Monday 28 February 2022

That's the way to do it

| "The green fields and woods of rural Northamptonshire look as apparently immutable as much of the British countryside. Next to the remote farm of Blackgrounds, however, a thin layer of innocuous green pasture has been peeled back. Below the surface is revealed a cobbled Roman road, walls, wells, pathways and shops: a bustling, prosperous international settlement long lost to memory" (Patrick Barkham Ticket to Roman Britain: HS2’s route to ancient history Guardian Sun 27 Feb 2022). The main image is "an archaeologist in high-vis clothing and a helmet using a metal detector at Blackgrounds" (Dan Burn-Forti/The Observer).
The team has found more than 1,000 nails and 400 coins. Every find, no matter how trivial, is recorded on GPS. Its location – and depth – is crucial data. “On a normal site, if you find a coin it’s a special thing, whereas here there is something every day,” says West. Right on cue, there’s a beep from the metal detector being swept across the soil by Phil Holt of Red River Archaeology. Is his detector good? “Well, it’s two grand,” Holt laughs. “It’s very good at depth and discrimination and it will tell me on a screen how deep it is. If it’s too deep, I’ll wait until the next context [layer of soil] comes off, so I can record the find in context.”
None of the hasty hoiking of the collector, who'll most likely throw away all the nails without a thought for them, let alone plotting them.... after all, what for eh? Collecting is not doing archaeology.

Sunday 27 February 2022

On Balance...


Over on an artefact collector's forum near you, a discussion has been going on about an object sold by a dealer on the forum, in particular if it is real or fake. I took one look at it, and (after another to check) decided it was a fake. One reason was that a long while ago I'd written up one of these things (for Antiquaries' Journal no less) so I'd taken a long hard look at how they functioned, and the one on the market was lacking one vital functional feature, the others derive from another area of knowledge I have...

But collectors gathered on the forum to discuss and learn about artefacts won't be able to see whether they agree with my reasoning.  I am blocked from Tuppenny Tim's little discussion group, so did not write anything there. 

A few days ago I did however mention it in passing (in an email about something else) to a forum member who'd also suggested that there was another feature why it is a fake.. They then asked me why I said so. I promised that when I had my head above water with something I was doing, I'd do a post on this blog this weekend. 

Anyway, I am not going to write it up just yet. This is because the guy that bought it was sending it back to the dealer, who promised to take another look and see if he'd not made a mistake and then write it up on the forum. My second name is Schadenfreude, so I am going to bide my time and see what the dealer concludes and why, before adding my own contribution.  :>) 

Westfries Museum Theft Revisited


As we watch in horror at what the Russian army is doing in the country and the rhetoric and prejudices that are intended to enable the aggression, I cannot help recalling the language used and assumptions made by Arthur Brand when he was making accusations against Ukrainians at the beginning of the conflict. You can follow it all here: Westfries Museum Theft. Our work does not exist in a polituical vacuum, and I wonder what and whose politics these allegations served. 

Saturday 26 February 2022

March 7th, Henry Cole Subsequent TV-film for Benefit of Metaldetecting in Britain

    Subsequent historical TV film    
 presenter Henry Coles

The long wait is over... as announced in a rambling barely coherent overlong monologue by the series' star detectorist Graeme Rushton, the PAS supported "Henry Cole's Great British Treasure Hunt" begins 9pm 7th March ITV4. Five episodes, one every night for a week. Mr Rushton says he is
"shoe-er your orl going to enjoy it [...] and ov corse theres gonna be people that slag it off. There's gonna be people fer wha'ever reason, a li'lle bitta jealousy creeping in I guess, an' trolls cooming out-the woodwork as they normly do, boot the vast major'ty of normal, decent, people, detectorists and people that like hist'ry are going to really, really enjoy this series" [..] "the trolls'll be out in force usually that, usually, you know, it's usually triggered by jealousy unfortunately".
The guy really does not get it, does he? the people who might be coming out of the woodwork to criticise bad and misguided TV are doing so not because they are "jealous" about anything. Most of us would run a mile before ever being filmed standing next to Henry Cole and smiling indulgently at his puerile humour, let alone with a metal detector is their hands. Ecologistas and environmentalists are not "jealous" of Baz Slaughter and his pal Adrien Bloodsport appearing in the series "Cheeky Tenby Rolex's Big Kenyan Rhino Hunt" in which five teams of big game slaughterers vie with each other to get the most interestingly shaped and valuable rhino horn at the end of the series. They are not "jealous" that Baz blew a hole right through a rhino's chest and sawed of a two kilo keratin cone while the animal was still bleeding. Dispair would probably cover the feeling that they experience that somebody in this day and age would even think this was a good idea for a television series ("for normal decent people that really enjoy nature"). But the PAS liked the idea.

"UnEarthed" Reveals Total Misunderstanding

In the comments to my text on reflective artefact collectors ("Credit Where Credit is Due: "Renate"), an anonymous commenter who wishes to be called "Unknown" writes:
There are some wonderful finds appearing on the "Unearthed" [organization's] digs in Cumbria. Things you and yours would never, ever have found. It must be a real kick in the testes for you, what a shame,
then inexplicably modifies it to:
Comment modification, Orwellian newspeak for Gobellsian censorship. You are such a coward.
I imagine the problem is that he cannot spell Goebbels. I really fail to see the connection with what I wrote about a collector specialising in brooches and what Graeme Rushton's "Unearthed" pay-to-dig company is engaged it. The fundamental problem here is with the message that seems to persist after 25+ years of outreach by the expensive Portable Antiquities Scheme that archaeology is just about digging up lots of loose "things". So metal detectorists are finding "things you and yours would never, ever have found" and they seem to think that an archaeologist would be jealous about being beaten at our own game. I rather think it is the same way as a rhino hunter berating ecologists that their headcount of the number of rhinos in a certain habitat is better than theirs because he is certain that the same animal is not being counted twice. I have asked the Lancashire and Cumbria FLO (Ian Bass, Preston) to comment. Let's see what the PAS position is on this. By the way, if you want to see some of these things you can see the videos here. Warning, they are made by somebody who has no idea about script=-writing or editing, they are rambling, slow and draedfully boring. Skip the beginning, dreadful. The one about the "mysterious" thing with the wings.. is not really a mystery at all, except why the finder does not get it conserved, the iron is already breaking up. You might want to skip their interpretation of their amateurish "research" here. And of course, if you look on the PAS database, they may be "finding fings" but that is a different thing from creating knowledge about Cumbria's past.

Artefact Trade and the February 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Sketch map of some of the Scythian
kurgans and the current Russian advance

 In reply to a statement from the European Association of Archaeologists I wrote:

STOP the European antiquities market handling material from the rampant artefact hunting (looting) already going on Ukraine. Get antiquities dealers engaged in real active source checking and not their usual performative perfunctory 'optical due diligence'. Artefacts must be shown to have legally left the territory of Ukraine before the beginning of conflict (27 February 2014 for Crimea and 24 February 2022 for the rest of the country). Responsible antiquities dealers should be able to demonstrate upfront in sales offers that they are doing this.
Earlier, on the basis of spotting a few items offered for sale I had also written Be on the lookout for Scythian artefacts as military activity plunges areas of Ukrainian territory into chaos. What appear to be Crimean artefacts have already appeared on the UK market. More vigilance needed and more watchdogs scrutinising antiquities market

According to profiling the profession, we have 6000 archaeologists in the UK, but it would seem that is not enough for there to be anyone really looking hard at this market and trying to organise something to deal with the problem of dodgy artefacts on it.


