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 Also it is not "previously unkn own", it is "until now, unpublished"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.

Thursday 24 August 2023

Faith Stolen/Faith Misplaced: How do Dealers do Due Diligence? (26)

According to the social media site Lost Arts of Nepal @LostArtsofNepal [1,883 Followers] (Faith Stolen – Breaking News Aug 21):
"This Large 16th/17th Century GILT TORANA, Stolen in From the BHAIRAVA TEMPLE, Taumadhi, Bhaktapur, Has Been Located Auctioned by Koller Auctions, Zurich, Switzerland on 3 December 2019".
How was the collecting history and therefore legitimacy of this object checked by the vendors, and where is this piece now?

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 (?).

Thursday 17 August 2023

Red Faces at the British Museum: "It's Chaos Down There".

How embarrassing. Difficult times again for the British Museum. After the situation concerning material missing from a storeroom in a Northern UK museum in Britain, where the police are still investigating and the process of documenting items accepted and stored by the Portable Antiquities Scheme is being beefed up, a major university collection of papyrii in the home counties (where police are taking even more time in their investigations), yet another British museum is involved in a scandal involvcving the sakle of artefacts to private collectors on a market that has no internal constraints. This time it is items offered for sale on eBay that includes "gold jewellery and gems of semi-precious stones and glass dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD" reportedly stolen from Bloomsbury's British Museum ('Stolen artefacts from British Museum offered for sale on eBay' Sky News Thursday 17 August 2023)
The London museum has said a member of staff was sacked after jewellery and gems from its collection were found to be "missing, stolen or damaged".[...] The majority were "small pieces kept in a storeroom belonging to one of the museum's collections". They were mainly used for academic and research work and none had recently been on public display. The museum said it will be taking legal action against the unnamed staff member and the Metropolitan Police's economic and crime command is investigating [...] the museum is "working alongside outside experts to complete a definitive account of what is missing, damaged and stolen".
Good luck with that... so far there has been no arrest "and enquiries continue". The Independent name a person who lost their job as the result of the discovery of the thefts ( William Mata , Jane Dalton, Named: Curator sacked after British Museum treasures vanished', The Independent 17.08.2023) The Head of the department of Greece and Rome,
was dismissed last month after it was discovered that artefacts thought to be worth tens of millions of pounds had vanished from the vaults. It is believed to have been the largest breach of security in a decade at the central London institution and tourist attraction.[...] The museum, which houses items from around the world, has not confirmed which of its 8 million artefacts have gone missing, but the number could be in the thousands. Items had reportedly been disappearing for several years , although it is understood that they were stored items rather than those on display. According to The Telegraph[...] museum bosses [became concerned] three years ago after Roman jewellery went up for sale on eBay. The British Museum said it had dismissed a member of staff after items were found to be missing, stolen or damaged Museum director Hartwig Fischer apologised on Wednesday for the missing artefacts, saying that museum staff were “determined to put this right” and that they were ready to “throw our efforts into the recovery of objects”. Chair of the museum George Osborne said the trustees were extremely concerned, adding that they had “used all the disciplinary powers available to us to deal with the individual we believe to be responsible”. The former chancellor said: “Our priority is now threefold: first, to recover the stolen items; second, to find out what, if anything, could have been done to stop this; and third, to do whatever it takes, with investment in security and collection records, to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
The Times also has more details ( Billy Kenber, Constance Kampfner, ' The British Museum curator sacked after treasures vanished, Expert who dedicated his career to antiquity has been dismissed after three decades' The Times Thursday August 17 2023), including:
"Questions have previously been raised about security at the museum and its record-keeping. In 2002, The Sunday Times sent an undercover reporter into the museum’s Greek and Roman antiquities department, where Higgs worked, and revealed how artefacts had gone missing in storerooms. Security was so lax that the reporter was able to carry out part of an ancient Greek statue without being noticed. After returning it, the reporter raised his frustration with Higgs, who was then a curator in the department, that hundreds of pieces appeared to have been mislaid. Higgs told him he was confident they would be found but admitted: “It’s chaos down here”."
It is being alleged by several British media outlets that the thefts began as far back as 2016, and attention was drawn by an unnamed expert to a suspect pseudonymous eBay account back in 2020. It was selling items that were suspicious, and the BM was notified. Reportedly, not action was (or maybe could be) taken until this year, when a piece of Roman jewellry offered on the online auction site was traced back to one of its departments. Then it was a matter of tracing the eBay account by connecting it to to a PayPal account that in turn linked to a social media account that had been opened in the suspect's real name. In passing, it is rather odd that a Paypal account would be linked to a Twitter account rather than an actual email address. The identified person has not been charged with any crime, and has firmly proclaimed their innocence. Though a list of the missing objects has not been made public, many are said to be of diminutive size, made variously of gold and incorporating semiprecious stones (I suspect they mean intaglios PMB). The ‘or damaged’ makes one wonder if the items sold might not have been removed from larger artefacts.

