Saturday 21 October 2023

Coin Collectors and Dealers, bankrolling Violence?


The people that recently bought the smuggled coins of the Gaza Hoard(s)... How much of your money went to Hamas and paid for some of the hardware used in the October 7th attack on Israeli civilians? Into whose pockets did that money ultimately go?  Why is none of this mentioned in the "Codes of Practice" of any of the numismatic bodies and dealers' associations? 

(L'Orient, Jack Gues/AFP)

 (Credit: Jack Gues/AFP)

Thursday 19 October 2023

Carpet Bombing in Gaza

Israeli bombardments have decimated large parts of Gaza, displacing around a million people and leaving many with impossible decisions: to stay and risk death, or leave everything they’ve ever known behind with little assurance they will find safety. One of the buildings hit in an Israeli air attack was the  Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church compound in central Gaza City - the church dates back to the fifth century AD. Five hundred people were sheltering inside.

(Washington Post)

Sunday 15 October 2023

Saturday 14 October 2023

"Metal Detector Use"

Amanda Chadburn @AmandaChadburn PhD FSA * Archaeology * Heritage Mgment * Landscape * Prehistory * World Heritage * Archaeoastronomy * IACoins * Respons.Detecting * Heritage Crime * 

Sadly a lot of archaeologists still have a knee-jerk reaction against metal detecting. A metal detector is merely a tool & can be used well or badly. In some cases eg conflict archaeology, it is the very best tool to use. I have a lot of trouble persuading people of this.
What's with the "still"?

Which is why British archaeologists should STOP using the vanilla-term euphemism and start calling a spade a spade. As some have long argued, the problem is not the tool, but the phenomenon of "Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record". For the sake of accuracy ·

Just referring ever-so-vaguely to "the use of metal detectors" instead of defining the different types of use and which ones cause which concerns and why is just sloppy and unprofessional.

Uighur Scholar Rahile Dawut Imprisoned for Her Research

A respected Uyghur scholar who has become a powerful symbol of the devastation of that culture has been jailed by the Chinese. Her imprisonment cannot go unchallenged (Rachel Harris, 'China has sentenced Rahile Dawut to life in prison and would like the world to forget her. We must not' Guardian 12 Oct 2023).
Over the past six years, the sacred shrines have been destroyed, and the people who visited them detained for “re-education” in the camps, or given long prison sentences on spurious charges of “religious extremism”. It’s clear that Dawut’s “crime” is her research: the same painstaking work to document Uyghur heritage that was previously officially approved and supported by government grants.

Dawut has become a powerful symbol of the devastation of Uyghur culture and society, but she is just one individual among many. The Chinese authorities have gone to extraordinary lengths to mask what has been happening in the Uyghur region, but we know of at least 312 individual cases of people like her – Uyghur academics, writers and creative artists – who have been detained and imprisoned simply because they researched, promoted, transmitted and created Uyghur culture and history.

Chinese president Xi Jinping has been explicit in his calls for a “correct understanding” of the history of Xinjiang. What this means is that history is now being comprehensively rewritten to demonstrate that the Uyghur region and its people have been an integral part of the Chinese nation since ancient times. Dawut’s research contradicts this distorted view of history, and so she and her work have been disappeared.

Please read the article 

Friday 13 October 2023

Who Will Preserve Armenian Cultural Heritage in Nagorno Karabakh?

St. Hovhannes Church of Chahuk -
destroyed between 1997 and 2009
(Caucasus Heritage Watch).

It’s “only” 150,000 or so people but it’s interesting how little attention has been paid to the ethnic cleansing of Nagorno-Karabakh that happened just a few weeks ago ( Ruslan Javadov, 'As an Azerbaijani, I have to speak out about my country’s ethnic cleansing of Armenians', Guardian Mon 9 Oct 2023 ). Armenians leave behind a rich cultural and religious landscape with scores of heritage sites, from exquisite medieval monasteries to modest village churches, to historic cemeteries with iconic engraved cross stones. The risk of destruction and falsification of these cultural and religious sites is immense. As Azerbaijan takes sovereign control over Nagorno-Karabakh, some 200-300 Armenian cultural heritage sites will be endangered.

