Friday, 16 February 2018

Friday Retrospect: The Witschonke Premise

The Witschonke Premise.

Russia interferes with US elections, US has ambitions to interfere with everything else, including how distant sovereign states look after their own heritage.

German Collections: More Research Needed on Collecting Histories

Hermann Parzinger (left), more research
 on collecting histories needed
Berlin Museums chief calls for rules on restitution of colonial artefacts Hermann Parzinger wants more research on collecting histories to be carried out in German collections:

Art Newspaper

Cultural Property Repatriation News and Issues Blog


Argentina Seizes Package of Nazi Objects

Artefact collectors tend to think they have a 'right' to buy whatever they want, but some countries draw firm lines about what can be brought within their national borders. In the latest of recent confiscations of such items in the country, Argentinian police have seized a package containing objects adorned with Nazi symbols sent from the USA to the northwestern Argentine province of Salta (Luc Cohen, 'Argentina seizes package of objects adorned with Nazi symbols' UK Business Insider/Reuters Feb. 14, 2018).
Police raided the home of the individual who picked up the package from a post office, the Ministry said, adding that the person was cooperating with authorities. "There is no room in Argentina for these types of expressions, which make reference to a tragic era in human history," Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said in the statement. [...] Last June, police seized a cache of Nazi artifacts hidden behind a library in the house of an art collector in Buenos Aires. 
Vignette: Nationalist ideologies can lead to extremism and dehumanisation and need to be contested wherever they occur.

Calls for Art Market to Create Standards Association

“We should police ourselves,
otherwise outsiders will who do not 
understand the subtleties of the art market.”

Speaking at  the art fair in Maastricht ['Taming the Beast: Professionalising the Art World'], chairman of The Art Loss Register Julian Radcliffe has argued that an art trade-wide association regulating standards and ethics should be launched (Laura Chesters, 'TEFAF Talk: Calls for art market to create standards association' Antiques Trade Gazette 15 Feb 2018). Radcliffe  suggested that the UK could take the lead internationally:
We need a publication of standards, and mandate a certain level of training. When there are near-misses it should be reported, anonymised and circulated so others can learn from it.” Radcliffe said the industry should take the lead. He criticised the existing associations in the art world and said they have conflicts of interest because they represent their members and try to regulate them. [...] Radcliffe warned that if standards do not improve further the art market will “lose the ability to influence government”.
Also on the panel of speakers, art consultant Sara Pearce warned: “We should police ourselves, otherwise outsiders will who do not understand the subtleties of the art market.”  I really do not share the optimism that the UK 'can' led on this, it has done precious little to justify the optimism. Neither fdo I see anything is gained by not naming and shaming those guilty of the sub-standard deeds euphemised as  'near misses'. Yes, certain sectors of the art market should now lose the ability to influence government.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Illegal treasure hunting in Romania

Romania, where the coins come from
Richard Giedroyć, 'Illegal treasure hunting active (sic) in Romania' World Coin News February 14, 2018 according to a Romanian police report,
“[four Czech citizens] undertook unauthorized searches and took from the archeological sites of Dacian fortresses several lots of artifacts belonging to the national cultural patrimony, causing the destruction of the archeological stratigraphy of the historical monuments in Piatra Roşie, Costeşti, Blidaru and Băniţa, in Hunedoara county.” Four bronze and silver coins identified as being Dacian and Roman valued at 2,000 euro (about $2,355 US) were seized. According to Romania-Insider, “As part of the same case, several other monetary treasures and archeological goods illegally taken to the Czech Republic by the four were recovered last year.”
Other arrests have taken place recently. At the beginning of November, police in Caras-Severin county announced the seizure of about 5,000 artifacts including more than 300 ancient and medieval coins.
The raids were aimed at treasure hunters in Caras-Severin, Arad, Timis and Bihor counties in western Romania. The announcement noted that 18 metal detectors had been seized, 12 of which “were not authorized.”
Other artefacts in private possessions were seized before the people could sell them on to no-questions-asked buyers, such as a unique gold bracelet  seized by police from a 27-year-old man in Olt County in southern Romania (reported when the man tried to sell it in a pawn shop) and collection-quality coins from Hunedoara county worth about1,500 euro.

Obviously the message is that if you are buying artefacts of this nature a responsible collector should by rights have to have access to the paperwork proving the seller obtained the items from a licit source and actually has legal title to them. Somehow Mr Giedroyć seems to have forgotten to put that in his article merely noting that in Romania 'The local policy appears to be that you are guilty until proven innocent', which is indisputably the case if you are caught red-handed with state property in your possession. What is so difficult to understand in that?

Undocumented Antiquities, Undocumented Immigrants

The American Committee for Cultural Policy have a new conspiracy theory, this one is a real cracker:  'Tangled Interests With State Department, ICOM Emergency Red Lists May Serve Other Goals' ('Yemen Claims Jewish Religious Artifacts). Whoah, tinfoil helmets out everyone. 