I strongly doubt that the BM actually has any chance of getting - or indeed real inclination to get- the sold items back. As far as one can see they've not even given the name of the eBay seller so that its customers can come forward. As we know, if you do not do screenshots of offers, withing a few weeks they disappear totally from the internet. As far as I am aware, there is not going to be any way they can trace sales from even two or three years ago. And of course if the BM actually WAS monitoring online sales, they'd know that. Perhaps this event will be the impetus for a change in the legislation in Britain about how the passage of items through the internet is actually regulated and documented.

Vignette: artefacts in storage  

The Polish Sejm votes for a second time on metal detecting [Updated]

The Senate debated this and listened to archaeologists and other heritage professionals opposing it, and thus decided to reject the proposals to change the law. So the Sejm had a second go:

3717:19:40Pkt. 17 Sprawozdanie Komisji o uchwale Senatu w sprawie ustawy o zmianie ustawy o ochronie zabytków i opiece nad zabytkami (druki nr 3574 i 3582) - głosowanie nad wnioskiem o odrzucenie uchwały Senatu odrzucającej ustawę.

w formacie PDF

Głosowało - 450  posłów   Za - 242    Przeciw - 207    Wstrzymało się - 1    Nie głosowało - 10 
Większość bezwzględna - 226 

Wyniki głosowania wg klubów
Klub/KołoLiczba czł.Głosowało     Za     PrzeciwWstrzymało sięNie głosowało
So, the metal detectorists get their wish. No permits, just compulsory registering of every search they do and everything they find on a mobile application. Look who is supporting it, the Right (PiS and Konfederacja, Kukiz, Polskie Sprawy). The opposition is firmly against it.  


That'll please the Helsinki Gang. Now we can watch an experiment to see if they were right that liberalising artefact hunting as a free-for-all would be a "good thing". It's just a shame that it is carried out on the Polish archaeological record. 

WHO VOTED FOR THIS DAMAGING LEGISLATION? I'm going to name and shame them.

