Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Yahoo "Antiquisleuths" use Yandex to Accuse Foreign Archaeologists

    Ancient-artefacts forum accuses  

The former "Yahoo" Ancient.Artifacts groups, now colonially based in the British Indian Ocean territories, has recently featured posts suggesting that there has been a change of heart in the artefact collecting community - revealing some of the wrongdoings of the no-questions-asked dealers that were formerly swept under the carpet. Appearances can be deceptive though, as a recent post there (Lodewijk That's a first...2019 catawiki object is dug up 1,5 year later as an artefact, Oct 18 #95849 ) shows [hyperlinks edited inline].

[...] something went south on this one [...] auctioned 16-9-2019 at Catawiki And than a miracle. Shown on three news-websites as begin dug up in Croatia as a "Greco-Illirian" helmet with other artefacts in December 2020. LOL. https://ru.oxu.az/interesting/448598 13 дек. 2020]
https://aqreqator.az/az/obshestva/1155790 [an aggregator, 13 Dekabr 2020 ] http://www.musavat.biz/ru/news/arheologi-obnaruzhili-redkij-artefakt-v-skalnoj-grobnice [15.12.2020
All four show what is quite clearly the same helmet. The implication being that something that was on the antiquities market in September 2019 is then represented as having been discovered on an archaeological site oin Croatian in or before mid-December a year later. Scandalous, if true. And of cousrse the Indian-Ocean Yahoos them jump in with tales of other aerchaeological misdeeds they've half-heard of. None of them of course bothering to check Lodewijk's sources. If they had, they'd have noticed that none of these three articles that he quiotes for them gives an actual reference to the Greek Reporter text on which they are (reportedly) based. Not surprising, collectors apparently don't like bothering with the details of where something comes from and just love comparing pictures.

There is one article on this find from Greek Reporter that clearly is the same story ( Patricia Claus, ' Ancient Greek Helmet Found in Burial Chamber in Croatia By, Greek Reporter July 16, 2021), but it is dated much later than the Russian quotations... but what is important is that the article shows the actual helmet in situ - which the quick-to-accuse amateur(ish) antiquisleaths did not spot. The site is a rock-cut tomb in Zakotarac, located on the Pelješac peninsula, near Gradina in southern Dalmatia, Croatia, excavated by Dr Domagoj Perkić. There seems to be no earlier article in Greek Reporter to which the Russian aggregator results refer.

But what there is is an article in the Daily Mail about a helmet from a rock-cut tomb in Croatia (Stacy Liberatore, 'Greek battle helmet from the 4th century BC is found buried with an elite warrior who was laid to rest in a rock-cut tomb more than 2,000 years ago', Daily Mail 9 December 2020) that quite clearly is the origin of the shortened and garbled Russian aggregator version. The text is quite long and informative (unlike the Russian ones used by Lodewijk for his accusations). There is an earlier one on the Archaeology News Network from November 2020 - also showing the excavated helmet.

Of course what has happened here and Lodewijk was slow to spot intent on archie-bashing, is that the Russian aggregators just pulled an image off the Internet of an ancient-helmety-looking helmet as a decoration of their space-filler article. One wonders whether nationalism played a part too in making this find look like it was of a type found in Easter Europe (including Russia) rather than what was actually found? But collectors like Lodewijk need to be more careful in their interpretation. 

Coming back to the Catawiki sale of September 2019, the seller is listed as based in Germany and is a PRO[fessional dealer] and their user name is unhelpfully "user-384dd70". The description is  inadequate, unprofessional and lacking rather a lot of important pieces of information:
Scythian Brons vergulde helm - 20×20×20 cm - (1)
3th -5th cent BC - Rusland
Scythian helmet (original). Was
found with a hole (3x4") in the top which was restored through a specialist. The artifact was cleaned and covered with a special preservative solution. Cheek protectors (1 original, 1 reproduced) non-fixed
The Scythians were a nomadic Iranian people who migrated towards Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE. They are well attested in Herodotus and are said to have been ruthless, bloodthirsty people.
Purchased by the current owner on 24-Oct-2017 in Sweden from Mr. C. Svenson
before that private collection
Provenance: The Supplier warrants that he obtained this lot in a legal manner. Provenance statement seen by Catawiki [..].
Note how the narrativisation replaces any mention of where it was dug up, in what situation, how it left the source country - and with what the hole in the top was filled and that cheekpiece replace3d and attached. The 'protective coating' looks like gold spray paint. The object was bought by 'Bieder 6820' on 16-09-2019 12:03:20 for € 3.100.
Lodewijk has found another reference that he shows (after stating "I'm assuming the Catawiki seller was not a fraud"):
It also has shown up on the Russian auction website meshok.net (Yandex results). Unfortunately the auction does not exist anymore and only the yandex indexed image is available. We can not check if that was before or after the Catawiki auction. So no issues with Catawiki on this one, simply cant tell when the Russian auction was.

The photo is clearly the same as the Catawiki one, and suince the seller admits that it comes from "Russland" and meshok has been selling antiquities from Russia, the relationship between the two is suggestive... so what about "bought in Sweden from Mr. C. Svenson in September 2019 before that private collection" collecting history? When and how did it leave the source country for Sweden? What documentation did Catawiki vet? Any?

Saturday, 16 October 2021

British Museum Halloween Trope

Babylonian clay tablet. White line tracing © James Fraser and Chris Cobb
for The First Ghosts, by Irving Finkel. Photograph: The British Museum

As Bonkers Britain heads towards Halloween, the Guardian plugs a forthcoming book on ghosts by a British Museum curator (Dalya Alberge, ' Figures of Babylon: oldest drawing of a ghost found in British Museum vault' Guardian, Sat 16 Oct 2021):
" Its outlines are faint, only discernible at an angle, but the world’s oldest drawing of a ghost has been discovered in the darkened vaults of the British Museum. A lonely bearded spirit being led into the afterlife and eternal bliss by a lover has been identified on an ancient Babylonian clay tablet created about 3,500 years ago. It is part of an exorcist’s guide to getting rid of unwanted ghosts [...] the tablet had been incorrectly deciphered previously. The drawing had been missed as the ghost only comes to life when viewed from above and under a light. Forgotten since its acquisition by the museum in the 19th century, the tablet has never even been exhibited."
Note the provenance "British Museum vault", no site mentioned, nor how long it's been there before being properly (?) examined and published... or mention made of the two deep gouges, presumably made when it was "excavated"... what is the collection history of this item?

