Saturday, 23 September 2023

Preparations for Getting Crimea Back


          The current state of the headquarters of the               
Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.    
In Ukraine, Vice Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk made an appeal: "Ukrainians who live in Crimea are asked to leave and wait out the deoccupation in another territory", she said. It is to be expected that things will get a bit chaotic in occupied Crimea the next couple of months.

This means that those currently in charge of the collections of museums in the temporarily occupied territories in Crimea must begin now their efforts to safeguard the collections currently in their care under the provisions of the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict [Вы знаете, что есть такое, правда?].

Since nobody outside Russia recognizes the Russian territorial claims to Crimea, any attempt to "evacuate" material to Russia will be an attempt to smuggle cultural property, and can be treated as a war-crime too (Mali provided a precedent). 

Ukraine should publish a list of the names of the people currently in charge of institutions housing cultural property (museums, libraries, archives etc.) so they should know that the world is watching them closely.   

Of Akinakes and Axes

Office of the President of Ukraine: ' A ceremony of returning cultural property stolen from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine was held in Washington with the participation of the President' 21 September 2023

During a working visit to the United States, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took part in a ceremony of returning cultural property stolen by Russian invaders from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine [...] and [...] confiscated by U.S. law enforcement agencies.[...]

In June 2022, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained an antique, which, after examination, turned out to be a European iron axe from the 17th century with a hammer on the back. The axe was illegally exported from Ukraine to the United States.

Also last June, artifacts smuggled into the United States from Russia were seized. In particular, three 17th-century iron axes, three 17th-century mattocks, two 6th-century BC Scythian iron acinaces, and one iron spearhead dating from approximately 500-1200 BC.

These artifacts were confiscated for transfer to the Embassy of Ukraine in the United States under administrative procedure.
Plus: the usual peptalk speaking as per normal, heritage values, bla bla.

I guess the first axe really was being exported by one of Ukraine's many eBay dealers, active before and during the War. I bet it's the one in the left foreground. The blunt peen could be used to knock nails (or wooden pegs) into a structure.

There is potential for a very satisfying PhD thesis for someone on "The Morphology, Characteristics and function of Post-Medieval Axes in Northern Europe (15th to 19th centuries)" - or maybe Europe generally? I don't think there is a monographic treatment (stand to be corrected). Dealers (no, I'll not name-names, I am sure you can come up with some) habitually [literally habitually] sell these and other forms as "Viking Axes", anything handmade with an odd-shaped blade and very-very rusty. The ones I saw in an auction house a year ago were quite specific in form, and on the Polish online sales-place Allegro I spotted the exact same form of axes in the "technological antiques" (ie byegones from the backs of rural barns). I am sure the dealers' ones were recent axes from Poland (Maybe the same form occurs in neighbouring countries) but this was no older than the nineteenth century. I do not know how this one is dated to the "17th century", the forms of utilitarian iron tools is (a) limited by the technique of forging and (b) tended to be very conservative over time.

The June 2023 ones, the same would apply to the axes. They are of vaguely-Viking-looking form, but are not. Again, I could not say how they are dated, perhaps they know where they were dug up (?). Weird forms like this could be spotted in manuscript illustrations, in manuscripts, early woodcuts, paintings. They are specialist woodworking tgools (perhaps boat-building? Just a guess). The one back right is robust and could [I'd suggest would] have been used to split logs longitudinally, with a mighty whack and then hammering the peen ito the wood until it split. It is not a battle axe, too heavy to carry about for one thing. The three hand-picks (NOT "mattocks"!) are small hand tools, used for dressing stone (similar tools are used for making stone-slab roofing tiles with the spike for making teh nail holes - but I am not sure whether such tiles were made in Russia/Ukraine, can't recall reading abouty them or seeing any). Totally beats me how they are dated. I have one bought new in Jack's in Colchester in the 1980s - used it as an excavation tool. Mine too is now as rusty as these as it's been in a leaky shed at my Mums for the last 37 years. Two of them are not ancient IMO. At the back... well, unlikely that the spearhead is as old as 1200 BC, wherever it is from. It probably is ancient, but why it is not Early Medieval beats me (given my background, it screams "Anglo-Saxon" to me, but it can't be - but it is to that period that I'd start looking for parallels, not the early Metal Ages). It's a fuzzy picture but the crud on it looks plausible. The sword behind it (now is that really an akinakes (here too) - I really doubt it, though it has to be admitted that they were variable is shape and size) is equally cruddy and until there are better photos deserves (or rather the dealer selling it as ancient) the benefit of doubt... But then, what links it specifically with Ukraine? The akinakes (the real one) was Achaemenid in origin and it and its derivatives occurred along a wide band of steppe between Crimean and Pesoia if not beyond.

The other one, I can only ask WTF? To my eye this looks for all the world like a recently-forged replica with an oxide patina. From that photo, I really cannot accept that it is anything else. But note that it is the same shape and size as the cruddy one, which has lost its tii and the end of the hilt. Is this a replica sold with the first to give an idea how it originally looked? So the dealer was not cheating, but making something more marketable. But then.... this replica (if that's what it is) draws attention to something else. How was the hilt finished? There are no rivet holes for hilt plates, nothing making a guard (though these does not have to be) no pommel as such (akinakes generally have one). IMO you cant just have some filler plates making a handgrip (OK, maybe glued to the metal?) and bound round tightly with tapes or leather strips to make a handgrip. IMO this would work loose in no time (and what rain-proof glue was there in the centuries BC?). This whole sword business looks a bit fishy to me.

But this is all object-centric divagation. These items are off the antiquities market, which we all know is  a swamp, so of course they are mis-described and now what they are represented as. That's par for the course.  And that the Americans are once again using antiquities to score a point without any real caere as to what it is they are "repatriating" - they do it all the time (vide: Kalmakara ('Western Cave') Griffin the  the dubious documents and @antiquities@ from the Abu Sayyaf raid) What I think is very clear that this is what's happening here. Hundreds of looted antiquiteies (real ones) are being exported from Ukraine, and not a few of them are going to the US, but this is the best Homeland Security could come up with for Zelensky's visit. A pathetic showing. let's note the phrase above: "smuggled into the United States from Russia". Given the rather unspecific/generic shape of most of these artefacts, what (apart from modern politics) determined that these objects should go to Ukraine? Can the US authorities explain that? Is this not an example of US instrumentally treating narratives of "X destroying/stealing cultural property" to create the picture of an evil Other [where a few years aggo X was "ISIL", and now it's "Russia"], regardless of what the facts are, or how securely one can actually justify these easy slogans. What actually links this ONE sale and the whole picture of "Russian theft" the US is trying to create? (and this is by no means a slight attack on the Ukrainian delegation Слава Україні!)