 Adam T. Smith is a professor of anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences and co-director of Caucasus Heritage Watch, a group that has been monitoring heritage sites at risk in the region. He paints a picture of what will happen if multilateral organizations like UNESCO fail to protect Armenian cultural heritage.
“World institutions of heritage protection today face the most profound test of their legitimacy since World War II in the mountains of the South Caucasus," says Smith. "Multilateral organizations like UNESCO and national centers of heritage preservation like the Cultural Heritage Office in the US State Department were silent as Azerbaijan dismantled Armenian cultural heritage in Nakhchivan and have raised no public protest against the ongoing destruction in Nagorno-Karabakh. “If these organizations fail, another irreplaceable medieval and early modern Armenian cultural landscape will vanish. And other national leaders, hostile to ethnic minorities in their midst, will see inaction as a green light for their own purging of humanity’s past. The result will be an impoverished archaeological record, a human past rebuilt around intolerant fictions of national homogeneity and a future deprived of our tangible monuments to human creativity, tolerance and peace. UNESCO and international organizations committed to preservation must not fail in protecting the cultural heritage of the South Caucasus," says Smith.

Sunday 8 October 2023

US HSI bla-bla


                     Happy guys in suits holding artefact                

Press release: 'HSI Los Angeles repatriates chalice to Argentine Republic'

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles announced the repatriation of an artifact of cultural and ethnological significance to the Argentine Republic Oct. 5.[...] HSI agents recovered the vessel in Studio City during a routine inspection of items being shipped to the United States. Experts at the University of California, Los Angeles determined the item to be an ancient ceremonial drinking vessel originating in Argentina. A pre-Columbian art expert revealed the artifact was a genuine antiquity and dated it to be between 1,000 and 2,000 years old. The piece belongs to the Condorhuasi-Alamito or Aguada cultures in present-day northwest Argentina.

"The vessel HSI agents recovered is a significant part of the ethnological and cultural history for the people in northwest Argentina,” said HSI Los Angeles Special Agent in Charge Eddy Wang. "No one should profit from smuggled goods and this repatriation shows the success of cooperative efforts among foreign governments and HSI."
Rick St. Hilaire @RickStHilaire comments:
When @TheJusticeDept has a "seize and send" policy that routinely repossesses and repatriates smuggled artifacts without arrests and prosecutions of cultural heritage traffickers, it's easy for criminals to dismiss tough talk that "No one should profit from smuggled goods..."

Saturday 7 October 2023

Faith Stolen/Faith Misplaced: How do Dealers do Due Diligence? [32]

According to the social media site ‘Lost Arts of Nepal’ @LostArtsofNepal [1,883 Followers] (Faith Stolen – Breaking News Oct 6th):
"This 17th Century Image of GODDESS LAXMI, Stolen in the 1970s From a Vishnu Temple in Nasamana Tole, Bhaktapur, Has Been Located at the Christie's Auction, London, UK, 2006.".
How was the collecting history and therefore legitimacy of this object checked by the vendors, and where is this piece now?

Friday 6 October 2023

Faith Stolen/Faith Misplaced: How do Dealers do Due Diligence? (30)

The portableisation of entire structural elements from a standing building... Id say it would require quite a dose of negligence not to want to ask penetrating questions about where these came from, how they got onto the market and how the building they were taken from looks now. According to the social media site Lost Arts of Nepal @LostArtsofNepal [1,883 Followers] (Faith Stolen – Breaking News Oct 4):
"These 16th Century Pair of Wooden Struts, Stolen From a Buddhist Monastery Named JHWA BAHA, THANHITI TOLE, KATHMANDU, Has Been Located Sold at the Christie's Auction, New York, USA."

Decolonise Russian Museums

Amazing research about stolen treasures from Ukraine. In only two (!) Russian museums journalists have found 110,000 artifacts.
The Stolen Treasures: The 110,000 artifacts from Ukraine found in two Russian museums
The study of the online collections of the Hermitage and the State Historical Museum of Russia by TEXTY revealed 110,000 artifacts that had been exported from the territory of modern Ukraine to Russia in different historical periods. Most of them had been moved to Russia before Ukraine declared independence.
Our study excluded works of art, icons and weapons because their origin is extremely difficult to trace. We also disregarded the items looted during the current war. Finally, our study revealed some of the tricks used to hide valuable objects in Russia [...] Not only are the removed artifacts intended to demonstrate the mythical connection of the modern Russia and the Kyivan Rus, but also to show the deep historical roots of the Russian people who have been trying to appropriate the ancient history of Ukraine, the Paleolithic era, Trypillya culture, the ancient and Scythian era..
A good read and informative infographics, snazzy website. I am not convinced by the argument about the 12th century Vladimir icon, actually a Byzantine work painted in Constantinople (though whether it should be in Mosscow and not Vladimir is less clear to me). There are some very famous pieces here that would be a great asset to Ukraininan museums after the defeat of Russia. They should form part of the post-War reparations, and underline that the times of Russian imperial pretensions to Ukraininan lands and heritage are definitively over.

