Saturday 30 April 2022

2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russian Invaders Reportedly Remove Scythian Gold [UPDATED]

                               Photo news.                            
There are some very disturbing reports coming from areas of Ukraine currently occupied by troops of the Russian Federation. Just as Nazi invaders did in occupied Poland, within days of the occupation, officials turned up in museums and started taking away selected items. In the case of Ukraine (Jeffrey Gettleman and Oleksandr Chubko, 'Ukraine says Russia looted ancient gold artifacts from a museum' New York Times April 30, 2022),* part of the collection of the museum of occupied Melitopol (a city and municipality in Zaporizhzhia Oblast SE Ukraine) was taken away by armed men:

The heist started when a mysterious man in a white lab coat showed up at the museum. A squad of Russian soldiers stood behind him, with guns, watching eagerly. Using long tweezers and special gloves, the man in the white coat carefully extracted scores of special gold artifacts more than 2,300 years old from cardboard boxes in the cellar of a museum in Melitopol, a southern town in Russian-occupied territory, Ukrainian officials said. The gold items were from the Scythian empire and dated back to the fourth century B.C. Then the mysterious expert, the Russian soldiers and the gold disappeared. “The orcs have taken hold of our Scythian gold,” declared Melitopol’s mayor, Ivan Fyodorov [29.04.22 - PMB], using a derogatory term many Ukrainians reserve for Russian soldiers. “This is one of the largest and most expensive collections in Ukraine, and today we don’t know where they took it.” [...]
For various reasons - which remain unclear (Melitopol was taken 1st March 2022) -  the gold items, together with a number of other especially important artefacts from the collection reportedly could not be removed from the city, so under Russian shelling and despite Russian troops rampaging in the streets, Leila Ibrahimova, the director of the Melitopol Museum of Local History and her staff made their way to the museum and secretly hid them in cardboard boxes, stashing the boxes in a corner of a cellar where they didn’t think anyone would find them.

In mid-March, Ms. Ibrahimova said Russian troops burst into her house with assault rifles, threw a black hood over her head and kidnapped her. After several hours of intense questioning, they let her go. Two weeks later she left Melitopol for an area not under Russian control. But on Wednesday [27th April? PMB], she received a call from a [curator] at the museum. The [curator] said Russian soldiers, along with intelligence officers and a Russian-speaking man in a white lab coat, had come to her house in the morning and ordered her, at gunpoint, to go with them to the museum. They commanded her to take them to the Scythian gold. The [curator] refused, Ms. Ibrahimova said. [...] The [curator] who refused to help the Russians was released on Wednesday after the gold was stolen. But on Friday she was taken away from her house at gunpoint again, Ms. Ibrahimova said, shortly after the mayor, who is also in exile, announced the theft. She has not been heard from since.  

Galina Kucher, a curator
at the Melitopol Museum
of Local History
[UPDATE 5th May 2022: It seems from unconfirmed reports from social media we now know some more details about this second museum employee (A Second Worker at the Melitopol Museum of Local History in Ukraine Has Reportedly Been Abducted by Russian Soldiers Artnet news May 5th 2022):

A 60-year-old employee of the Melitopol Museum of Local History in Ukraine is reportedly the second worker from the museum to be kidnapped by Russian forces. Occupying soldiers, who abducted museum director Leila Ibrahimova from her home in March before returning her several hours later, have now taken Galina [Halina?] Andriivna Kucher [...] The incident reportedly occurred after Kucher refused at gunpoint to reveal details of gold artifacts in the museum’s collection.]
Despite the employees of the city's museum not revealing where these artefacts were stored for safety:
[T]he man in the white coat found the boxes anyway with the help of a Ukrainian, Evgeny Gorlachev, who was appointed by the Russian military as the museum’s new director [...] A Russian crew filmed part of the robbery [...] In an interview on Russian television, Mr. Gorlachev said the gold artifacts “are of great cultural value for the entire former Soviet Union” and that the previous administrators of the museum “spent a lot of effort and energy” to hide them. “For what purpose, no one knows,” he said. “But thanks to these people and the operational work carried out, residents of the city of Melitopol — and not only Melitopol — will be able to observe again a large collection of Scythian gold.” He did not say when or where the artifacts would be displayed.
Note that phrase "the former Soviet Union". It is unclear who Mr Gorlachev is and what connection he has with the Russian occupying forces. The Times journalists spoke to Ms. Ibrahimova by phone and report (not surprisingly) that she
sounded despondent as she spoke about the Russian invaders. “Maybe culture is the enemy for them,” she said. “They said that Ukraine has no state, no history. They just want to destroy our country. I hope they will not succeed.”
As do we all. 

The stolen items are reported to have been: "at least 198 Scythians gold items, including ornaments in the form of flowers; gold plates; rare old weapons; 300-year-old silver coins and medals". The gold artefacts were found during a 1954 archaeological dig of burial mounds in Melitopol.

   Melitopol Museum before the invasion

It should be noted that there are however conflicting reports about this. According to head of Regional Military Administration, "all of the most valuable [Scythian gold and other artefacts] were removed" from the Museum of Local Lore and Art Museum in Zaporizhzhia to relative safety elsewhere in Ukraine (Leopolis, 'В Запорізькій ОДА спростовують інформацію про викрадення росіянами скіфського золота', news 29.04.2022 ). 
"У Запорізькій військовій обласній адміністрації спростували  інформацію про те, що росіяни викрали унікальну колекцію скіфського золота IV сторіччя до н.е. з музею Мелітополя. Про це повідомив глава Запорізької обласної військової адміністрації Олександр Старух в ефірі телемарафону. За його словами, всі найцінніші речі вивезли з музеїв Запорізької області ще в березні 2022 року в інші регіони України. Раніше у проросійських пабліках з’явилося відео про те, як окупанти буцімто знайшли сховане працівниками музею золото та "врятували" його від вивезення за кордон. "Ми вивезли повністю з усіх музеїв все, що становило собою історико-культурну цінність. Що вони там врятували, удачі їм", – сказав Старух. Він також зазначив, що наразі триває друга хвиля евакуації менш цінних речей з музеїв регіону, а саме копій та муляжів. Нагадаємо, раніше в Запорізькій адміністрації повідомили, що росіяни захопили Мелітопольський міський краєзнавчий музей, де зберігалося скіфське золото, а колаборанти вказали їм місце, де воно знаходиться."

In other words:

"The Zaporizhzhya Regional Military Administration denied the information that the Russians had stolen a unique collection of Scythian gold from the 4th century BC. from the Museum of Melitopol. This was announced by the head of the Zaporozhye Regional Military Administration Alexander Starukh on a telethon. According to him, all the most valuable things were taken from the museums of the Zaporozhye region in March 2022 to other regions of Ukraine. Earlier, a video appeared in pro-Russian media about how the occupiers allegedly found the gold hidden by the museum staff and "saved" it from being taken abroad. "We have completely removed from all museums everything that was of historical and cultural value. What they saved there, good luck to them," - said Starukh. He also noted that the second wave of evacuation of less valuable items from museums in the region, namely copies and models, is underway. We will remind you that earlier in the Zaporozhye, administration reported that Russians seized the Melitopol city museum of local lore where Scythian gold was stored, and collaborators showed them a place where it is."

The information fog of war. While the Times journalists spoke to Ms. Ibrahimova, all the rest of that article could be based on the video that appeared in pro-Russian media about how the occupiers allegedly found the gold hidden by the museum staff and "saved" it from being taken abroad. This text suggests that this was a repeat of a rumour that had been spread earlier.  

Here is one of the videos, I suspect the guy in denim is the director appointed by the occupying forces:

Пропавшие экспонаты Мелитопольского краеведческого музея - найдены posted on YouTube by "Южный плацдарм" (sic) Apr 27, 2022.