Crimean coin Seized in Athens Suburb


The premises of an antiquities smuggling ring were raided on September 16th by the Cultural Heritage and Antiquities Department of the Attica Security Directorate in  a coastal suburb of Greater Athens. The criminal syndicate was led by a man of Albanian origin known by the alias "Tzoni", and was reportedly operating from the Sports Hall of the Coastal Zone Olympic Sports Complex in Paleo Faliro. The antiquities were said to be from the regions of Attica and Epirus. In the raid, 31 ancient artifacts were seized, many of which hold great historical and archaeological importance and are protected by cultural heritage regulations. Archaeological experts evaluated the items, determining that 27 of them fell under the protective provisions of the Law on Protection of Antiquities, while four required further examination [I presume this means that they are suspected as possible fakes]. 

 Among the remarkable finds was a gold coin - a stater from Pantikapaion, a Greek colony in the Tauric Chersonese of the Black Sea, which is modern-day Crimea. This dates back to the 4th century BC. This coin, measuring approximately 17 millimeters in diameter and weighing about 9.2 grams, stood out as exceptionally rare. An archaeologist from the Numismatic Museum of Athens noted its uniqueness, as it featured a frontal depiction of Pan. Upon examination in the Numismatic Museum of Athens, it was affirmed that the coin falls under the protective provisions of Law No. 4858/2021 and holds substantial economic and cultural value due to its extraordinary rarity. it is valued at 6 million euros {there is no better information yet, but I assume that it is one of these staters that is referred to like the one sold in the Prosper collection a while back (here too)].

On what grounds however is this coin retained in Greece? What was the proof that it had been dug up in Attica/Epirus? While it is true that the normal staters did circulate a bit wider than the hinterland of the colony, one wonders what the grounds are for keeping this coin in Greece (apart from the national collections not having one).

But... would it not be ironic if this coin was one of the items that has not yet been declared a real, pukka antiquity? I.e., that it is a fake prompted by the publicity surrounding the "Prosper" sale? IS it real, or a fake? And if real, where was it from? 

Hat tip ARCA

Thursday, 21 September 2023

The UN and its UNESCO Failing to Meet Modern Challenges

              UN, pull your finger out.            

The UN is incapable of preventing aggressors like Vladimir Putin from invading other countries, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed, as he made an impassioned call for reform of the General Assembly and Security Council to end Russia’s war on his country [...] as he addressed the UN Security Council in New York for the first time since Moscow’s invasion of his country.
There is no question that he is absolutely right. In its current form, the UN is not only no longer fit for purpose, but it has not been for a long time. The same goes for its documents such as the 1970 UNESCO Convention that refers to the situating on the antiquities market of the 1960s and 1970s and no longer are applicable to that of the 2020s. The world does not stand still, but the UN seems to think that it can ignore that fact.  

"They Can't Touch Yer for It" in Germany

In Germany, much was made of the new law (the Act on the Protection of Cultural Property) that entered into force in August 2016 penalizing the illegal export, import and trade of cultural property from and to Germany. There have been some repatriations to neighbouring EU states as a result of it (in 2018 three items, in 2019 over 1,000, in 2020 38, in 2021 a total of 884, in 2022 10, and so far this year 15). However, there are problems convicting people accused of breaking current legal regulations, because these acts are difficult to prove (for example in all of Bavaria since 2017, only two verdicts have been issued in against people prosecuted under the Cultural Property Protection Act). So, in a recent case (, 'Freispruch in Prozess um antike Silberteller aus der Ukraine' 19.09.2023) a trial involving ancient silver plates from Ukraine ended in acquittal (worth noting, as far as I can see, there is no evidence here that anyone is contesting that the plates actually were dug up in Ukraine and ended up on the Munich market - that to me is the actual point of importance): 

"On Tuesday, a district court in Munich acquitted a man of illegally importing antique silver plates from Ukraine to Germany. He was charged with violating the Act on the Protection of Cultural Property. Even the prosecutor who brought charges against him had to admit in his justification that he could not be proven to have committed a crime. Like the defence, she also demanded acquittal. A man brought fragments of two silver plates dating from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD to an auction house in Grasbrunn near Munich to auction them off. The relics are believed to be Ukrainian cultural assets, originating from looters' excavations in the Ternopil region of Ukraine in 2016–2017. The prosecutor's office assumed that he imported them to Germany illegally in 2019-2020. On Tuesday, the court decided that this could not be proven to the accused. It cannot be ruled out that he could have bought the works "from a dealer in Stuttgart a long time ago" and "that these items had been in the auction house for a long time."

(and so before the new law). So now some guy can buy this stuff, safe in the knowledge that in this case because there is no actual documentation, "They Can't Touch Yer for It"

[anyone got any more information? Like where did the prosecutor get the general location of the findspot and 2016-7?] 

 Hat tip Alexander Nagel

Sunday, 17 September 2023

West Mercia Police Arrests "Horde" Raiders

West Mercia Police have arrested two men in connection with an investigation under the 1996 Treasure Act as well as the 'Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003' (West Mercia Police Press Release 'Two arrested following discovery of treasure horde (sic)' 17/09/2023)
Two men, aged 65 and 66, were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and handling tainted coins. Both men have now been released on police bail.
The police connect the arrests to a hoard found in August 2023 in Cradley, Herefordshire. Well, let's see how far they get with this, the press release shows that the British police force employs people who cannot even spell the word 'hoard' properly.

Birmingham Live's Nick Horner, whose spelling is better, shows how to take a laconic press release and turn it into a fuller article, without adding anything new (apart from the adjective "huge"): "Huge Midlands treasure hoard discovery leads to arrest of two men" 17 SEP 2023.

The police could give a little more information, even if it is still just an ongoing investigation - like what the coins were (just to alert the market what information they are looking for if somebody offered items like that to them in the past two weeks or so).

"I Looked him In the Eye, he Said They Were OK, so I Purchased Them"

 Michael Bennet has left his post at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Fla. after a touring exhibition of antiquities put together there raised concerns at a Denver museum (Graham Bowley, 'Provenance of a Museum’s Greek Exhibit Is Questioned, Fueling a Debate' New York Times Sept. 17, 2023) The exhibition of objects representing ancient Greek art from the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Florida was called “From Chaos to Order”.