Friday, 15 October 2021

Dealer's Custody Damages Artefacts

Lawrence H. Schiffman and Andrew Gross, 2021; The Temple Scroll 11Q19, 11Q20, 11Q21, 4Q524, 5Q21 with 4Q365a (Brill, Dead Sea Scrolls Editions, Volume: 1) e-publication available now, hardback later.
In this volume, Schiffman and Gross present a new edition of all of the manuscript evidence for the Temple Scroll from Qumran. It includes innumerable new readings and restorations of all of the manuscripts as well as a detailed critical apparatus comparing the manuscripts of the Temple Scroll as well as Qumran biblical manuscripts and the ancient versions. Each manuscript is provided with a new translation, and a commentary is presented for the main text. Also included are a general introduction, bibliography of published works on the text, catalog of photographic evidence, and concordance including all vocables in all the manuscripts and their restorations. This work promises to move research on the Temple Scroll to a new level.
Årstein Justnes​ draws attention to one detail about its collecting history:
The authors discuss some newly surfaced fragments said to be part of manuscript fragment  11Q21, including several in the Schøyen Collection (trophy items because "they preserve almost no legible text") and consider that they all belong in the group of "post-2002 Dead Sea Scrolls fakes".

Berlin Breakthrough on Benin Bronzes

 Germany and Nigeria have signed an agreement setting out a timetable for the restitution of artefacts looted from the royal palace of Benin in a British military raid in 1897.

Yahoo Group Vindictively Wants to Influence US Court Decision

 In a sentencing memorandum filed
with the court the district attorney’s office
asked that Mr. Sadigh, who has no previous record
of arrests, be sentenced to five years’ probation
and banned from ever again being involved
in the sale of antiquities, “both genuine and fake.”

 The UK based moderator of the ancient artifacts.groups forum, "Tuppenny Tim"  who I cannot answer there since threw me off the group for explaining why some unpapered artefacts they were discussing there were fakes comments on the Sadigh trial: 

tuppennyblueOct 14 #95825
That's an absurdly low sentence considering his two decade long reign as king of the antiquities fraudsters, taking the piss out of collectors all over the world. I think we should all write to the court, demanding that nothing less than a sentence of immediate and lengthy imprisonment is appropriate - in particular, it would be appropriate for out US members to do this. Does anyone know of an address we can write to to make our case?
I wonder what part of the phrase 'plea deal' he does not understand? Taking the piss out of collectors however is a fully justifiable activity while they as a group continue to behave in their traditional holier-than-thou manner. None of Sadigh's customers saw verifiable documentation of legal excavation or legal export. Most of them were caught-out by the layers of varnish and dirt and the generally 'clunky-nasty-tatty-gawky' aesthetic of many of the items he handled. Tuppenny Tim does not see that. And no, Sadigh is far from the "king of fraudsters" - there are other antiquities on the market as we write that would make their producers and marketers more eligable for that title. The no-questions-asked market in unpapered antiquities from-goodness-knows-where is FULL of them. Some of them have been sold by dealers on Tuppenny Tim's own list.
Of course the dealers' pretence that Sadigh is in some way worse than any other dealer that sells unpapered and misdescribed artefacts is behind this vindictive posing.  This is an application of the "two wrongs make a right" pseudo-argument. In this context, note what the Times article adds at the end:
Mr. Sadigh came to the attention of investigators, Mr. Bogdanos has said, when dealers being pursued for trafficking plundered antiquities complained about “the guy selling all the fakes.”

["yeah, OK, I admit I could have looked more carefully at the lack of paperwork, officer, but at least MY artefacts are real, not like that other guy over  there who sells the fakes, you REALLY should be going after him, not me"] 


Thursday, 14 October 2021

Some UK Metal Detectorist Really Are as Fik As Planks

Some metal detectorists in the UK really do seem to be thicker than the average punter. An unnamed man has been arrested after he allegedly damaged Stonehenge - by removing historical artefacts he found using a metal detector (Grace Hammond, 'Yorkshire man arrested for damaging Stonehenge - by removing artefacts he found with his metal detector' Yorkshire Post 14th October 2021)
The 30-year-old Yorkshire man was arrested after he posted photographs of his discoveries on social media in August and September this year. Wiltshire Police launched an investigation and soon identified the suspect, tasking West Yorkshire Police with apprehending him. On locating him at his home in Bradford, he was arrested for five offences: damaging a protected monument, using a metal detector in a protected place without the written consent of the Secretary of State, removing an archaeological or historical interest which is discovered by the use of a metal detector in a protected place without the written consent and possession of explosives without a valid permit. During his arrest, officers found cannabis in his possession - an offence which landed him a caution.
Explosives, narcotics and looted artefacts. And decides to draw attention to his activities on social media. And he was no doubt mightily surprised he got caught, UK metal detectorists and collectors being above the law as they generally seem to feel they are. 
 Hat tip: Chris Cumberpatch, Dave Coward plus angry
archaeologist who wants to remain anonymous.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Commercial Archaeological Despoilers' Van Spotted in UK in Broad Daylight


Photo: Alan Simkins

A reader in Truro was shocked when this van pulled up alongside him. As a conservationist, he was disturbed "The past in the ground is there to be found" - not conserved, not protected but hoiked out by a greedy White Van Man.  He checked their website  https://grimsweepers.co.uk and found that this CIC metal detecting company offers a range of "services", from £100/person/day.

Grim Sweepers Metal Detecting C.I.C. will introduce and guide you through the art of history finding with a metal detector. Whether you are looking for a new hobby, a day out with your family or you have lost something, the Grim Sweeper is here to help.

and in the LinkdIn page they plug the "mental health benefits of taking the past" aspects:

Grim Sweepers Metal Detecting was initially set up to bring the much-loved hobby to more people, having identified that many "would love to try it, but don't know where, or how, to start". We realised how much metal detecting helps people "escape" and deal with the world; they spend time outside, on their own but also making new friends and enjoying support from those new friends.

The company is run anonymously: contact (but it is run by Christopher Horner from Hertfordshire, a long way from Truro). There's some merch here, and a facebook page- with one of the most naff advertising videos with cheery-text-reader soundtrack (and showing detecting on grass) that you'll see for a good while. There is a "donate" button on the company's website!. Of course to make it look good, there are links to two codes of conduct, but EXCEPT one (as can be seen in the voideo they pay no heed to that), and of course they say they do not condone 'night-hawking':
GRIM SWEEPERS DOES NOT CONDONE THE ILLEGAL ACTIVITY KNOWN AS NIGHT-HAWKING! This is gaining access to land without the landowner’s permission.
But looting with the involvement of the landowner is presumably so OK, that they feel quite comfortable plastering it all over the side of their van. Why is the van so big, what have they got in there, and in the roofrack?

New York Antiquities Dealer Admits Mass-Producing Fakes He Sold for Years

The value of a COA with no other paperwork

In the USA, nobody involved in archaeology and artefact collecting was much surprised by today's news: Antiquities Dealer Admits Mass-Producing Fakes He Sold for Years (New York Times 13th October 2021). What is surprising was how long it took US authorities to actually look into the many complaints that had been made down the years. 

