Wednesday, 30 April 2014

"No one is Squeaky Clean, so I can Take it - No One New It Were There"

Metal detectorist Dick Stout does not see it as any kind of a problem that some metal detectorists are pig-ignorant of the law, and when they are made aware of what the law-they-did-not-know says, dismiss it anyway as irrelevant to them (!). What bothers Mr Stout is not that there are problems in the hobby which need sorting out, but that other people see it and say so ("badmouthing our pastime..."). Pineapple-craving archaeologist Lisa McIntyre obviously is not going to explain anything to him. Meanwhile "Janner digs himself deeper and deeper:
The definition of a thief to me is shoplifting, burglary, pickpocket, etc, To be called a thief for taking away something that's been lost maybe hundreds of years ago and I had permission to search and no one knew it was there in the first place is so wrong even if it seems it is in the eyes of the law. [...] No one is squeaky clean, everyone breaks a law now and again. Important laws like murder, assault, theft, (here i mean theft as in breaking and entering), drink driving are examples of important laws and we must have them. But this law of whatever I find in the ground with the reasons above is bound to get flaunted, its human nature. Its nothing like pinching a bit of bacon from Tescos as one site put it. To me its on par with throwing a ciggy butt out your car window, picking a wild flower [...] dropping litter....the list goes on. 
A real conservationist we have there for all that PAS money. 


Christian Apologist Private Collectors of Biblical Artefacts and the Destruction of the Heritage

To the left of
the Crucified.
Brice C. Jones ('On the Green Collection and Private Collectors of Biblical Artifacts', 29th April 2014) discusses several private collections of so-called "biblical" artefacts. The focus is on papyri which have recently been 'surfacing' (from "underground"?) on the market and making some dealers in the US lots and lots of money. From the publicity material of the Green Collection, he points out that  it is clear that the antiquities are being used for apologetic purposes. As an example, he quotes this statement:

"These biblical manuscript fragments will be used of [sic] God to bring many young people to Christ. I plan to take these manuscripts, scrolls and masks with me as part of the Heroic Truth Experience to help provide an “a-ha” experience for young people and their parents, providing hands-on exposure to ancient evidence for the historical reliability of Scripture. Pray with me that these discoveries will be blessed of [sic] God to bring people to Christ and ground believers in the true faith so they can “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have [in Christ]” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV). "
Well, for goodness' sake, please somebody explain to me how a scrap of old paper (papyrus, parchment, whatever) can by itself be "ancient evidence for the historical reliability of Scripture". What's the matter with these people? Brice points out that:
The big questions that we are all interested in are: Where are these thousands upon thousands of antiquities coming from, all of a sudden? Who is involved in these transactions? What is the provenance of these cultural artifacts? Will the religious motivations behind the procuration and use of these items restrict academic study of them? 
What archaeological associations are being trashed by the people that dig for this stuff, smuggle it to foreign markets and then split it up for sale on that market?

But it seems that "academic study" is not the only thing these people do with ancient artefacts. They also dismantle them for fun (or is it fund-raising?). Here is a disturbing story which he surmises seems to involve artefacts part of the Collection of Scott Carroll - formerly associated with the Hobby Lobby/Green Collection  ('Scott Carroll Manuscripts and Rare Books' and 'The Manuscript Research Group'*):
On the personal website of Josh McDowell, an American evangelical Christian apologist, there is a very interesting post about an event called "Discover the Evidence," which took place on 5-6 December 2013. At this event, it is said that "each attendee actually participated in the extraction of papyri fragments [sic] from ancient artifacts. This had never been attempted with such a large group before. That was historic!" [...]  What did the "extraction of papyri fragments [sic] from ancient artifacts" actually involve? Extraction from what? And why were (non-specialist?) attendees given hands-on access to unpublished artifacts? The article also mentions that "over 50 papyri fragments out of nearly 200 papyri that were discovered have been identified." 200 papyri? Where were they "discovered?" What is their provenance?
Were these non-specialists taking artefacts apart to see what is inside were supervised by experts in the field? What documentation was carried out, which ancient artefacts were selected for dismantling in this way and on what grounds?

 *"which provides access to scholars who identify and prepare for publication cuneiform tablets, papyri, Dead Sea Scrolls, biblical manuscripts and Torahs of enormous significance."