Głosowanie nr 37 dnia 17-08-2023

Posłowie PiS głosujący "Za":
There are 227 parliamentarians of this Party in the Sejm 225 turned up to vote. All voted ‘for’ passing this legislation into law. 1. Adamczyk Andrzej 2. Andruszkiewicz Adam 3. Andzel Waldemar 4. Ardanowski Jan Krzysztof 5. Arent Iwona 6. Ast Marek 7. Babalski Zbigniew 8. Babinetz Piotr 9. Bartosik Ryszard 10. Bartuś Barbara 11. Baszko Mieczysław 12. Bąk Dariusz 13. Błaszczak Mariusz 14. Bochenek Rafał 15. Borowiak Joanna 16. Bortniczuk Kamil 17. Borys-Szopa Bożena 18. Buda Waldemar 19. Burzyńska Lidia 20. Chmielowiec Zbigniew 21. Choma Kazimierz 22. Chorosińska Dominika 23. Chrzan Tadeusz 24. Cicholska Anna Ewa 25. Cieślak Michał 26. Czarnecki Krzysztof 27. Czarnecki Przemysław 28. Czarnecki Witold 29. Czarnek Przemysław (Minister of Education and Science!) 30. Czartoryski Arkadiusz 31. Czerwińska Anita 32. Czochara Katarzyna 33. Dąbrowska-Banaszek Anna 34. Dobrzyński Leszek 35. Dolata Zbigniew 36. Dorywalski Bartłomiej 37. Drabek Przemysław 38. Duda Elżbieta 39. Duda Jan 40. Duszek Marcin 41. Dworczyk Michał 42. Dziedziczak Jan 43. Dziuk Barbara 44. Emilewicz Jadwiga 45. Filipiak Ewa 46. Fogiel Radosław 47. Galemba Leszek 48. Gawęda Adam 49. Gawron Andrzej 50. Gaża Grzegorz 51. Gembicka Anna 52. Giżyński Szymon 53. Glenc Teresa 54. Gliński Piotr (Minister of Cultureand National Heritage!) 55. Głuchowski Krzysztof 56. Golińska Małgorzata 57. Gołojuch Kazimierz 58. Gonciarz Jarosław 59. Gontarz Robert 60. Gosek Mariusz 61. Gosiewska Małgorzata 62. Górska Agnieszka 63. Górski Maciej 64. Gróbarczyk Marek 65. Gut-Mostowy Andrzej 66. Gwiazdowski Kazimierz 67. Gwóźdź Marcin 68. Hałas Teresa 69. Hoc Czesław 70. Hoffmann Zbigniew Grzegorz 71. Horała Marcin 72. Hreniak Paweł 73. Jach Michał 74. Janowska Małgorzata 75. Kaczmarczyk Norbert 76. Kaczyński Filip 77. Kaczyński Jarosław (THAT Jarosław Kaczyński what does he know about metal detecting?) 78. Kaleta Piotr 79. Kaleta Sebastian 80. Kałużny Mariusz 81. Kamiński Mariusz 82. Kanthak Jan 83. Kapinos Fryderyk 84. Kołakowski Lech 85. Kossakowski Wojciech 86. Kosztowniak Andrzej 87. Kowalczyk Henryk 88. Kowalczyk Leszek 89. Kowalski Janusz 90. Kownacki Bartosz 91. Kozanecka Ewa 92. Kozik Krzysztof Janusz 93. Krajewski Jarosław 94. Krajewski Wiesław 95. Krasulski Leonard 96. Król Piotr 97. Krupka Anna 98. Kryj Andrzej 99. Kubiak Marta 100. Kubów Krzysztof 101. Kuchciński Marek 102. Kurowska Iwona 103. Kurowska Maria 104. Kurowski Władysław 105. Kurzępa Jacek 106. Kwiecień Anna 107. Kwitek Marek 108. Latos Tomasz 109. Lichocka Joanna 110. Lipiec Krzysztof 111. Lisiecki Paweł 112. Lorek Grzegorz 113. Łapiak Aleksandra 114. Ławniczak Tomasz 115. Machałek Marzena 116. Macierewicz Antoni 117. Maląg Marlena Magdalena 118. Malik Ewa 119. Małecki Jerzy 120. Małecki Maciej 121. Materna Jerzy 122. Mateusiak-Pielucha Beata 123. Matusiak Grzegorz 124. Matuszewski Marek 125. Matuszny Kazimierz 126. Milczanowska Anna 127. Milewski Daniel 128. Morawiecki Mateusz 129. Mosiński Jan 130. Moskal Kazimierz 131. Mrówczyński Aleksander 132. Mularczyk Arkadiusz 133. Murdzek Wojciech 134. Müller Piotr 135. Nowicka Danuta 136. Ociepa Marcin 137. Olejniczak Waldemar 138. Olszewski Dariusz 139. Ołdakowski Adam 140. Osuch Jacek 141. Ozdoba Jacek 142. Paluch Anna 143. Pamuła Teresa 144. Paul Jerzy 145. Pawłowska Monika 146. Piecha Bolesław 147. Piechowiak Grzegorz 148. Pieczarka Anna 149. Piontkowski Dariusz 150. Płażyński Kacper 151. Płonka Elżbieta 152. Pogoda Szymon 153. Polaczek Jerzy, 154. Polak Marek 155. Polak Piotr 156. Porowska Violetta 157. Porzucek Marcin 158. Puda Grzegorz 159. Rau Zbigniew 160. Romanowski Rafał 161. Rusecka Urszula 162. Rychlik Paweł 163. Rzymkowski Tomasz 164. Sak Piotr 165. Sasin Jacek (He of the „Miecz Rydzyka” affair) 166. Schmidt Anna 167. Schreiber Łukasz 168. Sellin Jarosław (Conservator General for Historical Monuments !!) 169. Siarka Edward 170. Sipiera Zdzisław 171. Skwarek Sławomir 172. Smoliński Kazimierz 173. Sobolewski Krzysztof 174. Soboń Artur 175. Soin Agnieszka 176. Sójka Katarzyna 177. Stachowiak-Różecka Mirosława 178. Stefaniuk Dariusz 179. Strzałka Beata 180. Suski Marek 181. Szałabawka Artur 182. Szarama Wojciech 183. Szczurek-Żelazko Józefa 184. Szefernaker Paweł 185. Szlachta Andrzej 186. Szulowski Krzysztof 187. Szwed Stanisław 188. Szymańska Ewa 189. Szynkowski vel Sęk Szymon 190. Śniadek Janusz 191. Śnieżek Adam 192. Świat Jacek 193. Tchórzewski Krzysztof 194. Telus Robert 195. Terlecki Ryszard 196. Tomaszewski Włodzimierz 197. Trepka Mariusz 198. Tułajew Sylwester 199. Uruski Piotr 200. Uściński Piotr 201. Warchoł Marcin 202. Wargocka Teresa 203. Warwas Robert 204. Warzecha Jan 205. Wassermann Małgorzata 206. Wawrzyk Piotr 207. Wąsik Maciej 208. Weber Rafał 209. Wesoły Marek 210. Wicher Patryk 211. Witek Elżbieta 212. Wojciechowski Grzegorz 213. Wojtyszek Agata Katarzyna 214. Woś Michał 215. Woźniak Grzegorz Adam 216. Woźniak Tadeusz 217. Wójcik Michał 218. Wróblewski Bartłomiej 219. Zawiślak Sławomir 220. Zielińska Elżbieta 221. Zieliński Jarosław 222. Zieliński Tomasz 223. Ziobro Zbigniew 224. Zubowski Wojciech 225. Zyska Ireneusz.