Mehrdad Sadigh, the owner of a longtime Manhattan gallery admitted in court that while some customers thought they were buying ancient items, they were actually modern knockoffs, just made to look old. He admitted that over the years he'd "aged" thousands of antiquities in an assembly line-like operation, but he got "others to post glowing, but false, reviews of his gallery, inventing dozens of appreciative customers". 

 Sadigh pleaded guilty to seven felony charges, including forgery and theft. In a memorandum of understanding filed with the court, the district attorney’s office asked for Mr. Sadigh, who had no previous arrest record, to be sentenced to five years of probation and be banned from being involved in the sale of antiquities again. 

Sadigh had begun his business in 1978 as a small mail-order company, but moved to a gallery on to the upper floors of the 5th and 31st East buildings in 1982. There he sold artefacts that were said to be ancient Anatolian, Babylonian, Byzantine, Greco-Roman, Mesopotamian, and Sumerian. Many of them shared a significant style, and may perhaps one day become collectors' pieces in their own right. Some of the low-value artefacts in his catalogue however were genuine. During a sting operation, an undercover federal investigator had purchased a gold pendant and a marble portrait of an ancient Roman woman from Sadigh’s gallery. They and the representations made of them were then the basis for visits to the gallery by members of the District Attorney’s and Department of Homeland Security investigations. Officials said hundreds of fake relics were on display at various stages of preparation, and thousands more were found in the back room where various means were being used to make items look older than they were. These included the use of varnish, spray paint and belt sander.

What is annoying is now the uninformed people that would formerly have bought a Sadigh artefact and been quite happy with it as they know no better, will now increasingly be buying other artefacts from other sellers, which will include looted items that the same ignorance prevents them from asking the proper questions of the dealers offering them with the same warm assurances as Mr Sadigh was employing. 

Fake Ceramic Bullae Doing the Rounds


Bulla, photo Bron Lipkin

A group of ceramic objects have been marketed as "Roman bullae" and have circulating in the collectors' market for quite a while. Members of the collecting community were unconvinced by the undocumented "nod's-as-good-as-a-wink" assurances of the dealers handling them. So they clubbed together, crowd-funded a TL date. The results came back. Nobody was surprised. As one member (kyrikmkOct 13 #95822) trenchantly notes: "Now we know this one is fake in my opinion they are probably all fake unless it can be proven that they were actually excavated. Personally I wouldn’t buy any on the market kyri " - which is what people like me have saying all along. That goes for any "antiquity" sold by any dealer anywhere. If they have not got the paperwork, it should never have entered their stock.

(photo Bron Lipkin)

Metal Detected Finds Sold to Public Collection by Mayfair Dealer via Hanson's


What is being described as a "1,800-year-old hoard, including a bust of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius", has been, as they put it, "secured" thanks to generous support of Richard Beleson, other individual donors, Art Fund and David Aaron Ltd ('RARE ROMAN BRONZES ACQUIRED BY THE YORKSHIRE MUSEUM', 13th October 2021)

The 13cm bust is part of a collection of bronze objects found by metal detectorists James Spark and Mark Didlick in a field near Ampleforth in Ryedale, North Yorkshire, in May 2020. [...] The purchase was made possible largely thanks to the generosity of American donor Richard Beleson, with additional funding through Art Fund and a number of individual donors. This enabled York Museums Trust to make the purchase from David Aaron, who originally acquired the hoard at auction.[...] Reyahn King, chief executive of York Museums Trust, said: “On behalf of York Museums Trust I am incredibly grateful to Richard Beleson, Art Fund, the other individual donors and David Aaron who have made the purchase of this incredible hoard possible.” [...] Mr Beleson has been interested in Roman Britain since his childhood and first came to York in 2010 to attend a symposium on the coinage of Roman Britain. [...] "The situation of this discovery, with detailed and reliable provenance information, makes the hoard even more significant".
Hmm. A findspot is not the same as an archaeological context (Ampleforth Tales (I): Clearing out the Desk). And like the "All-Buckinghamshire Too-Bad-Harness Brooch" sold by Hansons a few months back, again we can see here that there would be very good financial reasons for taking the items to the PAS on their way to the auction block. Again, PAS is involved in the process of enhancing market values of archaeological material. The dealer's gallery is in Berkley Square, Mayfair.
David Aaron
Originally founded in Isfahan, Iran in 1910, David Aaron Ancient Arts is widely recognised as one of oldest and the most pre-eminent galleries in the world for important and exquisite antiquities and ancient works of art. The scope of the collection includes Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Persian, Central Asian, Near Eastern, Islamic and Indian works of art. Over the last century the gallery has helped to assemble some of the best known private collections and has worked with major museums worldwide. Directors David and Salomon Aaron represent the third and fourth generations in this family business.  
Vignette" Were the metal detectorists invited to Mayfair to view their finds on display in the gallery?

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Provenance Researchers Take Note: UK Antiquities Dealer Changes Name Again

  Old wine for new skins?  

While some dealers try to establish their authority by making extravagant claims about when they (or a subsidiary) were "established", others glory in swapping names every so often to appear to be somebody new, offering the market in old things something equally fresh and new. So, London dealer Parthenon Antiquities then became Pax Romana Antiquities (25 Bury Place, London, WC1A 2JH, established November 2015, CEO Ivan Bayanov Bonchev) and now they have shifted back to evoking Classical Greece with their new name of Apollo Antiquities (on the shopfront it says "Apollo S.P.Q.R.).
Apollo Galleries
We are established central London dealers and auctioneers of Ancient Art and Numismatics. Our two-floor gallery is located just opposite the British Museum - 25 Bury Place, WC1A 2JH. We specialise in the appraisal, sale and authentication of Antiquities and coins. In our gallery and auction you can find a great variety of genuine artifacts from Neolithic to Post Medieval periods including Chinese, Gandharan, Near Eastern, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Viking, Crusaders and many others. Please browse our website and register for our Gallery Shop and Auction Catalogues.
Here is their account of how they determine authenticity... strangely, it does not mem=ntion in teh first oplace the technique of verifying the documentation about its legal grounding in a known archaeological context (and then legal export maintaining documentation of lawful custody and title). This, it seems to me should be the fundamental tool used by any dealer ... actually in anything really. 

This is particularly the case as a number of collectors (for example some expressing their doubts on the Ancient Artifacts Group, or in places like the BidAmount Asian Art Forum) seem to have doubts whether the company's experts (Dr Ivan Bonchev, Prof. Marco Moriggi, Clive Sawyer, Alba Moyano Alcantara, Cristina Gonzalez Esteban and Ralf Kotalla Laboratory for XRF and TL) have always been getting the attributions and descriptions right.