The Loss and Looting of Egyptian Antiquities

Salima Ikram, 'The Loss and Looting of Egyptian Antiquities', Epoch Times April 29, 2014.
For the tomb robbers, theft takes a variety of forms. Individuals may dig several holes in sites hoping to find objects that they can sell [...]. These holes are so numerous that they are clearly visible on satellite images. This unsupervised digging contributes to the destruction of sites, not only because objects are stolen, but also because the sites’ context and history are compromised. Organized mafias pose an even greater danger. These individuals were significant antiquities traders in the past, and have now become more dominant due to the power vacuum and high demand for their products. These mafias have organized with networks that extend to Europe, North America, the Middle East, and possibly the Far East. They have access to boats leaving from unsecured ports in the Red Sea and on the Mediterranean coast, thereby allowing for easy export of their illegal merchandise. Armed gangs enter sites and methodically remove decorated parts of tombs and temples, destroying the structure and adjacent sections of monuments. They sometimes even use heavy machinery to accomplish their work, destroying entire buildings in the process. Since 2011 these mafias have employed villagers throughout Egypt to dig at sites and bring them objects to purchase, with the result that small-scale looters are encouraged. Stories spread by word of mouth of the amounts of money that the objects fetch, often greatly exaggerated, have particularly increased the number of small-scale looters.
In order to help protect the heritage, US authorities are proposing joining the other nations who also are states party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, in scrutinising the ancient Egyptian artefacts coming across their borders at this difficult time. For some reason, US dealers and collectors want to stop this. They do not read articles like Ms Ikram's and consider what they can do to help. Probably they do not think all that much at all about anything other than their own selfish needs.

UK Artefact Hunting, Artefact Ownership "a Minute Detail"

Some people just don't get it. Janner now comes out with this gem ('We Are All Thieves....(Apparently)', 30th April 2014):
" The law regarding all finds are the landowners might exist, but its unworkable. Whats all the fuss about anyway. [...] Okay, by law its the farmers property, but its stuff he never even knew he had, never even knew existed, even stuff he most likely never lost in the first place.[...] I can't see what all the fuss is about other than some bodies trying to get detecting banned and stressing out about minute details".
Take a look at the finds valuation pages of the two main British metal detecting magazines, a common buckle starts at twenty quid, many coins much more. Janner reckons he's being very generous giving a farmer a tenner a visit to take away stuff:
"the odd coins, buckles, buttons, musket balls, pieces of rusted iron, pull tabs, silver foil, anything at all that's found. [...] Tally up if we sold what we find and its us that comes out the losers [cue: plaintive violin music] . Just look at the amount of treasure finds that are made, the farmer gets half of the total amount and some farmers have done really well out of it. Why shouldn't we as detectorists get the other half, we invested in the equipment and put the time in".
As do Somalian pirates. Arrr.

Egypt's History Is Being Lost to Criminals

Tess Davis (with Blythe Bowman), 'Egypt's History Is Being Lost to Criminals' Huffington Post 30th April 2014. And who is buying these objects from these criminals, and trying to sell them on to you?
Those who purchase antiquities must ensure these objects are not products of theft, civil unrest, or outright war. If one can afford a masterpiece, one can afford this due diligence. 
The problem is with faulty understanding in the case of many dealers who supply the buyers of that verb "ensure".

This Archaeological Blogger's Advice to Responsible US Collectors on the Egypt MOU

The coin dealer's lobbyist, Peter Tompa is always telling his readers little lies about me, and now he has banned me from replying on his blog, one may expect this disreputable trend to continue. So it is, to cover up for the lack of response to his appeal to oppose the next MOU, he accuses me of allegedly spreading "misinformation". This is because I insist on collectors finding out for themselves what the CCPIA actually says, rather than taking this scaremonger's word for it. That is not "misinformation", it is encouraging collectors to arm themselves with real information, not the coin dealers trade associations' made-up "sky-is-falling" rumours about the potential effects on collectors of America's cleanup measures. A moment's thought will suggest that in reality a cleaned up antiquities market will not not hurt responsible collecting, far from it, it will however hurt cowboy dealers and their dodgier mates who are cagey about revealing the real collecting history of the items in their stock. Tompa wheedles:
So, sure, if you think complying with MOUs is no big deal and you will still be able to easily purchase coins for your collection, by all means take this archaeological blogger's advice and sit back and do nothing. 
What does he know about my "advice"? This archaeological blogger's advice to responsible collectors is to write to the CPAC and let them know that responsible and thoughtful collectors support the US government's efforts to clean up the swamp of the no-questions-asked US antiquities market. Let dugup coin dealers know that responsible collectors ARE concerned about where the artefacts they are asked to buy "blind" (because someone along the line has "inevitably" but irresponsibly "lost all the documentation") come from. Let dealers know that evasion of this question will be noted and increasing become unacceptable.