Posłowie Konfederacja głosujący "Za"
Eleven parliamentarians in the Sejm, one was absent. Nine voted ‘for’, one abstained.
1. Berkowicz Konrad, 2. Bosak Krzysztof, 3. Braun Grzegorz, 4. Kamiński Krystian, 5. Siarkowska Anna Maria, 6. Sośnierz Dobromir, 7. Tuduj Krzysztof, 8. Tyszka Stanisław, 9. Urbaniak Michał, (abstained, Korwin-Mikke Janusz).

Posłowie Kukiz15 głosujący "Za"
Just three parliamentarians in the Sejm, all voted 'for':
1 Kukiz Paweł, 2. Sachajko Jarosław, 3. Żuk Stanisław.
Sachajko was the 'author' of the initial draft of this legislation.

Posłowie Polskie Sprawy głosujący "Za"
Just three parliamentarians in the Sejm, all voted 'for':
1. Girzyński Zbigniew, 2. Sośnierz Andrzej, 3. Ścigaj Agnieszka.

There are nine of these, seven voted – two ‘for’, five ‘against’
For: Ajchler Zbigniew , Mejza Łukasz

The latter result perhaps shows what the results might have looked like if the MPs had thought independently about the material made available by the archaeologists, and not simply voted the way they were told to by the Party.

From what I can gather only about five of these "representatives of the Party people" agreed to meet the archaeologists who were willing to give up their time to explain to them what this is all about. The majority simply refused any attempts of contact. Two of those who were met listened to what they'd been told, then mouthed the slogans they'd heard from the detectorists lobbyists, which showed they'd not understood a word about what "conservation" of the archaeological record is.  As a colleague remarked "Też mną wstrząsnęła wypowiedź p. [...]iej. Utwierdza mnie to w przekonaniu, że może poza tytułami ustaw, nikt tam nie czyta ich treści. To jest przerażające" [I was also shocked by Mr. [...]'s statement. This confirms my belief that, apart from the titles of laws, no one reads their content. It's horrifying]. The title says the law is "about" protecting sites and monuments, and so random people, digging random holes into random places, and pulling out random metal artefacts from them "must" be some form of protection of those sites and monuments and the archaeological information they contain[ed], no?  
This is just so horrifying, and shows just how this government works and all those laws they passed were passed in the same way - which is why Poland has so many problems with its neighbours. I want these names online, these people are as responsible as the guys with metal detectors that will from now on, phone in hand, be out there digging up whatever they fancy, where they fancy, how they fancy and when they have a fancy to. And what damage they do, nobody will ever know as the conservator's role is reduced to squinting at the photos of some muddy corroded bits of metal on the "application" this law mandates and deciding what to make of them. 

In my opinion, NONE of these people should be considered eligible for the role of Euro-MPs since what they have just passed goes completely against European principles (such as in the Valetta Convention) just as much as a lot of other PiS-sponsored legislation. 

Nie głosujcie na tych ludzi. 

[PS any MP named above is welcome to come here and tell us in the comments why they think this law is a "good thing" and why I should not name them here as co-responsible for destruction of our country's archaeological heritage. Please do, we are all eager to see just how much you know about that archaeology that you feel empowered to take such decisions that affect it without adequate consultation and fact-finding. In any language].

UPDATE (2.09.2023)
Since he signed the thing into law today, we can add Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland, onto this list of people responsible for this. 

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