Friday 25 February 2022

Nothing to See Here, Leave That, Let's Move on

The Finlandisation of archaeology goes on with more kowtowing to the object-fetishists.... 

Bonnie L. Pitblado, Matthew J. Rowe, Bryon Schroeder, Suzie Thomas and Anna Wessman (eds) "Professional–Collector Collaboration Moving beyond Debate to Best Practice" Advances in Archaeological Practice Cambridge University Press: 24 February 2022.

"Moving beyond Debate to Best Practice" oh. Where was this "debate" then? Where was the "debate" on what actually is or even can be "best practice" when dealing with collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record? Is this kind of collaboration in site trashing really an "advance in archaeological (sic) practice", Cambridge? The abstract: 

This article introduces the first of what will ultimately be two collections of case studies in archaeologist–responsible/responsive artifact collector collaboration. Focused on the United States, the articles in this issue of Advances in Archaeological Practice share the thoughts and experiences of archaeologists representing diverse employment sectors (compliance, agency, museum, and university), artifact collectors, and members of descendant communities. Research areas extend from California to Virginia and from Ohio to the Texas/Mexico border. The breadth of the writers' backgrounds and their focal regions reinforce the wide applicability of collaborative best practices. Every author explicitly treats two subjects: (1) the intersection of their work with the Society for American Archaeology's (SAA) recently published guidelines for ethical professional–collector collaboration, and (2) their own practical suggestions for establishing and nurturing those relationships. This introductory article provides an overview of each of the other contributions, notes how the contributions articulate with the SAA guidelines, and offers its own, mostly philosophical suggestions for prospective members of professional–collector collaborations.
The rest of the article then follows on. There are undoubtedly those among this text's audience that feel that there is more to world archaeology than some parochial "SAA guidelines" and there is also more than one type of legislation than that of the two countries (USA and UK) where pro-collecting views are strongest. Who is a "responsible" or "responsive" artefact hunter in Greece, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Poland, China, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia? Can the five authors explain how their collaboration model works there? 

The five authors agree that "ethical collaborative partnerships [with responsive collectors - PMB] are attainable, will improve understanding of the past and protection of the material record, and can (indeed, must) respect all  -not some —people with a vested interest in the past". These authors say they want to move beyond "an oversimplified debate to focus instead on how to appropriately foster relationships between heritage professionals and responsible private collectors". They then go on to point out that in the USA,
The SAA defines “responsible and responsive stewards” as private individuals who legally collect or own artifacts and who share archaeologists’ desire to learn about the past, rather than exploiting the material record for personal gain. The latter point is crucial, because it recognizes that collectors are not a monolithic subculture of evildoers. Rather, they collect for diverse reasons that are not necessarily antithetical to archaeological and even Indigenous goals and values [...]. Conflating and construing all collectors as “looters” is unproductive and fundamentally nonanthropological
Is it? Perhaps the issue here is of focus. The authors are confusing agency with effect. The looters of Isin or el Hibeh, Apamea, Dura Europos, Wanborough and elsewhere may be jolly good citizens, caring fathers, brothers and boyfriends. Some of them may also be history lovers, coin collectors and birdwatchers. Whatever their motives and background, from the archaeological and conservation point of view, it's the holes they dug and dig that is a problem. And that is irrespective of whether they dug those holes because everybody else in the neighbourhood was and they  enjoyed the company, and were curious about what they could find, rather than going to "exploit the archaeological record for material gain". In any case, what does that mean? If holes are dug and material things taken out and kept, that is indeed material gain. The collector has gained a collectable (and got it without paying a dealer for it). Is that not too "material gain", whether or not the collector then reads a few online articles pages to help narrativise it? 

These five authors accuse those who question what they are saying as engaging in "oversimplified debate" without wanting themselves to actually debate the fundamental concepts they are glibly skipping over. They declare themselves ready to "move beyond" something they apparently consider to be beneath them to discuss in detail

They confidently assert that the "ethical collaborative partnerships" that they advocate will, allegedly, "improve understanding of the past". Except when they do not, I guess. But of course those cases where it does not are somehow explained away as "not being best practice" or "responsive" enough. Archaeology was "not trying hard enough" to turn out the silk purses from secondhand incomplete scraps of information from an episode of unmethodical collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record here and there. 

They skip over facts like that in the best documented case, the PAS in the UK, that's eight in nine cases are NOT "respons/ive-ible". I'd like to see the figures for Denmark and all the other countries where artefact hunters are held up as exemplary poster boys - but I guess there is a reason why those numbers are nt being boasted about. So where does that put their model and where does working with some domesticated archaeo-friendly collectors get us as a whole? 

As for saying that working with this minority "will" (sic) "improve protection of the material record"... Pardon? Possibly what they mean by that term is not the material record itself, but just the ripped-out objects, the collected arrowheads (or whatever) and not the sites and the information in the uncollected assemblages of debitage and unworked raw material a site will contain. 

I think if you take a site-focused view (and WHY NOT?), and see the degree collectors (collaboration offered or not) are not "responsive" to anything but their own selfish interests, then this is simply a false statement. Wishful thinking refusing to look at the realities. And yet we are the ones  five authors insultingly accuse of engaging in "oversimplified debate".  

Those realities are expressed by the discussion around the creation of an Institute of Detectorists in the UK. the home of "responsible detecting". Take a look at any collectors' forum to expose the realities.  

I really must take issue with the pomposity of "partnerships [...] must [...] respect all, not some, people with a vested interest in the past". To my mind this includes all non-collectors who have a vested interest in the archaeological record (their archaeological record) not being looted away into collectors' pockets, destroying the context. It does not matter how transparent those pockets are, the destruction of archaeological evidence by those hoiking them out willy-nilly is something that all people aware of the problem should be fighting against. Not listening to those dismissing it as a non-problem. And who should be making the general public aware of this damage? Why... there are several international documents that make this clear that it is not the task of librarians or train drivers. So where are the archaeologists who should be doing this? Up their ivory tower fondling some bits of metal that some bloke found in a field for them and gloatingly putting another dot on their distribution map and singing the praises of "partnership".  

Слава Україні


I am really struggling today, a lot of conflicting and alien emotions. 200 km from my home there are houses being shelled, men shooting to kill other men who they claim are their "brothers" but also "enemies", women and children fleeing, leaving behind everything they own to be looted or destroyed. Just beyond that, tanks on the road to the shining jewel that is Kiev. 

