Cooperative Approach to Hobby metal Detecting: Debating the Relative Impact of Avocational Metal Detecting') It does not look like it is actually be going to discussing the actual impact of this erosive hobby either on the archaeological record it mines for collectables, nor public perceptions of archaeology. Note from the abstract how the 'discussion' is skewed from the outset:
The impact of avocational detecting and its place within heritage management and archaeological research remain contested topics [...]. Legal and policy approaches concerning metal detecting differ greatly across jurisdictions, ranging from highly restrictive to liberal or even supportive, and many nuances in between. As such, the issue forms a microcosm of broader debates about public participation (community archaeology, citizen science, participatory heritage) in archaeology [...]. We aim to bring together authoritative voices from across the archaeological profession, and with different backgrounds and viewpoints towards metal detecting, to discuss different aspects of the detecting phenomenon. Following short opening statements from the panelists [sic], the debate will be structured along three questions regarding the impact of avocational detecting: - The preservation of cultural heritage - The research value of metal detected finds - Social and ethical aspects of metal detecting Confirmed panelists [sic] include Dr. Pieterjan Deckers (Belgium), Dr. Tibor Ákos Rácz (Hungary), PhD student Caroline Fredriksen (Norway), and Professor Sergiu Musteata (Moldova). Dr. David Wigg-Wolf (GoetheUniversität Frankfurt) will moderate the debate.  
No Raimund Karl with his dotty Bangorian views about the intangible heritage of metal detecting groups? That at least is something.

The session has a pessimistic theme: 'Sustainable archaeology and heritage in an unsustainable world' - Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero?

Now why the label 'avoca­tional metal de­tect­ing'? Why not just call a spade a spade and say what it is. Loud and clear: Collection-Driven EXPLOITATION of the Archaeological Record. Show me where that name is a misnomer, please.  But not at a roundtable, fittingly organised in Orban's distopic Hungary, pandering to the acquisitive desires of collectors and object-centred 'archaeologists'. It seems to me that having as the starting point of the whole endeavour a title that is an anorakish mealy-mouth metaphor is no way to begin an academic discussion. It thus becomes propaganda for hobnobbing with hobbyists engaged in dismantling the disciplined study of the past and turning it into a mere treasure hunt.

Why, also is this centred on the use of just one tool used for artefact collecting? Where here is there room for the discussion of lithics collection (for example in USA and northern Africa (Sahara zone) or Australia)?  Do they not provide the collector with material and the archaeologist some goodies to fondle? What about 'beyond dogmatic and pragmatic: debating the relative impact of avocational cuneiform tablet acquisition' ? These are - no matter how much the organisers of this pars-pro-toto 'debate' would want it otherwise, part of precisely the same phenomenon. Centred on taking material from the archaeological record to add to a personal collection.

Wednesday 26 February 2020

Raping the Past: Controversial Publication of Al-Yahudu Tablets

There is some more plugging of the book on the Al-Yahudu tablets published by Brill last year (fortunately open-access) Alstola, Tero. 2020. Judeans in Babylonia: A Study of Deportees in the Sixth and Fifth Centuries BCE. Culture and History of the Ancient Near East 109. Leiden: Brill.It seems that the plug (Did They Weep? A New Book on Judeans in Babylonia) was written by the author himself.
In his new book Judeans in Babylonia, Tero Alstola studies Judean deportees in Babylonia in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. Using cuneiform texts as his sources, Tero Alstola explores the life of deportees and their descendants in Babylonia over several generations, focusing on the questions of socioeconomic status, culture, and integration into Babylonian society.[...] Although quite some relevant texts have been available for a long time, the recent publication of cuneiform tablets from the village of Yahudu has significantly increased the number of Babylonian sources pertaining to Judeans [...] the life of deportees 2,500 years ago can be studied in great detail. The majority of Judeans and other deportees were settled in the Babylonian countryside and given a plot of royal land to cultivate. In exchange, they had to pay taxes and perform work and military service. [...] The practice of settling deportees in village communities according to their place of origin helped migrants to preserve their traditional culture in the countryside. Judean farmers had little interaction with the native population whereas the deportees living in cities met Babylonians on a regular basis. As a result, Judean farmers were less integrated into Babylonian society than their fellow deportees living in cities.
So rather like Jews (Ashkenazi and in particular Hasidic Jews) settled in central Europe in the 18th-19th centuries, where the documentary evidence is much more informative and holistic.

In the book itself, I noted that Dr Alstola seems pretty unfazed by admitting blithely: ( p 102)
... "The tablets are of unprovenanced origin and they have found their way into several private collections, including those of Moussaieff, Schøyen, and Sofer"
Ouch. "found their way"? Coy, but uninformative about the true nature of some of material the author is working with. Admittedly he does attempt a rather broad-brush explanation  in the four-page chapter "Ethics and Unprovenanced Artefacts", pp. 39-43.

That however misses the point that it is not lack of "provenance" that is the problem, but clandestinely dug-up and surfacing on the no-questions-asked antiquities market that was the motor for the digging. The motor for the looting is that old lumps of clay have a monetary value because collectors buy them (active, not passive, the artefacts were bought and did not themselves "find their way" to a so-called "good home"). There is no place for coyness here. When talking about the antiquities trade and collection-driven exploitation why can't academics call a spade a spade? Is it so difficult?