"Uncovering History"? Digging Into Earthwork Site Under Pasture

The Code of best Practice for Metal Detecting in England and Wales says one thing, British detectorists do another and see nothing wrong with flaunting it in their clickbait videos. Here is some more detecting earthwork site under pasture... (Unearthed TV, Posted on You Tube Sep 13, 2023, 'Unearthed: Unbelievable Metal Detecting Discoveries'):


"In this video, we'll see some surprising discoveries made while metal detecting around the footprint of an ancient building. We'll be discussing how coins and other artefacts that were not expected were found while metal detecting around the remains of a building. By learning about these discoveries, you'll be able to have a more informed metal detecting experience and uncover buried secrets that would have otherwise gone undetected!"
There is no evidence that this area has been searched systematically, there seems to be no individual bagging and labelling of finds from different areas of the earthwork - and there seems to be no GPS plotting of the finds or logging them in any kind of documentation.

The find of a hammered silver coin "just above the building" (eh? No remains of the building have been exposed in the hole this came from) and therefore the digger reckons the "building could be older than I thought" - he ignores the issue that the coin is damaged and could well be redeposited). The digger seems unconcerned about the wide date range of the finds and relating them to the chronology of the use of the building. In any case, he's is not particularly bothered about determining the date of the structure he's digging into and ripping diagnostic finds from. He seems to place great store on "how deep" something was found, in the soil mixed by wartime (WW2) ploughing. Bonkers.

So basically what this shows is robber-digging of a site, part of the historical/cultural landscape of the region that could have yielded more information if properly examined, but now will not because the digger has pocketed a whole lot of undocumented metal artefacts ripped from it. You'll note he found not a single potsherd.

Shockingly, he proudly announces, "this has been a terrific example of how detecting can uncover history". No, actually no history is written from this, all he's done is filled his pockets with artefacts ripped from the historical record, just like if he was ripping pages from an old newspaper and discarding them unread - what is left cannot be used to recover the full history of the times they cover. It's the same with te traces of the building he's selfishly ripped collectables from. Note that his conclusion after all that hoiking is nothing more that "there's been a lot going on" (a phrase he likes using)

[By the way, with regard the artefact erosion counter issue, note the statement at 12:00: "Do you know what, I've been on fields where I've had 40 to 50 roman coins in an eight-hour session and I've enjoyed today just as mooch as those days"]

I really do think that my British colleagues who see this sort of activity as a good thing owe us, and the public in general, a bit better explanation of what - in archaeological (real archaeology) terms - is meant by the twee phrase "digging up history". We see loose artefacts in the molehills in the film, are British moles (Talpa europaea) also amateur history diggers? That is actually a serious question to those who treat artefact collectors with metal detectors as such. Doubt we'll get an answer from any of them.

Thursday 5 October 2023

Antiquities and the Public


There are a lot of arguments about why we need museums and to display antiquities for public appreciation. These tend to cluster around a group of ideas about "social betterment" that have their origin in the mid-nineteenth century (if not a bit earlier) and were current until the second third of the twentieth. A lot of people writing about "heritage": seem to be trapped in that time-bubble and not emerged from it to look around. That includes the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the 'encyclopaedic museum arguments of Cuno and his pals).

They would be lost in the real world however. Look at this from social media:

Now do an image search to try and find out which collection it is from and what the proud exhibitors of this piece of hacked-out trophy art say about its origin. For those superficial folk unwilling to use the mouse to click - you get a plethora of results of many many other web "resources" saying (usually in the form "only asking questions, whether") it shows a laptop computer. Too many. Yes, among them you might spot the occasional attempt to use it as an example of Hellenistic funerary sculpture, and even an occasional one that addresses and discusses what this shows (note that one of the the best has been up since Feb 8th 2016, yet nobody "asking these questions" has been able to find it - a MOUSE CLICK AWAY - Aristotle Koskinas ' Ancient Greek Laptop explained' at "Aristotle, Greek tourist guide: An insider's look into Greek history, archaeology and life by a Greek Archaeologist and Tourist Guide" (excellent site in general, BTW).