This is about the new Emergency Red List for Yemen (January 2018) which has made the no-questions-asked market a bit leery. And of course, it being America, the Jews are involved. For the ACCP this is not at all about the heritage of the territory of Yemen, but part on an anti-Jewish conspiracy, Readers may remember the fuss the same group of people kicked up about the so-called Iraqi Jewish Archive a while ago. Now it is Yemeni Jewish Collectables they are on about.

The Yemen Red List has raised extreme concerns among the broader Jewish community, and especially among exiled Jews from the Middle East. Yemen is just the latest nation to assert its government’s ownership and control over the heritage of Jewish peoples that were persecuted and driven to leave en masse in the mid-20th century, after the partition of Palestine and creation of a Jewish state in 1947. Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Libya have already laid claim to all of their former Jewish population’s heritage. Yet the Department of State has long held to the position that people do not have legitimate claims to their history or their art; only governments have claims to art and history. [...] There is no acknowledgement of legitimate private or community ownership, even in the case of heritage belonging to exiled peoples. 

That is because we live in a world in which human communities are currently organized into states. When the anarchists (or Leninists) get their wish, then there would be no states, and no state oppression of the rights of individuals to do as they wish. Poland too recognizes its obligation to look after the heritage of former Jewish populations of the state's territory, as do the Germans, Hungarians, Danes and many of the rest of the European countries from which the Jews have departed, why does the ACCP concentrate on only the brown-skinned countries of the Muslim world, one wonders. Could there be some bias in their summary of the issues?

The author is the text clearly misunderstands or misrepresents what a Red List is for:
While Red Lists may accomplish the goal of helping law enforcement to recognize a country’s most distinctive artworks, they do not help to determine if an artwork has been stolen or illicitly trafficked – or not. 
Well, of course they do not. That is not at all their purpose. But they help prompt law enforcement to request what any no-questions-asked dealer dreads hearing: 'have you got any paperwork showing licit origins of that item?'. Many of them are inexplicably careless about keeping any legitimacy-affirming paperwork with the objects they bring onto the international market. It is that paperwork that determines that an object has not been stolen or illicitly trafficked (the same as the documents being carried by a brown-skinned man in Trump's America show he has the right to be in the US, if he's undocumented, he cannot stay, no?). 

Once again, the antiquities trade lobby focuses on their bugbear of destruction of buildings and monuments as the stock-in- trade smokescreen for the no-questions-trading of loose artefacts. Chalk and cheese:
Given that the destruction of war has been so great, and the illicit removal of cultural items so relatively sparse [...] why is the Department of State so focused on illicit trade, when a US ally is actively engaged in obliterating key monuments of Yemen’s cultural heritage?
The answer to that is not any kind of anti-Jewish conspiracy, but a corollary of the manner in which the US administration is organized. Cultural property protection is accommodated as part of US 'soft power' among the diplomats of the Department of State, rather than a dedicated Ministry of Culture as in other countries (such as Yemen). In its exercise of 'hard power', the US is just as capable of blowing up old buildings as any 'brown-skinned Ayrab' regime of the Orient.

When it comes to the conspiracy theory we read that:
The government of Yemen seems very concerned with reclaiming the heritage of its exiled peoples. Jewish (and also Christian) art, artifacts and heirlooms are included in the items covered by the Red List. Jewish religious artifacts and manuscripts are pictured and explicitly included. The Yemen Red List includes photographs of a pair of Torah finials and a Hebrew manuscript. 
How odd eh? Now Google "Yemeni torah" and see how many Yemeni manuscripts are currently on the market, almost all of them without any but the vaguest and apparently unsupported indication of how and when they reached the market. This is the clue to why there is concern, with a large emigre population eager to buy some tangible link to their culture (to their feeling of self ) there is a huge potential market. If the buyers restrict themselves to goods that are demonstrably of legal origin, no problem. If they stoop to buying stuff where the seller cannot demonstrate it's from a legal origin, then there is a problem. Thus since one cannot dictate what people buy on a free market, at least one can try to curb the passage of unpapered artefacts from the source countries into the market countries. Why is that so difficult for the ACCP to understand?  Too many syllables in the words? 

The Conspiracy Theory and the Real World

For all those no-questions-asked antiquities trade lobbyists out there....