As the Times notes, "For years now, Ukraine has been locked in a complicated dispute with Russia over collections of Scythian gold that several museums in Crimea had lent to a museum in Amsterdam. After Russia seized Crimea in 2014, Ukraine pleaded with the Amsterdam museum not to return the gold. Russia demanded the museum do just that. A court has ruled in Ukraine’s favour and the gold remains in Amsterdam". 

 *A version of this article by Gettleman and Chubko appeared in print on May 1, 2022, Section A, Page 12 of the New York edition with the headline: Brazen Heist At Museum Nets Russians Trove of Gold.

UPDATE UPDATE  10th May 2022

A later Times article (George Grylls, 'Russian troops are destroying ancient nomadic tombs', Wednesday May 04 2022) is very derivative from the Gettleman and Chubko text and adds nothing new to the Melitopol story. However for the notion that it was "copies" of Scythian artefacts seized by the Russians, see here. Something needs sorting out here. 


Friday 29 April 2022

Filling Are 'Oles

Some UK metal detectorists are puzzled why Sussex Police and Sussex Heritage Community are annoyed about ground disturbance in the Cuckmere Haven (South Downs National Park) area in Sussex. After all their mates filled their holes like the Code says.

Thursday 28 April 2022

Emptor Caveating: Bargain Basement Gandhara

I watched with interest the sale of eBay item number 304448147939 listed in category: Collectibles>Decorative Collectibles>Other Decorative Collectibles VERY RARE GANDHARA BIG TERRACOTTA STATUE OF BUDDHA CIRCA 200- 300 AD. 3.9ft TALL being sold by the same dealer ancientromana_uk (284) as had the laconically-described, apparently unpapered, funny oriental-looking "Cavalry mask" discussed earlier. For what it is, the description of the object and legitimating paperwork are both very laconic indeed:
"Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing.
Item specifics
Origin: Near Eastern
Type: Statues
Era: Gandhara
Style: Near Eastern
Material: Terracotta"  
Mmm. Style, "Near Eastern", ... "Central Asian" would be better. "Gandharan"? Hmmm? Is it Buddha, well, no. What's he wearing, what's he got on his head, is that the Abhaya Mudra or not? 

What is being sold and why is the seller not telling the buyer about the all-important condition of an object that is being represented as c. 1800 years old? Was the object fired in one piece or in several segments joined together with the joints concealed? This "plaster covering the back of the statue to keep it safe from breakage", eh? Terracotta is far harder and stronger than a big glob of plaster, gypsum or lime. What is the plaster there for, except make the back look like an almighty mess? And what is underneath it? Some of the photos seem to show that the back edge of this piece is cut off flush - is this how it was made, or has it been cut off something? What I am most puzzled by is the grey-white gunk all over the front, except where it has been wiped off. This looks like a white lime wash with lumps of lime still unmixed in it. What I am certain about, looking at it, is that this is not a calcium deposit formed on the surface while the object was buried in soil. Neither is it a layer of insoluble salts leached out from inside in conditions of fluctuating humidity, still less is it a layer accumulated by water dripping in a cave/rock-cut temple. So what is it? I tell you what it looks like in these photos, it looks like somebody has taken a wide brush with limewash and wiped it all over this statue and then used something like one of those rectangular kitchen sponges with the scratchy abrasive side and vigorously wiped off some of the limewash. That's what it looks like to me. Why would somebody do that? your guess is as good as mine. The seller does not see here a problem that needs explaining in more detail. 


Let's leave it up to the art history experts to assess the style of this piece, is it ancient Gandharan? The seller offers no provenance, not even the name of a country of origin. So how do we know how he knows what this is? We don't, he just says it is. He says its date is "circa 200- 300 AD". But then "Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing". What does that mean? 

Anyway, despite the fact that bidding stood at 500 quid an hour before the end, obviously it was a  "collector's choice", somebody who thought they knew what they were doing paid GBP 2,738.00 (approximately US $3,423.73). There were 27 other bids from just seven bidders, with a rather strange pattern (look at the feedback points of the high bidders). I wonder if any of them asked the seller for more details about that plaster layer on the back, and why one of the eleven foreshortened photos is reversed (or is it?) and one of the pictures shows the figure has ginormous Shrek-feet, while in the one showing the back, there seem to be no feet. I'd say it was a reckless person who paid all that money on the basis of eleven pretty awful amateurish photos and such a skimpy description. but hey, it's their money. I think a responsible, professional and knowledgeable dealer handling well-sourced legitimate material should be willing to give a potential buyer a more detailed and fuller description than we get here. Especially for something that he says came from ancient, and much-looted, Gandhara. Or is there something I am missing here? 

Limestone Head Found in Gaza Field

A limestone head said to depict the Canaanite goddess Anat, has recently been found by a farmer in the Gaza Strip (Yolande Knell, 'Gaza farmer finds 4,500-year-old statue of Canaanite goddess' BBC News 26 April 2022)
Palestinian archaeologists say that the head of the Canaanite deity, Anat, dates back 4,500 years to the late Bronze Age. The discovery was made by a farmer digging his land in Khan Younis, in the south of the strip. [...] The 22cm-high (8.7 in) carving clearly shows the face of the goddess wearing a serpent crown. "We found it by chance. It was muddy and we washed it with water," said farmer Nidal Abu Eid, who came across the head while cultivating his field. "We realised that it was a precious thing, but we didn't know it was of such great archaeological value," he told the BBC. "We thank God, and we are proud that it stayed in our land, in Palestine, since the Canaanite times."
               Khan Younis         

The head is currently on display in Qasr al-Basha, a historic building that serves as one of Gaza's few museums.
Unveiling the artefact at a press conference on Tuesday, Jamal Abu Rida of the Hamas-run Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said the statue was "resistant against time" and had been carefully examined by experts. He said that it made a political point. "Such discoveries prove that Palestine has civilisation and history, and no-one can deny or falsify this history," he said. "This is the Palestinian people and their ancient Canaanite civilisation."
It's not clear why this is dated to the 25th century BC (Early Bronze Age). I think the photos show that parts of the crown and the right ear were cut with a tool like modern carbide cutting discs. But this object has been ill-served by its photographers, who use the wrong lenses and lighting... It does seem however that the neck is cut off flat - and so the head is not broken from a larger deity figure. It does not look particularly like any excavated Canaanite sculptures, but a vague resemblance in a funny kind of way to those "smiting god" figures that turn up loose on the um-er "dodgier" side of the antiquities market.  I think this is a patriotic farmer's fake. 

ugly and puzzling from the side

Wednesday 27 April 2022

There is Always One

In England and Wales, the BBC reports that there is a feeling that metal detectorists are not being serviced quickly enough: "Delays placing heritage at risk, metal detectorist warns" (BBC 27.04.2022)

A metal detectorist says delays in deciding the fate of rare finds have led to a black market in our heritage. Pete Beasley, an enthusiast from Hampshire, said it was taking years for discoveries to be processed and as a result some people had stopped handing their finds to the authorities. [...] Mr Beasley handed a pure gold Norman ring into the Finds Liaison Office in Winchester two years ago, that has yet to be returned [I presume they mean 'to the landowner' PMB]. "This takes forever and it shouldn't, these are experts. It should take weeks rather than two or three years," he said. [..] Mr Beasley warned unless the system was fixed people would stop handing finds over and sell them on the black market instead.
This is, one assumes, the same Pete Beasley who reportedly gave up his job as a brickie in 2008 "to become a full-time treasure hunter".