Thursday 24 February 2022

Attack on Ukraine 24th February 2022

Ukraine. After weeks of increasing tensions and conflicting information, around 5 am on February 24, Kiev time, Vladimir Putin in a new address announced a "special military operation" in Ukraine. At the same time, the Russian Federation began shelling Ukrainian cities. Today, Russian troops based in Russia, Belarus and on the Crimea carried out more than 30 missile and bomb attacks on airfields, military depots and facilities in many regions along the state border (a section of the border with the Russian Federation and Belarus) and including in the western regions of Ukraine. Attempts were made by military equipment to cross the border. Russian troops skirted round most of the big towns, including Ukraine's biggest Russian-speaking city (and at the same time the country's largest city) Kharkiv. Russian troops are also attacking from the Crimea heading towards the Kherson region. It is reported that military operations and shelling affected 17 regions of Ukraine, including the vicinity of Kiev (Boryspil, Gostomel airports). The invaders have met still opposition from the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In te first day, despite claims from the aggressor that only military targets were targeted, It is reported that already in the first day dozens of Ukrainians have died, including military and civilians, hundreds of people have been injured, and many civilian objects have been damaged. Russian losses in the first day were reported as more than 350 people killed. Martial law has been introduced in Ukraine and general mobilization announced.

Reportedly Russian president Putin said that the future plans of the right-wing government of Moscow "do not include the occupation of Ukraine", but the Russian Federation will strive for its "demilitarization" and what it called the country's "denazification". What is meant by the latter is wholly unclear, while nationalism and patriotism have been strong in Ukraine since the beginning of this conflict in 2014, they are no less so than in the Russian Federation itself. While an attacked Ukraine may turn out to be a formidable foe, whether or not the country's military in its January 2022 was in any way a threat to its peaceful neighbours (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova) is regarded as a highly dubious argument also.

Wednesday 23 February 2022

Bazaar Archaeology: Issues About Four Artefacts Displayed in Internet Yesterday

Oka and Riazan

When an auctioneer plasters information all over the Internet about stuff they have on consignment, it is inevitable that people from various walks of life will look at it. That includes my Mum, it includes me and my colleagues (I have one that cites objects from the UK market as parallels) and it includes collectors. One of the latter has helpfully shared some observations on some of the items sold by one very prominent UK auction house to some happy buyers yesterday (Renate "Timeline Auctions yesterday" Ancient Artifacts Feb 23 #96340). She points out some careless cataloguing of items they have accepted from consigners and the four items discussed illustrate the range of problems with the no-questions-asked antiquities market as a whole. These are all issues that should be being more widely discussed and that dealers thrust evidence and real-life cases right under our noses is an incentive to embark on such discourse. I'd like to reiterate what she says and add some points.

Renate notes issues with a "Large Viking Age Openwork Annular Brooch 10th to 14th centuries" Lot No. 0378. The "provenance" is very sketchy, provides no information on grounding "Acquired 1971-1972. From the collection of the vendor's father. Property of a London, UK, collector". Of course that should be read the other way round, and then "acquired" needs more expansion, where, from whom, how, and with what legitimating documentation. Silence from the sellers.

TimeLine Auctions are very fond of using a Soviet-era book as reference, without recognising, it seems, its propaganda purpose (and from other evidence in the auction, without being able to read the Russian text, they refer mainly to the pictures, summary plates that were created to make a Soviet-era point). They really need to get some specialists in this material to vet their catalogues. [the book is by Valentin Vasilyevich (not "B.B." as TimeLine have it) Sedov (d. 2004), 'Finno-Ugri i Balti v Epokhi Srednevekovija', Moscow, 1987]. TimeLine refer to the picture, Renate explains that rather than being in any way connected with "Vikings",
"the piece is a filigree ring brooch of the ancestors of the Finno-Ugrians. These pieces were worn in the Ryazan-Oka region around the 5th century"
 and provides more details. Just in case any Brits are geography-challenged when it comes to anything east of the Elbe, there is a map up above. In the last TimeLine auctions they also had some stuff from the same general region, also misidentified. Now, it is very unlikely that there were many metal detectorists in this region in 1971-2, so how was this item found? Who cleaned it and who exported it from the Soviet Union to the former owner's father's collection? What connections did that father have with the Soviet Union? All these questions about the origins of this item are left unanswered by the consigner and seller

The second item is a "Roman gilt silver crossbow brooch, 4th century AD, Lot No. 0096". Here is a 31-second video of it and you can see how it is constructed, note that the "Comments are turned off" so you cannot discuss or share opinions on it. This is pretty typical of this auctioneer. I love these things, in another life, I even persuaded a former girlfriend to write her undergrad thesis on them so we could talk about them. The seller’s description is rather skimpy on construction detail and condition. The "provenance" equally so: "North American collection, 1990s-2000s. Property of a Surrey gentleman". rather bald, no? In which Roman province was it found, even? Renate correctly notes:
"Looks like the piece is damaged by pimping. The surface on the foot is expected to be as smooth and even as the surface of the bow, but there are tooling marks (see image attached). Either the foot is a modern addition, or more likely the volutes were carved out after excavation. More manipulations are possible, but not clearly recognizable".
This is where better photos, from other angles and a more expressive description would help the buyer see what they are getting. But you show me a dealer that writes a sales description to the detail of even the most skimpy PAS report (serving as a model for the collector for 25 years - why don't they learn from it?).

The third set of issues concern an odd little thing marketed as a "Merovingian gilt silver fly brooch, 4th - 6th centuries AD, Lot No. 1435". Oh yeah. I think the collector is supposed to recall here the gold cicadas in Childeric's grave, aped by Napoleon. Again, a photo f at least the underside would help understanding what they've got. The "provenance" determined by the auction-house is as skimpy as the rest: "German collection before 2000. Collection of Mr D.H., formed in UK, from the EU art market. Property of a Surrey gentleman". There we are a collection history going back to the owner-before-the previous-one. But what does that actually tell us about where and how it was found, by whom, and what paperwork made its pocketing and sale legal? (Answer: zero). D.H. might know, but how can we find out if we do not have a proper name? So what is the point of a dealer giving half-facts that mean nothing? (Answer: zero, apart from plausible deniability if challenged). The consigner/ repeated by TimeLine apparently without checking cite "Arrhenius, B., Merovingian Garnet Jewellery, Stockholm, 1985"... Renate has checked:
"An even remotely similar insect brooch does not appear in the book mentioned. It does not appear in other books either, because it is not ancient. It looks as if the head of no. 15 on the attached page from Kühn (1935) and the wings of no. 17 had been put together. The style of both parts is too different to be of antique making. There are also small impact marks on the body, the granulation and around the eyes. On the one hand, these are traces of manufacture that have not been removed by polishing, on the other hand, they are faked signs of age".
Seems fairly clear. I'd also draw attention to how those garnets are set. So where, then does that put "D.H." and that German collector who bought the thing as a real antiquity. Did they shift it back onto the market when they realised it was not? Is that why there are so many fakes currently in circulation? Was TimeLine appraised why the object was appearing on the market the third time in 20 years? [reference cited by Renate: Kühn, Herbert (1935): Die Zikadenfibeln der Völkerwanderungszeit. In IPEK - Jahrbuch für prähistorische und ethnographische Kunst (10), pp. 85–106.]

Let's also note that things that look like this are frequently seized upon by the Loony-fringe and represented as "evidence" that earth was visited by alien space ships, because... well, this looks like a plane doesn'ty it?