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Rebuilding Mosul

Hamoo al-Qadoo khan being
demolished February 2018
Destruction of Old Town areas of Mosul caused by Iraqi shelling and US airstrikes causes new dilemmas for developers (From: On Behalf Of Ihsan Fethi):
Dear Iraqi Archaeologists, Architects and Friends, Salam. Obviously, my plea to the Iraqi Army and the Americans, back in March 2017, not to bomb and destroy the Old Town of Mosul in order to "liberate" it from ISIS, went unheeded. On the contrary, the indiscriminate artillery and areal bombardment by the Iraqi Army and Americans, exceeded my worst expectations. Old Mosul is now largely ruined and very few historic monuments and houses survived this massacre. So, when I heard that several days ago, the surviving 19th century Hamoo al-Qadoo khan (Built in 1882 and occupied an area of some 3800 square meters) was deliberately bulldozed in broad daylight I was totally dismayed at this disregard to our cultural heritage. Although this khan is not particularly architecturally impressive it remained, until few days ago, perhaps the only remaining khan of its type in Mosul. I was even more alarmed, however, when I heard from reliable sources in Mosul that some rich individuals and real-estate developers and speculators, have begun to buy many damaged properties, especially in the historic "Qulaiat" area and its picturesque riverfront, in order to replace them with modern commercial towers- Dubai Style! The severely damaged historic area of Mosul must be restored to its former form and land use. I know this is an incredibly difficult task and would perhaps take a long time, much effort, financial and huge technical resources. Those who are in charge of the future of Old Mosul have not yet revealed their vision and plans. I am confident and hopeful that UNESCO-Iraq will play a positive role in restoring the Old Town and should oppose any attempt by Mosul Municipality and other key-players to turn it into a western-style downtown full of high-rise commercial towers. Naturally, a conservation and restoration plan must be prepared as quickly as possible which would keep the overall historic urban scale, materials, and pattern of alleyways, houses, mosques, churches etc., while accepting the introduction of some inevitable modern facilities and infrastructure. For example, should we accept the introduction of a new pedestrian path or corniche in Qulaiat along the Tigris for everybody to enjoy or allow former houses to be built directly on the Tigris? Or would the Plan allow shops to be introduced on the ground floor of houses in similar fashion to many historic cities in the world? Would the Plan insist on courtyard typology for new houses? This Conservation Plan, which must be prepared by experts who know Mosul in detail, should address these very tough issues and suggest some convincing solutions. It is no easy task but must be done before any bulldozing takes place! Ihsan Fethi Iraqi Architect and Heritage Expert
Here is a before and after aerial view of the same spot. Quite tragic. 

Antiquities smuggling ring broken up in Mosul

Mosul is now in Iraqi hands again, and Iraqi authorities have arrested six people involved in smuggling cultural property from eastern Mosul’s Al-Karama district and seized Islamic antiquities and manuscripts. The smuggling ring had exploited ISIL's three-year occupation of Mosul to steal and smuggle antiquities (Serhad Shakir and Mohamed Waleed, 'Antiquities smuggling ring broken up in Iraq's Nineveh', English Haberleri 14th Feb. 2018).
;During this period, from about mid-2014 to mid-2017, gang members had purloined numerous antiquities from different periods of Nineveh’s history, according to [Mosul Police Lieutenant Iyad Hussein] al-Asali . “While gang members were looking for buyers, security forces raided the house they were using and arrested three of them,” he said. “Confessions later obtained from the trio allowed security forces to find and arrest the remaining three gang members, who had numerous stolen antiquities in their possession,” he added.
Collectors, who did you buy those freshly-surfaced items from?

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

No to fascism and Xenophobia

The Museo Egizio in Turin and its director Dr Christian Greco have been targeted by a xenophobic abuse campaign because of the Museum’s efforts to be accessible to Arabic-speaking communities. Sign this petition and join Egyptologists in showing solidarity
This also goes for all advocates of encyclopaedic museums showcaseing global heritage for everybody in which case restricting access to certain groups totally undercuts the argument.

"Tomb robber" gang sentenced to life imprisonment in N. China

Arrested suspects on trial
In 2017, the province of Shanxi caught 200 suspects involved in 121 cultural heritage-related cases ("Tomb robber" gang sentenced to life imprisonment in N. China Xinhua 10th Feb 2018):
Five members of a gang of tomb robbers in north China's Shanxi Province were sentenced to life imprisonment or death sentence with a reprieve on Sunday, the court said. The gang of nine were found guilty of more than 74 crimes in Wenxi County of Yuncheng City since 1993, according to the verdict of Yuncheng Intermediate People's Court. The defendants, Hou Jinfa, Hou Jinhai, Zhang Chengjun and Li Jinyu, were given life sentences for crimes including organizing gang crime and gambling, tomb robbery, and illegally possession of weapons. Another defendant Zhang Baomin, was sentenced to death with a two year reprieve for crimes including illegal detention, tomb robbery and drug trafficking. The other four members of the gang were sentenced to terms of up to 20 years in prison.
Collector, do you really know where those artefacts come from? Here is the 'provenance', Shanxi, but what is their collecting history?

How did the objects get on the market, who put them there? How did they leave the source country, who was involved in the 'transfer of ownership'?