Sunday 24 April 2022

Conflict Archaeology and Commemoration

On his Archaeologik blog, Prof Rainer Schreg has a post about the sinking on April 21st 2022 of a Russian warship in the Black Sea 80 km from Odessa ('8 Tage alt: Die Moskva, das jüngste Archäologische Denkmal' 24.04.2022). On April 21, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense reported via its social media channels that the wreck of the Moskva was protected as an underwater monument "8 days after leaving the 'living culture'...". The story was subsequently reported by several media. The Moskva was a ship the Russian Federation took great pride in this vessel and its singking by Ukrainian missiles shot from the land is a great embarrassment, as a result, Russian puublic opinion has not been appraised of all the facts (including how many lives were lost). As Prof. Shreg points out (and Andy Brockman also noted earlier), some elements of the story about this "Unterwasserdenkmal Moskva" are questionable, such as the reference to the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, which assumes that the object in question has been under water for 100 years. He also notes that the claimed transfer to the Naval Museum and the Ukraine's implied ownership claim to the wreck also does not comply with international maritime law.

It seems that the main aim of this action is as an elemet of the incredibly sophisticated, modern and effective information war that Ukraine is conducting. It is a heavy-handed reminder to the Russians (whose own information strategy seems not to have advanced much from that of the 19980s/90s) that it is historians who will judge what happened in this part of Europe from 24th February 2022, and from what we can see emerging about the effects of this unprovoked and revanchist agression, it will be widely condemned by future generations, and totally blog out any reflected glory the Russian Federation claims for the victories of its predecessor the Soviet Union over the axis troops in 1944 and 1945. Here Shreg makes the point that in light of conflicting accounts of the cause of the sinking, preserving the wreck in its current form will help establish what really did happen to the ship for that historical record. The author also raises a point that has been worrying a number of us:
Gerade der propagandistische Kontext der Eintragung der Moskva als Kulturdenkmal der Ukraine zeigt, wie bei Objekten einer Archäologie der Moderne oder gar der Gegenwart nicht so sehr der wissenschaftliche Erkenntnisgewinn, sondern eher der Denkmalcharakter bzw. genauer seine Mahn- und Erinnerungswert von Bedeutung sind.
One slight addition, The Moskva seems to have been the ship that challenged the Snake Island defenders on the first day of the War and received the answer (as he translates it): "Russisches Kriegsschiff, f** dich...!". As far as I understand it (and I claim no great specialist knowledge of swearing in Polish or Ukrainian), it seems to me that the injunction is better translated as “go and f*** yourselves” (or maybe “go and get f***ed”) – the verb “to go” is very clear – and it is that which makes it more “prophetic”. The ship sailed on into the War and got... well, sunk.

Russian Crimea Depicted as a Crucible of Peoples with a Lot of Russians in it from the Beginning of History.

Issue 2 (2021) of the CRIMEAN DIGEST published by the "Business and Cultural Centre of the Republic of Crimea State Autonomous Enterprise" (pp 20-31) is a translation of an article by Andrey Mineev, of the Russian language "Crimean Ads online newspaper" about "The Peoples that Inhabited Crimea" (Андрей Минеев, Народы, населявшие Крым, 16.09.2019). This brushes away the awkward question of the invasion of part of a sovereign country by his own nation, and just uses the "Blood and Soil" argument of fascists everywhere to try and make this occupation appear to be an acceptable status quo. In fact the word "Ukrainian" appears just twice:

"Crimea is considered to be one of the most multi-ethnic regions of Russia. It is home to more than 100 nationalities. The largest community are Russians - 65%, followed by Ukrainians (15%), and Crimean Tatars (12%). The rest of the Crimean peoples are small groups and the number of each of them does not even reach 50,000 people."
and just below that a mention of the fact that most Russians live in the towns, while the Ukrainians are mostly in the northern peripheries.This is perhaps a reflection of what seems to be emerging as official Russian policy, to expunge the ethnonym "Ukraine" from the public sphere. I do not know how creible this is, but it is reported that school textbooks are being edited to edit out positive references to Ukraine [Andrew Roth Lessons in patriotism used to justify Ukraine invasion to Russia’s children', Guardian Sat 23 Apr 2022] , which together with the way we hear the news about the War is censored would certainly fit the orwellian/'1984' stereotype of the Russian state.

Crimea had been annexed by the Russian Empire in 1783 a decade after the Ottomans had been defeated, after a brief period of disruption in the Russian civil war it was part of the Soviet Union until 1954 when the Soviet government transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Federation of Socialist Republics (RSFSR) to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (UkrSSR). (there is a very interesting discussion of the reasons behind this by Mark Kramer, 'The Transfer of Crimea from Soviet Russia to Soviet Ukraine, 1954' Wilson Center, undated). As he says, ostensibly this was
a “noble act on the part of the Russian people” to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the “reunification of Ukraine with Russia” (a reference to the Treaty of Pereyaslav signed in 1654 by representatives of the Ukrainian Cossack Hetmanate and Tsar Aleksei I of Muscovy) and to “evince the boundless trust and love the Russian people feel toward the Ukrainian people”
Note how the archaeology is used by Mineev in constructing this narrative.

Saturday 23 April 2022

Another Roman Cavalry Helmet on the British Antiquities Market


After the so-called Crosby Garrett Helmet was sold in October 2010 for £2.3 million, there has been a veritable crop of apparently previously-unknown similar items surfacing on the British antiquities market... TimeLine Auctions had several that have been discussed by me in the past. Dealer Simon Wicks had one in 2011. They have also been turning up sold online by US dealers (Artemis Galleries Feb 21, 2019). Now eBay seller ancientromana_uk (283) from West Drayton, United Kingdom has one.
Condition: --not specified
Price: £4,000.00
And neither is any kind of a provenance offered, no country of origin, no mention of a collection history, no paperwork mentioned. Just that twelve-word statement. 

It is difficult to judge whether it is silver or not. One would have expected something from a legal "old collection" (for example) to have been taken to a professional conservator to bring out the original shine... except this has a dark oozy layer all over and around irregular eroded green-tinged areas. All very odd. Silver is silver because it is relatively inert, yet this is corroded really rather oddly. It is interesting that the dealer does not comment on the condition of the artefact. How much metal remains? And is it silver? It is difficult to say from the information offered. Looking at the appearance, we might wonder whether what we have here is a corrosion similar to the mineral chlorargyrite (aka cerargyrite, aka 'horn silver' AgCl), but that is water-soluble. A mystery for £4,000.

It it "parade mask armour"? That's questionable. First is that it's clearly thin metal and then how do you wear it? The picture shows a crude hinge at the top. That would have articulated with a horizontal bar on the lower rim of (let's say) a helmet. That'd be just forward of the wearer's brow, yes? So this hangs down (hangs mind you, there are no traces of an attachment at the chin or sides) from there. So, where does the nose go? The relief of this "mask" has no room for a human nose under it. Even a tiny one.

A "cavalry" officer? Who'd put this thing on a helmet swinging down, flapping about and hitting them in the face as the horse even trots, let alone canters? Bonkers. Has ancientromana_uk ever been on horseback? If not, what expertise do they bring to the examination and description of this object that they are asking £4,000 for?

Why is this "Roman"? The eyes of Roman cavalry helmet masks look quite different to the ones here. One could quite easily imagine this same object appearing on another eBay sold as "silver death mask of Genghis Khan/Atilla the Hun" or some unnamed  khagan of the Golden Horde. Or "face of composite statue of Buddha", "a Jaredite Mask" or whatever. 

If we look at this guy's other current sales, apart from the atrocious prices (for what they are), the mega-micro-skimpy "descriptions" and total lack of any dimensions quoted... one finds an interesting phenomenon. The artefacts are described as coming from the following cultural circles:
Ancient Near Eastern, tablets, plaques, figurines  - 24,
Indus Valley figurines -5
Syro-Hittite figurines - 5
Ghandhara figurines and sculptures - 5
Various neolithic 'idols' - 6
Egyptian antiquities - 4
Islamic objects - 4
Roman items (including this helmet) - 4
Yemen scultures- 2
Luristan object - 1
Jiroft object - 1
Cypriote figurine - 1
Etruscan (?) - 1
A single lot of 100 Neolithic arrowheads, probably Saharan, but including a lot of fakes - 1 
Something that figures in my notes as "WTF?" - 1

The seller obviously finds handling (female) ceramic and stone figurines rewarding, but there is a general Middle Eastern focus here, especially odd for somebody calling themselves "ancientromana_uk". The ancient Near Eastern artefacts are very cute (all of them) and I think give a clue to how we should see this poorly-described provenance-free metal mask of unusual style.  