     Pair of fibulae (TimeLine Auctions,
 fair use for comment and criticism)

The fourth item discussed by Renate was a "Germanic Radiate Brooch Pair, 6th-7th century AD Lot No. 0381". And I am glad she wrote about it first... The "provenance" is vague: "Family UK collection, 1980s. UK art market. Property of a Surrey gentleman". So this "family" got it how, and from where? In the 1980s. Again, from behind the Iron Curtain. As Renate notes (with correct use of the inverted commas):
"Not Germanic, but “Slavic”. They’re local East European variants of Gothic brooches, Werner I B type" [refs cited, one corrected here later].
It's notable that this seems to be a matched pair (from a burial perhaps?). Note that these fibulae are unusual in that they were worn "upside down" compared to the majority of earlier fibulae. 

There are very few such items in British public collections.  But a Surrey "gentleman" was flogging a pair off. These items would most likely have come from one of two regions, up on the Baltic coast in the region of what is now NW Poland, or down in the south in the Carpathian Basin and along the lower Danube. It is a matter for further research (which I am supposed to be doing in my day job) why they are so rare in the areas between. Of course if artefact hunters are ripping them all out of the ground on the sites where one could look at their associations with other evidence, this is just one area where research will not make any progress because careless collectors have thieved a large portion of the material evidence without leaving any paper record of what came from where. "Family UK collection" is not a usable findspot or context of deposition/discovery. This is selfish in the extreme because it is not UK archaeological heritage being trashed here, UK collectors are deliberately trashing the heritage of other countries with not a care for any kind of collaboration to make sure information is lost. This is knowledge theft across international borders and must be stopped. STOP Taking Our Past.

It is gratifying to see that among collectors, there are some like Renate who can  actually see through all the fog created by sellers around the issues of origins, grounding, and information content of the trophy objects they sell.  

Monday 21 February 2022

Where Did That Come From?

The four (!) day February Ancient Art, Antiquities and Coins (140) of "TimeLine Auctions, Inc. Gregory, Bottley and Lloyd (Gregorys) Est. 1858" is beginning today, and we will be watching the fate of certain objects that are going under the hammer there. They have been widely plastered all over the internet over the past few weeks* as part of the company's marketing procedure, and therefore can be examined, assessed and commented on by the viewing public from all walks of life through a variety of online sources.** As usual, the vast majority of the consigned items offered by the auctioneer (except a handful of recently metal-detected items recorded by PAS) lack anything but the most sketchy of collection histories or actual provenance, with no mention of any supporting documentation. Very few of them therefore are in any way "grounded" in a secure context and the potential buyer is dependent on them being correctly identified (and therefore valorised) by the seller - which is never a good situation. The auctioneer here adds a veneer of respectability (and plausible deniability) to the whole process. I may discuss a few items after the sale... there is quite a lot to unpack surrounding several of them, but for the moment caveat emptor and all that.

  Glass cup (TimeLine Auctions Ltd). Fair use for comment and criticism. 

Here's a nice thing to be going on with, I must admit that after a report I wrote back in England a lifetime ago, I do have a soft spot for Roman glass. If you bid in the auction, this could be yours: "Roman clear glass bowl" 3rd - 4th cent AD, 82mm (Barnaby's link). Collection history: "From a deceased Japanese collector, 1970-2015". Estimate £700 - 900 (USD 950 - 1,230). Here it is beautifully photographed, picking out the copious bubbles that are a distinguishing feature of this type of object.....

As an archaeologist, I would observe that fragile glass vessels like this would survive intact most frequently in graves, and ancient cemeteries are places where artefact hunters will find  lots  of "productive" loci all gathered together. A lot of material on the antiquities trade (like a lot of that "wearable" jewellery) is most easy for artefact hunters to find by grave robbing. Every sale will contain a large proportion of objects of this type (but of course since they do not actually state where they are from, it is easy to keep the customer underinformed about this). I would also ask the seller whether this palm-cup type object is not in fact later than 4th cent AD, is it properly described?

So, how did it get to a Japanese collector some time in the wide time span between 1970 and 2015? From which country was it initially exported? Where was it reported to have been dug up, and were any graves damaged at the same time? Where, actually did this come from? Where will it find a new home? Perfectly legitimate questions, everybody.

* and Mr Hammond, you do not "own" the Internet and cannot dictate through your lawyers what others do through it with regard to material you yourself place openly in the public domain. You may use it as your shopfront, but commerce does not have a monopoly over the information content of the web as a whole. 

** By the way, take note however of the number of places where the ability to comment on what is shown by TimeLine is in fact turned off, preventing any opinions being expressed. This seems rather to defeat the object of placing them on social media such as YouTube in the first place.

Saturday 19 February 2022

Credit Where Credit is Due: "Renate"


Readers of this blog will be aware that I have a rather low opinion on carefree collectors of unpapered and decontextualised archaeological artefacts. Their hobby is leading to enormous and irreversible damage to the archaeological record. I also actively challenge the mantra that their site trashing and pocket filling is a form of "studying the past" and "contributing to knowledge" by pointing out that many of them that one can come across in the UK and US can barely formulate a simple sentence in English, and its a shame they took up artefact hunting and collecting instead of Pokemon cards and vintage diecast model cars.  

There are some exceptions, like the collector that I (and not a few others) will always go to with a query about ancient lamps. I'd like to add another, mentioned here earlier. The individual known as "Renate" (I'm not certain if they are a collector, and they deny being an archaeologist), is a knowledgeable source of information on ancient personal ornament, brooches and pendants mostly.  You can find many (838 in fact) of their texts and comments on this subject on the forum (about the only thing worth reading there these days). In particular I'd recommend taking a look at the series of pdfs "Catawiki Notes" from June 2020-Dec 2021 (accessible here, not all will download and some have incorrect links). There is an interesting caveat:

There’s no archaeological expertise here, just a private opinion based on images only. Maybe there’s nonsense although the research has been in-depth. The aim is to encourage you as a collector to look carefully and not to trust every item description. Even serious dealers make mistakes, others sell garbage because they don’t care, and some cheat on purpose. Find out more about your field of interest and form your own opinion! All auctions are still online, even the finished ones. The headline in this text is always the headline the dealer has chosen. Just use it as keywords in a search engine to see. If too many incorrect results are returned, just add the lot number. Or tap on the link next to it.

I do not know who this person is, slight hiccups in the texts suggest that they are not a native English speaker. They read several European languages, including (kudos) Slavic one(s) and their analysis of Eastern and Central European finds is spot-on, which is rare in the anglophone literature (and of course most dealers selling this stuff have not a clue). I agree with most of what is written here, though differ a little on some of the detail why certain items are fakes (I think they are fakes but not primarily for the reason given). The texts are carefully composed, evidence deep research and knowledge of the literature and material, and are fully referenced. It is certainly well worth spending time with these informative texts, whether you are a buyer or not. Dealers would do good to learn here too before they peddle their nonsense. 