Let ACCG, PNG and AIPN dealers know that the time for passive shoulder-shrugging denial is over, the time has come for dugup artefact dealers to face up to their responsibilities to their clients, and address the issues of the twenty-first century. It is time to dump the conservatives who are holding the responsible hobby back with their atavistic views, tired and flawed arguments and flabby pseudo-justifications.

"My advice" to responsible collectors is far from "sit back and do nothing", on the contrary it is to initiate action to take back the responsible side of the hobby from these self-appointed messiahs and rabid prophets of doom who are retarding its growth. They are self-evidently seriously damaging the hobby and its reputation.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Auctioneer pulls child’s blood-stained tunic

The things people collect:
The small child’s leather tunic has fringe along the arms and torso, and the neck is embroidered with beads in purple, pink and turquoise. But what really grabs the eye is the jagged bullet hole in the centre of the chest, and the large stain of dried blood on the back. Till Monday noon, this gruesome Plains Indian artifact was on show at the galleries of Waddington’s, the Toronto auction house, which planned to sell it during a decorative arts auction on Tuesday evening. It was abruptly pulled from the sale after social media began to heat up with complaints [...]. The tunic’s full provenance is unknown, as are the exact circumstances of the shooting. [...] The items at Waddington’s came from the estate of William Jamieson, a collector and dealer of often macabre artifacts who at one time owned the Niagara Falls Museum. The tunic was displayed in a cabinet next to a number of executioners’ blades, with an electric chair at the room’s opposite end.
Robert Everett-Green, ' Waddington’s pulls child’s blood-stained tunic from auction gallery ', The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Apr. 29 2014.

Breaking News, Ten More Cairo Museum Artefacts Recovered

There is some exciting breaking news this evening:
'Egypt recovers pharaonic artefacts looted in uprising' AFP April 30, 2014

It is being reported by the antiquities ministry  that Egypt has recovered 10 pharaonic artefacts, including a gilded wooden Tutankhamun statue which was among the items looted from the Egyptian Museum on Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 28, 2011.
Along with the Tutankhamun statue, which will be restored by Egyptian experts, two statues of Queen Nefertiti's children were also recovered, according to antiquities minister Mohamed Ibrahim. Authorities also recovered a stone likeness of Tutankhamun as a young boy that had been broken off of a larger statue showing him in the arms of a goddess. One missing artefact was found in Belgium and eight others in the United States, state news agency MENA quoted the ministry as saying. A total of 54 artefacts went missing from the museum when looters broke in during the uprising, mainly treasures from the era of pharaohs Tutankhamun and Akhenaton. Thirty-five of the pieces have since been recovered.
Like much of the news concerning Egyptian antiquities, this story is garbled. The 'Belgian' artefact is presumably the shabti discussed earlier. The Tutankhamun statue from the "arms of a goddess" is in fact the gilded wood one mentioned earlier (its also one of my favourite pieces, so glad to see that might be back). Also it should be noted that the artefacts which seem to be concerned come from the ground floor theft and that upstairs in the eastern range of the Museum, which I had previously surmised were the work of two separate groups of thieves. Whatever the case, this article seems to suggest that the objects ended up together.