But earlier this year, when the exhibition was scheduled to travel to the Denver Art Museum, the staff there balked because many of the 57 artifacts lacked detailed provenances. None of the antiquities, on loan from the businessman and collector Sol Rabin, were known to have been looted, but some had been purchased from sellers who have been accused of handling stolen antiquities in the past, Denver Museum officials noted. The Denver museum had recently had its own scandal, when it returned four artifacts to Cambodia. Its director, Christoph Heinrich, suggested postponing the Florida exhibition in the hope that the provenance issues could be resolved. [...] The show never made it to Denver. Two months later, Bennett, the curator in St. Petersburg, was put on leave. A month after that he was fired.
Michael Bennett of course was the curator in Cleveland who'd been involved in the as-yet-unresolved issue of the so-called "Leutwitz Apollo" discussed in this blog a while back as being one of those objects that was in to places at the same time.
The exact circumstances of Bennett’s dismissal, which dismayed his supporters in St. Petersburg, remain unclear. Museum officials declined to detail their reasoning, saying they could not discuss personnel matters, but in a statement they stressed the importance of adhering to the highest industry standards in a changing world and said that they had started a complete provenance review of the museum’s collection [...] A board member, Robert Drapkin, said that he believed the provenance issue was a factor but that he was told there was more than one reason for the dismissal.
Belinda Dumont, a board member at the St. Petersburg museum is quoted as saying: "The response was exaggerated, [...] I think the hysteria about provenance is deeply misguided because the items are valuable to be shown to the public.” I think the quote suggests that Ms Dumont does not really understand the issues cannected with looting. A few of the objects came from Robert Hecht, a prominent antiquities expert who investigators say often dealt in stolen objects. Neither the Rollins Museum of Art, in Orlando, Fla., or the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, S.C., where the exhibition toured, raised issues about the loaned items.
Rabin, who is currently chair of the Ancient Art Committee at the Harvard Art Museums, said his collection of Greek art, which runs to some 700 pieces, was built up over several decades, with the advice of Bennett and David Mitten, an emeritus professor of classical art and archaeology at Harvard, who died last year. He said that two of the objects in the show had also been on loan recently to other major museums. Rabin said he had not asked dealers he worked with for full provenance information, but had sought clear assurances objects had not been stolen. In dealing with Hecht, Rabin said: “I would look him in the eye. He would say, ‘No, these are fine. These are legitimate pieces,’ so I purchased them.”
All of the claptrap justifications offered in this article are object-centred, they do not even mention what happens when items are ripped out of the ground to satisfy the no-questions asked market they are defending, nor the rights of the Citizens these objects were taken from without anyone bothering whether or not there is documentation that shows that was done legally.

Tuesday, 12 September 2023

The Banality of British Lootier Crassness

This really beggars belief in this day and age (Harriet Sherwood, 'Victoria and Albert Museum to look after ancient Yemen stones found in London shop Guardian Tue 12 Sep 2023 )
The V&A is to look after four ancient carved funerary stones that were found by police in a shop in east London in a historic agreement with Yemen. The stelae, which date from the second half of the first millennium BC, come from necropoli that have been looted in recent years. The V&A will care for, research and conserve the stelae on a temporary basis before they are returned to Yemen when it is safe to do so [...] The stones were discovered by an archaeology enthusiast in an interior design shop in east London, and recovered by the Metropolitan police’s art and antiques unit
The stelae will eventually be repatriated, but before that will feature in the Museum's exhibition connected with its "Culture in Crisis" that helps curtail the illegal trade of looted objects and the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide.It is not stated how many of the stelae acquired by the shop had been sold before the police paid them a visit. The shop was unnamed.

Article 10: The States Parties to this Convention undertake [...] (b) To endeavour by educational means to create and develop in the public mind a realization of the value of cultural property and the threat to the cultural heritage created by theft, clandestine excavations and illicit exports.
The UK is failing, utterly, to do that.

Edoardo Almagià, Antiquities and Princeton

Edoardo Almagià ’73 ‘got away’ with trafficking looted Italian antiquities for decades, says the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Now the Princeton University Art Museum and other museums are facing scrutiny for being homes to his artifacts (Rachel Axon, 'Raider of the Lost Art', Princeton Alumni Weekly September 12, 2023). The antiquities that he handled:
"were often purchased, Almagià says, in open markets, a common practice when he started as an art dealer in the 1980s. Where they came from and how they got there, Almagià says he didn’t ask.

[...] From his base in New York, Almagià found eager buyers. In receptions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction houses, he met collectors and museum curators who would purchase the antiquities for a few hundred or few thousand dollars. His network grew and eventually antiquities sold, loaned, or donated by Almagià appeared in museums across the United States.

Now, though, hundreds of his items have been returned to Italy and Almagià is the target of an ongoing investigation. The Manhattan district attorney’s office, working with the Italian government, has executed search warrants across the United States over the past two years in the homes of private collectors, in galleries, and in museums, including the Princeton University Art Museum (PUAM).

Led by Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, who heads the Antiquities Trafficking Unit, the office has repatriated more than 200 Almagià antiquities to Italian law enforcement. They’re valued at nearly $7 million."

Monday, 11 September 2023

Cultural property criminals’ responses to the invasion and occupation of the Donbas

Samuel Andrew Hardy and Serhii Telizhenko
Russia was ‘doomed to expand [its] aggression’ against Ukraine: Cultural property criminals’ responses to the invasion and occupation of the Donbas since 20th February 2014.Published online: 11 Sep 2023

This study explores how Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine has affected cultural property crime and how cultural property criminals have responded to those practical, social, political and economic changes. To do so, this online ethnography draws on netnographic data from 184 artefact-hunters across Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Greece, Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, two artefact-dealers and one violent political operator, whose discussions spanned 19 online communities. It examines the legal fictions and legal nihilism of antiquities looters; the criminal operations of antiquities looters and antiquities traffickers in the occupied territories of Ukraine; the international networks of artefact-hunters that facilitate the trading of equipment and antiquities, plus the movement of the artefact-hunters themselves and the conduct of their criminal operations. Thereby, it documents the pollution of Western markets with tainted cultural goods from the occupied territories of Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe and the contribution of Western consumers to the conflict economy.
This is great, it is really rare to see an archaeology text that so closely relates to present day (and individual) realities. I am told that it is first of a series.

I think this is very important work as the same thing is happening concerning the Russian attack on Ukraine as happened in Iraq and Syria, a whole group of scholars and journalists in US and UK jumped on the issue, wrote a whole lot of words and set up organizations to monitor things (but really to generate grants), and made up a load of myths. In the case of UA however, there was a flurry of activity in the US, in 2022, a lot of exaggerations were published, work was done and words were written without the involvement of Ukrainians. So it is good to see this evidence-based collaborative text that crosses beyond the usual well-trodden paths when talking about the interaction between archaeology (and broadly-understood "heritage") and modern conflict. I look forward to seeing further papers in this series.

Friday, 8 September 2023

"To safeguard yourself from such situations, diligent research and thoroughness are imperative".