Thursday 17 February 2022

Great British Treasure Hunt

Reporter George Lythgoe is still keen on promoting the looting of the archaeological heritage for edutainment (Metal detectorists from Furness will dig for treasure and a trophy in new ITV five-part series next month' Furness News 17th February 2022). He's still plugging the dumbdown ITV series 'Henry Cole's Great British Treasure Hunt'. I was really sad to see this:
"Their finds will be assessed and scored by expert judges. Archaeologist Dr Susheela Burford (the show’s Finds Liaison Officer) will evaluate the historical interest and significance of each item, then award a number of points, from five for the most interesting, down to one for the least. To add some extra excitement, auctioneer and independent valuer Adam Partridge then takes a look and hands out a bonus point for the find with the highest monetary value. Scores accumulate across the five episodes, shown over successive evenings from Monday to Friday, and whichever duo has the highest at the end of the week wins the prestigious GBTH trophy. In 2020, the show was dubbed as 'the Antiques Road Trip meets the Detectorist' by the Radio Times."
Object-centred, as usual. That the ITV is unable to make a show that promotes an archaeological approach to archaeological evidence is not really a surprise to anyone. That British archaeology has not yet worked out how to promote a wider public understanding of an archaeological approach to archaeological evidence is the tragedy of the discipline. That somebody from the main outreach scheme that does exist lends an air of legitimacy to this is just pathetic.


Wednesday 16 February 2022

Shropshire Detecting on Pasture: Is this "Citizen Archaeology"?

Ring Pull Paul Metal Detecting (450 subscribers) new video Feb 15, 2022:
Back On the Gold Field for a 5 day session to see what other treasures are waiting to be discovered. After finding the 1675 mourning Ring I decided to book a week off work and give it a real good going over. On day 3 I found a William III Half Crown silver coin plus lots of old penny's and artifacts. Follow me on my journey with my minelab equinox 800 and see what I find metal detecting uk 2022.
Nort exactly rivetting stuff, but note pasture, but above all the features that determine where material is coming from and where not. Secondhand records of finsdspots of even all finds from this search area would not give any kind of picture of the archaeology of the site. Still less if there is only selective recording of the haul.

Monday 14 February 2022

Antiquities Collectors: A Dying Breed One Day


Comments from the New York Times article about the Sadigh fake antiquities case are being cited over on an artefact collector's group page near you

"Hard to feel bad for people who step over the homeless to buy junk just because it is supposedly old. What is the allure of something you would throw away if it wasn't old?”

"Considering that folks who buy this stuff are overwhelmingly unconcerned for history and just want something pretty to brag about, I'd say this guy deserves an award.”

 "The man probably saved millions of real treasures from being looted because he satisfied the demand with fakes! He’s a genius and a protector of antiquities! He is a hero!!!”

and a bit later:Jim Catalano writes Feb 8 #96262:

From the remarks it looks like the hobby has a public relations problem. We need to do a much better job explaining to the public the allure of collecting ancient artifacts and the educational rewards involved. We desperately need to change our image as "looters" who rob history. We also need to recruit new blood (i.e. young people) into our hobby.
No, we need young people to realise that antiquities that have no paperwork because they were bought on the no-questions-asked antiquities market 1970-2022+ are the reason why it is possible to insert more and more looted items onto the market (required by the demand from that "new blood"). We need young people to walk away from this destructive business model and reject it, in the same way as they'd reject any fashion clothing using real fur in it. Today furs are worn mainly by narcissistic sociopaths, soon antiquity collecting will go the same way.

Aldo Tamburrino Feb 8 #96264 remarks:
Similar arguments not only in anti-collecting blogs. It seems to be the general perception that most people have. Few of my friends know that I collect antiquities, and none of them have seen all the artifacts I have (not many!). When I told them about my hobby, all of them thought that I was involved with a criminal band, and my dealers were some bandits smuggling precious antiquities from corrupt countries (just in case, they are educated colleagues) [...].
Hmm. For every seller or ancient artefacts he can claim actually to be educated, I think we can quite easily show another eight in the market as a whole who clearly have not the faintest idea what they are doing. Of course then he'll retort "ah, but they are no real dealer", but of course if the artefacts are real dugups, then yes they are. And well, yes, there is a lot of evidence that some of the antiquities currently on the market are put there by criminal bands, and some dealers do seem to have business contacts with middlemen supplied by bandits smuggling precious antiquities from other countries, corrupt or not. I think we'd all like to see Mr Tamburrino's artefacts and associated paperwork.

Saturday 12 February 2022

UK Commercial Company Using Archaeological Records as a Quarry of Site Locations for Artefact Hunting

I must congratulate you on ARCHI. It's a wonderful resource

Myself and Mo have used ARCHI UK almost
since its inception by Chris Kutler many years ago.
Obviously its even better today and is an amazing tool for the detectorist, beginner or expert.

Over the weekend, there has been growing interest in social media about the use of the data compiled from archaeological sources in a commercial database run by ARCHI INFORMATION SYSTEMS LTD. According to LinkedIn, this has been running for 3 years ( Jan 2019 - Present) and according to online records, its Managing Director is Chris Kutler who had founded the company as the London based 'ARCHI UK (Archaeology) LTD' that has operated for over 22 years right under the archaeologists' noses (Oct 1999 - Present)
ARCHI ( is used worldwide by individual private clients and in the educational sectors for the presentation and analysis of British and international archaeological, historical and cultural site locational data.
Published examples of such analyses include....
....... oh.

Anyway, before that, it was 'Archaeology UK - The UK and Worldwide Archaeological and Beautiful Sites Index (ARCHI)':
Database of more than 200,000 British and Worldwide Archaeological sites and sites of natural beauty and aerial photographs of sites in England, Scotland and Wales.
Before that, online records note that Mr Kutler worked for 18 years in the British National Archives as an 'Archival Data Analyst' (Apr 2000 - Jul 2018), the two activities overlapping (possible conflict of interest here?). There were prior to that some short spells in electronic publishing after Mr Kutler finished a something listed under education as "Birkbeck, University of London Field Archaeology 1997 - 1999" whatever that means. But it means that shortly after (?) he finished that stint of whatever-it-was at Birkbeck, he started up supplying archaeological locational information as ARCHI UK (Archaeology) Ltd.
ARCHI UK is the database of more than 200,000 British Archaeological Sites covering the whole of England, Scotland and Wales. It is regularly updated with 10,000 new additions made to the database every year. [...] The ARCHI service is used by a wide range of people for a wide range of purposes. From world-renown [sic] academic institutions such as Princeton University to Metal Detectorists, Field Walkers, Ramblers, Local Historians and all sorts of people from all walks of life [...] The precise locations (as GPS co-ordinates and marked on maps) of tens of thousands of Prehistoric, Roman, Iron Age / Celtic sites, Bronze Age, Saxon and Medieval sites and later sites are listed in the UK database. Plus there are links to road maps and aerial photographs showing the location of the sites on the ground. Many beautiful and historically significant coins and artefacts and previously unknown ancient sites have already been found and reported by field walkers and metal detectorists who have used the ARCHI iUK database for their research.[...] The ARCHI UK database (Archaeological Sites Index) contains details of sites mentioned in rare books and archaeological reports / surveys which are not easily found outside specialist libraries.
The 200,000+ UK archaeological sites listed in the ARCHI UK (ARCHI UK) database come from published sources such as hundreds of archaeological reports, county archaeological journals, findspots reported by archaeologists, fieldwalkers and metal detectorists and treasure hunters who have previously reported their finds while treasure hunting. The data from a search links to aerial photographs of sites enabling you to view many fascinating cropmarks and pinpoint the exact locations of the sites recorded in the database on the ground. [...] There is continuous work on the development of new technical features designed to further simplify the the identification and location of existing and new archaeological sites in the UK. [...] The cost of a subscription to the ARCHI UK database of UK and Worldwide Archaeological Sites is £8.90 per month or save by subscribing annually for £42.50 (+VAT).
So, there we have it, some guy is scouring the published results of archaeological fieldwork as well as reported Treasure locations so his company's clients can easily and simply identify and locate the findspots and archaeological sites in the UK. Some may come to stand on the x-marks the spot (with the landowner's permission) to gawp. Maybe. Others will be lured by the prospect of using their computer screen or iPhone to be led straight to the very spot where "many beautiful and historically significant coins and artefacts have already been found" by others and wanting to try their luck without having to "do the research" into the landscape itself. Just target the sites. Using the very documentation that archaeologists have created to preserve information to target those sites to destroy part or all of the rest of the information they contain.