A mysterious element in this version of the story is that reportedly, and conveniently -  just as the MOU is being discussed - it is claimed that eight of the objects were recovered in the United States of America.I'm really not sure where that information came from, as Al Ahram has a different version of the story, in which they never left Egypt ('10 artefacts stolen from the Egyptian Museum recovered', Tuesday 29 Apr 2014):
A police agent posing as an antiquities trader met the alleged thieves and offered to buy the stolen artefacts, said Ibrahim. The head of the smuggling gang agreed to meet the agent in the Al-Nozha area of the east Cairo district of Heliopolis. When the transaction was completed and the agent had secured the artefacts, a TAP team broke in and made the arrests. Ahmed Sharaf, head of the ministry's museum department, told Ahram Online that the objects are all in poor condition and will be restored. The 10 artefacts, stolen from the Egyptian Museum on 28 January along with 44 other pieces, include of a wooden statue of King Tutankhamun covered with gold sheets and a collection of bronze, wooden and gilded ushabti figurines of his great-grandparents Youya and Thuya. A bronze statuette of an Apis bull is also among the recovered objects. Ibrahim told Ahram Online that most of the objects stolen from the Egyptian Museum during the 2011 revolution have been recovered, with 44 out of 54 stolen artefacts returned.
It would be useful if the Egyptian Museum would produce a third update of its list of objects stolen, which it seems will have "just" ten items outstanding. 

I am sure I am not the only one eager to learn more about this latest bust, and in particular in whose hands the smuggled artefacts were found and by whom and how.

Vignette: Menkaret and Tutankhamun, missing fragment reportedly coming back.

UPDATE  1st May 2014:
Sadly the first article seems to have got most things wrong. Recent photos of the nine objects now back in the museum do not include the Menkhet fragment as I was so much hoping. There's an Apis bull, a gilded wood statue of Tutankhamun, and the rest are shabtis.

Collectors, laboring under misapprehensions: "Eyegypt? That's near Russia ain't it?"

One of the later "comments" opposing the US-Egypt MOU is by some coin collector called Joseph Coplin who begins not very auspiciously "We (sic) strongly request (sic) that the US CPIA REJECT the United Arab (sic) Republic of Egypt's new (sic) request which seeks to establish import restrictions on all archaeological and ethnographic materials. The Egyptian request does not meet the requirements established by the CPIA in 1983 and should absolutely be denied immediately". The author of this attack on Egypt's right to decide itself what it should do with its heritage on its own territory, free of nosy US 'controls' states that one "reason" why the request to a fellow Convention State Party should be 'rejected' out of hand is that:
"There is no indication of an international response to the Egyptian claim that their heritage is in peril [...] I have not heard of any other nation implementing any type of restrictions on the import of ancient or ethnographic Egyptian art.
That's probably because he apparently thinks there is only one contry in the world where news comes from, and only reads material coming for example from blogs like Peter Tompa's which do not keep its readers up to date with the news on this, and he's too lazy to look elsewhere. Like for example a news item from the last couple of days: Three Ancient Egypt artefacts to return from Germany
the objects' story began in 2009 when the customs unit at Germany's Stuttgart airport discovered and confiscated three Ancient Egyptian items being smuggled to Brussels. 
.... .and many more stories with which people like Mr Coplin in the newsless backwoods of US collectordom might find advantageous to acquaint themselves before making public comments which just make them look like gauche uninformed fools. They might at least get the name of the country concerned right. Mr Tompa's "Egypt 101 for Dummies" did not go that far. Duh

Grebkesh and Tompa, the Campaign Against the Cleanup Measures

What hope of a Future is there for those
prevented from trading the paperless
past by the US 'clean-up laws'?
No ancient or antique artefacts from a whole range of countries can be imported into the United States of America, according to the campaign run by the coin dealers' paid mouthpiece Peter Tompa. The USA currently has allegedly "trade-stopping" bilateral and other cultural property agreements with the following countries  Belize, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, China, Colombia, Cyprus, El Salvador, Greece,  Guatemala, Honduras, Iraq, Italy, Mali, Nicaragua and  Peru - See  here for details.

As a result of the draconian cleanup measures adopted by the Obama Regime, five hundred and forty three families of former US 'Mom-and-pop' antiquity and tribal art dealers are now on the bread line, living from charity handouts.

Halton Grebkesh, President of the US Philistines and Smugglers' Relief Club says "my members are desperate, we petition government day after day about this, but nobody listens. It is digusting how easily people believe the lies that to comply with these MOUs is no big deal, I bet these people have never  tried to import cultural goods into the United States, nor have they any contact with anyone who has actually imported artifacts themselves or represented those who do".