 That we still need more articles like this is thought-provoking:  Matthew Erskine, 'Do The Right Thing: Returning Looted or Stolen Art (and How Not to Buy It in the First Place)' Forbes Sep 7, 2023

Sadly part of the reason for that is poor writing like this:
There are several common indications that an artwork might be stolen or looted. First, if the artwork lacks a clear provenance or ownership history, it raises a red flag. Second, if the artwork has been unlawfully removed from a museum, church, or archaeological site, it should be approached with caution. Third, if the artwork has been illegally exported from its country of origin, there is cause for concern. Fourth, if the artwork has been sold or offered for sale by an untrustworthy dealer, it is wise to exercise prudence. Lastly, if the artwork appears on a stolen art database, such as Art Recovery Group's Art Claim, it is important to proceed with thorough verification of its ownership history before making a purchase.
The first is an indication, the other four are not (the fourth does not work if this "artwork" is a clandestinely- excavated antiquity).

A lot of the rest is the usual art-market fluff (author describes himself as " a trusts and estates attorney writing on estate and tax planning"). The list of recommendations is all over the place and the suggestions overlap, it reads as if it were written on the back of an envelope in a pub, with other people around the table excitedly offering their suggestions:
"Before purchasing a piece of artwork, it is crucial to conduct thorough research into its provenance. Consider the following steps:
- Examine the artwork's ownership history, exhibition history, and publication history.
- Verify the ownership history of the artwork before making a purchase.
- Review exhibition catalogs to determine if the artwork was featured in any gallery or museum exhibitions.
- Utilize resources like the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) Provenance Guide, which serves as a valuable starting point for provenance research.
- Cross-reference any information found, as resources can be inaccurate or forged.
- Consult stolen art databases, such as Art Recovery Group's Art Claim, to check if the artwork appears on any registries.
- Collect relevant information about the artwork, including the artist's name, title, and any applicable export or import licenses.
- For high-value art, consider hiring a provenance researcher to conduct a thorough investigation into the artwork's history.
- Researching the provenance of artwork can be challenging, as records may have been lost or destroyed over time.
However, conducting due diligence is crucial to ensure that the artwork is not stolen or looted, particularly for high-value pieces or those of significant artistic merit".
(why "however" given the content and title of this article?).

Saturday, 2 September 2023

What was he Thinking?


This was in a few papers but South Wales Argus (Iwan Gabe Davies, 'Caerphilly man filmed himself damaging ancient monument' 30th August 2023) had better details and by far the better picture with the oblique photo of the cup-marked boulder. Julian Baker, 52, from Abertridwr, filmed himself damaging an ancient monument and put the film on Facebook. The buried monument at Eglwysilan Mountain in Caerphilly is two large sandstones with “cup marks” cut into their upper surfaces dating back to the Bronze Age, c. 2,500BC. He has now appeared at Newport Magistrates’ Court where he admitted deliberately exposing and damaging theprehistoric monument. He was ordered to pay £4,400 compensation and given a suspended sentence. Heritage officials said Baker ruined part of the artwork beyond repair and it is now "lost forever". 

Baker, who lives near the site, filmed himself excavating the monument and separated the rock art panel from its stone. The charges state Baker "executed unauthorised work affecting a scheduled monument" in January of this year. It added that he "executed works, namely disturbed the ground exposing an ancient monument." The second charge said Baker acted to "destroy or damage an ancient protected monument," on the same date. It said: "Without lawful excuse destroyed or damaged a protected monument, namely rockart panel knowing that it was a protected monument and intending to destroy or damage the monument or being reckless as to whether the monument would be destroyed or damaged."
It is difficult to know what he was up to. One can only assume that the mention that he "separated the rock art panel from its stone" implis that he was trying to reduce its weight so he could transport it awy for collection or sale. Recently there was a sale of a piece of rockart by a British auction house that may have given him the idea.

Hat tip Dave Coward

Friday, 1 September 2023

Museum Image Question


Elizabeth Marlowe @ElizMarlowe 12:09 AM · 2 wrz 2023
"Folks who write about museums: what is your sense on what permissions I need to publish my own photos of installations and gallery labels in a scholarly article? / I've somehow managed to avoid this question up until now, but a press I'm currently working with wants me to obtain permissions".

Patty Gerstenblith @PGerstenblith ·2 g.

The underlying work (the antiquities) are in the public domain. The copyright in the photo is yours. The museum arguably has a copyright in the exhibit arrangement and you’re copying that in the photo, but you’re not using your copy for the same purpose so probably fair use. /The museum has a copyright in the label text. Your use may be fair use, depending on a 4-factor analysis: eg, how much of the label you used, whether for the same or different purpose (such as critique). Commercial vs nonprofit use is not dispositive (a common misperception). · 2 g. Depends on the museum but they sometimes have a page detailing that (though usually in press section). I’ve used my own photos of installations + museum photos with proper credits in media but maybe academic papers work differently.
With the museum exhibit arrangement, the issue of the selection of angle, lighting, composition, your photo is your individual, creative, interpretation of a space, and then copyright of the image is less of a straightforward issue. Museums should be happy people are writing about them and not making life difficult for those that take an interest in what they are doing. 


Thursday, 31 August 2023

Belated Publication of an Oxyrhyncus Fragment: not 'Q', but from a "Sayings of Jesus"

A "previously unknown second-century fragment of early Christian writing" has been published this week (Candida Moss, 'Scholars Publish New Papyrus With Early Sayings of Jesus' Daily Beast Aug. 31, 2023)

The fragment is part of the Oxyrhynchus collection, a cache of over a half million fragments of papyri that were excavated over a century ago in ancient trash heaps in Egypt. They were uncovered by renowned classical scholars Grenfell and Hunt and a large team of local Egyptian laborers.
Since the cache’s discovery in the late nineteenth century, the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) and generations of papyrologists have been engaged in the painstaking work of identifying, editing, and publishing the fragments. The papyri shed light on every aspect of ancient life—commerce, friendship, lawsuits, romantic relationships, and shopping habits—and also transmit works by ancient authors that had previously been lost in the sands of time. Among them were a number of early Christian texts, some of them previously known and others — like this new example — that were previously undiscovered.
For an artifact that was only published this week, the fragment (or, better, fragments as it was pieced together from two separate parts by papyrologist Ben Henry) has an unusual history.
It was somehow sold in 2010 to Hobby Lobby, Inc. who put it in their Museum of the Bible (MOTB). But the fragment was returned to the EES in 2019 after an investigation that involved 32 pieces recently acquired by the MOTB from the same source but in fact belonged to the EES and appear to have been derived somehow from the Oxyrhynchus collection. Where are the other 81 ancient fragments that went missing from the EES library at Oxford at the same time? The investigation has been going on since 2020, apparently involving Thames Valley Police.