Egypt antiquities trafficking case resumes proceedings

Egypt antiquities trafficking case resumes proceedings February 11, 2022

Cairo’s criminal court will resume proceedings in an antiquity trafficking case today amid an Egyptian crackdown on artifact smuggling. 17 people—including a wealthy Egyptian businessman and a former member of parliament—are charged with excavating and smuggling over 200 artifacts abroad. The artifacts were sent to Europe, the Gulf States, and the US. Though antiquities trafficking has declined recently, it has been a problem in Egypt since the 2011 uprising weakened the tourism sector.

History for the Taking: Courtesy of the Historical Environment Record


Come and get it.... 

History for the taking by clients of a commercial artefact hunting and site trashing group: courtesy of the Historical Environment Record (which is supposed to be used as a conservation tool).

Sneaky Peekers in Secretive "Fen Diggers"

We Dig Heritage note: "it's concerning to see a Pay to Detect Rally Group using the HER to encourage people to buy tickets.  When found out try to remove people from the group.  Something to hide?"

The Fen Diggers Metal Detecting Group is a Facebook-based private group run from Leverington-Wisbech. It was founded first as "metal detecting East" and/or "metal detecting East Anglia" in January 2019. Then its name changed to the present one at the end of August 2020. The name of the organizer is unknown to me. They describe themselves as:

A friendly run group with rally days, share finds, gain knowledge etc we are located Cambridgeshire but welcome people from all over. Private: Only members can see who's in the group and what they post [...]  What's shared in the group should stay in the group.
Hmm. A private club for friendly finds sharers. I'd put it differently.

Take a look at this: "It seems not everyone in this group is here for the same reasons we are". This is the same thing that happens on all the forums (recently on MDF). The purpose of this purge is to remove archaeology/conservation conscious observers. So if that is the case, who are "the rest of us" who are left? Once again, what is "responsible metal detecting"? They've just gone down to 657 members from 830 this morning.  

How to Participate and Observe in a Closed Access Metal Detecting Group


As we have seen, British metal detecting groups, aware they have a lot to hide, don't like non artefact hunters looking over their shoulders, so they try and detect and block as many as they can. Most recently Fen Diggers Private Facebook Group.

So if you want to see what is happening to the British archaeological heritage by doing netnographic research for yourself, you might need professional help to get inside undetected (which has ethical issues attached too), but if that's not available you can just try to blend in. Here are some tips on how to become and stay a participant observing what goes on in a closed access UK metal detecting group (which of course from an academic point of view involves ethical issues if you intend to use the results in research). 

1) If you are based in the EU, you'll stand out like a sore thumb, get a proxy server that shows as UK-based.

2) Since these forums do not use real names, you need not bother setting up a false identity like the more sophisticated bots. Have a look at the members list of some British forums to see the ways these online-names are chosen. DiggerBaz, Black Jack, Monkeybreath, Alanlad, DennysDad, SteeltoeJim are some good examples. DO NOT USE CAPITALS in the name.   

3) You need an avatar picture. Some tekkies use a good coin they (wish they had) found, or a picture of their nine year old daughter for some reason. Others use the English flag. It seems group moderators increasingly want to see faces. So what I suggest doing is going to You Tube and looking up Polish off-roader films (or something equally environmentally destructive) and you'll find some suitable faces in outdoor gear. Crop a suitable screenshot. They can't be spotted through image search, and the actual person depicted is unlikely ever to get into a members only metal detecting forum to find out, but you can use simple image processing software to change them anyway. 

4) If you are female, pretend to be a man. It'll be easier.

5) Then you need something ("finds") to write about. There is a problem here because you really should not be buying stuff on eBay to use in your posts. I suggest going to a tip or landfill and looking on the road (ask permission), where you'll find all sorts of dropped corroded metal bits lying around, pick some that look like "something really old", and voilà.   

6) Then register. 

7) You need to make some posts now. You might try the "new members introduce yourself" section, but be aware that you might be asked some questions, so inventiveness might be needed so as not to give yourself away.

8) You can make a post on "last weekend's finds" (showing the bits you picked up at the tip) asking what members think, is there anything here worth keeping (DO NOT ask if it is "worth recording with the PAS"). When members tell you it's a load of crap, thank them profusely and express gratitude that you have the opportunity to learn so much from them. End with a smiley (or applause) emoticon. 

9) Bear in mind that on these forums, there is always a huge amount of content that consists of copying the entire previous post and answering underneath it "I agree with Baz" (or whoever). DO NOT say "I can't agree with Baz" as that will immediately alienate you. You can also get away with answering with just an emoticon [as above], or a string of two-to five different ones, if it is responding to anything about what a critical archaeologist says, use 'Mr Angry' emoticons, the redder the better. British metal detectorists tend to be spare with words. 

10) Note that a dead giveaway is writing any content at all that is more than eight sentences long. Don't do it. From what you will see, it is easy to get the impression that the average metal detectorist seems unable to read /write more in one go. Sentences must be short and simple in structure, with a maximum of two clauses. Be sparing with words of more than three syllables.

11) To do this properly, you have to imagine that you spent most of your school years staring out of the window not listening; write as if you have limited grasp of the grammar of your native language. Try to use the word "of" instead of "have" frequently. Plurals are made with apostrophes. Write incomplete sentences in a stream-of-consciousness style. You should not betray knowledge of any punctuation marks apart from full stops, question and exclamation marks and commas. Be aware how they are used. Full stops are only used to end every fourth sentence, the rest are run-ons. Commas are used sparingly. Exclamation marks are used for emphasis and question marks can go at the end of statements instead of a full stop.  Spelling is entirely optional and gut-feeling-phonetic. Do not use a spell checker.

12) Do not mention the PAS or reveal you know the FLO. The majority of metal detectorists avoid them. Forget promoting responsible behaviour in anything you write, they will not thank you for those comments and will delete your account very soon afterwards.