Yemeni Objects on the market: Far More Transparency Needed

The way their minds work
In the light of the destruction and disruptrion caused by the war in Yemen, dealers and collectors should obviously be exercising caution in the acquisition of material freshly surfacing ('from underground?') on the market. To help them identify the sort of things that might be involved, ICOM has produced a helpful Red List France Desmarais of ICOM suggests "We are now strongly advising collectors to avoid the objects on the list altogether, or at least to be extra cautious and thoroughly check the legality of provenance”. And quelle surprise the dealers handling those items are not best pleased by this. Peter Tompa, paid lobbyist for several antiquities trade associations says, miising the point entirely:
Only the Yemeni government is authorised to issue documents for the export and import of cultural goods, so how likely is it that collectors will be able to obtain such licences?
The point is that collectors should avoid buying anything from dealers that has no paperwork demonstrating legal origins. As Ms Desmarais says:
“It is important to respect the sovereignty of nations, so if it is required by law, we must abide.” 
- a point obviously lost on many dealers who simply offer stuff with a fob-off provenance ('from an old collection'). They are apparently livid that somebody is attempting to get their clients to ask questions on their comfortably-traditionally no-questions-asked market. So they are out to get the lists and their authors, and what is better for their purpose than a good-old traditional conspiracy theory?   So we find their lobbyist busy at it ('ICOM Red Lists-- Far More Transparency Needed (sic)', Monday 12th Feb 2018)
Given the stated intent of such lists, their proliferation and their US Government funding, there needs to be far more transparency about how these lists are created, who creates them, their funding, and how they relate to US law which reserves US "independent judgment" in such matters.
And no doubt also their connection with George Soros and International Jewry. The intent of the lists is to awaken awareness, why would that arouse the ire of anyone but crooks trying to hide the origin of the goods they handle are from? Since Mr Tompa has decided that the Red Lists are funded by the US gubn'mint, then why does he want their funding to be scrutinized? Since the 'I' in ICOM actually refers to the notion of 'international' (you know, collaborative) efforts, who actually gives a tinkers about what the US dealers and their creepy lobbyists think about this? If the US funded UNESCO, they could have a voice in the international debate, but since they do not, let them buzz off and leave the rest of us to make the decisions without them.

As for the trade's 'Safe haven' red herring, if there were no dealers trying to bring paperless stuff into the US to pollute the market there with items of unproven licitness,then there would be nothing for US Customs authorities to seize and then courts to decide what to do with. the fact that these dilemmas appear are entirely due to US dealers trying to do a dirty trade in the hope that they'll not get caught out.

Quite obviously what the dealers represented by Peter Tompa and the legal firm that employ him do not want being voiced is that it is the international market of artefacts from or potentially from war zones like Yemen that need to be transparent. What has the truly responsible trade to fear about that?

Monday, 12 February 2018

Antiquities Don't Bite

Karma is a bitch... Suspected Poacher Eaten By Lions In South Africa
Fortunately for artefact hunting knowledge thieves, antiquities do not bite  and the tomb curses are fantasy. The remaining hazards include angry wives screaming at them for coming back home in muddy boots and the symptoms of long-term exposure to electromagnetic effects from metal detector coils.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

US Antiquities Dealer Lobby Silent as Israel Pounds Syria

Israeli warplanes have bombed and evidently badly damaged facilities in Syria as part of their proxy war with Iran. Far from expressing outrage, the major antiquities trade lobbying groups including the ACCP, GHA and the ADCAEA have remained silent about this. But why? A cynic might think these groups are more concerned about angering the Israeli establishment than in maintaining a consistent message of apparent concern for the well-being of the poor residents of 'source countries'. After all, Israel is for dealers associated with these groups a major source of valuable artefacts with export permits from archaeological sites across the region.

Dead Chicken Antiquities Lobbyist Claims Blog Bias due to 'Gatekeeper Glitch', Only Allows Metal Detectorists Through

It's called "selective hearing, thinking and reporting".......

In a discussion with Peter Tompa, who expects to be spoon-fed information by ICOM rather than actually doing the footwork himself, Lynda Albertson‏ (@sauterne Feb 8) adds
I posted a reply to your article a few days back regarding ASOR's report on AIN Dara, my comment was censored.
Peter Tompa, pretending to be a 'Global Heritage Alliance' replies:
·  Global Her. All. @global_her Feb 8 I have no idea what you are speaking about. Censored? The only person who has been blocked is Mr. Barford, and for good reason. In any event, the ICOM website and press release speaks in generalities only. I've made an offer to her which stands if ICOM would like to take it2 replies 0 retweets 0 likes
I think those who look at what I was posting before Mr Tompa decided that it would be easier to block me than answer the points I was raising about the nature of his 'Cultural Property Observations' might realise that the reason was that he had no answers.  CPO writing as GHA made ICOM an offer to publish in the ACCP newsletter. What an incestuous world the US antiquities trade lobby is! They are all basically the same gang of seven and a half. Anyway, it was all a misunderstanding with Lynda Albertson:
If you read the comments to my blog, I've often published contrary views. Barford too for a long time until he got out of hand. Yes, it was a glitch. Feel free to comment.
Got out of hand means 'asked questions I really could not answer and exposed my bias'. That is what we called censorship in Poland, but hey, anything goes in Trump's America.

The post in question is here. No questions from Lynda Albertson have appeared, just trolling by two BFF metal detectorists:
8 lut
... Howland and I both commented on Jan 31. His is published, mine was omitted. Feb 1 comment of stoutstandards is there. For the record, I pointed out that ASOR was not silent on Ain Dara as your article implies and suggested looking for their damage report.
and for the record, I posted too a comment there pointing out that there are archaeologists in other countries than America (USA,USA, USA!) that have expressed their dismay at this news, but not posting my comment was by Mr Tompa's own admission no 'glitch' (it is called 'out of hand') but a deliberate decision to suppress information calling into question the picture that Mr Tompa irresponsibly paints into question. The non-appearance of a similar comment by Lynda Albertson would fall into the same pattern. Needless to say the two comments that were not censored by enthusiastic metal detecting claquers Stout and Howland support the Tomparian Fake News. This Lynda Albertson notes:
No, not interested in restating what I've already stated above for a 3rd time. I do find it amusing though that you call Monica Hanna out for bias, ASOR and AIA out for bias, ICOM and State out for bias, but when your alliance show bias, We're supposed to believe it's a web glitch.
Who would believe Peter Tompa after that?

