Friday 29 July 2022

Detectorist's Response: A Tale in Three Acts

Regarding the condescending Suzie and Bonnie Antiquity lecture that we all got about so-called "responsible and responsive metal detectorists", here's a case in question from social media, just a mouse click away:
Mr Triker (an MCMD member it seems) may be very wary about showing the FLO what he's found, and concealing his location, it is a shame he's less concerned about keeping his underwear to himself.  This detectorist is doing... what many detectorists do, and the FLO is doing his job conscientiously. Suzie and Bonnie are not the ones involved in the down-to-earth implementation of their overseas academic fantasies.

Thursday 28 July 2022

"Buy or Not To Buy?" Moral Conundrum for Collectors

A: "It's unprovenanced."
B: "Yes, but the dealer is reputable, so it must be OK, no?
A: "But you don't know where it comes from and how it got on the market. How do you know it's legally obtained?"
B: "I guess I can't, but does it matter? Really? Does it make a difference?".
A: "Well, I am not sure that....
B: "Besides, it's got the effing TOWER OF BABEL mentioned in it!"
A: "But every copy of the Old Testament ever printed has too."
B: "Yes, but unlike them, this is a unique object, made by kings for everyone to see.... and will be MINE, nobody else will have one. Don't you see?"
A: "It belongs in a museum".
B" "It will belong to me. It'll be in my museum. My own one. I can show it to people, tell them about it at cocktail parties. I'll be fascinating, admired and envied. I'll get some scholars to write it up for me, and publish it with a big posh, expensive academic publisher, then everybody will know what a treasure I have".
A: "But are the papers the dealer showed you real?"
B: "Who cares? I'll take it, have it wrapped and deliver it with your invoice on Tuesday".


As someone once said a long time ago, 95% of the objects on the antiquities market are stolen/smuggled or fake. Every collector under the sun believes every dealer under the sun that the very object that they have is one of the rare 5%. We might visualise the arrogance and/or self-delusion of that one-in twenty  "Canny Collector Model" when it comes to antiquities buying:

I do not know if Schøyen's stela with its fanciful narrativisation is real or fake, I can't read Norwegian. But the very fact that it is ungrounded immediately raises my suspicions that it very well might be. I also would draw attention to the fact that the potlid fractures that disfigure it are nowhere described or accounted for in his description, yet are pretty effective 'distressing' that add to the impression of an antiquity snatched from the destructive jaws of time. Just what collectors love. A question he'd have done well to address before buying. Also from the photo in his online show-and-tell, the edges of one of them seems to be abraded. So when and how was it created?



Wednesday 27 July 2022

From Mitigation to Wunderkammer Show and Tell

British archaeology promoting itself. Portable Antiquities Scheme Oxfordshire FLO Edward Caswell:
                       Edward Caswell (via Twitter)                     
@edward_caswell25 lip
Today I'm celebrating the #FestivalofArchaeology with a small #journey to the @MuseumofOxford! Come down to handle some objects, try out some activities or even see some real finds recording! I'll be here till 3 (with a small intermission for lunch!)
Lunch is so exciting. As much as going to Oxford (!) and records of finds (!). I asked him "how many, on average, (non-metal-detectorist) members of the public  can you count on these days bringing finds in to identify and record?" I  also wondered - because it impacts my own research - on whether declining input from this source is the reason why this information is now missing from PAS records. At the time of writing, Mr Casswell has not deemed that worthy of a response though a perfectly cogent, and civil, question. It is an important point. What is the public-funded and public facing Portable Antiquities Scheme for, what has it become since it was set up to sidestep Article 2iii of the European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Revised) 16.I.1992?

In Mr Caswell's photo, we can see a big poster in the background of a metal detectorist and at the bottom an Anglo-Saxon gold-and-garnet disc brooch (why does this not give the message "you too can find archaeological treasures just lying loose the fields for the taking"?). In the front of the desk are a series of flint implements apparently for a basic 'show-and-tell', to the left is a display of replica metal detected seal matrices (why replicas? Well, the actual finds went back to the finders so are unavailable to the public). Around them are some posters explaining seal matrices - nice and easy for the plebs, got pictures and writing on them. Further over to the rest is an ominous-looking basket of pencils... ("draw you own seal matrix" or something equally as dead-headed?). On the right is a box of loose fragments of seventeenth and eighteenth century clay pipes with a popular Shire Book (? or suchlike) guide to clay pipes next to a computer. Is this the promised "even see some real finds recording!"? If so, the PAS is supposed to be only recording stuff earlier than 300 years old.

What does all this achieve? A "festival of archaeology" is being reduced here to a dumbdown "let me show you some old stuff". That is not archaeology. That is not explaining archaeology to the public. It is showing old stuff (eBay does that). Perhaps the PAS thinks that the general public in their country only needs and deserves being "shown old stuff" by the people who take money to do their archaeology. Maybe they feel that is enough. Really? They (the public) don't deserve any more than that in the way of archaeological outreach?

This approach seems utterly unprepared for going beyond the "coo! All those years ago, just think!" and similar public comments. I'd like to be there when the FLO is faced with a more truculent questioner who insistently enquires: "yeah, but how do you know?". A few days ago a FLO published another of their habitual ("#Finds Friday") issue-dodging gatekeeping show-and-tells, which is mostly what PAS employees use social media for in their outreach (I use the term loosely). It's object centred, but cannot even be dignified with the term artefactological:
A belated #FindsFriday animal head from Dorset. Of Late Viking-Age style, it’s part of a group of similar, though not identical, 11th-century mounts recorded from across England by @findsorguk. PAS : DEV-6CD12E
In reply I posted something that raised a "how do we know?" question of my own that the FLO thinks is less important that using somebody else's find for self aggrandization, by showing it off (the finder's name is suppressed).
Paul Barford @PortantIssues 24 lip
W odpowiedzi do @Rob_Webley i @findsorguk
I do not think one could look for a clearer example of archaeologists hiding the Truth About Ancient Visitors, you can see the booster rockets and everything!! No archaeological context to show otherwise, is there? "It is what it looks like/ I sez it is" applies here, doesn't it?
I would have been interested to see how the PAS actually addresses issues like this when raised by a member of their audience. Instead, they ignored it. If I had been a metal detectorist, or an eBay seller, or a little old lady who saw this on Twitter, would they also have ignored them? If so, what is PAS for?

Any FLO here care to tell my readers why this is NOT an emblematic representation of a space rocket with booster engines  without being condescending and backing up their argument with checkable evidence?  Any care to show us how they do their job? Comments open. 

Tuesday 26 July 2022

French Archaeologists Held for Questioning Over Antiquities


Two high-ranking archaeologists and curators are being held for questioning by French investigators as part of a probe into a global art-trafficking scandal that has implicated the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Met, and former Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez. The pair are suspected of negligently advising the Louvre Abu Dhabi to purchase artworks with unclear provenance (Devorah Lauter, French Authorities Detain Two Archaeologists, Including a Louvre Curator, as Part of an Ongoing International Art-Trafficking Dragnet ArtNet NewsJuly 25, 2022).