If you follow these tongue-in-cheek guidelines, you should be able to blend in and could very well survive the purging of the membership of these secretive organisations long enough to get a good idea of what actually goes on in the metal detecting community. If  "metal detectorists" were actually what they all insist they are, they would operate open forums that support a variety of views on how the archaeological heritage should be treated, and there would be no need for an observer genuinely interested in learning the realities to go through this sort of charade . 

Friday 11 February 2022

British Museum "Collection Online" has Lost Some of its Functionality

British Museum’s Collection online has been completely redeveloped. Reportedly, it allows access to "almost four and a half million objects in more than two million records". However the original endpoint [] is not working and it seems unlikely that it is ever coming back.

A once leading platform for open heritage data from one of the world’s major museum collections, gone. Over two million “persistent” URIs – relied upon as authoritative by many other projects – dead.
This of course affects also pages created by other organizations in the source countries of the material in the British Museum that serve as the only means of access for many citizens of those countries to the material now in a distant foreign collection. 

There is a mysterious dramatic reference to "current extraordinary circumstances" on the new Collections page. Is that a collapse of the Museum's web infrastructure due to the dismissal of key personnel championing and overseeing this effort, without any sustainability plan being in place and a lack of interest or support by current leadership. Or has it been hacked by cultural property terrorists protesting about the material shut away in this imperial museum? Is the Portable Antiquities Database going to suffer the same fate with the loss of all those "data"?

A twitter account  Is the British Museum’s endpoint working? @bm_lod_status has been following these problems since October 2018 when it seems these problems were already appearing, at first sporadically, but then with increasing frequency (2 385 Tweetów). It might be noted that certain key personnel changes took place in the BM's Digital Humanities department in January/February 2018.

Association for Metal Detecting Sport (AMDS)

     Energetic site exploration

Message for metal detectorists from the Association for Metal Detecting Sport (AMDS) " The experienced voice for metal detecting", "JOIN NOW to become part of our family".
You now can make the right choice and join us.


The Association for Metal Detecting Sport was established towards the end of 2021 when several long serving metal detectorists were deprived of insurance and a voice for their respective regions. In order to continue pursuing their hobby and to protect themselves and their regional members, they established an insurance cover scheme supported and financed by a concerned benefactor and a team of willing volunteers. This insurance scheme was designed to offer competitive insurance to all metal detectorists at reasonable rates i.e. £5:00 per year. The aim was to fill the vacuum that exists between ordinary detectorists and the decision makers that have influence over the hobby.
Hmm, and who might this anonymous artefact-hunting-supporting "concerned benefactor" be? Where is this "vacuum" asnd how will the Association for Metal Detecting Sport fill it? This seems nothing more than an overblown insurance schere, but - interestingly enough absolutely no terms and conditions to the insurance policy itself are given on the website. Under what circumstances will compensation not be paid, and who decides? This is actually important, because if an artefact hunter gains access to land on the grounds that they are covered by public liability insurance and can pay compensation - and then it turns out that through not reading the small print, the cover does not actually apply to a particular circumstance and the insurance company fails to pay up, the artefact hunter him or herself is then personally liable for the damage done. The insurance policy should form part of the paperwork on the basis of which the permit is awarded. 

Is collection-driven exploitation (aka "looting") of the archaeological record in fact a "sport"? Why? Can it be made into an Olympic event? We are further told:
AMDS will always endeavour to have the best interests of its members at the heart of all its deliberations. By joining AMDS you will be helping to put personal involvement back in the hobby. It is our policy to influence those at the very heart of the establishment i.e. the NFU, CLA, PAS and Government. To this end AMDS have people who have experience spanning over 40 years, who were heavily involved in the introduction of the Treasure Act 1996, Green Waste - Waste not wanted, Nighthawking, Heritage Initiative etc., and who continue to do so actively.

The AMDS has no affiliations to any other organisations, including the IoD, and the AoD.

Here is the information about who we are: Jed Walker [...] John Wells [...] David Rees [...] Rachel Edwards [...] Teresa Barnett [...] Cat Thomas [...] William Fitzpatrick [...] The others in the team are all connected with legal and other professions and not metal detecting or archaeology, and they wish to remain anonymous and that is respected.
They may endeavour to have the best interests of the hobby at the heart of all its deliberations, but what about resource conservation? The group of "those at the very heart of the establishment" (sic) they will be lobbying includes the PAS but no other heritage organization. 

Furthermore, this group defines "responsible metal detecting" (just) as "taking part in any metal detecting on land with the permission of the landowner", including "metal detecting in commercial detecting events'.

What does "helping to put personal involvement back in the hobby" mean? Also stressing the organizers' qualifications including "were heavily involved in [...] nighthawking" seems particularly unfortunate phrasing. And of course to the dullards: "has no affiliations to [...] the IoD, and the AoD" is a telling reference to who,precisely this group has been set up for. No wonder "the others in the team [...] wish to remain anonymous".

The logos of its supporters at the bottom of the home page include: The Searcher and treasure Hunting magazines, but also Mark Harrison's Heritage Watch and the Portable Antiquities Scheme. I wonder why they would be supporting such an organization. 

Wednesday 9 February 2022

The Consequences of Platitudes

Hampshire FLO Jenny Durrant ( @Durrant_Jenny 15 g.)

Recently finders have told me of coin hoards being taken away in handfuls from the ground, of nighthawked finds being 'found' on club digs, of bragging about not reporting treasure. This is THEFT. Know something? Notify the police - anonymously, by phone or online. Please.
David Roberts @DavidRobertsArch  
Zablokowano Cię Nie możesz obserwować ani czytać Tweetów użytkownika @DavidRobertsArc.
Huh. More usefully:
James Sainsbury @JSArchaeology 1 g.
W odpowiedzi do @Durrant_Jenny i @DavidRobertsArch
I hear about this far too often down in Sussex and in a few examples this is done with the support of the farmer/landowner too. *Something* drastic needs to change, and soon. @MatthewPope did a brilliant lecture on this and other issues last night. Can't go on like this!
Dan Robertson @robertson_btn 12 min
W odpowiedzi do @Durrant_Jenny
I’m sure @timloughton , @mikeheyworth et al might like to be aware of this. Such thefts deprive society of our shared heritage. @JSArchaeology @MatthewPope @Sussex_Heritage @CBASouthEast 

I do not know what David Roberts had to say about things, but it always amazes me that after all the time we've had a PAS to actually empirically measure how capable the metal detecting community of England and Wales  are of being responsible, we still find people who are apparently surprised by the revelation that the "most detectorists are responsible" mantra is simply untrue. time and time again. Mr Robertson might like to reflect on why, according to him, the people he mentions might "not have heard" about this earlier? Artefact hunting with metal detectors of course is pretty new, it's only been going on on quite a massive scale since the 1970s. What we need is some kind of effective "liaison" to judge scale of irresponsibility, yeah? The problem is that the PAS leads the rest of British archaeological establishment, media and public, to think that there is a "majority" of "responsible detectorists" (sic) reporting everything, when the evidence we do have contradicts such platitudes. Nobody has yet disproved the assertion that just over eight out of nine reportable artefacts dug up by artefact hunters in England and Wales are NOT being "responsibly reported", simply pulled out of the ground and pocketed (and what about in Scotland?). That is knowledge theft. Is it not?