In the context of perhaps signalling a fresh start in the light of recent public discussion of the failures of the previously-existing system, it is odd that Mr Bonchev says of himself in the new website: "Seven years ago, Ivan founded Apollo Galleries [...] He has worked for numerous auction houses and large private collectors – curating and inspecting their acquisitions". But seven years ago there was no "Apollo Galleries". How odd. Ancient.artifact.Groups member Renate suggest: Renate (Oct 11 #95811) "So that it is always clear that it is the same company, we should in future speak more often of Apollo Galleries (formerly Pax-Romana) or Pax-Romana (now Apollo Galleries). It is important to mention both names in the same sentence so that search engines make a connection". And provenance researchers too.

Hat tip: Lodewijk

Sami Jasim Muhammad al-Jaburi, Islamic State’s Finance Chief Captured

The capture of Sami Jasim Muhammad al-Jaburi, the Islamic State’s finance chief raises hopes in some quarters that he will reveal new information about their alleged income from looted antiquities (Aqeel Najim and Mostafa Salem, '
ISIS finance chief captured by Iraqi forces, Iraq PM says' CNN October 11, 2021) Iraqi forces captured Sami Jasim, the deputy of former ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Iraq's Prime Minister said in a statement on Monday. Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi did not disclose details of the operation [...] Jasim, also known as "Abu Asya," served as the financial supervisor of the [...] group under Al-Baghdadi since 2015, according to Iraqi security expert Fadel Abu Regheef.[...] In 2015, the US Treasury Department labeled Jasim as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, a designation that places financial sanctions on terrorists and those who provide support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.
and of course totally distorts the meaning of the word "terrorist" that the US uses loosely to refer to (foreign, usually brown-skinned) people that they do not like. Too bad for the anonymous guy that US special forces together with Kurdish fighters are reported to have murdered in August 2016 near Anbar province in western Iraq, in his own country, mistakenly thinking it was Jasim. His real name was not released after today's announcement.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Yandex Sleuthing by Collectors Reveals New Puzzles on UK Antiquities Market


Comparison (source Lodewijk
fair use of material for
purposes of criticism and
 discussion in matter
 of public interest

Ancient Artifacts Group list member Lodewijk (the one who enlightened us about the possibilities of using the Russian-based Yandax for better image searches than Google for artefact provenance research) has made another discovery: Looks like the turquoise fell of the Scythian eagle! Whoops! (October 9th 2021). Whoops, indeed [punctuation and hyperlinks edited for clarity]:

Was just using Yandex for an image search and it looks like somewhere in a period of 2 months the turquoise fell off a gold Scythian eagle!
31-1-2019, Catawiki Artemision, unsold, with turquoise stones

Feb 28th 2019, Jasper52 auction, still has the turquoise stones... ; June 6th 2019, Jasper52 auction, unsold, still has the turquoise stones

Sept 7th 2019, TimeLine auction, OH NO ALL THE TURQUOISE FELL OFF!

That is the exact same artefact in my opinion. Went from 5[th century] BC to 5[the century] AD and all the turquoise has vanished. For reference I added an image with the 2 side by side for easy comparison. Left 7-9-2019 Timeline and on the right 31-1-2019 Artemission/Catawiki.

Doesnt say anything about authenticity but it surely was altered. Also no indication who did it, Since the images in the Jasper52 auction are the same as the Catawiki ones it's likely it was entered by Artemission there as well. It is unknown who owned it in that 2 month period between the last jasper52 auction and the TimeLine one.
One wonders why this was not picked up by all those experts both auction houses employ. It is interesting to compare the descriptions and condition reports. Catawiki/Artemission says
Scythian Gold and turquoise Plaque with Eagle c. 5th Century B.C.
Oval plaque decorated in repousse with an eagle, spread wings, eyes and wings inlaid with turquoise stones.
Size: 5.5 cm L - 2 3/16 inches
Material: Gold and turquoise, total weight=3.3 grms
Culture: Scythian, c. 5th Century B.C.
Condition: Two stones missing, stress crack and chip to the middle, otherwise intact
Provenance: Private UK collection, acquired prior to 1980.
The seller guarantees that this item has been legally acquired and will be legally exported, related documents seen by Catawiki.
Four photos from different angles are offered. Artemission is Antoine Karawani ("The leading antiquities gallery online, Artemission.com (Atticart Ltd.) is based in London, U.K. We specialise in authentic ancient art") and the office is in Earl's Court (SW10 9BS). Artemission has been written about on this blog a number of times, and is the source of many intrusive irritating pop-up adverts on my webfeed.

On the other hand the well-known and equally intrusively visible UK dealer Timeline (and Anonymous British collector/LiveAuctioneers) say:
Gothic Gold Plaque with Eagle
Estimate £300 - £400
Sep 07, 2019 Lot 2892
5th century AD. A gold repousse plaque of an eagle with its wings spread, head turned to the right with turquoise inlay for the eye, beaded collar to the neck, the wings and tail with triangular segments, spread legs beneath the wings.
2.82 grams, 55mm (2"). From a private UK collection; acquired prior to 1980. [No Reserve]
Fine condition.
Only one photo, en face, is offered as part of this description. Note the condition report is silent about the stress crack, or that the documentation of export that must have been seen surely would have mentioned the turquiose stones... that are now missing. In fact if you look at the earlier photos, they have the appearance of being polished chips pressed into some earth in the shallow holes, so not surprising they fell out. A small circular cabochon is still in the eye.

Why, actually, was this same loose object dated one thousand years apart by the sellers and assigned to two separately different cultures? The fact that it looks nothing like real excavated Scythian appliques, eagles or not, or Gothic eagles is beside the point. On what grounds are such attributions offered? More to the point since we are asked to believe that both sellers have satisfied themselves that the item has the proper export paperwork, which territory has BOTH 5th century BC Scythian presence as well as 5th century AD "Gothic" presence, allowing the switching of attributions on an item legally exported from a specific territory (prior to 1980)?  

Oh, and why would the second(?) seller be offering it with "no reserve"? 

Friday, 8 October 2021

More Presentation of the "Past-as-Cool-Loose-Objects"

"Open Culture" claim to make the web a more intelligent place... In a recent post users are shown "a 4,000-Year-Old Student ‘Writing Board’ from Ancient Egypt (with Teacher’s Corrections in Red)". the text and the nature of the corrections are not explained, presumably the expected reaction on social media is supposed to be an asinine, "wow, they were just like us four thousand years ago! Cool!"

That's probably what Edward S. Harkness was thinking when he acquired it before 1928 and later donated it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Accession Number: 28.9.4). 

We should ask of each these "hey that's cool, just like today!" Pieces Of The Past that are joyfully splattered across the internet by archaeologists and others to "provoke interest in our past" if it can be grounded in reliable archaeological context- otherwise it could just as easily be a modern fake made to appeal to a tourist. 