In UK Scheme: Careless Handling of Portable Antiquities

Huge numbers of finds on the PAS database could have totally false findspots because the PAS uncritically accept what the finders tell them, and do not demand to see documentation of title, signed by the landowner when they accept items for recording. This leaves any FLO handling such material (or holding it in their office) with the responsibility of handling stolen material, and I really do not see why the PAS is so apparently oblivious to this danger.  This is especially the case when on many sides there are calls for the commerce in portable antiquities to be more transparent and accountable with documentation of provenances and collecting histories, yet the single Scheme responsible for liaising with members of the public and collectors cannot be bothered to set any kind of an example by applying it to their own handling of the material, in no way differing from that of the no-questions-asked antiquities trade.

Friday, 9 February 2018

The Things Collectors Collect: Skulls in the mail

More collectors trying to get their hands on human remains (AP, 'Skulls in the mail: Indonesia foils artifact smuggling'/ Heads up: Indonesia foils bizarre human skull smuggling attempt Friday, 09 February, 2018):
 Customs officials on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali say they've foiled an attempt to mail 24 elaborately decorated human skulls to the Netherlands. The Customs Department said Friday that cartons containing the skulls were intercepted on two separate dates in January. The skulls are believed to be culturally-significant artifacts from other parts of Indonesia. They were labeled as manufactured from synthetic materials but found to be human after being examined by experts from the Balinese Cultural Heritage Conservation Center. Customs official Ni Aniek said the skulls are probably from Papua and Kalimantan. No one has been arrested.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Artefact smuggling cannot be stopped without genuine international cooperation,

At an event on 29th January unveiling some recently repatriated smuggled items, Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said that there is no way to prevent artefact smuggling without genuine cooperation between countries ('Artifact smuggling cannot be stopped without genuine international cooperation, Turkish minister says' Anadolu Agency January 30 2018).
“It is impossible to completely prevent historical artefact smuggling without the sincere cooperation of countries, just as it’s not possible to prevent the global dimension of terror without sincere cooperation in fighting terrorism,” Kurtulmuş said at a ceremony in the capital Ankara showcasing historical artefacts recently repatriated to Turkey. [...] He stressed the importance of protecting historical artefacts, boosting cooperation to preserve culture, and bringing artefacts trafficked internationally back to where they belong. Kurtulmuş said there were many works taken from Turkey that are still on display in museums in Britain, Germany, and the U.S., and that Turkey is striving to repatriate them. Turkey is waiting to bring back 55 more historical artefacts home, he added.
When of course you have obstructive antiquities trade lobbies opposed to any kind of international cooperation, things become difficult.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Global Heritage Org Representing 'Irresponsible' Stance? Surely Not.

Since the Global (the dead blue chicken logo one) has blocked me from seeing their tweets, I can only guess from the reply of France Desmarais, ICOM Director of Programmes, what typical Peter Tompa crap they were promoting about the recently-released Yemen Red List:

but twisting everything to suit the position of dealers and collectors seems to be just about all these narrow-minded folk can contribute to any discussion. Their aim is to be counterproductive, to protect their assumed 'right' to be irresponsible with the cultural heritage of others.

Carausius Coin with Silly 'First Brexiteer' Narrativisation

A Hampshire metal detectorist ('only in it fer th' 'istry') is profiting from the sale of an artefact found on a club dig on a Roman site (Andrew Ross, 'Metal detectorist finds coin minted by 'first Brexiteer'...' Daily Echo 5th February 2018). It is a denarius of Carausius 287-293 AD HAMP-2E6A12.'Itchen Stoke and Ovington'
Richard Patterson from West End has unearthed only the second ever recorded coin minted by “the first Brexiteer”. Rebel Emperor Carausius ruled Britain for seven years when he rejected Roman rule and appointed himself leader of an independent Britain. Now the silver coin, found in a field near Winchester, is expected to fetch thousands when it goes under the hammer this month. Mr Patterson was out with the Hampshire Detector Club in November when his detector gave off a loud beep. Just inches beneath the surface he found the silver coin [...] “We had found a few bits of lead and that usually means there has been some action (sic) there. 
Yes, it most likely means he was on an archaeological site. It took him several hours of concentration to work out what it was. It is really difficult, lots of big words written all over it . Blimey, difficult, innit? On the flat side with the head on it sez: 'IMPCARAVSIVSPFAVG. Eh? Impcaer Avsivs Pfaug'? Eh? No wonder Mr Patterson had problems, there was no emperor Impcar Avsiv, ever. Must be rare! luckily someone came to his aid: 'But the next day someone saw something like it in a magazine that had sold for £17,000'. So that gave him a boost... He says:
It took me about four hours of searching to work out what it was. There’s hardly any information on Carausius or the coin. “I realised that it was a silver coin but I did not have a clue about what it is and how much it might be worth. “I went into shock when I found out. [...] But Mr Patterson will have to split his haul with the land-owning farmer. [...] Mr Patterson said he will use the cash to pay for a new car exhaust.
How much it is worth? I thought that lot were into the history and not the cash. Hmm. What on earth is this artefact hunter on about when he says there is 'not much information on Carausius or the coin'? Nonsense. They are called 'books' and there's a few on the life and times of Carausius (and historians have been interested in him for a long time, for example 'The history of Carausius; or, An examination of what has been advanced on the subject by Genebrier and Stukely...', Richard Gough 1762 ). Here are some more