And what is also archaeologically irresponsible is British archaeologists (especially publicly-funded liaison bodies) that spread unsupported platitudes instead of reaching for the actual facts and numbers and keeping the British public informed about what is happening to our portable antiquities heritage. And those archaeologists who (ignoring other voices) simply repeat as facts the same platitudes without checking.

Tuesday 8 February 2022

Public Awareness Fail

Modern British public's view of what archaeologists do. and what archaeology is... 
The geography's not too brilliant either, where is Staffordshire? 
Hat tip: Dave Coward

Sunday 6 February 2022

Before the 1970 Convention

             Sites and monuments               

We tend to forget these sections of the 1956 UNESCO Recommendation on International Principles Applicable to Archaeological Excavation
IV. Trade in antiquities

27. In the higher interests of the common archaeological heritage, each Member State should consider the adoption of regulations to govern the trade in antiquities so as to ensure that this trade does not encourage smuggling of archaeological material or affect adversely the protection of sites and the collecting of material for public exhibit.

28. Foreign museums should, in order to fulfill their scientific and educational aims, be able to acquire objects which have been released from any restrictions due to the laws in force in the country of origin.

V. Repression of clandestine excavations and of the illicit export of archaeological finds

Protection of archaeological sites against clandestine excavations and damage 29. Each Member State should take all necessary measures to prevent clandestine excavations and damage to monuments defined in paragraphs 2 and 3 above, and also to prevent the export of objects thus obtained.

International co-operation in repressive measures

30. All necessary measures should be taken in order that museums to which archaeological objects are offered ascertain that there is no reason to believe that these objects have been procured by clandestine excavation, theft or any other method regarded as illicit by the competent authorities of the country of origin. Any suspicious offer and all details appertaining thereto should be brought to the attention of the services concerned. When archaeological objects have been acquired by museums, adequate details allowing them to be identified and indicating the manner of their acquisition should be published as soon as possible.

Return of objects to their country of origin

31. Excavation services and museums should lend one another assistance in order to ensure or facilitate the recovery of objects derived from clandestine excavations or theft, and of all objects exported in infringement of the legislation of the country of origin. It is desirable that each Member State should take the necessary measures to ensure this recovery. These principles should be applied in the event of temporary exports as mentioned in paragraph 23(c), (d) and (e) above, if the objects are not returned within the stipulated period.

VI. Excavations in occupied territory

32. In the event of armed conflict, any Member State occupying the territory of another State should refrain from carrying out archaeological excavations in the occupied territory. In the event of chance finds being made, particularly during military works, the occupying Power should take all possible measures to protect these finds, which should be handed over, on the termination of hostilities, to the competent authorities of the territory previously occupied, together with all documentation relating thereto.

Wednesday 2 February 2022

Austrian Collector Needs to Learn Classical Mythology


Arthur Brand says that the reason why a simple Google search did not reveal where a statue of infant Bacchus owned by an Austrian collector belonged was that they don't know their mythology

Well, as you know with google, you have to find the right search-words. This statue was considered falsely to be an Adonis.
Adonis in a panther skin and shown as an infant. Yeah. These are the people that collect dugup antiquities to appear erudite. As they say "before you buy the antiquity, buy the book". Perhaps they should add "and read it too".

Arthur Brand Helps Two Collectors, French Police, an English Auction House and a French Museum [UPDATED]

A heart-warming story of the cautious collector doing pre-purchase due diligence, the famous art detective, a collector that repented of a good faith purchase, and the dealer that steps in to help out.  According to Paul Kirby ('Stolen Roman statue returned to France after 50 years' BBC News, Feb 2 2022)
Almost half a century after it was stolen, a Roman statue of the god Bacchus has been handed back to the French museum where it was displayed. The 1st Century bronze of Bacchus as a child was taken by thieves in December 1973, along with 5,000 Roman coins. Art detective Arthur Brand traced the statue to the museum when a client was offered it by an Austrian collector.[...] [Arthur Brand] described how he had been contacted by a client who wanted to know more about the statue after he was offered it by an Austrian collector, who had bought it legally and in good faith. There were no databases in 1973 but Mr Brand eventually found a reference to it in an archaeology magazine dating back to 1927, and French police then found their report from the time of the theft. "I contacted the collector. He didn't want to have a stolen piece in his collection so he wanted to give it back, but French law dictates that a small amount has to be paid for safekeeping." That small amount in relation to the statue's value is still a considerable sum of money. While half was paid by the local authority in Chatillon, the rest was provided by an auction house specialising in ancient art in the English port town of Harwich. "The piece belongs in the museum so it's only right people can get together and make that happen," said Aaron Hammond of Timeline Auctions.
Well, that's a bit odd, a seven-second Google search reveals that a seller of stock photos has one of this statue (same stains in the patina) labelled: Roman bronze of the infant Bacchus found at Chatillion-sur-Seine France, Photographer: CM Dixon, Collection: Heritage Image... Shooting date: 26/01/2011. Odd. Chatillion-sur-Seine is 18 km from the findspot but is the location of the museum from which the statue was stolen in 1973. You can get giclee prints of this photo too. Is this a photo of a copy of the statue on display in the place of the missing one? 

Update Feb 2 2022

Over on Twitter, detectophage orchidoclaste has found a publication dedicated to this statue, showing it in better condition than the one in the museum:
Et la référence idoine pour ce Bacchus: Héron de Villefosse Antoine. Bacchus enfant, statuette de bronze trouvée à Vertault (Côte-d'Or). In: Monuments et mémoires de la Fondation Eugène Piot, tome 3, fascicule 1, 1896. pp. 51-58.
It transpires from this, that when dug up the infant Bacchus held a quatrefoil in his right hand - which seems to be the case with the copy displayed in the museum, but in the condition when it was offered by the Austrian collector, this had been removed in an extremely crude manner by one of its previous handlers. It is a shame that the Austrian collector did not know of this reference when they were the owner. They would not then have confused it with "Adonis"!

The missing element

Update Update Feb 3rd 2022

Interestingly, an article in French which we find linked to by Arthur Brand himself gives a different story (France 24, 'Une rare statue romaine rendue à la France 50 ans après son vol', 02/02/2022):
La statue a refait surface par pur hasard il y a deux ans lorsqu'un client autrichien contacte Arthur Brand, [...] Le client autrichien lui demande d'enquêter sur une statue d'un garçon qu'il a achetée légalement sur le marché de l'art. [...] Après des mois de recherche, une photo de la statue dans un magazine archéologique daté de 1927 révèle finalement un indice : la sculpture représente Bacchus enfant et appartenait à un musée français.[...] Choqué d'apprendre que la pièce avait été volée, le client autrichien demande alors à ce qu'elle soit rendue au musée. "En vertu de la loi française, il a reçu une petite somme - une infime part du prix de la statue, qui pourrait atteindre des millions d'euros – pour la +garde+" de l'objet, explique M. Brand. Deux collectionneurs d'art britanniques, Brett et Aaron Hammond, ont parrainé la moitié du montant, et la Ville de Châtillon-sur-Seine a payé l'autre moitié de la somme, non divulguée.
Confusing, isn't it? How many clients? The British guys are just collectors, or auctioneers?

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