To make matters worse, it seems the researcher is siding with those looter-collectors when he alleges that in a time of civil collapse and war:
"the failure of the Iraqi and Syrian states to protect their cultural heritage [...] states have not been able or willing to enforce the statutes of the convention [eh? what?*] to their full extent"
Wow. It's easy to say such things in Helsinki, yes? Syria and Iraq, looting is their fault and it is the collectors who are the real heroes, saving it from them? The rape of the past can be condoned, if a scholar can be induced to make something of the looted items, legitimising the whole process? That's like the rapist claiming in defence that the date-rape-drugged victim was to blame because she did not put up much of a fight, and anyway, he could have killed her but didn't. You'll forgive me for saying that the author, who obviously passionately wants to do things with these cunies, seems to have lost the idea of "ethical research" here. He adds:
"As the tablets have already been removed from their archaeological context and the damage cannot be undone, there is no reason to leave them unpublished" [...]  "the academic community has a responsibility to preserve this [sic] data for future generations"..
Really? There is a very good reason, to take the already unpleasant analogy further, that's like saying if you find a half-naked date-rape-drugged victim behind a wheelie bin "as she's quite attractive, and already been raped before and the damage cannot be undone, there is no reason for me not to rape her too". I think somebody coming across a rape victim in fact has very different responsibilities than take advantage of a situation in his own interests. Though a drastic parallel, put in those terms, the fallacy of the scholar's analogous argument is pretty starkly visible, isn't it?

In this context of research collaboration with collectors and shoulder-shrugging legitimising looting, it is worth noting that Helsinki is also the home of the EPFRN, collaborating with artefact hunters engaged in Collection-Driven Exploitation (dismantling) of the archaeological record, which in the Middle Eastern context would rightly be called 'looting' . Helsinki, the 'lootier' side of archaeology?

*International conventions do not have "statutes".

Australians Smuggle Artefacts out of Middle East

Two unnamed Australians (JA and FA) have been ­arrested by the Internal Security Forces ­Detachment at Beirut Inter­national Airport for allegedly trying to smuggle 60 ancient artefacts — including some that appear to be from Syria — out of Lebanon in their luggage (Mark Schliebs, 'Aussies held over Beirut haul of ancient artefacts' The Australian Feb 26, 2020)
They were arrested at Beirut’s international airport at the weekend, shortly before they were due to fly to Australia via Abu Dhabi. It is understood they are dual Australian/Lebanese nationals. A photo published by Leban­ese media outlets shows dozens of well-preserved artefacts the pair were allegedly trying to smuggle. Peter Edwell, a Macquarie University expert on the region’s ancient history, said it was difficult to assess the pieces from a single photograph but many of them looked genuine. He said some appeared to be from Syria, where looters have taken advantage of the civil war to excavate tombs. “There’s a couple there that look like they might come from up in northeastern Syria,” Dr Edwe­ll said. “There’s a particular site in the northeast part of Syria that those types of things come from. But it’s all a bit of guess.” [...] After examining a photograph of the objects, Dr Edwell said a group of oil lamps looked authentic and appeared to be from the Byzantine and Roman eras, but would only fetch up to $75 at auction. But some of the glass vessels photographed appeared to be Hellenic and would be more valuable. “They are rarer and more valuable, and they would probabl­y be reasonably in demand­,” he said. “These ones could be from the Hellenistic perio­d — pre-Roman. A lot of these things would probably have been found in tombs.” Dr Edwell estimated that if the artefacts were all genuine, they would likely only fetch up to $12,000 at auction. “It’s not high-end stuff,” he said. “There aren’t any coins in there. Coins are often the ones that fetch higher values.” He said the smuggling of ­antiquities was widespread across the region.
At the weekend, Lebanon’s state news agency reported ­that investigations were ongoing.

Smuggled Ife Statue Returned from Mexico

The customs agency of Mexico's Tax Administration Service, in coordination with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Culture, returned a bronze Ife sculpture of the Yoruba people to Nigeria ('The Government of Mexico Returns a Bronze Sculpture to Nigeria Foreign Ministry - INAH Joint Press Release')
The sculpture was discovered by customs officials at the Mexico City International Airport when the buyer tried to get it into the country. The sculpture and its provenance were authenticated by experts and agencies of both countries, with the participation of specialists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History. It had been exported illegally. Mexico strongly opposes illicit trafficking in cultural property. By returning it to Nigeria, the government shows its commitment to protecting cultural heritage. International monitoring and cooperation are essential for complying with current laws, including the 1970 UNESCO Convention. [...] The illicit trafficking of cultural property is one of the main causes of the impoverishment of cultural heritage. It deprives the world of valuable information about the origin, context and nature of these objects.

The Bellingham Detecting Con

We have been informed that after a recent event employing heavy machinery, seriously undisciplined hoiking and idiots, (PACHI Wednesday, 26 September 2018: 'Bellingham, PAS: "Don't worry, it's all in hand". Really?', it is interesting to see this on Andy Fudge's dodgy diggers' Facebook page

"The organisers realise that things could have been...better planned, and have learned a lot from this process. Appropriate advice, and guidance has been given, and despite the best efforts of some individuals, there's a good relationship between the PAS and the organisers".
Jolly good. So on July 24th-6th we can expect to see on the internet some videos showing model examples of PAS-approved and PAS-aided 'citizen archaeology' North of the Tyne. We look forward to seeing what PAS can achieve with their "good relationship". We will be watching closely.

Two years ago

Bellingham Detecting Con

In September 2018, we were assured by the PAS after the horrible pictures of irresponsible hoard hoiking by metal detectorists that everything is OK at Bellingham ... so ... I am a trifle puzzled why, two years on, there are only six finds in the PAS database, seal matrix, a finger ring, a thimble, a buckle, a key, and a "Roman mount", three of them were found in 2013. But the two coins handed in during the dig are not there, let alone the rest of the hoard that the FLOs assured us they had secured. What is going on? Andy Agate, can you tell us?

There was a rally there, 200 detectorists. And just three finds actually handed in - but only put in the database in 2019. What kind of "responsible detecting" is that?