Jean-François Charnier and Noëmi Daucé are suspected of ignoring warnings about the questionable provenance of at least two allegedly stolen Egyptian antiquities worth millions, and urging the Louvre Abu Dhabi to acquire them, according to the French daily Liberation. The pair are suspected of negligence when they worked at the private Agence France-Muséums (AFM), which was tasked with certifying the legality and provenance of ancient antiquities for the Louvre Abu Dhabi in time for its opening in 2017. The two experts worked alongside former Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez, the former Louvre director who was president of the AFM’s scientific committee from 2013 to 2021 while also heading the famed museum. In May, Martinez was charged in France with “complicity of gang fraud and laundering” in the tangled trafficking case, which is being investigated in cooperation with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. Though Martinez claims his innocence, the French government suspended his duties related to art trafficking, within his role as a cultural heritage ambassador in June.
Daucé currently works as a curator at the Louvre in Paris and Charnier is now an advisor at French cultural agency, Afalula, for the cultural development of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ula region.
Liberation also reported that authorities found several “abnormal” deposits made to Charnier’s bank account between 2016 and 2018 from a Belgian auction house run by brothers Ali and Hicham Aboutaam [...], The Aboutaam brothers also sold several works to the Louvre Abu Dhabi via Charnier, according to the French daily.

Monday 25 July 2022

Kyiv Protecting Cultural Heritage from Russians

Nils Adler 'The Kyiv museum staff who stayed to protect cherished artefacts' Al Jazeera 24 Jul 2022

In July 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin published a now-infamous 5,300-word essay claiming that Russians and Ukrainians were “one people — a single whole”. Then, in a televised address to the nation on February 21, 2022, Putin dismissed that Ukraine had any “real statehood”; instead, the country was part of Russia’s “own history, culture, spiritual space”.

From the outset of the war, Russia had started to destroy sites of Ukrainian cultural heritage

Wadiyan Heritage Days

    Artefact Hunting as a Heritage Event in Wadiya  

In the breakaway Socialist Republic of Wadiya the heritage of the pre-colonial past is an important factor is creating a national identity, encouraging tourism, which is good for the economy. There are many archaeological sites, going back thousands of years into the past holding information about the glorious history of the region. "This history is the glorious heritage of all Wadiyans, something we all share and can take pride in" says the country's ruler Haffaz Aladeen. This weekend is Wadiyan Heritage Day and there will be a number of events all over the Repblic to celebrate. In the region of Sodor, the local heritage society is encouraging citizens to go out and search for relics of the past, they will be given maps showing the precise location of archaeological sites and they can hire mattocks, picks and shovels and will be encouraged to go and dig for artefacts, if they are not gold or silver, they can take them home, or sell them to collectors online.  

Not everybody agrees with policies that encourage this. Nnil Rydfirn al-Muhdir of the Wadiyan Archaeology Council says “With the looting of the archaeological record, what we lose are centuries of history and invaluable heritage. Every time cultural property is taken or damaged, present and future generations lose the possibility of enriching our society with our past, with our common history”. Whether or not Wadiyan policy will move closer to protecting the heritage against senseless looting depends on a lot of factors.

More Data About Artefact Hunting Being Hidden from the Public

Why have PAS stopped saying at bottom of their records (like here) the method of discovery and kind of land use it came from? What are they hiding by preventing the public from knowing that when they used to proudly display it ("83 % of our finds come from metal detectorists searching ploughland, woodland and pasture...")? Is it because they now have very few members of the general public toddling along to their "finds days" bringing artefacts for identification with them? The statistic (for example) that it's now more like 97% of the finds they record come from metal detectorists suggests to the public (who pay for it) that the public-funded Scheme is set up to service a minority hobby. Imagine what would be the reaction if there was a public-funded scheme that spent millions of pounds over 25+ years to digitise and make available the records from notebooks of a few thousand train spotters of England and Wales and present it as "citizen transport circulation analysts"

Saturday 23 July 2022

Digging Up The Past in Jersey

           Perry Mesney, FLO

The 2022 Festival of Archaeology tales place from 16-31 July and this year the theme is "Journeys". But one of the events is nothing to do with that.
Have a go at metal detecting!
Let the finders of Jersey’s Le Catillon II hoard give you a hands-on experience of metal detecting. The Jersey Heritage Finds Liaison Officer will be there to explain the rules and regulations with regard to metal detecting in Jersey.
Categories: Archaeology skills , Family fun
They can't be bothered to use one of their own photos, the one on the website is pinched from the 2017 Mary Shepperson Guardian article that, sadly the advert makes no mention of, because it is precisely about the relationship between artefact hunting and archaeology. Wouldn't want to confuse the public would they?

Why would the Jersey Heritage Finds Liaison Officer (a runologist) be at a "Try treasure hunting out" event "to explain the rules and regulations with regard to metal detecting in Jersey". That's not a Festival of Archaeology unless he's there to explain why hoiking artefacts out of the archaeological record, whether you record an "x-marks the spot" findspot or not, is damaging that context and is not archaeology. 

How many participants will the CBA's parallel festival events of 'rural churchyard gravestone defacing', 'historic hedgerow grubbing', 'freestyle castle wall climbing', 'megalith toppling' or any of the other events giving the public 'contact with the past'? Bonkers. 

Monday 18 July 2022

The PAS: Mystery Object, Mysterious Record and Needlessly-Evasive Answers

      PAS keeps details under wraps     

Just out.
Paul M. Barford and David W. J. Gill 'A Harness Fitting from Buckinghamshire on the UK Market' The Journal of Art Crime Issue 27 Spring 2022, 17-30.
In February 2021 a Late Iron Age harness brooch was sold at auction in Derbyshire, England. The brooch had been found by an artefact hunter in Buckinghamshire, though there appear to be conflicting reports of when this took place. The paper explores the circumstances of the discovery, and the eve-of-sale recording of the brooch by the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The process of documenting the find is examined and concerns are raised about the lack of transparency.

Saturday 16 July 2022

Fish-in-Barrel "Archaeology", Metal Detecting as Imagined "Citizen Science" in the Czech Republic

Citizen science  

The 'English Disease' is spreading even in Central Europe:
Balázs Komoróczy 2022 Archaeology, Metal Detecting, and Citizen Science in the Czech Republic
Although the legal conditions are perceived as restrictive, metal detecting has become a popular activity in the Czech Republic. In 2017, a questionnaire survey revealed that a significant segment of this community is made up of passionate people interested in history and archaeology. The majority of professional archaeologists consider metal-detecting finds to be important and believe that cooperation with metal detectorists is necessary, beneficial, and acceptable. A collaborative project called “Joint Forces in Order to Discover the Common Archaeological Heritage of the South Moravian Region” aims to create conditions for citizen science among the metal detectorists in the region. By using tools such as expert workshops for the employees of professional institutions, meetings, educational workshops and field activities with interested members of the public, and production and distribution of printed and digital information materials, the partners in the program have long endeavored to improve the mutual understanding of all relevant actors of society and administration. The creation of circles of citizen collaborators is in progress in several archaeological institutions; nevertheless, this process is far from over. In 2020, with the creation of the Portal of Amateur Collaborators, this activity acquired a unified digital scheme for the registration of finds.
Although the Czech scheme public finds recording scheme calls itself "PAS", if you look at the blurb, it is a quite different concept to the UK's ineffective @findsorguk . More akin to the UK's Proposed Institute of Detectorists. I am not sure what that really achieves apart from more dots on distribution maps.