Meanwhile, US ports are jammed with antiques and antiquities seized at point of entry by US Customs from hapless people who simply do not realise that the US is now totally boycotting the import of cultural property from a large part of the world. The six giant warehouses that house Italian cultural property seized at the port of entry are like an Aladdin's cave of sculptures, armour, pottery vases and mosaics, all items now (according to Mr Grebkesh and Mr Tompa) forbidden on the US market. The Italian antiques and collectables trade used to be worth USD 4,189,800 (2012 figures), today, as a result of the MOU, it has dwindled to 19 dollars and forty-five cents.

Antiquities dealers are fed up with being silenced by the US Government and have decided to make the world aware of their plight, now totally unable to import a single old artefact into the United States.  They have started up dozens of  blogs, websites and action groups intended to inform the world about the great injustice that has been done to their industry, totally blocking access to antiquities from these source countries. The groundswell of loud protest from all these suffering dealers is threatening to jam the Internet.

Why, Mr Tompa has even dragged out and dusted off some hearsay anecdotal evidence about a few isolated cases which are supposed to bolster his case. Obviously the supporting evidence is in all those other websites saying the same thing and showing that more than 99% of cases of attempted licit import, there have been similar obstacles from persistent Customs officers unrestrained by any existing US law.

Eschewing Debate and Exchange of Views, Peter Tompa Threatens PACHI

Aha. Asked to actually explain where the Treasure Act of the UK and the CCPIA of the USA allegedly "do the same job" and finding himself unable to do that, and failing to see the humour of the situation, Peter Tompa responded this afternoon with a not-too-veiled threat.Other commentators on the antiquities trade have come across this side of the Washington lawyer's character when faced with reasoning and opinions he could not counter, and I guess it was only a matter of time...

One reason for my beginning this blog on portable antiquities collecting and heritage issues five years ago was to allow the opportunity to response to the misinformation Mr Tompa in Washington and his fellows in the ACCG were spreading about antiquities collecting and archaeology, to try and straighten out some of the twists and spin that people like him were trying to insert into the public debate to switch attention from some of the other issues. As a result of this, I was subjected to a series of personal attacks on Tompa's, Welsh's, Sayles' and other US coin collectors blogs.

Despite this, I consider it only fair that if I criticise somebody's point of view or documented actions here, the person involved should have the right to reply. That has always been my practice here (the only exception being two UK metal detectorists who could not keep it within the bounds of civility and after repeated warnings were  banned). Up to now, and from the beginning of this blog, I have consistently published Peter Tompa's comments here in reply to my posts no matter what nonsense or nastiness I adjudged them to contain.

At two in the afternoon today, Peter Tompa sent a comment to a post here which I am not publishing, because it contains a threat intended to restrict the manner in which I discuss what he is saying. He says that he "believes" that certain elements of my posts here "place me in a false light, which is an actionable tort here in the DC". While not agreeing in any way with his assessment, I have removed the ones he indicated. Readers, without any help from me, can easily make up their own mind about the "light" in which what Mr Tompa writes on behalf of dugup antiquity dealers places him, and what it reflects.

I think it really takes some self-centred chutzpah for Mr Tompa to object to the way his opinions are discussed here, given the disgraceful and argument-dodging ad hominem comments he constantly publishes about me (and others) on his own "Cultural Property Observer' blog month by month. Just look at the spew of denigratory and insulting ad hominems he's posted in recent months allegedly on behalf of one "Arthur Houghton III" and from chip-on-shoulder detectorists John Howland and Dick Stout. There Mr Tompa does not think his activities are in any way reprehensible, offensive or actionable. Certainly these suggest that he's given up any pretence of producing a professional resource and properly engaging in the public debate as a lobbyist or anything else.

Since Mr Tompa rarely is able to actually comment on anything here with substance, and addressing the one-sided approach of what he does write takes up my time, and since he has shown himself clearly unable to engage in civilized discussion of heritage issues without resorting to threats, I will not be accepting any more of his comments here until further notice. He has also indicated (pers comm) "Instead of me taking the low road and posting your photo or publishing your address (sic!) [...] I will no longer comment on your blog and I will no longer accept any comments from you on my blog". That presumably gives him more freedom to write his nonsense without it being challenged by one of the few people that actually did write comments on his blog (it also means of course that Messers Howland, Houghton, "Alexander" and others now have carte blanche to continue their personal attacks there without risk of being contradicted).