There are not a few catalogues of his coins - like for example the classic Roman Imperial Coinage where he'll find RIC 591 which is the coin he found (the PAS database also has one  BUC-7A7BF7  and this one WILT-0FA13F and this one  BM-B49CF4 (= this one on Timeline Auctions). There are four on Wildwinds. The PAS record is silent on how many of this type were in the Frome Hoard. Dead loss that is. I think it is hardly true to say that the metal detectorist had found one of the two coins known, even of this type. Fake News. More fake news:
Head of coins at Dix Noonan Webb, where the coin will go up for auction Christopher Webb said: “Carausius has been largely ignored by historians but he was a truly extraordinary man. “As well as being a rebel who briefly won independence from European rule, he was also a showman who held what were effectively Britain’s first Olympic Games and introduced African lions to an astonished British public.” 
The newspaper proclaims Caurausius to have been the 'first brexiteer', but that would be ignoring Clodius Albinus (196-197 AD). But the carausian coin evidence really suggests something else anyway - the ruler is represented as the legitimate emperor who had come  (Adventus) to replace the others (to whom he offers 'Pax') and the most common reverse type is not anything to do with an independent 'Britannia', but Romulus and Remus. This is just vacant coin dealer spin, trying to bump up interest in a poorly struck and ill-centred example of this coin. Here is another popular text along the same lines:  Christopher Woolf, 'Britain’s first ‘Brexit’: 286 A.D. It didn't last long' PRI's The World June 23, 2016.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Probable Fake Stela Found near Deir Al-Zour

Hot news from Syria:

On 17/1/2018, The Authority of Tourism and Protection of Antiquities received an antique sculpture from the Syrian Democratic Forces that was found in the field of Al Omer in Deir Al-Zour. The sculpture is in the form of an obelisk with dimensions of 145 × 95 and a thickness of 17 cm with decorations are mostly dated to the [New] Assyrian period, this obelisk incomplete and mutilated maybe during the illegal excavation by extremist groups.
Or maybe not so 'hot':
. 3 godziny temu3 godziny temuWięcejA stele carved in Assyrian style has been reportedly found near Deir Ezzour; my initial inclination is that it is a little more recent in date.
I agree with Cultura, I suspect this is a fake made for the market, not necessarily in the time of ISIL, it could be an earlier product that was captured by ISIL and rejected as saleable because not all middlemen are as gullible (or alternatively, impudent) as those that took some of the crap we have seen to Turkey.

 But here's the rub, virtually all of former ISIL territory has now been overrun by regime forces, and apart from one house in Mosul that had a courtyard full of pots and other stuff, there have been no 'portable antiquity caches' reported... What does that tell us?

Saving Lives or Saving Stones?

"'Saving Lives or Saving Stones?' The Ethics of Cultural Heritage Protection in War" is now out in Public Affairs Quarterly

Berlin Wall

The Berlin wall stood for 10316 days, and tomorrow is 10316 days since it is gone.

And Now Yemen Too

"A considerable number of sites and museums have been looted and cultural objects from Yemen are today at risk of being illegally trafficked," France Desmarais, ICOM’s director of programs and partnerships, told Arab News.

Gain Without Pain: Corner Cutting Ripping the Heart out of a Surface Site

Metal detectorist Easylife boasts that he has got a Deus V4.1, 11" coil, 9" HF coil, 2nd Garrett Carrot. On Sun Feb 04, 2018 12:25 am, he wrote about 'Exciting times maybe':
About 2 years ago I researched an area of land which is about 2 miles away from my current permission that looked like a detectorists dream come true but I had no idea who owned it. Through historical aerial photography of that particular site archaeologists have determined various crop markings attributed to possible Prehistoric, Iron age, Bronze Age and Roman features such as ancient trackways, barrows and ditched enclosures etc. [...] Well, today my farmer informs me that he has an 8 acre paddock [...] smack in that very same location and would I be interested in detecting it? [emoticon] Well, It is 400 metres from a Neolithic henge, 30 metres from a ploughed out barrow, contains the intersection of late prehistoric or Roman droveways, a pit alignment and a couple of rectangular enclosures. Oh, and it has never been detected before as it has been owned by the same family since 1970. [...]  knowing what could be there I plan to dig every target regardless.  
Regardless of the fact this is the kind of site that real 'citizen archaeology' (real archaeology) would require a better investigation methodology than 'going around the edges first' and searching mainly for coins. They will not tell anyone anything much about the pit alignment or the environs of the Neolithic henge. Simply ripping out selected material is destroying the information potential of that site. It is knowledge theft pure and simple. Mr Easylife is not bothered by any of that, has probably never read 'Our Portable Past' and is just carrying on regardless, for the sake of his easy life. Gain without pain.