Their flagship publication seems to be:
Balázs Komoróczy, Petra Golanova, Matej Kmosek, Marek Vlach, Michaela Kmošková 2020, 'New metal and glass finds from the Late Iron Age in South Moravia (CZ). The contribution of citizen science to knowledge of the La Tène settlement structure in the Břeclav Region', Přehled výzkumů 61/2.
The ‘Celts Beneath the Pálava Hills’ exhibition was installed at the end of the summer of 2020 at the Regional Museum in Mikulov. The museum prepared the exhibition in cooperation with the Moravian Museum and the Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Brno. Along with other unique exhibits, an assemblage of 70 metal artefacts stored in Dolní Dunajovice in the study collection of the Research Centre for the Roman and Great Migration periods of the Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Brno, was chosen to be displayed for this event. The article presents 47 small artefacts made of copper alloys, 18 coins and five glass artefacts from 17 cadastral units, which enriched the exhibition with a variety of characteristic LT C and D1 finds. They do not form a complete collection, as their common denominator is that they were found in 2011–2017 solely by metal detectorists working together with the archaeologists from the workplace where the finds are stored. These never-before-published artefacts and the qualities of each deserve to be presented both to the public and the professional community. These artefacts include finds which, in the context of the Late Iron Age of south Moravia, are unique objects (including two bronze figurines) that are significant contributions to the clarification and differentiation of the topography of the La Tène settlement structure in the studied region.
Read this carefully, and you get the impression that these detectorists (called for some reason "citizen scientists") have been handing in artefacts they've been finding and aan exhibition was put together to make use of them. Whether or not the dots on the distribution map tell anyone anything much of use about the "the La Tène settlement structure", what it tells us is about the structure of detectorist search areas - some of which were known sites anyway.

In any case this collaboration consists of tekkies bringing stuff to the academics, cap in hand, for them to do their artefactological/typological bla-bla (and for some unfathomable reason metal analyses) publish and keep. That's not "citizen science", it is treating the services of the metal detectorist in an instrumental way, and its value as archaeology I would say is highly doubtful. The colourful dot-distribution map means, precisely, what in terms of the archaeological contexts of the sites these loose typological geegaws were hoiked from? So, they have pictures and descriptions of loose scattered "things" taken from deposits, but what do the latter mean?

What is "citizen science", apart from a trendy term currently being usefully employed in grant-applications? What kind of "science" is using a commercially (readily) available specifically designed dedicated tool for finding buried metal to... uh (checks notes).. find buried metal and dig it up? That is not science, any more than beachcombing, birdwatching, bottledump digging and beermat collection are.

Which definition of science does using a metal detector to detect a piece of metal and dig it up to pocket it comply with?
Definition of science
1a: knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method
b: such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena: 'NATURAL SCIENCE'
2a: a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study 'the science of theology'
b: something (such as a sport or technique) that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge 'have it down to a science
3: a system or method reconciling practical ends with scientific laws 'cooking is both a science and an art'
4 capitalized : 'CHRISTIAN SCIENCE'
5: the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding

Friday 15 July 2022

Leaving La-La-Land: Openly IR-responsible and "UN-responsive"

On a metal detecting Facebook page within mouse-click range of every adherent of the "Suzie and Bonnie "Responsive and Responsible" metal detectorists" factually-unsupported claptrap: thread on PAS and declaring Treasure (a legal obligation)
Chris Lawrence 1day ago
What a pile of b#llocks TTC [sic PMB] changed the Treasure trove act to suit them! And even changed the original curators report! As soon as I went to the hearing I knew my pants was coming down! I'm never handing anything in again I'd rather melt it Down! Coroner n curators are all in the same pocket and corrupt! So they say its jewelry but it goes into their coin collection draw never to be seen by the public wtf¿
Anthony Thomas Time for a strike, we need to stand together and not send anything in until they listen, see how quick things will happen when no more calls are made to flow [sic PMB] around the country.
Bob Tarran
If everyone stopped reporting finds they be all out of a job in six months .
Jestyn Francis Thomas
Join the club, lots of us in it
Bob Carter
I've previously found any number of Treasure items then taken them in for identity with Flo, then taken them on again as I am legally entitled to, then at a later time when I've received a derisory offer I've taken these finds and re buried them for flo to find....
Doug Pickering
I don't know why y'all ever reported your finds
Colin Pearson
Hi well said mate this is my last the PAS doesn't exist any more, DICK TURPIN'S STILL ALIVE, the more people we can get the better, the PAS is just a way of sneaky obtaining an item [...]
Did any of them get kicked out of Mr Fudge's "Responsible and Responsive Detectorists" Facebook group? Check for yourselves. And what's that Bob Carter on about? 
 Mr Carter ignores or is ignorant of the fact that he does not take Treasure to the FLO for "identity", he reports it to the Coronor as per the Treasue Act (law). If they get to the Treasure Valuation Committee, they've already been through the inquest declaring them Treasure, so he does not get then to "take them on again as I am legally entitled to [...] when I've received a derisory offer". The landowner gets to take them home if a museum does not offer to buy them from the landowner. As for the "I've taken these finds and re buried them for flo to find..." that simply betrays the mindset of a retarded nine-year old who understands nothing. The TVC valuation is not the FLO's fault. To bury a Treasure item because he's unsatisfied with the valuation first requires the permission of the landowner who owns it. Secondly it is simply senseless, and thiredly contaminates the archaeological record. It also shows that the oft-repeated mantra "it's not about the money" is just that, a meaningless phrase repeated by people who know it is not true.

Martin Schøyen Defends Part of Cuneiform Tablet Collection Through His Lawyers.

Some of Martin Schøyen's collection was seized by the police upon request from Iraqi authorities August 24, 2021. At their request, a critical report (The Oslo Report - March 8th) was produced by the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, March 2022 on the degree to which a legal export can be demonstrated - or not. Now the collector has instructed his lawyer to defend (mainly) the cuneiform tablet collection from what he represents as "personal attacks" by the heritage professional(s) who authored the report. Note a number of incantation bowls were also reportedly included in the seizure. The lawyer's letter issued by Cato Schiøtz of Advokatfirmaet Glittertind AS makes puzzling reading on a number of counts. In particular what is offered (pp 6-8) as as legitimating collection history for "No less than" 41 of the 83 cuneiform tablets in the seizure is just a series of assumptions and hearsay. The crucial part of the argument is that they "originate from the Cumberland Clark collection" created from the 1920s until the latter's death in 1941. Now Cumberland Clark is a very interesting character in his own right ( Nick Churchill Dorset’s McGonagall – Cumberland Clark; Anthony Daniels, 'The second-worst poet in English; Jeremy Miles, 'Remembering Cumberland Clark doyen of doggerel who went from bard to verse'). In this context, his significance is as the author, among others, of a book: 'The Art of Early Writing, with Special Reference to the Cuneiform System ( pp. 151, and 16 plates, 1938, The Mitre Press).