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Hosni Mubarak

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has died, according to state TV. Mubarak was president of Egypt from 1981 to 2011, when he was ousted following mass protests against his rule.

Some Detectorists Expect to get Access and Taking Rights for Free

A comment on "Social media has destroyed the hobby hasn't it :("... Seen on a farming social media portal:

Note no mention of signing anything giving title to collectable finds.... 

UK Detectorist Entitlement

DIG THIS! Metal Detecting and History Group, a [Facebook] group for detectorists run by detectorists, with no hidden agendas and away from the wannabe detecting celebrities and YouTubers seeking detecting stardom.

Discussion on commercial artefact hunting rallies. Started by group administrator Iain Crozza (February 17 at 10:19 PM): "There seems to be an increase in "fly by night" - "get rich quick" merchants approaching land owners especially in Norfolk and Suffolk as well as nationwide [...] these large get rich quick digs [...] are going to totally ruin this hobby in the long run for both individuals and established genuine clubs". Reading the thread, you can see why. It seems that Britain's artefact hunters not only want the land for themselves and the organisations they themselves belong to, but they do not want landowners learning of the value of the material they take from the land. It seems that "proper metal detectorists" ("doing it for the love of the hobby") expect to get on the land for free, take away what they want for free, unless its a treasure item, in which case they recognise that they will have to share the proceeds of the sale (to the state) with the actual landowner.
Les Barratt [punctuation original] Our club lost a load of land 18 months ago as some prick [sic] got permision off [sic] one of our farmers and went back to him a couple of days latter [sic] with a gold coin and said if ime [sic] finding stuff like this whats that club not showing you. so the farmer kicked our club off the bloke that did this has done this to quite a few farms and got people kicked off so he can then move in and take people on ripping them off. it makes my blood boil.
Obviously, the landowner had their own suspicions about the honesty of the club. Another member seems a bit confused about whose land they are on, and the landowner's right to know the true value of the items removed by artefact hunters. So....
Kim Horigan I have returned to detecting after a break of 4 decades, I found it utterly shocking and offensive to see clubs offering farmers 100's of pounds or more to detect on their land even on local FB pages! What chance does a person have to get a permission now, back in the day it was a solitary hobby with no internet bragging! I'm not sure things have changed for the better...
'Shocking and offensive' for a property owner to get something of the value back of the objects they are allowing artefact hunters to remove from their property? Think of the entitlement hiding behind that comment for a moment (and referring to a landowner as merely "farmer"). And the problem for the Luddite obviously is this new-fangled technology:
Iain Crozza Kim Horigan you're totally right, I couldn't agree more! Social media has destroyed the hobby hasn't it [sic] [emoticon]

Fred Gibby establishes his authority by an appeal to seniority, a whacking big Union Jack and 'Brexit English':
Fred Gibby I have been doing this since 1979 ok first few years was only a bit here and a bit there... but since the mid 80s i have been fairly active and its only since this social media has come along that this hobbie [sic] has been turned into a money making machine.… i seen [sic] people start offering digs for x amount of money and giving the farmer even less than the x amount they Have took [sic] and withing [sic] months they have new machines new cars.. i use to go [sic] to some of these digs but once i found out they are conning the farmers i dont go... little club digs do me and most of the clubs i belong to give all the money to the farmer.. the sad thing is little clubs have had to put on digs just to keep its members because of these other digs and then that has a knock on affect [sic] and makes it even harder for the lone detectorist to get permission.
For free, of course. This is followed by Kim Horigan commenting on "just too many people now chasing a permission, flashing big money to farmers" and Iain Crozza agreeing and conservatively bemoaning change in the hobby: "its killing it mate isn't it. I reckon in 10 years the hobby will be non existant [sic] to individuals and genuine clubs". Stephen Reynolds agrees with Mr Crozza:
I'm out there a lot. Yes it's terrible. To be honest I dont come across club sites very often. Mainly group sites where sole detecting rights are secured through a wad of cash. Sometimes I've found individuals have secured the land in the same way. Cash! I've met lads who just go on where they want because they cant get permission anywhere. I've met people who concentrated on building sites near villages and had a spanner to open the fencing to gain access. Ive met grown men wanting to fight because you got a yes from the farmer on ' their permission'. And I've met people like me who have been doing it a long time and just want a day out. Going out and trying to get on as an individual is almost impossible. Being a bit stubborn though I dont give up easily..if ever! Thanks for the initial post. Good to know Its not just me!
So, just note what he's saying about the spanners (for unbolting fences), he has "met" men who just go where they want 'because they cant get permission anywhere'. They are artefact hunting illegally because they cannot get legal access. That's like not being able to afford to buy one, but wanting to drive one, so they steal my neighbour's Porsche. If Porsches were more readily available and access to them not a privilege, car theft would be down. And when Mr Reynolds has "met" a nighthawk, what does he do as "a responsible detectorist"  about it? The same as if he saw a bloke breaking into a neighbour's garage to nick the Porsche?
hat tip: Lynda Albertson ARCA