A problem that is seldom discussed is that many Egyptian artefacts in old museum collections today were not sourced by excavation, but bought from a bloke in a souk near a 19th/early 20th century traveller's hotel. This one is no exception: "Geography: From Egypt; Said to be from Upper Egypt, Thebes or Northern Upper Egypt, Akhmim (Khemmis, Panopolis)". Hmm. 

The 1920s were exactly the period when the Egyptians started to be very concerned about how much of the country's heritage was being exported. Has the Met got any kind of an export permit for this item? 

Retweeters take note.

Dumbdown Brexit Fare Wiv Detecktahs


    presenter HC

Just when you thought it could not get any worse... (George Lythgoe, 'Treasure hunter from Dalton set to feature in new ITV series on metal detecting', NW Mail 5th October)
A TREASURE hunter looks to strike more gold on ITV after a new series has been commissioned following a successful pilot show all about metal detecting. Although keen detectorist Graeme Rushton did not find actual gold, the Roman coins him and teammate Adrian Harris found from around 260 AD was enough to see him triumph over the other four teams competing in the initial pilot episode of 'Henry Cole's Great British Treasure Hunt', broadcast on ITV4 back in December 2020. Mr Rushton, of Unearthed UK in Dalton, said that the show has been approved for a five-part series running over the course of a week with filming starting very soon and spanning over the next few months. It is due to air in December. "It was a hit with ITV higher ups and has been given the go ahead for a five-episode series which is great," he said. [...] Mr Rushton said he was 'over the moon' with their 'academically important' finds which were valued at £50 and will be hoping for more success in the series released later this year.
In the pilot Henry Cole, a cringeworthy British 'celebrity' (the guy behind such TV greats as "Shed" and "Buried" and "Find It Fix It Flog It"), challenged five tekkie teams to find the most valuable and most historically significant artefacts in just 48 hours. This time an archaeologist from one of the newly-closed university archaeology departments will be invited to come along and earn a few bob by identifying the finds while wearing a baggy sweater and sandals. And you know what? They'd do it.

Graeme Rushton,
metal detector dealer

This article follows on from the text (also by starstruck  George Lythgoe): Dalton detectorist's success on new ITV show Henry Cole's Great British Treasure Hunt NW Mail 10th December 2020.

 Obviously, in the Barrow in Furness area, nothing much is happening these days and a detectorist is clearly "news" up there (George Lythgoe, 'Dalton Detectorist's new book goes down a storm', NW Mail 9th October)
A Detectorist from Dalton has expressed his relief as his long-awaited book has finally been released. Graeme Rushton, of Unearthed UK, is hoping that this complete guide for metal detectors will bring in even more people to one of the fastest growing hobbies in the UK. The successful detectorist has seen some of his finds including incredibly rare medieval coins sell for thousands of pounds at auction and now he is sharing his wisdom with the world in 'A Guide to Metal Detecting' [...] Copies are available for purchase on the Unearthed UK website.
"Unearthed UK ltd supply metal detectors and metal detecting accessories throughout Cumbria, Lancashire, The Midlands and the South"... and Mr Lythgoe has what connection with the company? When is the next plug for his pal, when Lythgoe joins Mr Rushden for a day's detecting and writes a piece full of heart-warming anecdote and colourful imagery?


hat tip: Dave Coward.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Yandex Catches Another Misdescribed Artefact

Catawiki: "Bid on over 65,000 special objects
every week, selected by 240+ experts"

      Google cache

Over on an Ancient Artefact collectors' forum near you:
LodewijkOct 6 #95772     
From cufflink to byzantine applique, it's all possible at Catawiki
Catawiki and their experts. What a joke. They never [cease] to amaze me. Check out this "Beautiful Byzantine Applique" 12th-14th century by Aesnumismatics. Weird that this auction has photos so out of focus. Unfortunately it's an early 20th century cufflink, and probably Russian in origin since that's where most seem to show up. Here's an identical one, change language to Russian. Here another one, it was auctioned at Violity, auction has disappeared but image was indexed.
And this is where the policy of just showing one side of an artefact pays off, you cant see the cufflink shank on the photo of the "applique". Dealers really do need to start giving PROPER descriptions and fuller ones, materials, manufacturing techniques, section through and rear view at a minimum. And "where this comes from and how I know it was legally removed from (a) the ground and (b) the source country also as a minimum. Otherwise the seller should change their job and sell knock-off Chinese-made car spare parts. Catawiki removed the object very soon after someone announced on a forum that they'd used Yandex to expose their expert's mistake.

And if I were Mr Ravi Vora, CEO of Catawiki, the "expert" representing my firm's business interests that vetted that would be outside the door of my office eight o'clock sharp on Monday morning with a convincing presentation on his laptop of the comparanda that led to his identification and dating of that object. But if I were Mr Vora, I'm pretty sure he'd be out of a job by nine on Monday. But I believe another auction house is hiring at the moment.

Aesnumismatics is based in Austria, but are pretty secretive.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Fakechaser Says Barford is "Wrong" About Antiquities Market


I see I am mentioned on a collectors' forum... instead of the kneejerk collectors coming here and making a civil comment, they prefer to attempt to discuss things behind my back...  Some guy assuming the [not very original] pseudonym "oldthings" ("Global Moderator, Full Member, 29 Posts) in a topic about New York dealer Sadigh (Reply #20 on: September 04, 2021, 07:21:24 PM) thinks it is OK just to lift an entire blog post of mine and publish it over there - and actually dishonestly giving the link totally wrong like the idjit many antiquities collectors are "https://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2021/09/" (should be here). Being a bit of a dunce, the links in my post do not appear in Oldthings' lifted version. The collector then adds from himself, with a lot of exclamation marks:

Mr Barford says:
But this affair shows the inability of the antiquities market to self-regulate itself.
No, that is nonsense! Sadigh was never a member of the proper antiquities market!! He was just a crook. This long standing fiasco of him getting away with fraud for so long was NOT the inability of the antiquities market to self-regulate itself but simply an example of how criminals can get away with their fraud despite people trying to get the "authorities" involved and get him prosecuted. The problem continues of course on eBay!!!
Self-regulation means for me the ability of a group to rid itself of people involved in undesirable practice. This case shows that the antiquities market cannot do this.

There is a fallacy here that the selling of portable antiquities takes place in two or more different markets, there is here a mention of a "proper antiquities market" (which is?) and then an alleged separate market that contains the crooks and the cowboys. Mr Oldthings does not say where one can find that separate market. Is it a Dark Web one? Well, no because the dealer under discussion had his own central New York gallery and sold online by the same means as all the rest. How would Mr Oldthings classify a dealer that sells mostly authentic dugups but one or two fakes somehow get into their stockroom? What happens if among the dugups are dozens of fakes? When does the "proper antiquities market" (his phrase) not become the "proper antiquities market"? And of course to have a market you need customers, are there "proper antiquities buyers" (who buy only on the "proper antiquities market") and are there "improper customers" that buy from the crooks and cowboys? And how does the newbie buyer decide which sector of the market to go to? 