I cannot be the only one reading the above who concludes that under term 'research' is in fact nothing more complex than pulling out the online version of the HER and using it to target (loot) known sites. This would not be so bad if during the exploitation of the site as a source of collectables, there was a methodology in place that took its lead from what was known about the site and its research potential and had at its aim observation and documentation of evidence adding to that. But what is happening here is just using the archaeological evidence to locate a site where Mr Easy Life can 'satisfy his curiosity' and fill his pockets.

Targeting Known Sites

Nicola Kemp-Simonds to Metal detecting 33 mins 
Got my first permission yesterday It’s a castle [emoticon] and it’s all mine ! And surrounding woodland. I’m set for life [emoticon][emoticon][emoticon][emoticon]
Comments (it is all 'sic'):
Chris Davis Good luck post your finds up [emoticon][emoticon]
Marc Sands You ate one lucky lady ..good. luck my friend unlocking all that history I hope it's gona be good I. Can't imagine how excited you are coz I. Know I would be x of you need a help. In hand lol please please spare me in mind lol this point you'll be thinking yiu can jog on x all the very best mate
Lee Martin Good luck and happy hunting [emoticon][emoticon]
Rab Milligan Mind don't get caught

The notion that a historical monument such as a castle and the archaeological deposits of the landscape surrounding it can be treated by someone as 'all mine' surely is not the message the PAS is there to promote. Perhaps if this message, after twenty years, is not getting through to people like Ms Kemp-Simonds the PAS needs to step up its efforts.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Ten Years of Inaction on UK No-Questions-Asked Trade in Portable Antiquities

Oxford Archaeology 2008 Nighthawks and nighthawking report recommendation:
'Implement changes recently introduced in Europe which increase the obligation on sellers of antiquities to provide provenances and establish legal title',
what has been done ten years on? What has changed in real terms?

Farmer Asserts his Rights

Farmer Silas Brown (More clear evidence that Sainsbury’s should be in charge of metal detecting! 04/02/2018) offers other British landowners some good advice about letting artefact hunters walk off with historical artefacts found on their property (which by law are also their property) without some kind of independent valuation. Look at the valuing your finds page of the Searcher magazine (beloved on the PAS), everything has its value and cumulatively a finds pouch full of bits of old metal taken away month after month adds up. He found a post on a metal detecting forum about the owner of a small local farm who had given metal detectorists permission to search for artefacts and take them away because:
Some needing recording with our FLO.
Some? Who selects which archaeological evidence is recorded in the public domain, and what is pocketed by collectors with no record? And on what grounds? Anyway,
In [sic] the beginning of December the farmer asked if they could have the finds back over the Christmas period to show their friends and family. They would then be returned to us. January rolls in and we get an email saying they have decided not to return them but to keep them all themselvesA lesson has been learnt…….”
As Farmer Brown notes: 'the “lesson learnt” we can assume, is that verbal agreement or not, the farmer will never ever be given his property again!'. It seems that the landowner realised  what he had let the artefact hunters get away with. As Farmer Brown notes:
Anyone who is willing to take things home without showing you or asks you to trust THEIR valuation and assessment is doing so for a reason, and it’s not for your benefit. Ever.
.(By the way, note that the original thread 'Finders Beware' mentioned by Farmer Brown has already been removed from the public forum - so you cannot see what utter selfish oiks with an over-inflated notion of entitlement some metal detectorists are... the link above is to the cached version).

Two Suspects Arrested for Smuggling Relics from Syria into Lebanon

'Two Suspects Arrested for Smuggling Relics from Syria into Lebanon' Al Bawaba February 3rd, 2018

State Security arrested two suspects Saturday for smuggling relics and artefacts from Syria into Lebanon. The first suspect, identified Hasan A. was arrested in the southern port city of Tyre, while his cousin Radwan A. was arrested in Chtoura in Zahle. The suspects reportedly brought small artefacts across the border in a shipment of food. The suspects were referred to the Public Prosecutors office and the seized items were sent experts in order to determine if they are real or not and their archaeological value.  [...] According to the Lebanese Directorate General of Antiquities, security forces seized over 300 objects between 2012 and 2014 alone. This included a truck carrying 79 objects, some of which belonged to the ancient site of Palmyra that had been overrun by ISIS. 

"Reporting" Equates Neither with Responsibility or Legality

Andy Brockman reports ('[...] New Military Wrecks Scandal', The pipeline February 4, 2018):
Divers claim that at least some of the activity has been authorised by and reported to the Dutch Heritage Agency, but it is believed few, if any, of the recoveries were authorised by the British or German authorities as the actual owners of the vessels concerned.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Keeping war Loot at Home

War loot, what every
modern home needs
'Ancient sculptures that were missing for decades after being stolen during Lebanon's civil war are prepared for display in Beirut thanks to a global fight against antiquities smuggling'.
They were not missing at all, some collectors had them in their living rooms.