But then, after Clark died with his housekeeper in a 1941 bombing raid on his flat in Bournemouth, his collection (which therefore must have survived) lay somewhere in limbo, until "the heirs sold the collection to Mark Wilson – a highly respected antiques dealer – in the mid-1980s". The letter then states that Schøyen "acquired the Cumberland Clark collection" "as part of Martha Crouse collection" in 1989 and 1990. And this, according to the lawyer, was the first time some of them were itemised, but "further identification of the texts could only be done after preservation (when necessary)". Preservation? Why would cunies excavated (reportedly) 90 years earlier, kept in Clark's collection, and then with a respected dealer who sold them on to the Cruse collection, where they were for some time, now suddely need conservation? What was the cause of the deterioration of these objects curated by collectors for nearly a century? A second batch of cunies said tio be from the Clark collection was "acquired through a trade agreement with Mark Wilson on the 20th of June 1994" without hasving passed through the Crouse collection. So the original batch was split by Wilson some time between the mid 1980s and mid 1990s. Other cunies from the collection also surfaced independently, 25 assigned to this collection were donated in 2007 to the UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library. Where did they come from? Via Wilson too? Also in UCLA are another group of cunies that are reputed to be from the Clark collection that are inscribed giving the place they were used as "Dur-Abi-ešuh" in the Lloyd Cotsen Cuneiform Tablet Collection bought in 2002. The interest of this is that the site itself is unknown, but material from it has been surfacing recently from illicit digs by looters who evidently know where it is. So how did Cumberland Clark get hold of fragments? Or did he? Is "Cumberland Clark" just a name dealers attach to fragments they have to get them passage through the trade? This brings us straight back to the question of the verification of the trite collecting histories that has been a problem raised for a long time now (see my initial note on the Schoyen publication). Note that in the listing of the cunies given by the lawyer, they are listed by MS numbers and not Clark numbers or reference to pieces mentioned in Chapter X of the 1938 book.

Thursday 14 July 2022

"Alan's" Legacy - A Collection and Some Drawings of "Antiquities", and a Lot of Gaps in the Archaeological Record


On social media, Dr Jenny Durrant (Hampshire FLO) writes

A privilege to sort the legacy collection of detectorist Alan. Many potential museum acquisitions here, lots beautifully recorded in notebooks. Legacies will become a common situation, but it's impossible for many museums to acquire them. [...] The notebooks are essential for matching objects to find spots - many of which are the other side of the country. So there's some repatriation to happen.
We learn from another FLO that "Alan was such an accomplished artist and illustrator. Sad that he's no longer with us, but a privilege to work with him in Hampshire". The photo shows a page of a notebook with a very accomplished pencil drawing of an early medieval mount, but carefully aligned so you can't see what is written by it. One assumes that here is the information being used that is "essential" to "match the objects with their findspots" but cannot tell how detailed that information might be. Of course if the finds had all been PAS-recorded beforehand, there'd be no findspot-hunting to be done at public expense and the cost of Dr Durant's time now.

The photo shows basically a heap of objects on a table, some are grouped (by the collector or the FLO?) loose in plastic containers like used ice-cream tubs and the suchlike, some in small groups on opened polybags. Virtually none of the ones seen in this photo seem to have been stored in individual, labelled, polybags. None seem to be associated with any kind of label, though it is difficult to be sure, the ones nearer the camera seem not to bear any catalogue number in ink that would link each individual find to an external paper or digital record.

Part of "Alan's Legacy"

It is to be hoped that there will be some kind of publication summarising this collection and making available information of the numbers of artefacts of the broad categories there are, and how many items it is in total. So few of these old collections ever do end up being characterised in the archaeological literature. That's a shame, as this kind of collecting is a poorly documented phenomenon and I think (from what I see on the forums) there is a lot of misunderstanding that arises because of this. Since this kind of collecting is a major consumer of the archaeological record and (with 27000+ metal detectorists) it is a major area of contact between the public and the past, which is why (as a result of/ and factor affecting/ PAS liaison) it should be being better documented. 

Someone asked in the thread about the comment "[these 27000] legacies will become a common situation, but it's impossible for many museums to acquire them". they asked why this is. Victoria Barlow of Maidstone Museums says that currently, "We have a hold on acquisitions because of staff capacity. I couldn’t even think of taking on a collection like this. It would be unethical to accept items we couldn’t accession, catalogue or make available to the public in anything like a reasonable timescale".

Dr Durrant adds:
Also, finds in private collections may be disassociated from their findspots - not written down, or on laptops for which no-one knows the password. Museums collect geographical areas, so unprovenanced finds become homeless [...] Also worth remembering that even if a detectorist lived locally their finds may be from various counties.
I dealt with one where this was the case, but some items were even from other countries, gathered on his honeymoon.

Another aspect is that whatever the collector may have intended (intended to put in writing but did not), heirs may have different ideas about what they will do with the antiquities in a collection. The individual items often don't have a high market value, but aren't worthless, look at eBay or the finds valuation pages of metal detecting magazines. A collection like this is worth ££££s Somehow the landowners handing this stuff to collectors for free seem unaware of this. When a collector dies their heirs may also be unaware and just dump it all in a skip when cleaning out the house after a death, others may sell them as a job lot to somebody to resell, or some may take them to a museum to give them first pickings, or try to get the museum to buy. In the 1960s, members of the public finding artefacts who did not want to hang onto them simply donated items to museums. With the rise in metal detecting this all seems to have changed and man of them then expected the museum to buy the artefacts.

The point is though that the table-top full (and potentially plus the big plastic bin full) of loose unlabelled artefacts with some cutely-drawn and maybe listed in a notebook is no substitute for a proper record of the removal of these items from a site which (x-marks the spot findspot or not) is trashed by being dug over in the search for collectables. And that, too, is "Alan's Legacy".

US Non-profit Profits from Trading in Antiquities

As William Taylor alerts, the Mongolia Society, based in Bloomington, Indiana claims to be "a private, non-profit, non-political organization that promotes the study of Mongolia, its history, language, and culture, its aims are exclusively scholarly, educational, and charitable". They import and "distribute" scholarly books and periodicals, "as well as prints, music, and craft items from Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Buriatia". But not only. In their current 'Naadam Fundraiser 2022', they are auctioning artefacts/antiques as a fundraiser.