The Life of a Commercial Artefact Hunting Rally Organiser in the UK

Lynda Abertson of ARCA spotted this and thought the whole thread might interest PACHI's readers. Its a complaint against commercial artefact hunting rallies and the number of people organising them and taking part in them. This is a whole aspect of the current shape of the hobby (those 'citizen achaeologists') that the PAS and its supporters stubbornly refuse to talk about at length in a pretence that the hobby is still in its 1990s form:
Shaun McNamara You have been caught red handed Zoe, and not just by me. Pink Wellies Metal Detecting has become a byword for rip off digs, no amenities whatsoever, not even a toilet on a VERY hot early Autumn day. You and your little gang of helpers have been well and truly found out.
Oh, one piece of advice, if you are going to post up fake pictures of things SUPPOSEDLY found on your digs, it might be better if you didn’t loot (sic PMB) those pictures from places like Ebay, as these are easily traced back to source. Which is exactly what happened [emoticon] [emoticon] [another twenty emoticons]
To be honest, you are not even particularly good at being a rip off merchant, i suspected you were a shyster before i had even attended your shoddy event. Your whole modus operandi, your banter etc, it all clearly speaks of someone who is after a fast buck at the expense of others [just seven emoticons this time]
Please pass on my best wishes to ‘the dynamic duo’, those two clueless middle class tarts who you employ to pretend they have made finds on your digs. I might name and shame them on here a bit later, but the night is young, as it were... [emoticon], [emoticon], [emoticon]. Some of my own permissions are pretty barren, some have been battered for decades, but your best sites make the worst of my permissions seem positively productive. Perhaps i should thank you for, on some level, reinvigorating some of my crappier sites [emoticon]
I am surprised you had the neck to come on here and attempt to defend yourself, but i am very glad that you have, all very amusing because let’s face it, you lack the intelligence, charm and wit to have done anything other than further publicise your own shady practices [emoticon], [emoticon], [emoticon].
I await your next pithy rejoinder with glee... [emoticon], [emoticon], [emoticon].
Oh, i almost forgot... when you drove away from that dig in September, was there a slight whiff of pee pee in/on your car? Asking for a friend [emoticon], [emoticon],[another six assorted emoticons].
There is no doubt at all in my mind from the language used which way that individual voted in the Brexit referendum. There is a whole thread of this over there. The point of a commercial artefact hunting rally organiser pretending that exciting things were found on a site where they were not of course is to establish their reputation in the community for 'finding good land' and encouraging more people to pay up and come next time. But of course planting finds simply irresponsibly distorts the archaeological record. Having said that, in the whole thread there is not a single piece of documentation offered that said "Zoe" and her "middle class tarts" (sic) had claimed finds that Shane and his mates had in fact located on eBay, just a lot of emoticons, resentment and misogyny.

Note that Indignant Shaun is well aware that repeated artefact hunting makes an archaeological site or assemblage barren of collectable artefacts ("battered"). Yet, he sees nothing wrong with battering it, and other areas, more and more. Now there is "responsibility" and entitlement for you.

Monday 24 February 2020

Dealer with Close Links with the Council for British Archaeology Sells Silver Artefact

Dealer 'denant'  (Den of Antiquity Int Ltd  - Simon Shipp, Cambridge CB25 9WJ United Kingdom ) flogging off a (one presumes, disclaimed - but why not say so?) Treasure item for GBP 1,250.00
Date: C. 10th century
Information: A fine example of a silver hooked tag with two pierced lobe attachment points, and depicting a quadruped to central panel with an interlaced ribbon design and niello inlay. Condition: Hook a little bent otherwise intact and of a good size with excellent detail. Size: 23mm x 28mm Please note:- Any questions regarding this object/s will be answered ASAP during office hours 09.00-17.00 GMT Monday to Friday, excluding national holidays/bank holidays. Thank you.
How about just putting the information there upfront, without anyone having to ask a dealer openly flogging off such a thing? Where was it found? When? What was its Treasure Case number and when was it disclaimed? What is its number in PAS database, I could not find it mentioned there. It also says in the sales offer:
Items offered by denant (Den of Antiquity Int Ltd) are unconditionally guaranteed to be authentic. Certificate of Authenticity, Invoice upon request. Antiquities Dealers Association and British Numismatics Trade Association member and as such abide by their code of conduct. The BNTA has become an effective force in the fight against forgery, theft and other criminal activities, thus establishing a benchmark for the highest ethical standards in the domestic coin trade. Members receive early warning notices of counterfeit coins and stolen property. ADA’s Code of Conduct binds its members to ensure that to the best of their knowledge and belief all objects sold are genuine and as described. The Association is a Corporate Member of the Museums Association, is represented on the executive of the British Art Market Federation and has close links with the Council for British Archaeology.
But as such, what assurance is conspicuously absent in the above? May well be authentic, but is that the only measure of legitimacy in the UK antiquities market?

Saturday 22 February 2020 200,000 Archaeological Artefacts on Sale in One Week in January

This weekend I am doing some stakhanovite editing of a text on the trade in North African lithics that is supposed to go in a volume on North African prehistory that I am collaborating in. The first draft of my text has to be shortened by half and has to have a new bit written at the beginning and end... I have just chucked this bit out and it took half a day to get the data together. It's not very satisfactory as a text anyway. The point is however pretty interesting.
The scale of the online commerce in antiquities [as a whole, not just the lithics PMB] is enormous, but it is difficult to count absolute numbers, because of the way different sellers list items using various terms and listing them in different sections of the larger websites. On in the first week of January 2020 for example, the search engine reveals that in that week, there were a total of at least 196,936 archaeological artefacts on sale. This includes just over 72,000 antiquities (and ‘antiquities’) in the section of the portal specifically dedicated to antiquities (over 23,000 of them were of metal). There were about three hundred North African stone artefacts listed here. In the numismatic section, there were 104,800 ancient and medieval coins on sale (excluding an additional several tens of thousand of examples from SE Asia and the Far East that I did not count). More artefacts and pseudo-artefacts can be found in the ‘collectables’ section (mainly under ‘cultures and ethnicities’). Here were found the bulk of the Native American lithic items (19,520) and several hundred North African stone artefacts. Another 616, mostly North African arrowheads were being sold in the ‘rocks and minerals’ section.
Among the antiquities, 3800 items were marketed as Palaeolithic and Neolithic objects, the bulk of which were stone tools from various sources in Europe, MENA and SE Asia. It seems that a substantial proportion of these were in fact not ancient artefacts (this is a general problem with the indiscriminate internet market of portable antiquities, neither buyers nor sellers can distinguish between authentic and fake – and for some sellers fakes are easier, and less risky in legal terms, to market). Together with the ‘collectables’ a total of 20,611 out of 192,750 portable antiquities (10.7 %) were lithic artefacts. While the bulk of this material comes from collecting in the USA and, though to a much lesser extent, Canada, the North African material forms a substantial portion of this group of items.
My paper was intended to be making the point that the discussion of artefact hunting and collecting (Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record) should not by any means be restricted to metal detecting, and I was going to do this by investigating one bit of the trade in lithics. The original plan has had to be changed and the focus of the article will be shifted to the effects of this trade on the archaeological record (I'll try and use the rest elsewhere).