Vignette: "Drowning in his own arguments" tort

Mark Goodacre's "Jesus' Wife Fragment Round-up"

On Mark Goodacre's NT Blog (Tuesday, April 29, 2014) there is a good "Jesus' Wife Fragment Round-up"   which makes the point that almost all of the important discussion about the fragment has been taking place in the blogs and social media. There is a brief discussion of a CNN article (Joel S. Baden and Candida R. Moss, New evidence casts doubt on 'Gospel of Jesus' Wife') and refers the reader to Goodacre's own text for the source of the graphic they used . There is mention of Charlotte Allen's  The Deepening Mystery Of the 'Jesus' Wife' Papyrus
and a number of other articles. Worth digging into.

UPDATE May 4th 2014

 Laurie Goodstein  in the New York Times (May 4th 2014)  revisits the Jesus' Wife papyrus; interviews Karen King.


Syrian smugglers enjoy a free-for-all among ancient ruins

Syrian rebel Abu Abd al-Tedmuri grew up in the shadow of Palmyra's ancient ruins. Like many in his family, he illegally excavated and sold archaeological treasures on the side. Amid the chaos of war, this business is chugging along. Sitting on a thin mattress in the apartment in Turkey he shares with a dozen rebel fighters, Mr. Tedmuri quickly swipes through photos on his smartphone, displaying Islamic gold coins and funerary busts – a few of his treasures. He hid some in his hometown, smuggling the rest to Turkey. Most of them he sold. The artifacts come from Palmyra [...]  “After the events in Syria, all the ruins became exposed and no one was protecting them,” says the 25-year-old
Palmyran art, which fuses Greco and Roman techniques with Iranian and indigenous influences, is coveted worldwide. An illicit trade in such artifacts existed well before the conflict, but fear of the mukhabarat, intelligence, kept a check on it. Getting caught could result in a 15-year prison sentence.
Most of his clients are Turks linked to smuggling mafias or other Syrians working in the business, although one piece was bought directly by a private buyer in Germany. He also makes the occasional trip to Istanbul to sell smaller artifacts to foreign collectors and oriental shop merchants. [...]  Tedmuri complains that newcomers have driven down prices by flooding the market and ignorantly selling artifacts for less than they are worth. Only half-joking, he says he hopes for a crackdown by the Turkish authorities to drive prices back up. “Precious pieces are being sold for $300 to $400 a pop – nothing!” he says with genuine indignation. "Veteran smugglers feel sad when they see such items fetching such low prices.” 
Meanwhile of course collectors are very interested in these depressed prices.

Dominique Soguel, '', Christian Science Monitor, April 27, 2014

Bulgaria seizes suspected looted artefacts

Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry said on April 24 that police seized several items suspected to be archaeological artefacts in the town of Dupnitsa, about 60km south of capital city Sofia.   Among the items seized by police were a large ring with a lion’s head mounting, a pair of identical earrings, a necklace and a cup in the shape of a ram’s head [...]  Initial assessments pointed that the items were crafted in the early Hellenistic style, which would date them – if genuine – as fourth or third century BCE. The items were found in a car during a police operation, the ministry said, without giving further details. The 48-year-old driver has been detained for 24 hours. 
The Sofia Globe [April 24, 2014]

Italy Returns over 4,000 Archaeological Artifacts to Ecuador

Italy has returned  more than 4,600 archaeological artefacts to Ecuador, largely from the Tolita culture. The president, announcing the operation
said that these elements of national heritage were plundered from Ecuador because “there was no control,” so that “tens of thousands of archaeological pieces” were lost, but said that now, under his administration, “thousands of these pieces are coming back.” Correa attended a ceremony Saturday at which the mayor of Genoa, Marco Doria, presented him with a symbolic example of the 4,858 archaeological pieces recovered in three cases where the illicit trafficking of national heritage goods was detected. The Ecuadorian president expressed his gratitude to Genoa city hall and to the Italian government for the repatriation of this cultural heritage.
'Italy Returns over 4,000 Archaeological Artifacts to Ecuador', Hispanically Speaking News, April 27, 2014

Lord Northampton to Share the Dosh from Museum Sale

Lord Northampton to share the ££ from the deaccession and sale of the Sekhemka statue to build shoe museum?  Egypt to get nothing.