                     Golden Horde (Wikipedia)                     

There are "Historical Items - Coins" (including metal detected "Antique Russian Coins", and an "Antique Coin of the Vandals" - it is not... it resembles a Wiener pfennig of the 13th-14th centuries). Then there is a largish selection of, mainly metal, "Historical Items - Antiques" including 23 labelled as "Golden Horde" items. I'd be very wary of buying anything thus labelled (especially if it's imported from Buriatia - where a lot of the troops now committing atrocities in Ukraine have been coming from). The territory of the Golden Horde is now a chunk of the Russian Federation. How did the Mongolian society objects reach Indiana?

There is a huge problem with looting and trafficking in the region:

William Taylor, 'Beyond Genghis Khan: how looting threatens to erase Mongolia's history Mongolia’s cold, dry climate can result in incredible archaeological finds, but a harsh economic downturn means looting has risen to disastrous levels' Smithsonian Magazine Thu 26 Oct 2017.

Julia Kate Clark, 'As Mongolia Melts, Looters Close In On Priceless Artifacts Climate change and desperation are putting the country’s unique history at risk', The Conversation April 11, 2018

It is therefore very puzzling why an ostensibly "scholarly and educational" organization should promote the commerce in such artefacts in any form.

Ivory Tower Strategy, Carry on Doing What We're Doing

             "Advances in Archaeological Practice" ?          

In a Cambridge Journal called "Advances in Archaeological Practice" (oh yeah?) there's an article by co-authors Anna Wessman, Pieterjan Deckers, Michael Lewis, Suzie Thomas and Katelijne Nolet recording their thoughts on the issue of "Metal-Detecting RalliesCharacterizing the Phenomenon, Understanding the Challenges, and Identifying Strategies for Heritage Protection" 11 July 2022. Here's the abstract:
Hobby metal detectorists search for archaeological finds as individuals and within groups, the latter being the focus of this article. Such groups come together as “clubs” and “meetings,” but also as part of large, often commercially run events typically known as “rallies.” All these activities are attractive to detectorists because they provide them with access to land to search, along with the promise of making interesting (even valuable) discoveries, and they have a social dimension. They are common in England and also well established in several countries in northwest Europe, partly due to changing legislation. Although policies and mechanisms are often in place for collaboration with individual detectorists and even local metal-detecting clubs, larger events (not least, the large-scale commercial rallies increasingly occurring in England) present challenges for professional archaeologists, specifically in relation to the capacity to properly record finds and manage potential damage to the historic environment. To respond appropriately to these changes, a greater understanding of detectorists’ events is needed. For this reason, we explore and define the scale, nature, and diversity of group events, relating them to different legislative and cultural contexts in Flanders (Belgium), England (and Wales), and Finland. Subsequently, we outline challenges associated with group events and identify possible ways forward.
Keywords: metal detecting, rallies, Europe, heritage management, recommendations
A few first thoughts. First of all, artefact hunting and collecting are NOT any form of "archaeological practice". The article's section on "Strategies..." is a little bit muddled and the authors seem really to be a bit lost in the gap between their ivory-tower pie-in-the-sky vision of how it is and the stark realities one sees on the metal detecting forums. Thus we find them writing of their proposals: "Such approaches will not necessarily provide immediate results, but over an extended period, they offer the opportunity to encourage more responsible and responsive behavior"... What, like the 25 years of outreach and partnership the PAS has already been doing? Actually a little less than this, because in the end the PAS stopped going to rallies, considering it was a waste of their time as the participants turned out not to be as "responsive" as they were hoping. So why is that "strategy" of non-presence not mentioned here in an article co-authored by the Head of the Scheme? Bonkers. 

I also find it a little risable that they say that "a greater understanding of detectorists’ events is needed". True enough, better late than never, eh? Most archaeologists advocating "partnership" and claiming "responsiveness" (or "responsibility") need to spend a lot more time incognito on the MD forums. But no, Helsinki to the rescue: "for this reason, we explore and define the scale, nature, and diversity of group events" Well, that is actually what they do not do in this text. They start their "Conclusion" with some feeble handwringing that five decades into being surrounded by collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record (and quarter of a century liaising with it in England and Wales), mainstream archaeology (ever afraid to call a spade a spade) have still not really worked out an adequate terminology for any of it, or being able to define anything. Also missing is any kind of detailed discussion of the related issue of "detecting holidays".

Coming back to that knowledge these rallies produce, I find it curious that no mention is made here of the 2007 Water Newton Rally or the 2012 Letcombe Bassett and Segsbury Camp rallies when in the 2010s the PAS was attempting to demonstrate how blanket recording of finds produced by such events would produce archaeological knowledge.  Did it? We don't know as a report never materialised. 

More on Rallies From Wessman, Deckers, Lewis, Thomas and Nolet

Above I offered a few preliminary comments on a text on "Advances in Archaeological Practice" written by Anna Wessman, Pieterjan Deckers, Michael Lewis, Suzie Thomas and Katelijne Nolet ("Metal-Detecting Rallies: Characterizing the Phenomenon, Understanding the Challenges, and Identifying Strategies for Heritage Protection"). 

In it, the authors almost come to the obvious conclusion, that the best way to deal with the issues is that "large-scale group events are regulated through legislation", but of course shy away from coming right out and saying it:

"[if we don't do this] it is essential that archaeologists and policy makers continue to promote stewardship among detecting communities and begin to educate organizers to ensure better practices and to mitigate archaeological damage.

["begin", eh? PMB] They go on:

We advocate an approach where archaeologists, working with the detecting community, encourage organizers and individuals to take more responsibility for what happens at these events. If organized well, it is even possible that attendees will get more enjoyment, knowing that they are creating knowledge rather than depriving others (not just archaeologists) of it. This approach is not without challenges, but we hope that detectorists are keener to be acknowledged for the benefits their hobby—if practiced responsibly—can add to knowledge than be ostracized for damaging it.[...]

Competing Interests

The authors declare none. [...]

Well actually they should, shouldn't they? Because their interest is in promoting that nice simple "Suzie and Bonnie" view of the "responsive" artefact hunters who just need a bit of head-patting to make into ardent avocational archaeologists. You see this glib assumption running right through this article. This comes from the Tony Gregory/Denison-Dobinson days, three decades ago when detectors had only just stopped running on steam power, and it seems rarely has it been questioned. Most archaeologists never go deeper into what tekkies write on their forums when they think nobody is looking. And it shows. Here it shows. 

What is notable is that in proposing ideas about the detecting community and affecting the detecting community, the authors did NOT ask any metal detectorists from the three case study areas to be co-authors, or even read through and comment on a draft. Why were the authors not curious as to the reactions of the "responsible and responsive" metal detectorists they insist are out there just waiting for some archies to descend from their ivory tower, to graciously tell them how they "will get more enjoyment, knowing that they are creating knowledge rather than depriving others (not just archaeologists) of it" and why they should be "keener to be acknowledged for the benefits their hobby can add to knowledge"? Are they not curious [courageous enough] to see what reaction a draft of this text would get on a forum asking members for comments. Why? This directly affects detectorists does it not?