Note that the figure 193,975 refers to items being offered for sale at one time on only one of the several eBay portals (not including results from the various national ones). It also does not include other online selling plaes, catawiki, Faceboox, Sixbid etc etc. This trade is massive. 

Friday 21 February 2020

András Riedlmayer and Serbian Nationalist War Crimes Against Culture

Mostar Bridge
András Riedlmayer, a bibliographer at Harvard’s Fine Arts Library, knows more about the destruction of that region’s cultural heritage during the Yugoslav Wars from 1991 to 2001 than almost anyone, and has helped set a precedent of prosecuting this kind of destruction as a war crime (Anna Burgess, 'Harvard librarian puts this war crime on the map', The Harvard Gazette February 21, 2020):
In 1992, when he read about the burning of the National Library, Riedlmayer knew it was an attack on more than physical objects. It was what he later testified to being “cultural heritage destruction”: intentional and unnecessary destruction of sites and records that act as a community’s collective memory. The crime comes from a desire to not only kill individuals who are part of an ethnic or religious group, Riedlmayer explained, but to erase their existence, “remove any evidence that they were ever there to begin with, and give them no reason to come back.” In the case of the Balkan region, cultural heritage destruction was part of attempted ethnic cleansing by the Serbian nationalist government led by Milosevic. The nationalists came to power amid destabilization in the former Yugoslavia and began targeting Bosnian Muslims, Kosovar Albanians, and other non-Serbs. They destroyed everything from ancient mosques to property records

Illegal Metal Detecting in Hockley Woods Reported on Facebook

Hockley Woods, Essex,
Site of Special Scientific
Interest (wikipedia)
Today on Facebook Fudgeworld 'metal detecting' page
David Coates 5 hours in hockley woods. Never again
Jimmy Young How did you get permission for them woods? As they are protected
David Coates Just asked the local ranger guy he said if I don’t see you then I don’t no about it
Which I guess means that he thinks that this is legal. It seems detectorists consider that its just "somebody's permission" they need, rather than the actual landowner. But - as David Coates should know - Rochford Council has a blanket ban on all metal detecting and particularly on Hockley Woods which is a SSSI.

Right, and who is going to report him? A 'Responsible metal Detectorist'? A British archaeologist, the PAS maybe? Or the bloke in Poland? Or... maybe nobody, and he'll get away wiv it - as they all do.

By the way, the ("If I doesn't see ya, then I dont no abowt it") ranger too should be reported, for aiding and abetting. But of course Coatsey did not akchully rite 'is name down fur ferther refrince.

Once again, let us return to my misgivings about a 'policy' (I use the term loosely) that is based on a pious hope that these people can be educated in 'best practice' when it is clear that there is among them a hard core of individuals that seem from present evidence to be in effect ineducable. So what are we to do to stop them destroying the heritage? Ideas, PAS? 

Thursday 20 February 2020

Inside a Metal Detectorist's Home in Savoie

Objects SCREWED TO the wall in a French
artefact hunter's home (France)
A communication from the Ministère de la Culture DRAC Auvergne - Rhône-Alpes,  Pillage d'un site archéologique à Aiguebelette en Savoie (13th Feb 2020) describes a raid by the regional department of Archaeology of the DRAC Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and the Department of underwater and underwater archaeological research assisted the National Gendarmerie on the home of an individual suspected of engaging without authorization in the detection and removal of archaeological and historical objects from the archaeological record. What they found is illustrated by a photo of objects displayed as trophies (without any labels identifying where they came from), and if you look carefully you can see the iron objects (covered in some unknown shiny material) are actually screwed to the wall (!):
Durant cette opération, des milliers d’objets ont été saisis et sont désormais sous scellés. Ces objets sont presque exclusivement métalliques et datent des périodes de l’âge du Bronze (2100 avant notre ère) à nos jours. Ces objets ont été extraits de sites archéologiques et ce lien essentiel avec le contexte archéologique qu’ils caractérisaient a été irrémédiablement détruit. En l’absence de cette connaissance de leur origine, quelques-uns de ces objets conservent une information archéologique intrinsèque ou une dimension esthétique, mais beaucoup ont perdu toute valeur archéologique ou muséale. Des pans entiers de connaissance du passé ont ainsi été perdus définitivement et la conservation même de certains de ces objets a été mise en péril par leur extraction du sol et des conditions de stockage inadéquate.  
And for British 'leavers' who did not pay attention in school, that's: "Thousands of objects were seized during this operation and are now under seal. These objects are almost exclusively metallic and date from the Bronze Age (2100 BCE) to the present day. These objects were extracted from archaeological sites and this essential link with the archaeological context which they characterized was irreparably destroyed. In the absence of this knowledge of their origin, some of these objects retain intrinsic archaeological information or an aesthetic dimension, but many have lost all archaeological or museum value. Whole sections of knowledge of the past have thus been lost permanently and the very conservation of some of these objects has been jeopardized by their extraction from the soil and inadequate storage conditions.
Most of the objects shown in the accompanying photo of this weird (and, I would say, rather unaesthetic) installation seem rather to be Early Medieval or later. There are also natural history specimens, shed roe deer antlers, minerals (is that Wieliczka salt?) and possibly some ethnographic collectables. This has nothing to do with 'researching the past', but everything with display.