' Northampton's Egyptian statue sale to help fund £14m museum growth', BBC 28 April 2014 

KV 40 Royal family Tomb Reopened

Valley of the Kings (the World is Round)
Tomb KV40, is located in the Valley of the Kings, in Egypt. The original occupant of this tomb is unknown. Only the upper part of the rubble-filled shaft was accessible. The tomb was opened by Victor Loret in 1899 but no account has survived of what he found there. "KV 40 (Unknown)". Theban Mapping Project. The tomb has been excavated for the last three years by a Swiss mission from the University of Basel and yesterday it was announced that at the end of last year an interesting discovery had been made there. According to the press release (Basel Egyptologists identify tomb of royal children)- which I located through Jane Akshar's blog:
The six meter deep shaft gives access to five subterranean chambers, within which are human remains (at least 50 individuals) and fragments of funerary equipment. Based on inscriptions on storage jars, Egyptologists were able to identify and name over 30 people during this year's field season. Titles such as "Prince" and "Princess" distinguish the buried as members of the families of the two pharaohs Thutmosis IV and Amenhotep III [...] at least 8 hitherto unknown royal daughters, four princes and several foreign ladies. Most of them were adults, however, mummified children were also found[...] The fragments of various wooden and cartonnage coffins indicate that tomb KV 40 was used a second time as a burial ground: long after the abandonment of the valley as royal necropolis, members of priestly families of the 9th century BC were interred here.
Given the evident muddled contents of the tomb, I am not clear what the evidence is at the moment that the tomb was actually used in the 18th dynasty, rather than being a cache of the 21st dynasty (or indeed why it cannot have been created together with the burial of the later priestly family - in the 21st/22nd dynasty). It was sited some considerable distance from the tomb of Thuthmosis IV (KV43) and even further from his son Amenhotep III (KV22 in the Western Valley).

So, if items from this tomb entered the antiquities market when it was open in the nineteenth century, where are they now? What can collectors "learn" from the loose artefacts, an inscribed sherd for example, "the Royal Lady Nefer, beloved of the King" in a private collectiong in California?

Monday, 28 April 2014

ACCG Charisma fading?

Over on the US Gubn'mint website, in the ("oppose the Egypt MOU") docket Docket ID: DOS-2014-0008, there are still (Monday evening, ten Polish time) only 17 texts (by comparison, in the Bulgarian MOU there were 112 by the eighth day). Of these 17, one is the notice, three are from good-hearted people who want to see Egyptian cultural property protected by CCPIA from being smuggled to the US, while the remaining thirteen folk (unlucky for some, as they might end up on a watch list)  think the MOU is all about "coins", and most of them make a right dog's dinner of presenting any kind of a case.  This has been despite the traditional 'rile-them-up' efforts by the ACCG and its supporters. 
I'd like to think that this means that Wayne Sayles and his rabid sidekicks have been losing the influence they had when they started their fight on 15th July 2004 against doing the decent thing and cleaning up the no-questions-asked market. Ten years is perhaps enough for even the average coin collector to realise he'd been having the wool pulled over his eyes by the dealers and that enough is enough and the ACCG brand of naked confrontation with the world is not an acceptable way forward for responsible collectors. 

 UPDATE 29th April
DoS were working through the night, there are now (Tuesday morning) another three coiney comments, one by "Anonymous Anonymous" and one by an archaeologist in favour of an MOU, making 21 documents in total. One of the recent commentators seems not to know the actual name of the country he is writing about. 

Vignette: In the old days, the piper played and all 'Wayne's Children' obediently followed wherever  he led them.... down..., down..., down... yo the depths of absurdity. Have they now wised up? 

US Artcop on Liaison, Florida Style

usartcop ‏@artcrimeclass, referring to "Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues: Pineapples and Pillaging the Archaeological Record" comments, "Did I miss when (some) "archeologists" became treasures hunters? Sorry, but I call them tomb robbers and heritage thieves (for openers)". "Liaison" is not in everybody's vocabulary.