The facile argument "people are stupid" really gets us nowhere (that's obvious, in most regions of the world, half the population is below the average IQ for that population, we see them on the roads, in the shops, in a Brexit referendum, at Trump/Truss rallies).

What else is happening here?

The main one is distrust/disdain of expertise. It is no longer the first reaction of many people on seeing something that seems puzzling or challenging to "look it up" and see if there is a simple explanation out there. Today anyone with a smartphone or laptop can have that information instantaneously - if they ask for it, they get it ON A PLATE, no real effort. That is not for many the first response, however. Why?

We come down to that vacant protest "Ooo needs experts, eh? Wot do they know? Jus' because they've been to university don't mean their better than me". For the people with that approach it is "commn sense" ("life experience") that counts. For them a principle tool for understanding the world seems to be "it looks like". There is no need for books to see if a wooden writing tablet or jewellery case also "look like" that in ancient Greek art. It's enough to say it "looks like a laptop" and that's that. The lure of the triumphant "so-called-experts-(not-as-canny-as-me)-got-it-wrong". Here it is not actually about understanding the past at all, but boosting their own self-esteem (by doing somebody else down); it's what Internet trolls do, its what all pseudoarchaeologists do.

So, how to deal with this? Just ignore it as a social phenomenon, pretend it does not exist and is no way a context to our own activity that we should take into account?

Faith Stolen/Faith Misplaced: How do Dealers do Due Diligence? (31)

According to the social media site 'Lost Arts of Nepal' @LostArtsofNepal [1,883 Followers] (Faith Stolen – Breaking News Oct 5 ):

"This 17th Century Image of TARA, Stolen in the 1980s From a Buddhist Monastery Named CHILANCHO STUPA, KIRTIPUR, Has Been Located Sold at the Christie's Auction, Paris, France, 2017.
How was the collection history and therefore legitimacy of this object checked by the vendors, and where is this piece now?

Wednesday 4 October 2023

Armenian Cultural Heritage at Risk in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh)

An important article on the fate of cultural heritage in the light of the invasion of Nagorno Karabakh​ (Amineddoleh & Associates LLC. Armenian Cultural Heritage at Risk', Sep 29, 2023).
"Due to the Azerbaijani regime’s military aggression last week, over 100,000 Armenians have fled the Republic of Artsakh (also called Nagorno Karabakh) in just four days. Azerbaijan’s military assault followed its nine-month-long illegal blockade of the entire region. [...] Heartbreakingly, the exodus of Armenians and Azerbaijan’s occupation of the region leaves Armenian art and architecture unprotected, and we are already seeing videos of Azerbaijani soldiers shooting at and desecrating cultural heritage from Azerbaijani social media channels (international reporters are not able to access the region). Artsakh is known as the “Crown Jewel” of Armenian cultural heritage, as it contains some of the most exemplary representations of medieval Armenian architecture, as well as important sites [...]"

Pergamon Museum is Falling Down?

The Pergamon Museum on Berlin‘s Museum Island will completely close for three and half years for a long-term renovation project starting this October. Renovation is are already underway in the northern and central part of the museum, however its southern wing will not reopen until 2037 (Angelica Villa, 'Berlin’s Pergamon Museum Closes for Major Renovations, Will Fully Reopen in 14 Years' ARTNews March 29, 2023 . The southern wing consists of the Ishtar Gate, Babylon’s Processional Way, the Roman Market Gate of Miletus, and the Museum of Islamic Art. According to the German outlet Deutsche Welle, a portion of the early 20th century building is in “poor structural condition,” that has rendered it unfit for visitors and exhibitions. The restoration efforts will address structural damage caused by factors including moisture and outdated technical systems.

The Pergamon Altar will be placed on public view again in 2017.

Tuesday 3 October 2023

PAS, What's Happening in the Preston Museum Artefacts Case?