French Brochure on Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Heritage

In the communication from the Ministère de la Culture DRAC Auvergne - Rhône-Alpes, Marie-Pierre Feuillet, heritage curator at the Drac regional archaeological service stresses:
Le patrimoine archéologique est une ressource précieuse et non renouvelable. Cette activité de détection non autorisée a spolié le patrimoine de la Savoie des données scientifiques détruites. L’État se doit de garantir les droits des générations à venir en leur transmettant un patrimoine naturel et culturel conservé et mettra tout en œuvre pour empêcher que de telles destructions se renouvellent. Entretien avec Marie-Pierre Feuillet, conservatrice du patrimoine au service régional archéologique de la Drac L'archéologie est un métier, l'utilisation de détecteurs de métaux hors des cadres légaux est interdite 
For British 'leavers': "The archaeological heritage is a precious and non-renewable resource. This unauthorised detection activity has robbed the heritage of Savoy of destroyed scientific data. The State must guarantee the rights of future generations by transmitting to them a preserved natural and cultural heritage and will do everything in its power to prevent such destruction from happening again. Archaeology is a profession, the use of metal detectors outside the legal framework is prohibited."
Download the brochure Archaeological heritage: a fragile and non-renewable resource (in French) None of this fluffy pirate-nation 'citizen archaeology' nonsense from Europeans. Maybe the PAS could take a look and reflect.

Costa Almeria Metal Detectorists Caught Looting Roman Site

Almeria, Gérgal
Cathy Elelman, 'Costa Almeria metal detector enthusiasts caught digging up finds from Roman archaeological site in Gérgal' Euroweeklynews 20 February 2020
Police caught three artefact hunters digging up artefacts from an Iberian-Roman archaeological site in Gérgal. A patrol from the Environment and Heritage Protection Group of the Police Unit Assigned to the Andalucia Autonomous Community in Almeria surprised the trio prospecting for finds with the metal detectors and using other tools to excavate without any kind of authorisation. Officers found the three had gathered some 70 pieces, including coins, brooches, and other items of archaeological interest. Police also seized the detectors, radio equipment, torches, materials to clean the pieces which were dug up and other materials related to the illegal activities. The three have been charged with breaking an article of the Andalucia Historic Heritage Law, which only allows the controlled use of metal detectors without impacting on historic heritage.
Earlier this year police seized nearly 500 items considered of archaeological interest and with no documentation to show their legal origin that a Roquetas de Mar metal detector enthusiast had found. Fines for breaking the Andalucia Historic Heritage Law can be as much as €200,000. And still they do it - presumably assuming that if they do it when nobody is looking (torches at night for example), they will not get caught.
hat tip, John Ma,  @rogueclassicist

"The coin collector lost a protracted legal challenge to regain possession of the coins"

"Most countries have laws that protect their cultural 
property, such as art, artifacts, antiquities, 
 or other archeological and ethnological material. 
 These laws include export controls and national 
 ownership of cultural property. Therefore, 
although they do not necessarily confer ownership, 
consignees or importers must have documents 
such as export permits and receipts 
when importing such items into the United States"

Public service announcement to all collectors

The kind of heavily chemically
stripped crap this "collector from
 Missouri" usually buys? 
Valentine's day present for responsible collecting. US dealers lobby group lose their "Baltimore Illegal Coin Import Stunt" ('Baltimore CBP Repatriates Priceless Artifacts to Cyprus Government Officials Press Release : February 14, 2020). So, what are they going to do now? Sue Cyprus to get them back?
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Baltimore Field Office repatriated seven ancient coins [...] to the Embassy of Cyprus today that Baltimore CBP officers initially discovered in an air cargo shipment in April 2009. An appraisal determined that the collection dated from the Roman Empire, from several periods during 81 BC through 217 AD. The collection includes:
Two bronze coins from an unspecified Roman period
One coin from the Ptolemaeus period, 81 BC -58 BC
One coin from the Augustus period, 27 BC – 14 AD
Two coins from the Tiberius period, 14-37 AD
One coin from the Severan period, 193 AD – 217 AD
“On behalf of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, I am honored to return these priceless national treasures to the government and citizens of Cyprus,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s Director of Field Operations in Baltimore. “Customs and Border Protection will continue to use our border authority to identify and rescue precious antiquities being smuggled by those who profit on the theft of another country’s historical and cultural property, and return them to their rightful owners.
"Coin collector from Missouri", please note. The dealer he bought them from who did not have the proper documentation was sending him coins to which they had no title (1970 UNESCO Convention Art 3).  And just look at the state of this coin-chemically stripped to bare porous metal, this is what the antiquities trade does to ancient artefacts, this is not preservation, it is damage. Apparently these coins were acquired from Spink. Who would believe that such a 'reputable' firm would have had such things in their stockroom. Yuk.
CBP officers from the Area Port of Baltimore initially encountered the ancient coins in April 2009 during an inspection of air cargo that arrived from London. This specific parcel was destined to a coin collector in Missouri. CBP issued a letter to the consignee requesting any documentation they received from the government of Cyprus authorizing the lawful importation of these cultural artifacts.  [...] In May 2009, the consignee admitted to not possessing authority from the government of Cyprus to import the artifacts, and CBP officers seized the coins. Additionally, the parcel contained Chinese coins determined to be from the Zhou, Han and Western Han dynasties, dating from 400 BC through 220 AD. CBP contracted an appraiser to determine the estimated ages of the artifacts. The coin collector lost a protracted legal challenge to regain possession of the coins and CBP’s Office of International Affairs coordinated with the government of Cyprus to repatriate the coins during a ceremony today at their Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Good for them, and a long-overdue poke in the eye for US dealers who think they can carry on irresponsibly scattering the world's heritage without going to the trouble of documenting it properly. Now, what next for the "collector in Missouri" [Wayne Sayles] and the no-questions-asked dealers and collectors congregated in the now toothless and thoroughly discredited Ancient Coin Collectors'[sic] Guild?
Hat tip: Dorothy Lobel King