Slimeball 'Solution' to the Commodification and Theft of Archaeological Material Examined

The ugliness of US racism
On the evidence of the mess they left behind, the recent looting of the archaeological stores in Canterbury, England was probably done by local metal thieves   In the attack, the archaeological store was ransacked and some 1500 artefacts were stolen, possibly destined to enter the no-questions-asked antiquities market .(Matthew Weaver, 'Canterbury artefacts 'may have been stolen by metal thieves', Guardian Fri 2 Feb 2018).

While many of us see the latter as the motor for artefact thefts like this and incentive for its better regulation, those involved in and benefiting from it place the blame elsewhere, and see an alternative remedy for the problem. 

This has been most forcefully argued by the International Association of Professional (sic) Numismatists, the Professional (sic) Numistmatists Guild,  and the US-based Global (sic) Heritage Alliance. These three international  bodies, in part represented by lobbyist Peter Tompa, all have an approach to looting and looters that is at once patronising, Orientalist, racist and xenophobic. The IAPN, PNG and GHA decry placing the blame for looting anywhere on 'white collectors', but picture another culprit. They say the problem is caused by archaeological missions themselves that allegedly fail to 'pay their workers a fair living wage' (for example in relation to brown/olive-skinned locals in a variety of countries: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) . 

This hardly applies to Canterbury in the UK, where the population is as white skinned (if not more so) than  Washington DC. Racists, Britexiters and Republicans should be reminded that there is as yet no evidence concerning the skin colour of the perpetrators of the Canterbury crime. Neither is there any evidence that the people involved in this looting were in the employ of the Canturbury Archaeological Trust and that better pay of Trust permanent and casual employees would solve the problem in a city with an overall population of 44000

The proposal of 
the International Association of Professional Numismatists, the Professional Numismatists Guild, and the Global Heritage Alliance are quite obviously rubbish rhetoric, not intended as any part of any dialogue, but yet another attempt by antiquities marketeers to derail sensible discussion by introducing red herring arguments. Paying workers more, whatever skin colour they have, will not sort out the problem of the commodification of the archaeological record. cutting dealers profits however will. The nature of the slimeball arguments used by this milieu's representatives also shows that they deserve it.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Crossing the Line

A peripatetic heritage activist spotted this in Arizona:

Photo Donna Yates
The "It's legal innit?" and "they can't touch you for it" arguments beloved of portable antiquity collectors belie the fact that even the bits of a resource that are outside the limits of a line drawn on a map are also finite and fragile.

Selective 'Science'

Barry Thugwit obtained in 1996 a substantial research grant to travel through west-central Africa making a detailed digital record of the then surviving traces of tribal cultures in the region. After spending all the money, he returned three years later and presented the resulting documentation to the library of the British Ethnographic Association. As a token of gratitude the BEA gave him a 'Citizen Ethnographer' medal of honour and a fellowship.

He was posthumously stripped of both last year because it turned out that the 'citizen ethnographer' instead of making a systematic record of the cultures of the regions visited, he had squandered the money on a quest to photograph only a restricted range of subjects, topless photos of young maidens with shapely breasts. "This may be suitable material for the National Geographic Magazine, an American  periodical", snorted  Horatio Parrington-Smythe, President of the BEA, "but it is not ethnography!".

Likewise artefact hunters who selectively hoik out diagnostic metal artefacts from archaeological sites and consider that they are helping write history are no more 'doing archaeology' than Barry Thugwit and his perverted idea of what ethnographic documentation consists of is doing anything of lasting use to anyone - except dirty old men who like looking at boobies. PAS database and artefact porn, anyone?

Museum Boss Looks at Metal Loot in a Field

What is the evidence used in what the British Museum unjustifiably calls 'citizen archaeology' (sic)? Museum boss looks at metal loot in a field...

....while trampling on the sherds.

This is the essence of the problem with doing archaeology by proxy through the filter of a metal-detector-equipped collector. What we see happening in this photo is an archaeological site being stripped of the most diagnostic artefacts (archaeological evidence) on the grounds of the type of material they are made of (non-ferrous metals) while all the rest - by now largely bereft of that body of evidence - is left unrecorded in the field. That's not 'citizen archaeology' PAS-record or no PAS-record, it is knowledge theft.

Deputy Director of The British Museum Experiencing Looting For Herself

Joanna Mackle Deputy Director of The British Museum 'experiencing metal detecting with Adam J. Daubney in Lincolnshire'. One might ask why. No GPS, no pinpointer, no finds pouch, did she have a landowner finds agreement, has she read the Code of practice for Responsible Detecting? What kind of 'experience' is that? Not content with the Parthenon Marbles, the BM seems intent on looting far more than Britain's lost colonial empire, but now turning inward, and Looting Britain now.

I wonder whether the metal detectorists and FLO engaged her in conversation about the BM's firing of Dan Pett, creator of the PAS database?

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