Monday 11 July 2022

Unprovenanced Artefact from Illegal Artefact Hunting on Known Site is Centre of Controversy

“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse...
thou shalt set the blessing upon Mount Gerizim,
and the curse upon Mount Ebal.”
(Deuteronomy 11:26, 29)

In response to an article in Haaretz, the "Shomron/Samaria Regional Council", a Jewish organization claiming jurisdiction over West Bank settlements that are still considered illegal under International law employs a classical 'Two Wrongs" argument. They say they are: “proud of the fact that an archaeological heritage was found and preserved. [...]. We recommend that Haaretz deal with the daily destruction of the historical sites of the Jewish people in Judea and Samaria even if the destruction is done by the Palestinian authority". So there. 

 The article concerned (Nir Hasson, 'From West Bank Debris to Evangelical Hands: The Shady Journey of a Bible-era Curse' Haaretz Apr 4, 2022) recounts how the council gave informal encouragement to a group of enthusiasts to remove soil and archaeological material from the known Bronze Age site at Mount Ebal, just north of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. This soil was interpreted to be from the spoil heaps from an earlier excavation of the site by Adam Zertal from 1982 to 1986. The discovery of one object in this soil was announced by the Associates for Biblical Research of Houston, Texas announced in March this year.

[...] headlines worldwide heralded “an earthquake in biblical studies” after Israeli and U.S. archaeologists reported on the discovery of the inscription from the 13th century B.C.E., which, they said, makes it the earliest Israelite inscription discovered to date. If that were not sufficient, those who deciphered the inscription – 40 ancient proto-Sinaitic letters on a lead sheet that was subsequently folded – identified the word “YHW,” which is a clear representation of the Hebrew God. The researchers believe [...] that the 0.3-square inch (2-square-centimeter) lead tablet confirms [...] that the Israelites were literate during that period, which enabled them to write the Bible earlier than commonly believed. According to [one of the scholars involved in the project], this is the “silver bullet” that will eliminate all doubts about the Bible in Israeli archaeology.
The announcement prompted discussions about the issue of the difference between archaeologists and antiquities looters, especially as it was made by what the newspaper declared 'a group of Evangelicals that are not interested in findings and science. It is part of a missionary process of messianic prophecies'.

The academics concerned are: Prof. Gershon Galil – head of the Institute for Biblical Research and Ancient History in the Department of Jewish History at the University of Haifa; Prof. Scott Stripling, provost and professor of biblical archaeology and church history at the Bible Seminary in Katy, Texas, and director of excavations for the Associates for Biblical Research at ancient Shiloh; and Pieter Gert van der Veen of Germany’s Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz.

The object was recovered by wet-sieving of a huge sample of earth removed from (and apparently also not returned to) the site at Mt Ebal where wall foundations and floors lie exposed to weathering from an earlier excavation. This earth had been transported (apparently with no excavation permit having been issued) to be processed at the settlement of Shavei Shomron, 10 km away. The lead tablet was then taken (again no export licence seems to have been nvolved) to Prague for CT scanning and it is claimed it is a curse tablet reading: "Cursed, cursed, cursed – cursed by the God YHW. You will die cursed. Cursed you will surely die. Cursed by YHW – cursed, cursed, cursed.” Since the object is not grounded in any kind of archaeological context, the group's dating of the object to the 13th century B.C.E. is reportedly based on the shape of the letters, some of which are similar to archaic writing discovered in Sinai. Haraatz note that most scholars are very sceptical about the nature and dating of the object, recovered loose from soil taken from a disturbed site. They add:
Before even considering the raging academic debate about the curse tablet, we have to ask a more fundamental question: How did a finding from a site under Palestinian control come into the hands of Israeli and U.S. researchers? Was it excavated legally, and what is its legal status? The Israel Defense Forces’ Civil Administration, which is in charge of all archaeological activity in the West Bank, called the dig “private activity.” The Mount Ebal site is in Area B of the West Bank – in other words, nominally under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control. According to the Oslo Accords and international law, Israel can’t issue an excavation license at the site. And, of course, removing findings from it without such a license is forbidden. An attempt to get answers from the Civil Administration via the staff officer for archaeology proved unsuccessful. As far as is known, Stripling, together with Aaron Lipkin – a resident of the settlement of Ofra and an activist on issues of tourism and archaeology in the occupied territories – and Associates for Biblical Research, under the auspices of the Samaria Regional Council, organized a group of volunteers in 2019. The volunteers arrived at Mount Ebal and worked on three large piles of waste that remained from Zertal’s excavations in the ’80s. They loaded the waste into dozens of large plastic bags and drove them to the Samaria Touring and Study Center, in the settlement of Shavei Shomron.[...] Archaeologist Alon Arad is the CEO of Emek Shaveh, an Israeli NGO working to prevent the politicization of archaeology in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He believes that a preoccupation with the finding is in itself problematic. “What difference does it make whether it’s the 11th century or the 13th century?” he asks. “Simply paying attention to it cleanses its dubious origin and subverts the professional foundations of archaeology. An archaeological dig is fundamentally supervised demolition, and therefore it requires a license and must be carried out under a consensual methodology. When a finding arrives that originates in a pirate dig, it is treated accordingly,” says Arad [...] Where is the license for this activity? [...] PA officials say the Israeli and U.S. researchers did not ask for permission to take the soil or to work at the Mount Ebal site, and in any case didn’t receive such permission. “We condemn this activity, which was done in violation of international law,” said a senior official in the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Saturday 9 July 2022

Jerome Eisenberg of Royal Athena [Update]

It is being reported that prominent New York dealer Jerome Eisenberg of Royal Athena has passed away. He started as a mail-order ancient coin dealer in 1942 at the age of 12, opened the ‘Royal-Athena Galleries’ in New York in 1958. At the end of October 2020, Eisenberg retired and closed his gallery after it had been operating for 78 years under the same proprietor. He was certainly a very knowledgeable dealer. He represented himself in all his antiquities catalogues as “a leader for several years in the promotion of the ethical acquisition of antiquities by museums and collectors”. He was also from the 1990s onwards a passionate advocate for the antiquities trade who vehemently and often eloquently (see here) opposed attempts to curb what he and others considered to be "collectors rights". Despite his rhetorical insistence that for the most part the antiquities market was squeaky clean and capable of self-regulation, on a closer look, it turns out that even his gallery has "repeatedly been found selling looted, smuggled and stolen antiquities". Christos Tsirogiannis (2021 'The Antiquities Market We Deserve: 'Royal-Athena Galleries' (1942-2020)' Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia Vol. 32, no. 18 N.S. (2020):147-175, 2021) has recently written about this.

Eisenberg was the editor in chief of the dealer/collectors' magazine Minerva which he founded (1990-2009). His gallery's catalogues  Art of the Ancient world: I to ?? [strange numbering system] (1965-1999+) were very popular. Also of note were some coin books that he wrote at the beginning of his career, and at lkeast on book on the collection of shells. I also think he is of note for his arguments for the Disc of Phaistos being a modern fake that I think perspicaceous and eminently reasonable.  