Wednesday 19 February 2020

Time for the ACCG

ACCG website activity 2004-19
The so-called Ancient Coin Collectors' Guild was founded in July 2004 to uphold the imagined freedoms of no-questions-asked collectors of ancient artefacts (coins) in the USA. After a flurry of activity 2004-11, in the course of which they staged in the spring of 2009 the embarrassing "Baltimore Illegal Coin Import stunt", the 'Guild' got embroiled in s series of stupid court cases intended to challenge the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention in the USA. They failed. Pretty miserably, discrediting themselves and coin collectors as a whole. Quite apart from that failure, the nasty very visible online trolling of Wayne Sayles, David Welsh and Peter Tompa in the name of this 'Guild' did a lot of damage to the image of collecting. The groups's website shows that these days they are anything but active. Here's a message for these sad old men and the notions they hold:

Andrea Bocelli and Carly Paoli "Time to Say Goodbye" PBS

Book: The Mound Builder Myth

The Mound Builder Myth is the first book to chronicle the attempt to recast the Native American burial mounds as the work of a lost white race of “true” native Americans.[...] Jason Colavito traces this monumental deception from the farthest reaches of the frontier to the halls of Congress, mapping a century-long conspiracy to fabricate and promote a false ancient history—and enumerating its devastating consequences for contemporary Native people. Built upon primary sources and first-person accounts, the story that The Mound Builder Myth tells is a forgotten chapter of American history—but one that reads like the Da Vinci Code as it plays out at the upper reaches of government, religion, and science. And as far-fetched as it now might seem that a lost white race once ruled prehistoric America, the damage done by this “ancient” myth has clear echoes in today’s arguments over white nationalism, multiculturalism, “alternative facts,” and the role of science and the control of knowledge in public life.
The cover is rather 'cheap' looking and surely this is not 'the' first book on this subject but it is one that those interested in the use of the heritage and the role of pasts in identity-building will want to read.

Tuesday 18 February 2020

Eyes-only is Fairer to the Environment

Eyes-only gives the environment a chance:


London Auction Houses to be Under Pressure Because of Brexit

A new draft of the EU’s mandate for talks with the U.K. inserts a clause about “unlawfully removed cultural objects.” This new text was been added on request from Greece, Cyprus, and Italy. It's because London dealers and auction houses play a big role in trade in historical goods. A lot of stuff entered the UK when there were open borders within the EU. Now its ownership can be challenged. Collectors, get your paperwork ready to show.

Monday 17 February 2020

"The Oxford Collection Partnership"

"The Oxford Collection Partnership"
Jerome Berman, appearing before United States District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper in Los Angeles, entered his guilty plea to one count of subscribing to a false income tax return and to one count of aiding and abetting in the preparation of a false tax return. Berman’s scheme fraudulently claimed increased income tax deductions for charitable contributions on his own individual tax returns as well as aiding others in claiming fraudulently increased charitable contribution deductions on their own tax returns for having made art donations to the California Museum of Ancient Art. The plea agreement, filed in January, 2007, sets forth that Berman was a 50% partner in the Oxford Collection Partnership and was the Executive Director of the California Museum of Ancient Art.
Who was/were the other partner in this shadowy entity? Is it still functioning? Where is it based?

Tom and Gabriel Get It Wrong... What Two Dealers "Knew".

Ancient Resources (Gabriel Vandervort) claims he knows what he's selling because his identifications are "backed by years of research". Like these "demotic papyri" from "the Holy Land" that were previously in the stock of dead dealer Tom Cederlind. They are being sold for about 300$ apiece. Mr Cederlind is not with us to explain where he got these papyri from, and why they are in such small pieces... Neither is he here with us to explain why small fragments of what seem to be South East Asian palm-leaf manuscripts in at least two different alphabets have been given a provenance right at the opposite corner of the continent. But no fear, there are at least three suckers who've been taken in by the seller's assurances and bought these little bits. If they'd looked on eBay (and actually knew something about what they were buying), they'd have found they can buy a whole intact manuscript for about the same (or less). But they did not, because they had not the foggiest idea what a papyrus fragment or demotic look like and because they were misled by this by someone who claims he does:
Ancient papyrus scroll fragment. Holy Land, c. 2nd-3rd century AD. Written in Demotic script. Ex-Tom Cederlind Estate, Portland, OR.
Now, actually almost every word of this is wrong:

Ancient - not really,
papyrus - not at all,
scroll - nope, they were read flat,
fragment - yes!
Holy Land - kidding? Israeli Buddhists?
c. 2nd-3rd century AD - Hmmm?
Written - yes!
in Demotic script - No!
Ex-Tom Cederlind Estate, Portland, OR. - who knows?

So what we are left with, what the dealer(s) actually knows is "written fragments" and that probably the late Tom Cederlind bought them somewhere, sometime and did not manage to flog them (as "ancient papyrus bits"?) before he died in December 2015.  The totally false "provenance" is thought-provoking.

Here's a whole one (240$)

Mr Vandervort needs immediately to update his website with the true information about what these fragments are to avoid accusations of cheating his customers through misrepresentation (both of the objects and his own 'expertise'). He does not need to thank me for pointing out his mistake. [This was published on 17th February 2020]

Sunday 16 February 2020

Roman Cobras in Norfolk, Buckinghamshire and Essex?