    Nothing to see here, move along   

According to a letter received by the NCMD, the Finds Liaison Officers, Pauline Clarke and Alex Whitlock are again "now accepting finds" on behalf of the PAS Lancashire and Cumbria. Readers are also informed that:
The present police investigation is ongoing and a great many of the finders [and landowners? PMB] have recently been informed of the successful recovery of items linked to this investigation.
What does this mean? An arrest was reportedly made in December 2022 ('More on Empty Storeroom Shelves' PACHI;  thePipeLine ', Arrest in Preston Museum Missing Treasure Investigation' December 22, 2022.  

The news broke in November 2022 and concerned items missing/lost by Lancashire FLO and/or LANCUM, several hoards stored during the Treasure process "and many, many, valuable single items". Allegations were made that in one case the finder [and landowner] on being informed of the loss were asked to  "keep it quiet", and that "the thefts are thought to have been occurring for a period of over a decade and it's all been hushed up!".

I have been given the (to be accurate, alleged) name of a person arrested when some "objects were found". Therre has been precious little further information since December. Neither is it clear if the "found" items mentioned in the letter to the NCMD are those relocated in December, or fresh ones. In the light of the recent discussions about items missing from the Bloomsbury headquarters of the British Museum, we may note the fresh significance of this text cited in my earlier post (Post by geoman » Sat Nov 26, 2022 3:44 pm):
It would appear that the system of keeping quiet has been to protect reputations and perhaps the guilty. Often the explanation has been that items have gone astray and are missing without any hint of them actually stolen by a third party There have always been hints of malpractice in the academic world with experts allowed to peruse museum store rooms and collection in the pursuit of their research and so on. Naturally some will have had sticky fingers and to preserve reputations cover ups seem to have been the norm. Proving what has gone on is very difficult as the museum establishment will simply close ranks.
It is time for the PAS to come clean and explain their version of what actually is going on.  When do they anticipate we will hear of any charges pressed, or whether the case is dropped? 

Thinking Things Out: Guidance of British Metal Dectorists

Duh. Seen on the home page of a metal detecting forum near you:
Before you purchase a metal detector, it is important to know the legal requirements to use one. ALL land in the UK is private (including footpaths, parks, Commons, etc.), and specific permission is required in ALL cases. We have an ever-increasing number of people who buy a detector, only to find that they can't use it anywhere and end up selling it.
You know, you can alwys just ask a landowner, not just expect to walk out of the door onto a piece of empty land and begin detecting and taking artefacts. It does not mention the situation with beaches.

Monday 2 October 2023

Faith Stolen/Faith Misplaced: How do Dealers do Due Diligence? (29)

According to the social media site Lost Arts of Nepal @LostArtsofNepal [1,883 Followers] (Faith Stolen – Breaking News Oct 2):
" This 17th Century BHAIRAVA MASK (HATHADYO), Stolen/Lost From a Guthi House in Haugal Tole, Patan Has Been Located Sold at Bonham's Auction, New York, USA, 2017.".
How was the collecting history and therefore legitimacy of this object checked by the vendors, and where is this piece now?

Faith Stolen/Faith Misplaced: How do Dealers do Due Diligence? (28)

According to the social media site Lost Arts of Nepal @LostArtsofNepal [1,883 Followers] (Faith Stolen – Breaking News Oct 1st):
" Two 17th Century Images of BODDHISATTVA PADMAPANI & SUKHAWATI LOKESWORA, Stolen From Ombahal Tole, Kathmandu Have Been Located Sold at Skinner Auction (Now Bonham's), Boston, USA, 2009".
How were the collecting histories and therefore legitimacy of these objects checked by the vendors, and where are these pieces now?

Sunday 1 October 2023

Two Other Big British Museums Admit Losses

Two more British museums admit items missing from their collections, reports Sean Rayment in The Mail, 1 October 2023:
Two of Britain's most important museums have admitted losing more than 1,000 historically and scientifically important objects, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The Imperial War Museum and the Natural History Museum have disclosed that important military items and dinosaur fossils have been lost or stolen.
The Imperial War Museum admitted in a Freedom of Information request that 560 objects had been recorded as being lost since 2018 while the Natural History Museum said that more than 540 items had either been mislaid, destroyed or stolen over the same period.
The IWM has 33.5 million items in its care, while the Natural History Museum is claiming (in which context is not clear from the article)> "In the past decade we've had just 13 instances of lost or missing items from a collection of 80 million". That puts the British Museum's 8 million into context.

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