Although the authors' names are given (Jeffrey Fish, Daniel Wallace, and Michael Holmes, working with Ben Henry), the DB article fails to give any publication details of this heralded new publication... also, where did the second fragment come from?

If it has taken thirteen years to study and publish two fragments (from time of purchase to now) how long will it take before we know what is in the whole Oxyrhynchus archive? Also it is not "previously unkn own", it is "until now, unpublished"


Spotted on eBay

Spotted on eBay.

Ancient Christianity Greek or coptic papyrus text fragment
Condition: “As you seen in the pictures”
Starting bid: US $4,000.00
0 bids · Time left d 15h left (Tue, 10:10 AM)or Best Offer from United Kingdom

Seller artimission [...] Located in: London, United Kingdom 0% Positive feedback (102)
292 Items sold 53 Followers

About Location: Turkey
Member since: Sep 26, 2018
About this item Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing.
eBay item number:355006094191
Item specifics
“As you seen in the pictures”
Date of Publication Unknown
Type Handwritten Manuscript
Language Greek
Region Egyptian
Material Papyrus
Subject Religion, Bibles
Original/Facsimile Original

Item description from the seller:
Ancient Christianity Greek or coptic papyrus text fragment

important statement!..

This piece is definitely not a replica, it is a 100% original piece, do not confuse it with similar pieces, none of our pieces are replicas or fakes, all are 100% original.

He does not know whether it is written in Greek or Coptic, can't work out if he's based in London or Turkey... but he "knows" it is genuine. Really? It looks like a load of scribble to me, not many words. Looks like
"throk topherneko nu[/
nearRef gop boxoy mot[/
Zr moher bix flip Mark[oh yeah...].
What I think is odd is that letters looking like lower case kappa and lambda are made in two different ways. But an eBay seller knowsd it's kosher, which is fine by me.
What he or she is NOT saying is where it came from, how it got on the market and how it got from the source country to wherever it is now - Turkeuy of the UK. THAT's what looks fishiest to me.

He's also got this:
Antique Egyptian Pharaonic Cartonagge Fragments

Condition: Used
“There is no any restoration as you seen in the pictures”

[...] Provenance: Ownership History Available
[...] Item description from the seller: Antique Egyptian Pharaonic Cartonagge (sic) fragmets From Europan Private collection, As you seen in the pictures ORGINAL
Note how rectangular and flat it is, and the regularly cut edges. Scratchy decoration. The linen is probably ancient. The iconography makes no sense, with the two embalmed bodies balanced on teh wings of the winged scarab. Nut, below, is sitting in an uncanonical pose. I guess it is supposed to be a pectoral, but does not make much sense. The seller should say more about where it came from.

Monday, 28 August 2023

Friday, 25 August 2023

Rather Late in the Day but Hartwig Fischer Does the Decent Thing

 British Museum director Hartwig Fischer to step down immediately following the museum's recently reported thefts. I can't think how he imagined that he'd stay on after what has beenemerging.  
“Mr Fischer also withdrew remarks he made earlier this week about the dealer who first alerted the museum. He said he expressed "sincere regret" over the "misjudged" comments.” (BBC too).

This is however only the beginning. As Jason Felch (@ChasingAphrodit) sums it up "The director of the British Museum has resigned. Some 2,000 objects are missing from the collection. A curator has been sacked, and key questions have not been answered".

I think this also raises questions about the future of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in the Museum, instead of spending 1.5 million quid on the cataloguing of a belt buckle from a detectorist's collection from a hole in the ground in Barry (Glamorgan) or Barrow on Furness, about as distant from Bloomsbury as you can get, perhaps that money would be better spent getting the BM's own artefacts properly catalogued at last.

Wednesday, 23 August 2023

Wagner and Economic Exploitation of the Middle East and Africa


The reported death yesterday of Yevgenyi Prigozhin, Dmitry Utkin, 4 other top Wagner leaders (Propustin, Chekalov, Totmin and Makaryan) leaves much uncertainty about a number of things, including on Russia's foreign policy in Africa. Given that the Wagner Group was involved in the considerable cash flow from Africa deriving from control over resources (mainly mineral rights), it remains to see whether any other illicit goods- such as antiquities/cultural property were involved and what effects this will have.

Map: @visegrad24

Tuesday, 22 August 2023

Ittai Gradel of TimeLine Auctions


        TimeLine Auctions         

It turns out that the BM whistle-blower works for a certain well-known auction house based in Harwich, deepest Essex. Dr Ittai Gradel is one of the experts in the stable of TimeLine Auctions where he advises them on the "Roman Gemstones and General Antiquities" they sell. Their lawyers would not like me saying what I think of that.... Accorsding to the TimeLine Auctions website:
Dr. Gradel is an authority on Roman antiquities who has held a number of  positions in Danish universities and was a visiting fellow at Brasenose  College, Oxford University in 2004-5. He was Associate Professor, History and Archaeology of the Roman Empire in the Department of Classics, University of Reading from 2005 to 2008. He holds an MA in Classical Archaeology from Aarhus University, Denmark and was Gold medallist of Aarhus University in 1988; he was awarded D.Phil. (Oxon) in Ancient History in 1995; his thesis was on Roman imperial cult in Rome and Italy and was later expanded and published as the monograph: ‘Emperor Worship and Roman Religion’, (Oxford University Press, 2002; 2nd ed. (paperback) 2004) and is now standard in Ancient History reading lists on the religious life of the Roman Empire. Dr Gradel has published a large number of articles on aspects of Roman history, religion in the Roman Empire, Roman epigraphy, and archaeology. Since 2008, he has worked as a consultant and dealer in antiquities and Medieval manuscripts. His main speciality is engraved gems of the Graeco-Roman world, with proficiency also in the fields of Graeco-Roman bronze and marble sculpture, Latin and Greek epigraphy, and Medieval and later palaeography.