A Roman silver ring found in March 2018 at Upper Winchendon near Aylesbury by a detectorist from Essex. It has just been declared Treasure at Buckinghamshire Coroner's Court (BBC Roman snake ring found in Buckinghamshire declared treasure 16 February 2020). The Essex FLO said how exciting it was. Its got two snake heads "with frills"on it, you see.
Items with the same "distinctive cobra heads with a kind of frill" were part of the Snettisham Jeweller's Hoard, found in Norfolk in 1985. Essex finds officer Sophie Flynn, said it was a "pretty exciting" discovery. [...] The newly-found ring [...] has been bent so experts "can't be 100% sure about its original design", Ms Flynn said. She added that because the Snettisham hoard had pieces in it with these type of snake heads "it's possible it came from that workshop" but, as it was found in a field with "no [archaeological] context", experts could not be certain.
Well, maybe ms Flynn could explain as part of her outreach that if you had the archaeological context, a pit under a rubble layer containing pottery and coins of the 360s for example, she could tell which "workshop"it had come from. Bonkers.
Ms Flynn said it "isn't your everyday ring".[...] She said the silver ring would have "belonged to someone with access to a fair amount of money", whereas less valuable versions would have been made of copper.
Cutting edge archaeological theory there. Snakes of the genus Naja are found only in regions throughout Africa, Southwest Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Not in Norfolk.
Hat tip: Hougenai

Vignette: You can't use Colchester Museum photos for discussing artefact hunting, they'll send you a stroppy letter. So here's Boris Johnson warning you about it, and he's put 20 000 new policemen on the streets, keeping some Brits happy. 

"Looks Like" Iulia or Julie? Ungrounded Stone Head on Sale, by a Dealer who "Knows"

Looking through the same dealer that has an incantation bowl with no decent collecting history given upfront, I found this, about which the same can be said:
Hixenbaugh 'Ancient art'
Roman Marble Portrait Head of a WomanAn ancient Roman marble portrait bust of a woman. The oval face is framed by a voluminous, shoulder-length coiffure, styled in even waves loose around the ears and formed into two plaits which were loosely coiled to form a flat spiral at the nape of the neck. Ca. early 3rd century AD. Height: 13 1/2 in. (33 cm). This hairstyle of the individual is typical of the Severan period. The coiffures of the empresses Julia Domna and Plautilla served as models. Cf. Fittschen-Zanker 1983, no. 144, pls. 171-172.
Formerly in a New York private collection; previously in a Swiss private collection, acquired between 1960-1980.
Inv#: 7402
Price on Request
Guaranteed Authentic

Hmm, so Randall Hixenbaugh bought from a New York Collector who'd bought it (some time before 1980?) from a dealer who told him that is was from "an Old Swiss Collection" - ahem... What a shame that an object that looks like this is not better grounded.

Right first of all, "Fittschen-Zanker 1983" may sound awfully "professional-I-know-what-I'm-talking-about", I tend to think that vagueness is a suggestion of quite the opposite. I imagine that if he gave the full reference it would have been:
Fittschen, Klaus, Paul Zanker, and Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. Katalog der römischen Porträts in den Capitolinischen Museen und den anderen kommunalen Sammlungen der Stadt Rom. Mainz am Rhein: Von Zabern, 1983 [ja?].
And I imagine (because I've not got the book) that this, in the Esquiline is the sort of thing he's Cf-ing it with. Perhaps more from this angle (mouth).

Now, I am an archaeologist. If I were writing this up, I'd get it in a box, and there would be a label that it came from layer 1143. A quick look on the excavation database would tell me that this was a dump of sand on the floor of Severan Building number 11 with nothing much in it except a little pottery and a coin of Severus Alexander. That, the matrix says, was under several discontinuous layers (probably representing truncation of the sequence), but the whole stack of layers was sealed by 765, a thick dump of rubble containing many artefacts covering most of the west half of the excavation trench (including the place the excavation plan shows the head was found) and it contained a large series of late Roman pottery and a coin series that ends in the 320s. I'd be happy that the head was lopped off the (pre-existing) statue before the 320s, and probably about a century earlier than that, in late Severan times. I reckon I could say that all that shows it is Guaranteed Authentic, and if somebody asks me why, I can show them the plans and photos of layer 765 and it can be seen nothing is dug through it into the layers underneath. They can go through all the documentation, finds sheets, photos... Difficult to argue with that, and then the precise dating would rest on that haircut and the artefacts in 1143. OK.

Mr Hixenbaugh however only has that "an Old Swiss Collector" was once persuaded that this is Roman ("Guaranteed Authentic sir"), because... it looks like it is. But, like Mr Dershowitz, the Old Swiss Collector seems to have decided to exclude it from their collection and it ended up with a New York Collector, who also was persuaded (by whom?) that "it looks like" it is Roman ("Guaranteed Authentic sir"). Then Mr Hixenbaugh thought the same and now he's trying to persuade us of that ("Guaranteed Authentic sir").

But "it looks like" is a very subjective judgement, and it is only that. Dress it up and call it connoisseurship all you want (Marlowe 2013), that is all it is. Randall Hixenbaugh says "it looks like" an authentic Roman portrait bust of a Severan lady (why? "because I say it does, and I know"). The rest of us can agree or not. Personally, I think it looks a bit like a portrait of the German-born Slovak operatic soprano Patricia Janečková (b. June 1988). Anyway, cute, but this portrait has crooked eyes. She looks a bit of a sociopath to me.

Elizabeth Marlowe 2013, 'Shaky Ground: Context, Connoisseurship and the History of Roman Art' (Bloomsbury Academic Press)

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