No, "Olthings", there is one antiquities market, the bulk of which is a grey market in which variously-dodgy artefacts are sold openly alongside other artefacts. The responsible dealing of antiquities involves the buyer being able to verify from the paperwork that the seller has and transfers with the purchase, exactly where the object came from, how and when it left the ground and how and when it left the source country. All the rest are cowboys selling unpapered artefacts, all of which should be treated by responsible buyers with suspicion and disregard. Just say no.

Monday, 4 October 2021

Bangkok Post Sums up Bonkers Britain

It's not just Europe that is laughing at the results of British populists' hubris and the confrontation of an identity based on an imagined past with present realities. The UK metal detectorists that voted for Brexit STILL don't get it.

Hat tip Gorlockza

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Douglas Latchford and Cambodian Art Profits


As reported by Jason Felch, "Pandora Papers reveal how a notorious art dealer, Douglas Latchford, and his family set up trusts in tax havens shortly after U.S. investigators began linking him to looted Cambodian artifacts [see Washington Post"]. There is also a nice 'Hyperallergic' article by Valentina Di Liscia that sums up what we know so far ('Art Dealer Used Offshore Accounts to Trade Looted Antiquities, Pandora Papers Say' 4th October 2021).

Saturday, 2 October 2021

More Auctioneers Fluffing the Descriptions

Roseberry's auction catalogue

On page seven of the little-known textbook "Antiquities Selling for Dummies" (2000) the authors, Aaron Grebkesh and Dunnie Runn stress the importance of providing a good description of the goods "as photo" is not enough. They write "though many of your clients will be a stupid as planks and swallow any old story you foist off on them about what it is and where it came from, collectors come from many walks of life and as such your descriptions should be carefully checked". I suspect the Islamic arts specialists in Roseberys London (" Number one Fine Art auctioneers and valuers in South London offering an annual calendar of specialist sales") have not internalised this recommendation. Lot 180 in a recent "Islamic and Indian Art" auction catalogue a "An important Timurid grey schist cenotaph, Central Asia, 14th to 15th century" ("ex-private [sic] collection, Belgium acquired 1969") manages to be made of "black granite". Of course anyone who knows anything about geology is aware (and despite what the trade has to say), there is no such stone as "black granite" because granite by definition is an intrusive igneous rock containing at least 20% quartz, perhaps they mean gabbro, diabase, basalt, diorite, norite, or anorthosite. So which is it? And if they cannot get the material it is made from right, what about this "ex-private" collection in Belgium that had it from "1969" (got the receipts and export licences?) until just now. How was that verified by Roseberry's specialists? 

Have a look at that catalogue, appalling. A load of of tat thrown in among other items, poorly-photographed. 

In any case, let us call a grave-marker a grave-marker and ask how it was removed from a Timurid tomb in or before 1969 and why it was then never replaced. What are the ethics involved in grave-robbing, even if it's a posh (?) London dealer flogging off stuff only taken from the foreign "brown-skinned guys"? The object did not sell, it's never too late to do the right thing.
hat tip: @FuchsiaHart

Friday, 1 October 2021

UK's "Detecting for Veterans" Next Commercial Artefact Hunting Rally Called Off: Police Reportedly Involved


There is some discussion on a metal detecting forum near you of the ongoing "Detecting for Veterans" story, member Rank81 asked (Thurs Sept 24th 18:40 PM): "Is Ancaster going ahead does anyone know, bit concerned" as his mum paid for a ticket for him, and it seems they want the money back.  Member "MegaB" (Thu Sep 30, 2021 7:08 pm) states:

Its not going to happen,the boys in blue have started to get involved with this one, and the sums involved are how should i say amazing..... its not for me to suggest too you what you do..... but bargepole comes to mind.
Really? The police? Dave8472 (Thu Sep 30, 2021 7:19 pm) adds:
There’s a massive very long story behind this that I’m not going to go in to on here as there is an on going Police investigation. You really need to look on Facebook to see what happened and what has happened since this all kicked off the other week. It is explained in detail by the Admin now in control.
It really is a long story and I we would appreciate members not attempting a full blow by blow account due to the investigation. I’m sure members could message you some of the details if needed.
Because we have no connection with the group(s) then it would be difficult to validate and moderate on a deeply sad and depressing story that unfolded.

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Mexican special crime unit to hunt down illegally trafficked artworks

Mexican president Andres Manuel López Obrador has announced that since so few foreign nations are honouring the UNESCO 1970 Convention and finding and repatriating looted artworks and antiquities, the country will form a special crime unit within the Guardia Nacional dedicated to the task (Elizabeth Mistry, 'Mexican special crime unit to hunt down illegally trafficked artworks Police unit dedicated to repatriation of looted art and antiquities to be founded, Mexico president says' Art Newspaper 1 October 2021).

The announcement was made during the opening of the exhibition La Grandeza de México at the Museo Nacional de Antropología this week following the successful recovery of various archeological pieces due to be sold in Italy. López Obrador said he was inspired by the work of the Italian Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, the unit attached to the Italian police that specialises in recovering stolen art. He also praised the Italian gendarmerie, called the Arma dei Carabinieri, for supporting Mexico in recovering looted pre-Hispanic pieces. “We are already going to follow the Italian example,” he said. “I have already instructed a special team be set up to achieve this purpose.” “Imagine if every country had such a unit and worked together to repatriate works that had been looted or trafficked from their countries of origin,” said the president. Details about the new art crime unit are yet to be released.

Changes at the Top of the NCMD


In the UK, there seems to have been a shakeup in the organization of the moribund National Council for Metal Detecting. The Communications officer, membership secretary and General Secretary have all left, and new appointments have been made within days of each other.   This follows on from the recent appointment of the outgoing membership secretary and Gensec in July this year, and creates a picture of ferment and disorganisation in the ranks of this group following the accusations that were made a few weeks ago that seem not to have been resolved yet. 

Sunday, 26 September 2021

Yandex Revelations (Careless Dealers Watch Out)

In a previous post I reported on the disturbing results of some work done by Ancient.Artifacts forum member 'Lodewijk' that revealed the untold part of the collection histories offered by a London dealer. It seems that we have here another case on the antiquities market of artefacts that are claimed to simultaneously be in two places at once, where a dealer says it was, and where documentation says it was. Lodewijk describes its use in the case of other dealers and shows how every collector can do the same. Incidentally, he forgets to mention that every dealer can too. Here's the method described in one of his posts (punctuation edited):

It's even easier than I thought. No need for extensions etc. Let's go "image hunting". And I'm pretty sure some sellers are going to get nervous now. You have Google image search etc. Forget about that one. Best one turns out to be Yandex image search, Russian based. Turns out I overlooked something. Sometimes you get to many results and it would take too long to go through. Hence the extensions IU used. I overlooked the option in Yandex that in the top left corner you can adjust the part of the image that Yandex looks for, its a sliding box.