New York Times obituary by Sam Roberts  - July 14, 2022

A Picture of the Past

On an antiquities collectors' forum near you, Bron Lipkin asks for help identifying the original of a reproduction Greek coin ring that came into his hands (Jul 6 #96999 )

Can anyone here identify it? I've searched but can't find an exact match. As a replica is it perhaps just an approximation to a real coin type?
Cute. I really love the hair. Robert Kokotailo came up with what looks like the answer to the question (#97000)
The coin is a modern production. I have not found an exact match and I suspect one might not exist. The inscription reads LOKRON in Greek letters. The head is Demeter and the reverse is Ajax advancing left. If is trying to be a coin from Lokri Opuntii, loosely based on a silver hemi drachm of about 300 BC like this one from CNG e-auction 492, lot 120. Whoever made the one in the ring depicted Ajax from behind which was likely done out of a modern sense of modesty. At Lokri at that time Ajax is depicted from the front with his male attributes clearly in view. No Ancient Greek would have found anything offensive in this but it appears the modern maker thought some people might.
In the act of consuming archaeological evidence as "antiquities" the past is being distorted.

Demeter here looks like everybody's mother-in-law. I prefer the fake by far.


Viking Ring Found Among Bric a Brac

What happens to material removed by artefact hunters from the archaeological record when they die or lose interest in the hobby? Some end up in landfill, while others end up in car boot sales with other bric-a-brac. A woman in Norway bought a collection of costume jewellery online after spotting a gold ring — which turned out to be a rare example of a Viking Age artefact ( Ida Irene Bergstrøm, ''
The online jewellery collection 

Gold ring that once belonged to a powerful Viking Chief was found in a pile of cheap jewellery auctioned off online
' Science Norway Friday 08 July 2022). 

Artefact hunting and possession of artefacts are regulated in Norway. Metal detecting is permitted if the finds are handed over to museums... but as one scholar has noted, "Why do metal detector enthusiasts find so many cheap coins, and so few valuable ones?" (Science Norway 26 December 2019)

Monday 4 July 2022

Who is "Aesnumismatics"?


  Collecting lore is to "buy only from reputable dealers" because you cannot trust fly-by-night cowboys, or people that have come into antiquities selling by accident but actually know sweet nothing about artefacts at all. You can only trust a seller if you know who you are dealing with and what their actual expertise is. Some dealers have archaeology degrees, others come from other related backgrounds (art history for example). And in the case of some anonymous ones, you can only judge by what they are selling. One such shadowy dealer is the one calling themself "aesnumismatics" who deals through other people's storefronts, for example many auctions on Catawiki. We've discussed this dealer a couple of times here before: 

 PACHI Thursday, 7 October 2021, 'Yandex Catches Another Misdescribed Artefact' they sold an item that was called a "Beautiful Byzantine Applique" 12th-14th century" with photos that were out of focus. It was in fact an early 20th century cufflink, probably Russian in origin. Catawiki removed the object very soon after someone announced on a forum that they'd used Yandex to expose their expert's mistake.

PACHI Wednesday, 24 November 2021 'Another Yandex Reality Check on the International No-Questions-Asked Antiquities Market Aesnumismatics sold a "Viking Era Bronze Important Ring representing the Mythological scene Odin sacrificing himself under the Tree Yggdrasil 9th.-11th Century AD" with collecting history "purchased by the current owner in 2016 in Austria, Wien. Collected Since: 1980's. Previous owners history: Old Austrian Private Collection. The Seller can prove that the lot was obtained legally, provenance statement seen by Catawiki". This ring was shown to have recently been published on a Russian website of recent finds and was found in Ukraine and dates to the early modern era, 15th-17th century.

Friday, 8 April 2022, 'Dealing With Russia (I) Koban Culture Artefacts on Western Markets' The dealer under discussion old Koban culture item (from Caucasus region of Russia or thereabouts) as "Viking" so more than 1500 years later than it is. How did they get it?

PACHI Friday, 6 May 2022, 'More Antiquities Bend Time and Space: Parallel Presence Artefacts', several brooches sold as old European collection material turn out to have been more recently dug up and sold in Ukraine.

PACHI Sunday, 3 July 2022, 'More Dual Presence (Ukrainian) Artefacts Spotted on Austrian Market Several brooches sold as old European collection material turn out to have been more recently dug up and sold in Ukraine. The dealer mixes up "Ostrogothic" brooches with brooches from an entirely different cultural circle and only excavated in Ukraine, where they form part of the national heritage.

If you look at the closed auction that are referred to in the above text, you'll see that absolutely no paperwork is mentioned in the sales offer of any of them.

"Aesnumismatics" is a rather a shadowy figure. According to Catawiki, they are based in Austria, and have been a Catawiki member since May 27, 2016 and mainly deal in small artefacts and a few coins through 'private' sales through Catawiki. They have received 3690 reviews in total (560 in last 12 months). Currently they have on offer 104 lots of artefacts in the following categories:

Ancient History Auction (98)
Ancient Jewellery Auction (3)
Ancient Coins Auction (2)
Interiors Auction (Home Inspiration) (1)
Some of the descriptions are comical in the transparentness of their blague and attempts to fit it into the picture created by written sources:

Ancient Roman Bronze Rare Brooch-Fibula shaped as Galloping Horse-Symbol of Equestrian Class and alussion of the Trojan Horse. This interesting types with a horses were also an alussion of the legendary Trojan Horse from the Homers Iliad. Absolutely Intact with it pin and high quality of the metal and lovely dark natural patina. See Photo Extremely Rare with this style and body position and with rare elements like Saddle and Ruff [sic] Size: 3,5 cm. Purchased by the current owner in 2016 in Austria, Wien. Collected Since: 1990's. Previous owners history: Old Austrian Private Collection. The Seller can prove that the lot was obtained legally , provenance statement seen by Catawiki.

In other cases, Aestnumismatics is cited as a source by other dealers: 

Viking age. Brons Rare pendant / amulet in the form of a combat galley with die-cut circle decoration. – [...] A higly interesting type dedicated to some of the most important element of the Vikings army-their fleet and in particular their specific galleys. Very good grade of preservation with a nice natural dark patina and still wearable! Very Rare with this shape. Material: Bronze. Date:9th.-11th. Century AD. Size: 5,5cm. Purchased by the current owner in 2020 from Aesnumismatics in Vienna, before that it was bought by the previous seller in 2011 in Austria, Wien from Collector fair. Collected Since:1980’s. Previous owners history: Old Austrian Private Collection. The Seller can prove that the lot was obtained legally, provenance statement seen by Catawiki.