British Haven for Antiquities Dealers

     Purchased by "English Collector"      
in some unidentified auction
|or Art Gallery during 1970s -
 1980s (Bertolami Fine Art)

In an open access collectors' discussion group near you, "Stephen Stromberg" has a problem ( Steve Apr 9 #96506):
Hi Folks -- Does anyone have any experience or impressions of Bertolami Fine Art? I'm interested in bidding on this kylix, coming up at their London auction site, but the provenance seems sketchy: Thanks in advance! Steve
Sketchy is one word for it: "Provenance. English private collection, purchased in some unidentified auction or Art Gallery during 1970s - 1980s".

Member Roberto Fanone (Apr 10 #96508) hastens to reassure him:
Bertolami fine arts is the best italian auction house. I was working with them and i am friend with Andrea Pancotti, uno of most well known italian archeologosts and director of archeology department of BFA. I have bought many items also and i know friends of deutsch and english galleries buying from BFA. So, in my opinion, You can buy absolutely safe. Best regards Roberto Fanone
It is interesting to ponder what Mr Fanone considers one would be "absolutely safe" from. I have a suspicion that, like the vast majority of antiquities collectors, what he's reassuring Steve about is that BFA sells only real, pukka stuff. They've got an archaeologist after all (though Academia suggests he's a numismatist, rather). I also suspect that "Steve" was concerned about something else.

Another member then asks (kyrikmk Apr 11 #96511) "If they are based in Italy why are they selling the pieces in London?" The answer is both surprising and unsurprising. Quick as a flash, Roberto Fanone (Apr 11 #96512) responds:
They are beginning to sell the pieces in London because law about antiquities It has started to be very restrictive lately. It is a big problem at the moment to sell antiquities in Italy. The culture minister is changed and the actual one is enemy of collectors.
This is a typical playing-the-victim whine of these people: "enemy of collectors". The Minister of Culture has the job of preserving culture, and where there are laws doing that, creating the environment for the enforcement of those laws. What is there not to understand here? Somebody selling an ancient artefact (most likely removed from a grave or tomb somewhere that has laws regulating such acts and the export of material) is clearly unable to account for where it came from and whether or not it was legally obtained. Bertoli Fine Arts has this thing on their hands (why?) and is simply trying a number like this: "Ah, yeah, um... yeah, well, we got it from somebody in England, actually, who - uh... yeah, told us they'd, uh... bought it, er, in some auction or art gallery somewhere, about the 1970s, or it might have been the 1980s, not really sure, that's all I know". What on earth possessed Bertoli Fine Arts (a reputable auction house, we are told, with an archaeologist watching over it all) to let the consigner walk out of their shop without the vase they brought in with such a vague back-story? The only reason I can think of is that the person accepting the consignment has at the back of their well-groomed head "yeah, might be dodgy, I guess, sounds a bit fishy really, but let anyone who wants to say it was illegally obtained prove it!" (this is of course the dealers' problem with the existence of the Medici photos).

But what? The "law has started to be restrictive in Italy"? No, it has not changed, what's changing is that the laws are being more strictly enforced all over the EU. So what do dealers do? Ship the stuff to England, London. No archaeologists there to look over a dealer's shoulder and ask him about what they are doing, are there? It's a total free-for-all now they've abandoned the new regulations the EU adopted.

The provenance-free kylix sold for £3,000.00

[The current Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism in Italy is Dario Franceschini (February 2014 to June 2018 and 5 September 2019 to today)].

Emptor, Caveat and Do Your Homework

    Ancient 'ball-busting' cameo bought   
by 'European Lady' (where?) 

Plakas Auctions is an art and antiquities dealer, who seems to have started trading a while ago and has premises ('appointment only') in Tolpuddle Street, London. Past sales tend to have been of European, Asian and Islamic art. They have just had an auction of Property Of European Lady Collection since 1980's of Ancient Art and Antiquities April 22, 2022 1:00 PM BST Live auction
195 Lots
Decorative Art (192)
Antiquities - General (45)
Roman Antiquities (53)
Egyptian Antiquities (19)
Greek Antiquities (11)
Egyptian Items (1)
European Items (3)
Glassware (1)
Neolithic and Paleolithic Antiquities (1)
Other Cultures (55)
Oh wow. Where to start? Here the "invaluable" website is offering to you a whole load of weird-looking things, some shiny, that they say were made by various ancient and exotic cultures. But far from being "in"valuable, there are estimates for approximate amounts of money for which you, dear reader, could bid and even buy one for your very own self to have-and-hold, to show off to admiring, impressed and jealous dinner guests. Who will most likely not know what they are either.

But how would you know, dear reader, that they are what the website says they are? Well, you could do it the hard way, go out and get archaeological education and experience, work on digs in different countries on different soils so you see what artefacts look like when they come out of the ground, hang around conservation workshops, find out how they are treated, and what they look like after that, look at excavated material in museum stores and reports... and so on. Or, lacking the dedication and possibilities, you could take a short cut and take into account what the experts say.

Here we come up against that word I hate: "reputable dealers". That adjective has too broad a meaning, and in some of them, in the light of the reality behind some cases of its use that term is - some would say - an oxymoron. 

Nevertheless, I think that, for all my misgivings, there are dealers who do know how to tell fake from real antiquities as well as anyone can. These would be the equivalents of the connoisseur dealers of the Grand Tour period with their extensive training, knowledge and reputation. I was thinking of the names  of the current in the car (as I am hypersceptical about the market, you may be sure it was a short list, and one of them is dead anyway). I am not going to give even a few examples, as I'd not like to seem to be endorsing some of them, I'll keep my thoughts to myself. But they do exist and let's say if I saw an antiquity was being sold  as authentic by one of these guys, I would be very surprised to see it looked dubious to me. 

Then there are the discerning collectors (who I am not going to name either), if something came from a certain named collector's own collection, I might think the same. One caveat though, if the collection is still in the process of being created, I might urge taking a second look at anything that is being 'weeded out' (just saying).

OK, so coming back to this Plakas Auction. They are selling something from a "collection of art and antiquities" put together ("since the 1980s) by a "European Lady". So, I suppose the dealer thinks that sounds posh, like you'd see on the cover of a Christie's catalogue, eh?

Let's take a look. "Since the 1980s" is totally irrelevant in the case of legal provenance, most of the countries represented by the antiquities have laws going back before 1980. If said anonymous lady from any one of the 27 countries of Europe (EU) has just died, age 70, like the Good Book says, she'd have been born in 1950, and in 1980 she'd be a way along her career path and would be thirty. A good age to start buying art objects etc, I guess. Perhaps the 1980s is supposed to signal, "and despite some objects being in her collection for all that time, nobody who saw them said they were fakes"? But then, who saw them, and if they thought they were fakes, would they say? 

Was she a discerning and informed collector or did she just buy willy nilly? Was she perhaps a former auctioneer, a successful art dealer, a conservator, or maybe rogue archaeologist with a collection? We do not know, we are not told anything about her in the catalogue. All we have is (part of?) her collection. What does that tell us about what her collecting interests and specialities were, or how discerning she was? Well, I am glad she never invited me round for dinner and then sprung "an archaeologist you say? Come upstairs and see my antiquities collection" on me. Guaranteed to spoil the evening for us both. 

