Tuesday 19 October 2021

Yahoo "Antiquisleuths" use Yandex to Accuse Foreign Archaeologists [UPDATED]

    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 in Croatia in or before mid-December a year later (2019 catawiki object is dug up 1,5 year later as an artefact). Scandalous, if true. And of course the Indian-Ocean Yahoos then jump in with tales of it not being a "first" time with other archaeological 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 quotes 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 seems to be no December 2020 article in Greek Reporter to which the Russian aggregator results refer.

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', 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

But what there is from December 2020, and Lodewijk totally missed, 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 in too much of a hurry to spot, apparently 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. This is not the first time that has happened by any means. 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 since 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?

Update 21.10.2021

Over on Tuppenny Tim's AAGio forum, they are still at the archie-bashing. In which Canadian dealer Robert Kokotailo demonstrates he cannot read, and anonymous member "Renate" gets ad personam and reckons it is somehow "unfair" for a blogger to pull a collector up on not having done the research that they should have before publishing damaging conclusions on social media. Tough. 

Actually, far more interesting than tendentious archie-bashing stories is that "user-384dd70" has also sold rather a large number of other items through Catawiki, such as this:

"Early medieval Iron Khazar Sword Original 88×5×3 cm - NO. 29967991 [...] Purchased by the current owner on 24.09.2018 in Hungary from Mrs. J. Kis before that private collection since 2001 Provenance: The Supplier warrants that he obtained this lot in a legal manner. Provenance statement seen by Catawiki.
"2001" of course is much later than the relevant laws in the source country - so where is the documentation of legal origins and export? 

There is a whole block of auctions by the same seller that all have the same sort of formulaic collection history which we are invited to believe has been individually vetted by Catawki (is there any documentation of this?). 

A quick Google search reveals 86 results many of them items of weaponry with closely similar descriptions - some of which may be duplicate results in different languages (Catawiki has a built-in translator). Adjectives such as "Kipchak", "Khazar", "Scythian", "Meotian", "Viking" point clearly to an Eastern European (Ukrainian) origin for a lot of it. Interestingly, but I do not know the significance, is that if you try playing with the 'tools' of the Google search engine, it asks if you want to search in Belarussian (though the seller is reportedly in Germany). It seems that the seller has not been active on Catawiki (at least not under that name) for over a year. Maybe all the Kipchak helmets ran out.

I'd like to see Lodewijk finish the job and do a Yandex search on these items comparing those collecting histories with what a search tells us about other appearances of these items on the Internet.

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