Here is Yandex image search:
All you do is drag the image from the site to the image search field in Yandex (open a second tab) and it searches it Try yourself:
in the bottom right click on the results box so you get to see all results, and and already on the fifth line you already see this one yandex.ru/images/search? imageview          
Turns out it was on a Russian auction site [sic, it is in fact Ukrainian: PMB], I can't say if the same seller first tried selling it there, or another seller did, or that it was bought there but it's just very awkward.

it's already in the first row of results Yandex.ru/images/search? rpt image view

Take a good look at the search results.....You just uncovered 3 Catawiki artefacts with highly questionable provenance since they show up on Russian sites.

Not only can you use this for trying to spot if it's Russian/Ukranian in origin, in general it will at least tell you a main direction to look for origin. If you can't make an exact match, at least you'll find a load of similar items... and trust me, the second you start looking for 'Medieval' or 'Viking', you'll end up in a  single part of this world... well in 75%..., if it's not fake...

So how good is this easy to use free online tool? It is crazy good. The one below showed up in google images when looking for gold buckles to compare [...] 
Simple yandex search yandex.ru/images/search?rpt=image view, the exact same one is in the first 10 search results... it leads to a You Tube channel... And when you Google translate the comments under that image you'll see he tells he's the one who found it. And that's why it's also on V-kontakte (Russian Facebook).  Either the auction photo was posted mirrored or the V-Kontakte post.

Now what I actually hope is going to happen is that these auction houses are reading here as well and do the same I just did. Provenances are easy to fake by those who bring in the item to be auctioned and auction houses are easily duped.

Anyone anywhere in the world can do this.

OK. This is indeed the case. So, when will we see dealers asserting that they've searched for the object on the Art Loss Register and Yandex to prove that the story they were told by the person who offered it them would not collapse if it were looked into? Yandex is free. 

Yandex is a Russian multinational corporation providing a number of products and services, including search and information services, e-commerce. Based in Moscow, it was founded in 2000 and its CEO is Arkady Volozh. Obviously it is better for searching material in Russian-based internet resources than our familiar Google. Since it is Russia and Ukraine that are producing a lot of the artefacts that are (illegally) coming onto the market (including some that one may legitimately suspect have been handled by organised criminal groups), it seems especially important to be able to identify this material. 

Another list member has a useful tip for anyone wanting to duplicate this kind of provenance research (Renate, Sep 17 #95667):
Works great, much better than Google Image search indeed! Regarding translating, the most simple method is to install the Chrome browser. Chrome translates on a right mouse click, no need to install an extension. All you need to do is to choose your preferred language, see Chrome help page: Change Chrome languages and translate webpages. Every page you move from the translated one will be translated as well. This is easier than the most common way via https://translate.google.com/ and entering an URL there.

Collectors do their own Ancient Artefact Provenance Research

Ring, metal detector find,
 2018 (Live Auctioneers)

Over on the Ancient Artifacts discussion list, amateur collectors of portable antiquities have demonstrated that they have found a way to find out untold parts of the collecting history of the objects on sale through aggregator sites like Catawiki and LiveAuctioneers, where minimal collecting histories (and, it seems from what they found, less than perfect due diligence) are the general rule. The method is set out in a series of highly important posts (follow the links in the originals to see where they lead), starting with:  'Lodewijk', 'How to use image search for comparing artefacts - DIY research' Sep 17 2021, #95665 (the forum allows you to read posts arranged in a thread). 

The whole saga started off with some wearable ancient rings sold online by a prominent London dealer as 'Byzantine' and having some generic "in-the-collection-of-an-X[location]-Y[descriptor]-acquired-before-Z[date]"-type collection histories. Totally inadequate - country (let alone place) of origin not stated, no details of legal excavation or legal export. 

But it gets worse. While the UK seller claims that these objects long ago were out of the ground and in some kind of "old collection" in the west going back many years, in the post, as many as eleven cases are shown (with links and pictures) in which applying a certain search method (see the next post) identifies items that in fact turn up on a site called "Rings.guru" that I have previously discussed in a separate post here.  Many of these records can be traced back to them appearing on the Ukrainian auction site Violity (apparently by metal detectorists that had found them, sometimes the records can be linked also to Russian and Ukrainian metal detecting forums). Yet according to the UK dealer now selling them, these very same items (there is no doubt that they are the same, not just similar)  they have "verified" (really?) that each of these objects were in a private collection outside eastern Europe well before that date (an export licence would be required for these items to legally leave Russia or Ukraine). This casts doubt on the method used to verify the collection history given by the seller. 

But what the collector is primarily worried about is that the London dealer has no idea about the date of these items, as he puts it with the necessary degree of sarcasm:
"What a weird coincidence. Maybe the whole box was mislabelled  Byzantine/ Viking/ Medieval instead of 17th to 20th century? Maybe the English/ Belgian/ German/ London/ West-London collector or gentleman working in the European art market mislabelled it somewhere between 1960 and 2000 while passing it down in descent".

In a subsequent message an additional five items are added and the collector remarks:

"This becoming quiet worrying because of the scale. This is going to end up in the dozens, if not hundreds". [...] These are not rings that match in style, all these rings are the exact same rings that show up on a Russian /Ukrainian collection site way before they show up in auction [...]".
One of them was posted on a Russian metal detecting forum in 2018 with the person who probably found it asking for date and value. He was told it was worth there 2000 roubles (= c. 20-23 euros) but the estimate in the UK auction was 600-800 pounds. It seems that not all metal detectorists are in it "not for the money"... As Lodewijk (who seems to be Dutch) notes: 

So a Russian ring dating 17th-19th century, posted on 23-6-2018 at a Russian metal detecting forum shows up at [...] auction 17-5-2019 as a 1300-1500AD Silver medieval crusader ring? And with a provenance of "purchased in the European art market in the 1980's" .

The medievalist in me also is prompted to ask just what the dealer had in mind calling a ring of the 14th to 16th century "Crusader", which "Crusades" did they have in mind?   

Veteran Canadian dealer Robert Kokotailo ventures on the forum:

I see this as proof the provenances on these particular objects are simple made up out of thin air, which may have legal implications at various levels. The one that concerns me the most is for potential buyers if they have to import the objects based on false provenance declarations. It is likely the exporter would face the consequences but you never know for sure if the local authorities don't fully understand what happened, or don't care who is at fault and decide to go after the importer as he is local to them so easier to get to. Keep in mind, while those provenance can be proven false, we don't know for certain if the seller is guilty of creating false provenances, or if the objects are coming to them from consignors/ sellers who are providing those provenance. I am pretty sure if the authorities got involved and wanted to know, figuring that out would not be difficult. Eventually things catch up with people. Just ask [...dealer... ] in New York. 
It seems that the seller (and their suppliers) as well as the auction venue (so three groups of people involved in this trade) all have some important questions to answer about how they establish the veracity of the collection histories they pass on to the buyers. How reliable is this information?