In this case, however, I'd not be too unhappy about any archaeological damage done.... the majority of the ones I flicked through are of rather dubious authenticity and age. Like that scarab with the back-to-front hieroglyphs I had a little jab at the other day. The Neolithic" object was Lot 100: 'An Anatolian Amber Mother Goddess Neolithic Period, Circa 6th Millennium BC' could be yours for a few hundred quid. But before you bid, ask 'Plakas' where in 6th Millennium Anatolia one could get (waxy honey-coloured semi-opaque) "amber" (in blocks big enough to carve a 4cm high woman with a big butt and boobies). And while on the subject of near-eastern amber, what about that unprovenanced " Lot 99: A Mesopotamian Amber Bull Circa 1500 B.C."? The "amber" here looks an awful lot like alabaster in the lighting of the sales spiel photo (and the face is more like a bear, but perhaps it was meant as a ram?). Or that "Lot 31: Roman Imperial Cosmetic 'Tortoise Shell' Vessel Circa 1st Century B.C", made of what, you say? Most of the antiquities (the popular Tel Brak eye-figures, Syro-Palestinian full-breasted lady figurines) of claimed Middle Eastern origin are without any kind of collection history. As are many of the classical and Sasanian intaglios of rather dubious 'Bangkok-style' cutting in this collection.  

Which of course brings us back to the connoisseurship, or lack of it, of the dealer offering these items and giving them the stamp of approval backed by their reputation and experience... Oddly enough, since this is the person guaranteeing that all is as described, it is pretty difficult to ascertain who this is, and their "experts" mentioned on the website are also not named. The actual name of the dealer is nowhere on any website related to this auction. Why are they hiding their expertise? Also interesting is the fact that the usual company directories and professional organization websites don't give you the answer either. The website mentions an address in Islington (by the McDonalds) which can be seen on Google Street View to be a small space that is little more than a front door in a wall. A collector found a second address on the art-fox website for this auction: Bridge Street, Kington, HR5 2DJ. If you look that up (as they did), it turns out that this (new?) address is also just a door with a mailbox, this time belonging to a company called "Ghost Mail, Low Cost Personal and Business Mail Forwarding, Parcel Handling, Storage and many more services". Services that perhaps include selling antiquities and art connoisseurship?

What is interesting is that many of the items offered from this European lady collection have extensive collection histories, with lots of names. The question is where do these details come from? 

On the list (where some of the sleuthing mentioned above is published) there is some rather scathing discussion of this outfit and its antiquities, of which the following seems to sum up nicely (mnestic2001 Apr 19 #96558):
"Whew! What a mess of an auction! A very large number of fakes there in all categories. Also very incomplete and "odd" descriptions of many things. They often use the term "Western Asiatic" which is used by TimeLine Auctions a lot. Could be that the mysterious "European Lady.." who has collected " (since) the 1980's..etc .." was a big time customer of TimeLine.

Who is behind this company? It's seemingly impossible to find out online. No info at Companies House and if you ask for some information about their personel and ownership they don't reply. Also the address for this auction house is a small lock-up shop in Islington, London, not exactly where the major auction houses are.

Look at the cylinder seals!! Some worthy of Sadigh! Absolute rubbish. Though this one is a bad copy of this one

Cheers, Bron."
In this particular case, those who know the British market will know who Mnestic/Bron is. He'd be on my shortlist of knowledgeable dealers (and in fact runs on his website a very informative and at times amusing series of pages on fakes - not all readers will be able to access it, it is set up in some weird old code that cannot be opened by many modern browsers, so I regret I cannot see it from here). So, I'd accept his opinion. I also confirm that there is indeed one dealer in the whole UK that consistently uses the outdated term "Western Asia" and I would say that some of the items "European Lady" bought have a very "TimeLiney" feel to them (read into that what you will). So, what actually is going on here? This raises the issue that we need much more research of the type I propose calling "Commercial flow Analysis", attempting to document how dugup and not-dugup artefacts actually flow on the antiquities market. Perhaps this collection could have been an interesting case study.

Friday 22 April 2022

Iraq: Veteran British tour guide dies in Baghdad hospital [Updated]

"Hann had friends across
Iraq, and "Mr Geoff" is a byword
among Iraq's historic site custodians".

     Geoff Hann and Tina Townsend-Greaves   
 planning an excursion at an Iraqi police 
station (Hinterland Travel)

Despite efforts to bring him home, a British tour guide and author has died alone in a Baghdad hospital while local authorities waited to question him as a witness in an antiquities smuggling case. Geoff Hann (85) had spent his life as a tour guide arranging trips to Iraq, but suffered a stroke on what was intended to be his last trip. As the tourists headed to the airport on March 19th to take their respective flights home, Hann was found to have suffered a stroke in the night that left him partially paralysed and unable to speak and was deemed too unwell to board the flight.
Instead, he was transferred to Baghdad's al-Yarmouk hospital. Within days of hospitalisation, Hann contracted Covid-19, developing a chest infection and blood clots in his lungs. Doctors warned his closest friend Tina Townsend-Greaves that his survival was unlikely and urged close family to journey to Iraq to see Hann. Despite expectations, Hann pulled through, and once recovered from Covid-19, Townsend-Greaves organised medical evacuation at the cost of £24,700 ($31,00). While the medical team was in Baghdad, with the evacuation just hours away, it was suddenly halted, due to an apparent court order that prevented Hann from leaving the country. [...] It is now understood that two tourists - reportedly one British and one German - [presumably from his last group - PMB] were arrested at Baghdad airport after officials spotted some 30 suspected stolen artefacts in their luggage.
The pair are due soon to stand trial for smuggling antiquities and the authorities were apparently waiting for Hann to give a statement (despite the fact that he had lost his speech). Hann's hospital room was under 24-hour guard, and visits - apart from those from British embassy staff and senior Iraqi officials - were prohibited. The article notes that Hann was not accused of being involved in the artefact theft and that he always impressed on the people on his trips that they should not even pick up any artefacts, let alone try to take them home. Unfortunately for him, if these accusations are true two grown-up people ignored these instructions and this led to the situation Hann found himself in. We expect a British Embassy statement on the situation and on the charges. Geoff Hann RIP. 

The news of his death was published on the GoFundMe page  'Get Geoff Hann Home'

UPDATE 30th April 2022
This seems from the details cited to be the other side of the same story: Tom Ambrose "Family of British geologist facing death penalty in Iraq urge UK to intervene" Guardian Sat 30 Apr 2022
The family of a retired British geologist facing the death penalty in Iraq have called on the UK government to urgently intervene. Jim Fitton, 66, was detained by authorities in the Middle Eastern country, accused of smuggling, during a geology and archaeology trip. Fitton, who lives in Malaysia, and an unnamed German man were arrested when airport security found shards of broken pottery in their luggage as they attempted to leave the country, according to his children. But they insist he had been informed the fragments held no economic or historical value to Iraq before collecting them at a site in Eridu on 20 March. Now they say he is due to face trial in the week commencing 8 May, after Eid al-Fitr in Iraq. His children, Joshua and Leila, and Leila’s husband, Sam Tasker, say Fitton could receive the death penalty if found guilty and have launched a petition calling on the British government to intervene in the case [...] the pair were arrested after the group’s baggage was checked at the airport, with 12 shards said to have been found.
Apparently Article 41 of the Iraqi artefacts law no.55, of 2002 stipulates severe sentences (including the death penalty) for exporting antiquities from Iraq, a fact anyone going to the country should be aware of. Fitton claims "he had been informed the fragments held no economic or historical value to Iraq", by whom? By the tour guide who was then detained to ascertain the facts of the case? Is that why Geoff Hann could not leave the country? Note that the plight of the tour guide apparently mixed up in this was not mentioned in Mr Ambrose's story.

There are however more details in this story in MEE (Alex MacDonald, 'Iraq: British and German tourists detained in Baghdad accused of smuggling antiquities' Middle East Eye 29 April 2022), the relatives say they didn't understand the laws and were let down by the tour company and UK embassy. Here the story of Hann's involvement is given differently from MacDonald's own story cited above.