 Hat tip Hougenai

A Timeline of the 2023 British Museum Antiquities Heist

Details are emerging of the "British Museum gems heist" in dribs and drabs, almost as if there is a cncerted effort not to present the whole story to the British public so that they can see what was (is) going on, first a vague story of the theft itself, offhand mention of a staff dismissal, then names and dates start to emerge in different papers at different times. The latest is the Daily Mail (******). Jason Felch (@ChasingAphrodit) in a series of tweets has put together what we know on Tuesday morning of events as reported. I would like to set his findings of what we know at present out in a continuous sequence for future reference (as I strongly suspect there will be future developments): Chasing Aphrodite. The Daily Mail says that the "British Museum kept the disappearance of multi-million pound* artefacts a secret for more than eight months after alerting the police in January"

With the latest reporting we now have a basic chronology for the BM thefts. Let's take a look:

2016: eBay user “Sultan1966” is noted selling cameos formerly from BM’s Towneley Collection.
[PMB: in press material, a screenshot of a single sale has emerged dated August 2016, apparently made in Denmark but with the eBay sale number missing, apparently showing an eBay sale by 'sultan1966' of a Townley gem - what is its origin?]
[PMB: Dorothy Löbel 19th August: "In August 2016 this gem was supposedly briefly listed by the same seller Sultan1966 on eBay (there is no eBay inventory number in the screenshot). It matches a photo of a gem in the BM’s database The dealer (sic) claims he immediately recognised it as one of the Townley gems, and as from the British Museum. The problem is … he didn’t bother to tell the British Museum until 2021. The BM have been investigat[ing] since then. And he bought another item off the seller in 2018"].
[PMB Dorothy Löbel also showed another but undated screenshot of other gems allegedly sold by the eBay dealer "sultan1966', (but without stating where they were from) and noted: "The vast majority of the gems listed on eBay before 2016 by a man calling himself Paul Higgins and using the handle Sultan1966 were like this:" - who obtained this information and how, from the seller's eBay page?]
February 28 2021: Dr Ittai Gradel alerted the British Museum.
BM deputy director Jonathan Williams receives "correspondence dating to February 2021 in which Mr Williams was alerted to the thefts."

Reportedly, the police were not notified for nearly TWO YEARS:
BM only alerted the Metropolitan Police in Jan 2023

Reportedly, the BM Trustees were not notified for nearly TWO YEARS.

BM Chair George Osborne suggests trustees also learned in Jan 2023: "we learnt earlier this year that items of the collection had been stolen..."
'We called in the police, imposed emergency measures to increase security, set up an independent review into what happened..."

7 months pass. Presumably an internal probe is conducted.

Then, in July 2023, the BM's Greek curator Peter Higgs is quietly dismissed.
[PMB: there seem to be no official announcements or mentions of this in the press, Higgs' name has disappeared from the list of staff at the BM. At the end of Jan. 2023 Professor Thomas Harrison was apointed as Keeper of the Department of Greece and Rome at the British Museum. at some stage prior to May 2023, Higgs had been referred to as "acting keeper of the Department of Greece and Rome at the British Museum", for several years before that several sources refer to him as "curator' of the same].
In in July 2023, BM director Hartwig Fischer announced that he would be leaving in 2024 [BBC Hartwig Fischer to leave British Museum director role 28 July 2023 ].
The Museum has denied a link between the two events.

[Aug 16, 2023: The police visit Mr Higgs' home (Mirror, , 17 Aug 2023), "Neighbours described seeing police officers at Mr Higgs' property on Wednesday morning. One said: "I saw two or three, heavy set uniformed police here yesterday morning... they were going into the house between 0700 and 0800. I could see they had Police on the back of their flak jackets but I had no idea what they were doing here." A Met Police spokesperson said no arrests had been made". This rather sounds as if there had been no previous visits, despite it being reported that the police were involved in some kind of an investigation since January - if so, why did they appear at the home of the person they are investigating so late, and just a day before the termination of his employment at the BM was announced? Fishy.]
Aug 17 2023
: BM announces thefts and dismissal of Higgs. Museum appoints an former trustee and police official to conduct an independent probe. [Anon sources tell reporters that police had previously advised the museum not to go public with information about the thefts].

[August 17 2023: "A spokesperson for the British Museum said [...] that 'no other person is currently under investigation by the Museum'. 

Jason Felch is most concerned (as was the Mail article) about the slow progress of information:

[Felch] "So, three big gaps need to be explained:

2016 discovery of Sultan1966 sales > 2021 report to BM deputy director

2021 report to deputy director > 2023 notice to police and trustees

Jan 2023 notice to trust and police > Aug 2023 trustees notification of public

[Felch] Of those gaps, the most troubling to me is the second: How could BM's senior leadership wait TWO YEARS to tell the police (and trustees) about credible evidence of thefts by a curator? Were additional items stolen or sold during these two years?"

Monday, 21 August 2023

Greek Culture Ministry following developments at British Museum ‘very carefully’

Ekathimerini 'Culture Ministry following developments at British Museum ‘very carefully’', 18.08.2023
The Culture Minister has said that her ministry is following developments at the British Museum “very carefully” after it emerged that the London institution’s curator of Greek collections, Greek sculpture and the Hellenistic period was sacked after the disappearance of precious objects. “The facts as recently announced by the British Museum are extremely sad and particularly serious. The Culture Ministry is following the development of the issue very carefully,” said Lina Mendoni.

Luise Loges and Flint Dibble on The Antiquities Trade and Much Else Too

The podcast, 'Archaeology with Flint Dibble' has an interview which is ostensibly about "The British Museum Heist. With Luise Loges", but in fact is much more. Well worth watch/listening to:

There is a bibliography to go with it. A very nice resource.



Friday, 18 August 2023

"Higgs" The X-Twitter Account

  .                 .   

Looking deeper into the BM missing objects case takes you down some very odd rabbit holes.... Let us take a look at the Twitter account "Peter Higgs @Sultan1966" that is being treated as clinching evidence in this case.

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966
Curator in the Greek and Roman Department, British Museum
London and Hastings
Dołączył/a grudzień 2009
3 Obserwowanych 6 Obserwujących 

Who is its author "observing"?

Knebworth Archives @bulwerlyttonweb
Tales from the treasure house of stories - Knebworth House - home of Edward Bulwer Lytton and his family since 1490, and England's premier classic rock venue

British Museum [ Obserwuje Cię]
A museum of the world, for the world. Book tickets at House rules: Social Media Code of Conduct

steven munar @StevenMunarTMB
Steven Munar & The Miracle Band. Banda formada tras la disolución de The Tea Servants. Pop, rock, folk.
An odd selection it seems to me.

I suppose you can't choose who follows you, but, for what it is worth:
"Liam Kelly @iamliamkelly
Sunday Times Arts and Entertainment Correspondent [...].
[the date he joined is not stated, I suggest this was when the current story broke - Mr Kelly has apparently not written on this case]

steven munar @StevenMunarTMB
Steven Munar & The Miracle Band. Banda formada tras la disolución de The Tea Servants. Pop, rock, folk. [Barcelona joined Twitter Nov 2013]

Sally Higgs @SALLIO1
Socialist &18c literature scholar. Taking ages to finish PhD. Ageing punk, feminist, Ruskin Oxford and Cardiff Uni alumnus. Manics and psychedelic rock afficianado. [Cardiff Wales Dołączył/a kwiecień 2009]

Bradley Asmithers @BradASmithers
I love Architecture and its history, science, physics, philosophy and shy away from religious beliefs and practices. Honest, firm and fiercely loyal. Love life [Barrow In Furness Dołączył wrzesień 2012 - Tweets hidden from general view]

Rudy @SamboRadolf
Jehovah is the way [Barberton Mpumalanga Dołączył/a sierpień 2011 - Tweets hidden from general view]

Victor D. Dunn @victordunn

U.S. Senate Candidate (Scheduled to officially announce 11/9/2022) [Texas, USA Dołączył/a marzec 2009. Little activity since 2020]."
Hmmm. No classicists, no coineys.