Mr Kokotailo is right, the collection history is not just an optional nicety these days, it is fundamental to determining the identity of the object. This affects all collectors now, so there was some enthusiasm on the forum for the method Lodewijk had used to discover these problematic issues. So he decided to do some more
[I] just did a very basic image search through Yandex and look what pops up, and that's without trying. Thing that worries me how this is going to go with other sellers, I am going to do some try outs this weekend.
And that I'll leave to another post. This actually could be quite a game changer.

The "Rings.Guru" Database


Finger rings are a very popular collectable. There is an online database (https://rings.guru/) with pictures and brief descriptions of large numbers of finger rings that has been in the news recently and it seems worth paying it some attention as it turns out to be quite important from several angles.  

Although the text of this website can be read in a Russian or Ukrainian version, the server seems to be a Russian one. Its main focus is on finger rings in Russian and Ukrainian collections. Part of the items have been posted by the website administrator (Vladimir Belov) but registered members are invited to post their own items, including those that have been found recently by "metal detecting". In many cases the source (Источник) of the image is said to be Violity, a Ukrainian online sales venue that is infamous for the way it is used by so-called "black archaeologists" (looters with metal detectors who are illegally stripping the archaeological record for collectable and saleable items).

This database was set up quite recently. There is no 'about' page setting out its aims and principles. I suspect that this may be an offshoot of a discussion elsewhere, on a collectors' forum, or maybe Вконтакте (a Russian equivalent of Facebook) where there is a Перстень и Печать [ring and seal] group set up  by Sergey Tulupov and Vladimir Belov, together with Anatoly Bablov, Pavel Shevchenko and Boris Shirin (there are also related ring-collector clubs on Telegram and Viber). The Ring.guru site's News page starts with an entry on February 9th, 2020 that seems to indicate that the site was just starting up. The list is moderated, the administrators assign submitted entries to the correct section. Members have personal accounts where they can see their own rings and those that they have 'favourited'. There were promised 'instructions for entering rings on the site' and 'instruction-recommendation for photographing rings', and a section with details on how to support the project. By April 2nd 2020, there were 8000 rings on the database and (it seems) viewer figures of 25000. It was being planned to add a forum (it seems this has not been launched yet). On 5th April, they had their 100th registered member. The chief editor of the site was Vladimir Belov (while Sergey Tulupov, Boris Shirin, Pavel Shevchenko, Valery Agapov and Kirill Polevoy were expert consultants).

The database seems to have been started with material that come from the online catalogues of several official institutions. The abbreviation ГИМ means Государственный исторический музей, The State Historical Museum of Russia, just off Red Square in Moscow. Other material is accredited to a 'Федеральное государственное бюджетное учреждение культуры' [Federal State Budgetary Institution of Culture] and many of those have references to a catalogue entry under accession numbers that begin "ГМИИ КП" which seem to relate to the Pushkin Museum in Moscow [Государственный музей изобразительных искусств имени А.С. Пушкина].

Unfortunately there seems to be no easy way quickly to search the database to isolate those entered by members (eg metal detectorists) from the rest. Opening individual records takes quite a bit of time.

The material in 'Rings.guru' is in a variety of states of preservation. Some clearly are metal detected items with soil corrosion layers (patina) still on them. Others are possible metal detected items that have been heavily cleaned (and it seems a few that have been repatinated after this). There are some that may be antiques that have never been buried, while there are also some ancient/old looking rings that may be of modern production for the collectors' market (some of which are actually labelled as such). 

This catalogue currently runs to 198 pages and contains 19764 items. The rings are arranged in groups related to date and ethnic affinities. The earliest are six Upper Palaeolithic bone rings from an official excavation, 114 that are Bronze and early Iron Ages "Ржв [ранний железный век] и Бронзовый век" (but these include for example items from ancient Egypt in Russian collections). There are 785 rings from 'antiquity' [Антика] (some from Violity of dubious authenticity, I would say - and there are some from the collections of institutions). Four rings are assigned to the Migration Period (two, I would say, very dubiously so, one from the Metropolitan Museum in New York and one from eBay).

The main body of the database consists of a series of rings that include many that seem to come mainly from private collections and result from artefact hunting. Most often there is just the bald information what it is, the proposed date, but nothing about where it was found (in many cases the provencnce is given as Violity). 

The chronological spread of these items is of interest, showing what can be found in eastern Europe and what is collected there. There are 635 assigned to "кочевников" the nomad peoples of the steppes and southern Russia (of varying date), 2714 other ones are assigned to the pre-Mongol period [домонгольского периода] that is, roughly "Kievan Rus", 3813 to the period (c 1240-1480+) of the ('Mongol') Horde [ордынского периода]. These are followed by later items, 6005 are dated to the early modern period, 15th to 17th century [раннего нового времени 15-17 век], 3794 to the 'recent' category end of 17th to 19th centuries [Перстни позднего нового времени конец 17-19 век], 774 are deemed nineteenth century, 268 are 20th and 21st century, there is an interesting group of 64 items that are labelled replicas/copies [Реплики и новоделы старинных перстней] which is an interesting, if incomplete, glance at the range of fakes circulating in the region. Another category that might interest collectors is the section showing eight Реставрация и ремонт средневековых перстней, showing repaired and rebuilt medieval rings [though I think not in all cases was the starting point of a fantasy piece actually originally a ring]. A section at the end presents 53 rings that were found in groups (including a hoard of prehistoric gold rings seen on Violity). There is a section on 379 rings "from western auctions" [Перстни с западных аукционов] but actually including twitter etc. This is not much use to us as it's just about types, rather than providing information about the auctions themselves, for example there is the Saffron Walden ring there as #16723.

There are also 372 seal matrices of several types [Печати]. 

The site has a section on the literature of rings and ring collecting (books, catalogues, scientific papers). Some can be bought, some can be downloaded. Members are encouraged to upload items for dowloading (while bearing in mind copyright issues).

This web resource has only limited possibilities for researchers, due to the lack of information that goes beyond the merely artefactual. Even the identification and dating should be treated with a pinch of scepticism. What, however, is its main interest is that it catalogues items as being recent metal detected finds or objects sold through Violity at dates that are well after those dates claimed by some dealers that these very same objects had already been in "old collections" outside Eastern Europe, showing that these collection histories were complete fictions. This database is an important resource for those doing provenance research on items on today's no-questions-asked antiquities market. Interestingly, as will be seen in another post, collectors themselves are now making use of this to pick up cases of apparent  western dealers' fictions. 

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