"Dear Seller..." [Updated]

The reason why this blog is not monetised is that instead of save-the-planet products, The Internet Gods would stuff it with antiquities for sale adverts by a whole load of shady people selling dodgy stuff. I try to keep popups away from anything I am reading, but... and among the ones that do get through are antiquities (let me put that in invertaed commas: "antiquities"). For a long while a persistent culprit was Artemission (ugh) and now somebody else has started to annoy me by their intrusive crap.

As far as I am concerned, the Internet is here for everybody to share information, views and opinions (for good or bad). Today it seems to be being seen by a lot of people merely as a marketplace, a place to advertise stuff they want to sell, and persuade you that you really, really "want to buy". OK, but then they should be aware that by posting up their stuff openly for assessment they are exposiong it to assessment not only of the people that want to buy 'cool antiquities', but also people that actually know something about what dugup antiquities do and do not look like, and people that see the trend towards trashing sites to dig them up for saleble collectables as a highly negative phenomenon, and one that needs to be actively challenged. So here I am, falling into the last two groups, with a blog on the very same internet to boot, and some numpty is posting their goods on a site that thrusts pictures and details (I use the term loosely, see below) right in my face. I tried to ignore it the first few times... then I looked for the "make this stop" button to click on, found none. So thought I'd take a closer look. So somehow a site called "1st Dibs" has got me on its "send stuff to" list. Maybe its the Twitter handle (portantmatters - "portable antiquities matters - important", get it?) maybe the blog name, maybe some old searches activated some cookies, but several times a day, I keep getting this cute "cat-headed pot" thrust into my face somewhere in a news item I am reading about the Ukrainian War. So in the end, I clicked...

The problem for numpty anonymous seller with their stuff plastered all over the internet is they DO NOT OWN the internet, and since they are not controlling who gets to see their stuff, neither can they claim any right to be able to control what is thought and said about it. I am not going to buy this thing, I am not interested in whether Bob the Replacement Window Salesman from Ohio buys it or not, so I offer no commercial advice, but I do think that as somebody involved in discussions of the antiquities market I can (and indeed, from some point of view, should) say what I honestly think about it.

So (warning, I cannot guarantee you'll not subsequently get amusing little 1stDibs popups too) click here, and if Bob's not snapped it up, you'll see a picture of a "Pre-Columbian Pottery Vessel with Cat Heads" and seven more pictures and the purchase price of €1,030.22. for what is being marketed as a dug-up antiquity (most likely from a tomb) exported from Mexico.

Clicking on 'more details' (below 'purchase') gives more information:
"Presenting a lovely piece of Native American antiquity, namely, a Pre-Columbian pottery vessel with cat heads. From circa 13th-14th century and probably made by the Mayan’s (sic) in the Mexico area. The bowl is very simplistic in form and shape with a baluster shape with narrow rim and opening. It has the most glorious pair of cat’s heads on the sides. It sits on 4 pointed feet. In great condition for it’s (sic) age. Some minor nibbling, especially on the rim. One foot repaired.

Dimensions  Height: 5.25 in. (13.34 cm) Width: 9.5 in. (24.13 cm) Depth: 6 in. (15.24 cm)

Style  Pre-Columbian (Of the Period)

Materials and Techniques Pottery, Hand-Crafted

Place of Origin  Mexico

Period  15th Century and Earlier,  Date of Manufacture 1400

Condition Good Repaired: One leg/foot repaired. Wear consistent with age and use. Minor losses. Good original condition. Some minor losses to rim with age and one foot repaired.

€65.86 Standard Parcel Shipping Delivered by a parcel delivery service such as UPS, FedEx, or DHL. to Poland 03-287, arrives in 8-17 days. We recommend this shipping type based on item size, type and fragility. View Options Customs Duties and Taxes May Apply."
You'll see that the seller has "other items", is a "platinum" 1stDibs seller and... that's it. No name is given, no indication of their expertise in assessing Postclassic Maya pottery. They say it is "Precolumbian", one assumes that they mean that was made, used and buried before "Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue". Nothing else. in fact there is a question her whether they mean (made in pre-Columbian times" or "made in pre-Columbian style". There is a difference and that imprecise term without any explanation is ambiguous. No collection history, nothing. Just the bold description. But the latter is not even that. It is an interpretation, not backed up by any supporting evidence. I myself would say if the seller has a cat that looks like that, they should take the animal to a vet straight away, not least to get a second opinion. The animal depicted is a canid, most probably a coyote (whose range today is Central and North America). The vessel itself is not "baluster-shape", and our 1stDibs platinum seller art connoisseur cannot spell "Maya", "baluster" or "its". Nevertheless, taking advantage of the fact that the seller proclaims helpfully that [instead of being there to make a profit by selling cultural objects] "I'm here to help! You can ask me about additional images, more detailed dimensions, best price, condition details, or shipping information", I thought I would check what information was available from Texas, though I am not so much interested in "dimensions" or "best price", but the things that should be being said here:
Dear anonymous antiquities seller, For some reason, and despite me never clicking on anything to say I actually want to view such content, 1stDibs is pushing images of this vessel as an intrusive and annoying popup onto websites I view. It has done it so many times I am intrigued and tried to look at it. But I find so few relevant details - like who the "seller" actually is and on what they base the identification (culture, age, origins?). Why specifically "cats"? Is there any collection history and paperwork (excavation permit, official export papers) that you can let the buyer have? I am a bit disturbed by the fact that the images are not zoomable, and hardly comprise the basis for a prospective buyer to actually judge what they are getting. At the scale visible some of the "manganese deposits" supposed to confirm burial look like circular inkspots. Could you comment on that? As a seller do you find that using a venue that operates through intrusive unsolicited advertising like this benefits your business? Do you have a contact address please? Thank you. Paul Barford
Watch this space for any answer the author of this blog gets about the export documentation and  apparent inkspots (for the latter see the post below).

UPDATE 23.04.2022
The blurb says "typically replies within an hour". So it must be atypical that a day later, even allowing for timezone differences, I still have received no reply. Perhaps they are still trying to find the paperwork I asked about to send me a scan to prove that all is kosher with this item. But on the inbox where the reply should appear, there's a little dropdown thingy that tells us that the dealer's name is: "Rockwell Antiques" and there's quite a bit about them in the internet, they are based in the Dallas Design District, Dallas, TX 75207. Here's the website and proclaims "French, European, British and Asian Antiques a speciality", but not dugup pre-Columbian artefcts, I guess.

Video on Fake Spotting

Readers of this blog will know that Colorado dealer Bob Dodge is not one of my favourite people, he has been rude and aggressive towards me in the past when challenged and besides that has such a grating voice and demeanour that irritate me. That's before we get on to what he has been selling. But credit where credit is due, this video of his is very informative. One of the points covered is manganese blooms mentioned in the post above. So, with some reluctance, I'll post a link to one of the better explanations on the internet of the issues of spotting fake artefacts, including the problem of manganese deposits/blooms on pre-Columbian pottery on the market (for those in a hurry, this begins here: Artemis):

Artemis Gallery "Using Sight to Authenticate Ancient Art" Aug 6, 2015. 9,092 views
Bob Dodge from Artemis Gallery explains how to use your eyes (your sense of sight) to distinguish authentic ancient pottery from modern replicas.
[this is not an endorsement, and not all this video says is good, for example taking a q-tip with acetone to any antiquity is not a good idea as certain types of q-tips may not be chemically inert to acetone, but secondly randomly applying acetone in a search for 'authenticity' to the surface of an authentic vessel that has the painted decoration professionally retouched after excavation is not going to make the dealer happy, since the paints used will have been chosen to be reversible precisely using solvents like acetone].

But make your own minds up. There are some good points here. And there is a desperate need for there to be more videos like this out there to inform collectors.


Thursday 21 April 2022

"Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant".