Another, a rather suspicious looking gold disc on Lot-Art

Lot 39448957 Ancient Roman Gold Golden military phalera  Ancient Roman phalera in exceptional gold with an image of the Emperor Constantius II (337-361 AD) [bla bla] Slightly cracked on the back, the silver part on the back is broken, with the original part of the leather breastplate between the silver and golden part of this extremely rare phalera. Material: gold. Date: (337-361 AD) Dimensions: 2. 8 cm. Weight: 1. 97 g. Purchased by the current owner on Catawiki from Aesnumismatics, before in 2013 in Vienna, Austria at a collectors fair. Before that: Collected since: the 1990s. History of the previous owners: Former private Austrian collection.
Or there is this rather rough-and-ready looking perforated bowl being sold on @Collectors' Plaza
Ancient Roman Bronze Roman legionary filter RARE  The Roman soldiers had these with them when they were on the road and intended to filter their food. The diameter is 10 cm. One side has a tab with a hole. The tab is to hold the filter and the hole is to hang it. You don`t come across articles like this very often. Ancient Roman Very Rare and Interesting Bronze Legionary Filter Very interesting object for filtering liquids. Some parts are broken and missing, some cracks. very thin. See Photo Not common object very useful to purifying. Size:11.9cm. Item No.I73 Purchased by the current owner in 2014 in Austria, Wien from Collector fair. Collected Since: 1960`s. Previous owners history: Old Austrian Private Collection. afterwards in the collection of the present owner, bought at catawiki from Aesnumismatics on 16.09.2020. The Seller can prove that the lot was obtained legally , provenance statement seen by Catawiki.

More interesting however is the number of items this Vienna (?) seller is apparently importing directly from Russia and Ukraine.   

Sunday 3 July 2022

More Dual Presence (Ukrainian) Artefacts Spotted on Austrian Market

The draining of Ukraine's archaeological record by artefact hunters has been going on for some time now (see Sam Hardy 2018 '‘Black archaeology’ in Eastern Europe: metal detecting, illicit trafficking of cultural objects, and ‘legal nihilism’ in Belarus, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine') and there are no end of dealers in the west willing to make a huge profit by buying illegally obtained artefacts through online markets in Ukraine (bidding against local collectors) and then getting them exported and selling them with a huge markup through a western auction provider. Or at least that's the alternative to the model that I proposed earlier that in some mysterious way antiquities straddle a space-time disruption that means they are present in dual parallel universes at the same time. Knowledgeable collector "Renate" has documented three more such examples of “dual presence” brooches (all offered by the mysterious dealer aesnumismatics on Catawiki)
Cicada brooch [...]

Violity: Фибула цикада , с солярными знаками (Cicada fibula, with solar symbols). Sold on 18-May-2021, the seller was located in the Vinnitsa region, Ukraine then and wanted to send the piece only within Ukraine

Catawiki: Ancient Roman Bronze Exceptionally Well Preserved and Richly Decorated Cicade Brooch Fibula (shaped as a Fly) Sold on 16-Mar-2022. “Purchased by the current owner in 2016 in Austria, Wien. Collected Since: 1990's. Previous owners history: Old Austrian Private Collection. The Seller can prove that the lot was obtained legally , provenance statement seen by Catawiki.” The catch plate was repaired, possibly in antiquity. The pin could be new.

“Slavic” brooch (discussed in the pdf)

Violity: Пятипалая фибула ПК (Five-fingered fibula PC) PC= Penkovo culture. Sold on 31.Okt.2020, the seller was located in the Vinnitsa region, Ukraine then and wanted to send the piece only within Ukraine.

Catawiki: The Great Migration Period, Germanic Tribe- Ostrogothic Bronze Huge (16,8cm) Zoomorphic Fibula engraved with Solar Ornamentation-5 Beams&Dragon Head& 2 Raven Heads. Ended 8-Jun-22, not sold: “Purchased by the current owner in 2016 in Austria, Wien. Collected Since: 1990's. Previous owners history: Old Austrian Private Collection. The Seller can prove that the lot was obtained legally , provenance statement seen by Catawiki.

Another “Slavic” brooch [...]

Violity: Пятипалые пеньковские фибулы 4 шт, две большие (Five-fingered Penkovo fibulae 4 pieces, two large). It’s the small green piece on the right of the first image. Sold on 26. Nov. 2020, the seller was located in the Cherkassy region, Ukraine then and wanted to send the piece only within Ukraine.

Catawiki: Great Migration Period, Germanic tribes Ostrogothic Bronze Superb Zoomorphic Brooch-Fibula with Seven Ravens Heads in Openwork Technique and Dragon Head – bidding ended 15-Jun-2022, not sold. “Purchased by the current owner in 2016 in Austria, Wien. Collected Since: 1990's. Previous owners history: Old Austrian Private Collection. The Seller can prove that the lot was obtained legally , provenance statement seen by Catawiki.”
Yeah, I bet he can. But that still does not solve the problem that it was both being sold as a dugup in Ukraine in 2020 but at the same time the dealer can prove (?) it was in Austria in 2016.

I leave it up to the reader to decide which of these three alternatives is the best explanation:
1) There are parallel universes  in which the same antiquity is present in two separate space-time continuums at the same time and dealer aesnumismatics has the ability to time-travel to retrieve this information,
2) Dealer aesnumismatics has such an unprofessional complete mess in the records of their company that they got muddled about which artefact was from where, and where the export documents are. 
3) Dealer aesnumismatics is making up these collection histories to hide the real origin of looted artefacts smuggled out of Ukraine.
I prefer the first, it's most romantic My son-in-law goes periodically to CERN to make antimatter and says parallel universes are a real possibility, and who am I to argue with that? 

But on the other hand, who I am is somebody who is vitally interested that the rare sites where we have intact deposits with datable Penkovska Culture [Пеньківська культура] metalwork in them are not trashed by artefact hunters so that dealers like aesnumismatics can make a profit by hiding where they come from. As far as I am concerned they are Early Slavic (as far as anything is) and we still know precious little about where the Slav-speaking communities came from, what happened to them, and how they ended up occupying about half of Europe in a span of a few centuries. The only way we can sort that out is from the archaeological evidence, evidence that is endangered by artefact hunting and antiquities collecting. 

And just to put in context just how much intellectual damage is caused by the dealer's representation of the brooches as "Ostrogothic", this (right) is more-or-less where the sixth century brooches of this type are coming from... (it's from here). 

The Penkovska Culture (which perhaps we should be calling now the Penkivska Culture, as the type-sites are in Ukraine, not Russia) is a bit difficult to pin down. In the archaeology of the Soviet Blok and post-Soviet Early Medieval, especially here, there is some doubt about which assemblages are and which are not groupable in a whole load of shifting entities, this applies especially to the northern (north of the Prypets) forest zone and the forest-steppe zone (as here). The dating is 5th to the late seventh century (might be eighth century), it's all up in the air - which is why we need to be able to do more archaeological work on undamaged sites.  Below is how Ukrainian and Russian Wikipedia represent them (the Russian one is based on: Седов В. В. Славяне в раннем средневековье, Moscow Институт археологии РАН, 1995). The German one shows something rather different (and no, no, no, these brooches are not the archaeological correlate of the written-source people  that distant and muddled-up old Jordanes called the Antes). The Siverskyi Donets where the fighting now is (as it runs through the Don[ets]-bas[in]) is on the right of both maps. So there's quite a distance between where the seller says the brooches come from, and where they were actually dug up. 

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