Let's have a look at content. I'll copy it all here for the record, in case it gets deleted from Twitter. The latest post preserved is from May 2016:

============== ===========================
Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 12 maj 2016
I just uploaded 'British Museum Sicily Conference' to @academia ! [broken link]

============== ===========================
============== ===========================
============== ===========================
Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 4 paź 2012 Made 800 bucks so far today following this- [broken link to some kind of twitter -hosted advert]

======================= ================== 
July 2011

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 18 lip 2011 Stay at home moms earns almost 4500*/mo work at home jobs online. Click here [broken link to some kind of twitter -hosted advert]

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 18 lip 2011 Local single mom makes almost $5,500* every month working from home. read it now at  [broken link to some kind of twitter -hosted advert]      
======================= ================= 
Jan 2011   
Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 9 sty 2011 Download Ebooks - [broken link to some kind of  advert with an URL shortened in Bitley]

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 9 sty 2011 Films online -  [Bitley broken link]

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 8 sty 2011 Films online -

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 8 sty 2011 Movies online -

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 3 sty 2011 Download and Watch Your Favorite Movies Online - [US spelling]

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 2 sty 2011 Download Ebooks -

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 2 sty 2011 Download full movies online -

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 1 sty 2011 Watch and Download full movies online -

======================= ===================
Dec 2010   
Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 27 gru 2010 Download Movies Online -

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 27 gru 2010 Download New Movies Online -

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 27 gru 2010 Download Movies -

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 26 gru 2010 Download New Full Movies online -

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 26 gru 2010 Download Movies -

Peter Higgs @Sultan1966 · 25 gru 2010 Watch Movies Online -
Well, this is an odd twitter account. The only actual content is a reference to an Academia article about a BM conference... but I am suspicious about it having an explanation mark. Academia is nothing a scholar would be getting excited about. But a bot might. [This is the exhibition: Nicholas Wroe, 'Golden years: Sicily at the British Museum' Guardian Fri 8 Apr 2016 ] Let us note the US spelling, the currency given in dollars. I was puzzled by a mother being referred to as "mom" (that's US usage) as well as "mam" (Scotland, Wales, Northumbrian dialects such as Geordie, as well as throughout Ireland and Liverpool, Kingston upon Hull, and the South Wales valleys). 

I wonder whether this is not some kind of money-making effort begun in December 2009, to use a social media account to host adverts automatically generated by bots. This is why there would be (if that really is the case, as reported in several sources) that there is a paypal account under the same name. It is then alleged that this paypal account was used in eBay transactions of some kind. that eBay account was set up enough time before August 2016 to generate 715 feedback points. This however might be nothing sinister, ebayers often sell cheap, cheerful, problem free fast-moving goods to generate such a feedback score when they start up. This could be nothing more dodgy than selling of Uncle Albert's inherited lifetime stamp collection piecemeal for giveaway prices. 

I presume that the accusers have proof that this social media account, and this paypal account belong to the real Peter Higgs, curator at the BM. The account looks like a fake to me, there is nothing here to suggest that it is not a case of identity theft. The sole reference to professional matters in 2016 could easily have been added by a bot running it (of course we cannot know what has been deleted from it post-fact). 

It is worth noting that there are nine other Twitter accounts called (varieties of) "Sultan1966" and several hobbyist forum members with the same name  Forum ,  recreational vehicles forum ,  pocket watch database mbworld so care needs to be exercised in trying to interpret this material.

Let us note that there is mention of a Paul Higgins, and a Peter Higgs (both names are common and refer to entirely different people), a "Sultan1966" account and a "sultan1966" one (capital and low-case 's'). The deleted eBay auction number suggests the screenshot used in this accusation has been tampered with. There is the suggestion that the tipoff was generated from an initial denunciation by a fellow dealer (?) that the BM initially disregarded (perhaps because they saw it as such). What, actually, is going on here? 

BM "It's Chaos Down There"

More information keeps coming out on the missing BM objects case. Dorothy Löbel @DLVLK writes:

"The vast majority of the gems listed on eBay before 2016 by a man calling himself Paul Higgins and using the handle Sultan1966 were like this:" [the implication seems to be that this is Dorothy's screenshot].

With reference to the muddle the BM reserve collections seem to be in, she also reports  "I am aware of other gems that are missing, but it’s very unclear when they went missing. I have images of gems which appear to be missing from the BM, but it’s very unclear when they went missing - having a 1926 photo ain’t all that useful … - and I think it would be counterproductive to assume they went missing recently. Gems were also destroyed by WW2 Nazi bombs". "These two gems have been missing from the British Museum since the 19th century and before the 1960s. If you know where they are, a) I’d really like to study them and b) the BM would probably like them back … ", "The good news is this long ‘lost’ gem was recently located in the BM. No-one had seen it since the 1960s (it’s 18th century, inspired by Augustan gems)  [video]."

Dorothy Löbel also reports: "I’m the only person who’d asked to see the vast majority of the more obscure gems in decades, because few people study them. Two foreign colleagues have seen quite a lot of BM gems in the last few years, and none of the ones they wanted to see were missing." 

 One other point. She alleges (19 sie 2023 1:06 AM) ·that the person who spotted the agate cameo from the Townley Collection on sale on eBay (and thus presumably who made the 2016 screenshot) was involved in the trade: 
"The dealer claims he immediately recognised it as one of the Townley gems, and as from the British Museum. The problem is … he didn’t bother to tell the British Museum until 2021. The BM have been investigated [-ing? PMB] since then. And he bought another item off the seller in 2018./ I know there’s a bit of a lynch mob out for the British Museum at the moment. And yes, the dealer does appear to have been right about what he claimed. The problem was his refusal to provide evidence, or only to provide selective evidence, and ideally keep most items he’d bought."
She also notes something that has not been commented on previously, in the screenshot, down in the bottom right corner, the eBay auction number has been erased from the image. Why was that done, and by whom? 

Note that it is being alleged by reporters that Paul Higgins and Peter Higgs are the same person because they have the same online pseudonym, but is "Sultan1966" actually the same as "sultan1966"? Why does the "Sultan1966" twitter account that apparently some desire to be treated as clinching evidence actually contain so little meat, but a lot of bot adverts - and why is it still up and not deleted by its owner?  