Those of us appalled by pictures of callously flattened civilian targets, whole cities, in Ukraine, almost in the centre of Europe in the 21st century should bear in mind that this is nothing "new". Even in recent years we've seen the same thing in Palestine, Yemen, Syria and so many other places and each time piously intone "never again" and hope that this one is the promised "Последний бой". Who are we kidding? (Tweet)

Wednesday 20 April 2022

"British Archaeological Sites Damaged by Artefact Hunters": New TV Series Coming Soon

     Who do these people think they are?      
Great British History Hunters has teamed up with the British Museum (Portable Antiquities Scheme):
Episode 1x01; Apr 27, 2022
In this first episode a unique collection of Roman Bronzes make life-changing amounts of money at auction, mudlarks scour the Thames foreshore for treasures of London's past and a 3,000-year-old gold sun pendant stuns is discovered in Shropshire.
Their earlier press release gets the title wrong: "More 4 links up with the British Museum to learn more about our hidden history 3 November 2021. Surely, if the BM was involved, it should be a more public-spirited "to learn more about the destruction of our hidden history by thousands of artefact hunters and looters". But then the real issue seems to have got lost in a cloud of Indiana Jones-wannabe imagery and typically British archaeo-wafflyfluff:
Channel 4 has commissioned a new series Great British History Hunters for More 4 from Tuesday’s Child following the real-life detectorists and the journey their fascinating finds [ripped from the soil in England and Wales - PMB] make through the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure processes.

Britain is a land of rich history hidden beneath our feet, where millions of artefacts [lying in archaeological assemblages and contexts PMB] are yet to be found that can reveal the secrets of our past [if investigated and recorded properly - PMB]. This series will tell warm characterful stories about ordinary people that are out-and-about all over the country [trashing archaeological sites and contexts - PMB] making extraordinary discoveries every day [and some of them reporting these loose finds - PMB]. Whether metal detectorists, mudlarks or amateur archaeologists, they [are among a mass of almost 30 000 hobbyists who - PMB] all have a passion for finding [taking PMB] the missing pieces that [would - PMB] help tell the story of our past.

It's every detectorist’s dream to one day find “treasure” that ends up on display in the British Museum or a museum local to where they live [to bask in the kudos and pocket the reward, while archaeology struggles to find resources to conserve, analyse and publish this material in real time - PMB]. With unique access to the Museum’s dedicated team of archaeologists [, propagandists - PMB], curators, conservators, and scientists, the discoveries are filmed from soil to gallery, revealing more history from the objects at each stage. Since its inception in 1997, there’s been over 1.5m finds recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme – a project to record archaeological finds made by the public - and whilst some of these artefacts can reap financial rewards for the finders, more importantly they [would -PMB] also help shed light on the history of our nation [as well as the sites they were ripped from, if their context was better known and the subject of proper analysis and publication - PMB].
But of course it's not about archaeology, or even really studying and understanding the past. Taking its lead from the popular TV comedy series (which was not about the past either), 'Detectorists':
Against a backdrop of the Great British Countryside in all its glory - rolling fields, stunning coastlines, hillsides, vast mudflats, breathtaking archaeological excavations, and the London skyline at night - we’ll meet a colourful mix of finders, including an 11-year-old YouTuber finding Bronze Age gold, an Indiana Jones enthusiast, female detectorists giving the guys a run for their money, war vets, devoted dads and a host of other finders that illustrate the camaraderie and companionship that detecting can bring, and the important role they all play in the British Museum’s mission to involve people in archaeology and share an appreciation of our shared past. [...] Sarah Saunders, British Museum’s Head of Learning and National Partnerships, said: “The British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a unique partnership, that brings together archaeologists, museum professionals, landowners and finders, to better understand, appreciate and protect Britain’s rich past. [...] We are delighted that this work will be highlighted by this new series which will showcase the hard work of the Scheme and exciting discoveries made every year by the British public.”
But (from this) apparently not actually highlighting too anything about the issues involved in treating what is left of the archaeological record of "Britain" (read: England and Wales) as merely a bottomless quarry for collectables for private collecting and profit by a minority of selfish people that want to dig it all up and dispose of what they can find for themselves as they like and how that actually relates to the underlying principles and ethics of heritage management and archaeology with which this activity is hereby partnered. 

From past experience, this program almost certainly will NOT be telling the public about the relationship after quarter of a century of operation of this public-funded detectorists' scam between the number of finds that are recovered 'responsibly', i.e., reported and recorded, and the vastly greater numbers that are not, and what this means in terms of the overall destructive effects of this exploitative hobby. 

By not telling the public about this, the object-centred ivory tower eggheads of the British Museum will (again) not have to bother about telling the viewing public about the realities behind the silly publicity-spin 'expedition' jeep parked in front of their faux-classical façade aping imperial grandeur with the numpty in Indiana Jones garb standing next to it trying to look cool. 

After all, why in Boris's Britain would one expect any public-funded authority to actually tell the public how the unregulated trashing of archaeological sites by people "out-and-about all over the country" to build up scattered ephemeral private collections is (allegedly) "protecting" the archaeological record of Britain's (or even Europe/the world's) rich past?*

* And of course we should take into account that the eggheads in a "museum" would not actually be thinking about the dirty, grubby, archaeological record itself at all, but only about the gawpworthy artefacts extracted from it that in an object-centred view are themselves sufficient of "the past" for their own institutional needs and "mission". Equally obvious is that not a single one of the opinion-forming (ha ha) archaeological bodies of the British 'establishment' will utter as much as a peep about this manner of presentation of archaeological material in a public press release (or even draft a letter of protest to the PAS), will they? 'Course not.

(See also "The British Museum Did Not Bin This One" PACHI 4th November 2021)

Damaged cultural sites in Ukraine verified by UNESCO

Press release: 'Damaged cultural sites in Ukraine verified by UNESCO' by Alexandre Larcan April 19, 2022
As of 14 April, UNESCO has verified damage to 102 sites since 24 February – 47 religious buildings, 9 museums, 28 historical buildings, 3 theaters, 12 monuments and 3 libraries.

UNESCO is conducting a preliminary damage assessment for cultural properties* by cross-checking the reported incidents with multiple credible sources. These published data which will be regularly updated do not commit the Organization. UNESCO is also developing, with its partner organizations, a mechanism for independent coordinated assessment of data in Ukraine, including satellite image analysis, in line with provisions of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
*The term “cultural property” refers to immovable cultural property as defined under Article 1 of the 1954 Hague Convention, irrespective of its origin, ownership or status of registration in the national inventory, and facilities and monuments dedicated to culture, including memorials.

To date, no UNESCO World Heritage site appears to have been damaged.

Chernihiv Region

  1. Historic building of the regional youth center, formerly the Shchors Cinema – (Chernihiv)
  2. Church of St. Theodosius (Chernihiv)
  3. The Military Historical Museum - a branch of the Chernihiv Historical Museum – (Chernihiv region)
  4. Building of regional children's library (former Vasyl Tarnovsky Museum of Ukrainian Antiquities) – (Chernihiv region)
  5. St. Catherine Church of Chernihiv – (Chernihiv)
  6. Former District Court House in Chernihiv (built in 1904) – (Chernihiv)
  7. Chernihiv Regional Universal Scientific Library. V.G. Korolenko (built in 1910-13)
  8. St. Kazan Church in Chernihiv – (Chernihiv)
  9. Memorial cemetery with a memorial sign to the dead and the chapel of St. Archangel Michael (built in 2014-21) – (Chernihiv)
  10. Voskresenska Church (built in 1913) – (Chernihiv)
  11. Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (built in 1801-04) – (Chernihiv)
  12. Central City Library M. Kotsiubynsky – (Chernihiv)
  13. Regional Art Museum. G. Galagana (built in 1899) – (Chernihiv)