A Digital Dactyliotheca

Dorothy Löbel @DLVLK often writes about one of her interests, antique intaglio gems on social media. Here she has put together an interesting playlist on the topic (and related aspects) The Digital Dactyliotheca. It's currently got 101 videos and definitely worth looking at

(yeah, δακτυλιοθήκη, I had to look it up too).

A Danish Whistleblower Spots Townsley Items on eBay


Taylor Dafoe, ' The Employee Who Allegedly Stole Artifacts From the British Museum Has Been Identified as a Senior Curator of Greek and Roman Art' Artnet News August 18, 2023

According to this article:

"An unnamed antiquities expert cited by the Telegraph said that he started spotting semi-precious gems and glass items listed for sale on the e-commerce site in 2016 or earlier. He recognized the pieces from the Townley collection of Graeco-Roman artifacts given to the British Museum in the early 19th century. The eBay seller’s name was “sultan1966”—the same handle Higgs used on Twitter at the time. When contacted by the expert, the seller denied any connection to Higgs. The antiquities expert said he informed the British Museum of the eBay listings in June of 2020. Higgs has reportedly denied the allegations."

What is interesting is that you can see from the calculation of postage in the above screenshot from August 2016 that the viewer was in Denmark. So who in Denmark would be familiar enough with the Townley Collection to have spotted this? And why, when they did, did they wait (we are told) until 2020 to inform the museum? Note there seem to be at least two other "sultan1966"s on the internet, active on several collectors' sites.  

From the BM webpage:

Charles Townley (1737-1805) inherited Townley Hall, Lancs in 1758 and began building an outstanding collection of antiquities on his grand tour seven years later. He returned from Italy in 1774 and lived in Whitehall until his purchase in 1777 of Park Street House, Westminster (later 14 Queen Anne's Gate), when he installed his collection there.

But there is another twist in this story, as Jason Felch notes, the Twitter account that reportedly linked Peter Higgs to the eBay sales by "Sultan1966" does not appear to be authentic, but some kind of a bot account. If this is the evidence that the BM is using, it smells a bit fishy. Also the Twitter account is written with a capital S, the eBay account with a lower case s (unusual, that would be, in the case of somebody with Higgs' education, no?).  

The  Art Newspaper is making the claim that according to anonymous British Museum staff, the museum's director, Hartwig Fischer, was forced to resign as a result of the discovery of a series of alleged thefts from the institution, with calls for him to step down immediately. The Telegraph adds that other members of BM staff such as Deputy Director Jonathan Williams, are under scrutiny given "correspondence dating to February 2021 in which Mr Williams was alerted to the thefts" and then BM inaction "led to 'two wasted years' in which opportunities to recover stolen items might have been lost." So was the Museum alerted in 2020, or 2021? Does one get the feeling that the release of different pieces of information to different journalists at different times is intended to create an information smokescreen or fog? No, no no... this is the British Museum, and there should be full transparency, let the world see what these people have been up to. AS Chasing Aphrodite author Jason Felch notes:
"To maintain any credibility the British Museum urgently needs to explain these thefts, and the museum's delayed response to them, to the public and British government – and not hide behind an on-going criminal investigation that should have started several years ago."

UPDATE 18.8.2023
Chasing Aphrodite @ChasingAphrodit · 38 min
We now know the name of the whistleblower: Dr Ittai Gradel, a Danish expert in Roman antiquities:
'I alerted the British Museum on 28 February 2021. I was….not pleased with the reaction or lack of reaction that I had from them.'…

Odd, Apparently unpapered, Roman Intaglio with Quadriga and Quirky Style

This one has a lot of cap-lock shouting in it.
“Good condition for age” Price: £1,700.00 Buy it now £25.00 Expedited Delivery. Seller antiques-and-artefacts-uk (18919) [MD ANTIQUITIES LTD Michael Davies] 99.7% positive Feedback 80K items sold Located in: Didcot, United Kingdom.
Well, 80k that's a lot, innit? I'm not too happy about that "provenance" what does it mean "international"? What about "old"? Last year, last decade, generation, century? Grand Tour period? How can Mr Davies document that, and if he can, why is that documentation not mentioned in the sales offer? Or is this item being sold without paperwork? If it was held in a foreign collection, or items found in another country, did it need an export licence to legally export it? If it did not, how can that be demonstrated when the country of origin and date of export are not mentioned? And if it did need an export licence, where is that document?
This is all very important, because on the same day as we are reading this, there is a story in several national newspapers (which I bet they can get in DIDCOT too) about a guy accused of selling off small items of jewellery that it is alleged were taken from a museum store. In cases like this they too are labelled with the generic "from an old [ ] collection" like Mr Davies is using here. A buyer is perfectly entitled to ask the seller to provide the details and proof to avoid any risk of having stolen property on their hands. That is what we call "due diligence" - anything else is irresponsible collecting.

Another caveaty-emptory area is in authenticity, somebody is asked to fork out £1.7k for this little trinket. Mr Davies assures: OUR ITEMS ARE ALL GENUINE AS DESCRIBED AND DESCRIBED TO THE BEST OF OUR ABILITY BY OUR IN HOUSE TEAM THAT HAS MANY MANY YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN THE FIELD. Those experts are not named, nor is the area where they have that "experience". Colours on monitors vary, but if the ring is the colour the photos seem to be suggesting, that vague "high carat" really needs substantiating by a non-destructive analysis. I am also puzzled by the form, why does the twisted beaded edge of the hoop go inside and under the bezel? Why are there reserved cells inside the hoop, reducing its thickness and strength? Why is the bezel so crudely soldered to the hoop? I'd like to see the experts go to a bit more effort to provide some analogies to these odd features, not very common on fingerings, especially ones as elaborate as this one is supposed to be. The edges of the hoop have sharp projecting edges, in no place is there any damage from wearing such a ring (which my guess is would actually be blinking uncomfortable), neither on the front and edges of the bezel. Yet the edges of the stone set into this "high carat" mount are very extensively battered. Was this a ring made up specifically for placing on the finger of a corpse that was then buried? I think Mr Davies should say.

Now we are told "PLEASE NOTE SOME ITEMS HAVE MINOR RESTORATION/REPAIRS AND THIS SHOULD BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT WHEN MAKING A PURCHASE. PLEASE ASK IF UNSURE, SO THERE IS NO CONFUSION BETWEEN US" if I were thinking of buying this, I hope somebody would give me the advice to ask the seller outright whether that gem is original, or a replacement. I do not like the harsh style of cutting, and the toolmarks in particular. They do not look much like the ones on excavated gems that archaeologists handle (so once again, where was this "experience" gained?). The experts do not say what the stone is, nor what the subject is, its a quadriga driven by a driver with a radiate crown - perhaps the sun-god Helios, Phaethon or Sol (?).
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