Kyiv Region

  1. Ivankiv Museum – (Kyiv Region)
  2. Voznesens'ka Tserkva, Church of the Ascension – (Kyiv Region)
  3. Old church (Tserkva Heorhiyivsʹka) in Zavorychi village of Kyiv region – (Kyiv Region)
  4. Petro-Pavlivska Church – (Kyiv region)
  5. The Irpin Bible Seminary – (Kyiv region)
  6. Memorial monument to villagers who died in the Second World War – (Kyiv region)
  7. House of Culture (built in 1952-54) – (Kyiv region)
  8. Church of the Resurrection of Christ – (Kyiv region)
  9. Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (built in 2008) – (Kyiv region)
  10. Monument to the fallen soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (established between 2014 and 2021) – (Kyiv region)
  11. Bust of Taras Shevchenko in Borodyanka (established in 1999) – (Kyiv region)
  12. Wooden Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (built in 1892) – (Kyiv region)
  13. Church St. Georgiy Pobidonosets in Irpin (built in 2021) – (Kyiv region)
  14. Convent of the Icon of the Mother of God "Uslyshatelnytsya" in Fasova village (built in 2012-16) – (Kyiv region)
  15. Mass grave of soldiers and a monument to compatriots who died during the Great Patriotic War in Bucha (established in 1951) – (Kyiv region)
  16. Church of Saints Elijah and Apostle Andrew the First-Called (built in 1997) – (Kyiv region)
  17. Local History Museum of Borodyanshchyna in Borodyanka – (Kyiv region)
  18. Central City Library in Irpin – (Kyiv region)
  19. Palace of Culture. T.G. Shevchenko – (Kyiv region)
  20. Monument to St. Archangel Michael in Borodiyanka (established in 2015) – (Kyiv region)

    Kharkiv Region

    1. Orthodox church in Kamianka village of Izyum – (Kharkiv)
    2. Uspensky Cathedral - Assumption Cathedral – (Kharkiv)
    3. Kharkiv Court of Appeal building – (Kharkiv)
    4. Historical "Slovo" building – (Kharkiv)
    5. Kharkiv Art Museum – (Kharkiv)
    6. Church of the Holy Queen Tamara – (Kharkiv)
    7. Kharkiv National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater – (Kharkiv)
    8. Residential historical building in Kharkiv – (Kharkiv)
    9. Kharkiv State Scientific Library (Korolenko State Scientific Library) – (Kharkiv)
    10. Building of the faculty of Economics of Kharkiv National University – (Kharkiv)
    11. Building of the former "Palace of Labor" – (Kharkiv)
    12. Church of the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women – (Kharkiv)
    13. Building of the former central lecture hall in Constitution Square (Kharkiv)
    14. Historic residential building of the XIXth century (Kharkiv)
    15. Memorial Complex of Glory in Kharkiv – (Kharkiv)
    16. The monument of architecture "house of the former store "Lux" (XIXth century) (Kharkiv)
    17. Drobytskyi Yar Holocaust Memorial (Kharkiv)
    18. Historical complex of building of fire department buit in 1886 – (Kharkiv)
    19. Former women's gymnasium (built in 1870s) – (Kharkiv region)
    20. Kharkiv school No 7 (built in 1906-07) – (Kharkiv)
    21. Building of the Department of Labor and Social Protection of the Population of Izyum City Council (building of the XIXth century) – (Kharkiv region)
    22. Building of the Research Institute of Venereology (building 1889) – (Kharkiv)
    23. Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (built in 1838) – (Kharkiv region)
    24. Church of the 2000th anniversary of the Nativity of Christ in Kharkiv (built in 1999-2001) – (Kharkiv)
    25. V.A. Afanasiev Kharkiv State Academic Puppet Theater (built in 1906-1907) – (Kharkiv)
    26. Holy Ascension Cathedral (All-Holy Church) in Izyum (built in 1826, completed in 1902-03) – (Kharkiv region)
    27. Church of the Cross  (built in 1809-23) – (Kharkiv region)
    28. Church of Saint Demetrios of Soluneia – (Kharkiv region)
    29. Former Palace of Culture for the railway workers in Kharkiv (Central House of Science and Technology of the Southern Railway) – (Kharkiv)

    Zaporijiya Region

    1. Church of St. Tikhon of Zadonsky – (Zaporizhzhya region)
    2. Historical and Architectural Museum "Popov Manor" (Historical and architectural museum reserve "Sadyba Popova", complex of the 19th century) – (Zaporizhzhya region)

    Zhytomir Region

    1. Orthodox church near Zhytomyr (Church of the Blessed Virgin of the Ovruch Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church) – (Zhytomyr Region)
    2. Church of St. Nicholas (Church of the Holy Veil defrocked Archimandrite Agathangelos) – (Zhytomyr Region)

    Donetsk Region

    1. Svyatogorsk Holy Dormition Lavra – (Donetsk region)
    2. Church of St. Nicholas of Myrlikiysky Wonderworker – (Donetsk region)
    3. Chapel of the Holy Martyr Tatiana – (Donetsk region)
    4. Church of Christ the Savior (Tserkva Khrysta Spasytelya) – (Donetsk region)
    5. The Drama Theater in Mariupol –  (Donetsk region)
    6. Our Lady of Kazan Orthodox Cathedral in Marinka–  (Donetsk region)
    7. Monument to Metropolitan Ignatium of Mariupol in Mariupol – (Donetsk region)
    8. St. Archangel Michael Church in Mariupol – (Donetsk region)
    9. Church of the Icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Mourners" – (Donetsk region)
    10. The Holy Transfiguration Church – (Donetsk region)
    11. St. Nicholas the Wonderworker – (Donetsk region)
    12. Church of the Nativity of the blessed Virgin Mary in Mariupol – (Donetsk region)
    13. St. Dmytrivska Church (built in 1850-61) – (Donetsk region)
    14. Mariupol Museum of Local Lore – (Donetsk region)
    15. Residential building of the XIXth century in Mariupol – (Donetsk region)
    16. Memorial monument to Afghan soldiers – (Donetsk region)
    17. Residential buildings in Mariupol (1930-41) – (Donetsk region)
    18. Monument to V.G. Korolenko in Mariupol (installed in 1966) – (Donetsk region)
    19. City palace of Culture in Mariupol (built in 1952) – (Donetsk region)
    20. St. Volodymyr's Church in Mariupol (built in 1999-2000) – (Donetsk region)
    21. Church Vifaniya in Mariupol (building of the early XXI century) – (Donetsk region)
    22. Yuryev's House in Mariupol (building of the late nineteenth century) – (Donetsk region) 

    23. Lu[h]ansk Region

      1. St. Catherine's Church (Katerynynsʹka Tserkva) – (Luhansk region)
      2. Church in honor of the Icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in Sverodonets – (Luhansk region)
      3. Islamic Cultural Centre "Bismillah" in Severodonetsk– (Luhansk region)
      4. Church of the Nativity in Severodonetsk– (Luhansk region)
      5. St. Tykhvin Church – (Luhansk region)
      6. St. Nicholas Chuch – (Luhansk region)
      7. Church of St. Luke of Crimea (building of the early XXI century) – (Luhansk region)

      Sumy Region

      1. Okhtyrka City Museum of Local Lore – (Sumy region)
      2. Architectural monument of the former People's House (1911-1914) – (Sumy region)
      3. Historical monument of architecture of national importance - the house of the estate manager L.E. Koenig (1911) – (Sumy region)
      4. Monument in honor of the 183rd Tank Brigade (WW2) – (Sumy region)
      5. Okhtyrka City Council (building of the 20th century) – (Sumy region)
      6. Locomotive depot "Smorodyne" (building 1877) – (Sumy region)
      7. The main house museum of the estate L.E. Koenig (building from the late XVIII century – 1870; part of Trostyanetsky Museum and Exhibition Center) – (Sumy region)
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