UK Metal Detectorist Tells the World that Illicit Artefacts "do not Matter"

Archaeologist Lisa McIntyre over in Florida seems to be pretending not to notice what her UK detecting buddy is saying about opposing the US-Egypt MOU about combating smuggling. As an archaeologist who has thrown in her lot with artefact hunters and collectors, she does not see any ethical requirement on her (is she an AIA member?) to take a private or public stance of the question at all. She says on a metal detecting blog near you that such an idea is "crazy" and she "do[es] not do crazy".

Meanwhile, Howland has again expressed his opinion (DOS-2014-0008-0016) on the MOU: in a public comment submitted to the CPAC, courtesy of the PAS and its laissez faire failure to inform and combat such attitudes among artefact hunters in the UK, this is how they react in order to be an "ambassador for the hobby" in the public eye:
The so-called problem of its citizens removing ancient artefacts is entirely an Egyptian problem -- if a problem it really be. People are removing artefacts, no question about that, because they are poor and selling them as a way out of poverty, often with the connivance of corrupt officials.
This insular and blinkered view ignores any notion of the existence of a global heritage. Herte Mr Howland is reducing the whole MOU to the question of looting (NOT mentioned in the 1970 UNESCO Convention of course - Howland, tekkie-wise, is being misled by others here rather than finding out for himself), He suggests that these "Egyptian poor" will not be stopped by what he calls "restricting the collection of antiquities by US collectors". Of course that is not what the restricted lists of the MOUs actually do, it only affects the way artefacts are moved from one country to another.  Howland suggests that the best way the US could stop this looting (see above) is to provide the country with more financial aid but considers for some reason that "subsidising the Egyptian military is not popular with the US electorate I suggest". That is rather an odd surmise, given the degree to which Egypt's military has consistently been and continues to be supported by the US government in pursuit of its Middle East objectives ("from the Camp David peace accords in 1978 until 2000, the United States has subsidized Egypt's armed forces with over $38 billion worth of aid"). Howland continues:
That the US should enter into MoU's (sic) with the non-democratic military regime governing Egypt when at the same time, US soldiers are being maimed and dying in the cause for (sic) the democratisation of Afghanistan, is bizarre to say the least, and an affront to all US military personnel. Does it REALLY matter in the greater scheme of things that poor people are taking artefacts at a time when we know more about the ancient Egyptians than they knew about themselves? I believe it does not matter.
Can Lisa McIntyre the tekkie-loving US archaeologist agree with that? Is artefact hunting really just related to "poverty" or is it related to greed? In the US for example, are pot hunters, and metal detectorists artefact hunting out of sheer poverty? Many of the groups doing the looting on sites in Lower Egypt and in the Western Desert in recent months are armed, the fact that these so-called "paupers" do not sell their AK74s to buy bread for their children tells us something about the people this detectorist would see being subsidised instead of confronted. In addition, to equate Egypt with Afghanistan and say that helping fight crime in Egypt is in some way "an affront to all US military personnel" is a grotesque leap in illogic that only a metal detectorist could make.

It would be interesting to hear how Mr Howland feels that "we know more about the ancient Egyptians than they knew about themselves". If that is the case, how does the artefact collector feel that happened, and why he thinks that is in any way relevant to protecting (or not) the archaeological record from destruction? That he feels there is a limited amount of information people need to know and gathering more is superfluous? Would that amount be metal-detectorist-dumb-down-enough level, or something perhaps a little more nuanced and fuller?

The detectorist states his belief that "looting does not matter". But many people in the rest of the world believe it does, whether it happens in Bournemouth or Beni-Suef.

Let us see whether McIntyre, the US archaeologist who so far has fully supported people like Mr Howland with their anti-archaeological nastiness, has anything to say to her government about whether they should more actively support efforts to curb the smuggling of fresh artefacts out of Egypt. Or would the cost of taking a stance be too high for her? What about all those other archaeologists on both sides of the Atlantic who are happy to sit in the artefact hunters' pockets?

Vignette: Antiquities - an Egyptian problem alone?

"PAS silence is complicity", Farmer Brown

Maximuswarks Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:40 pm

Farmer Brown is as flabergasted as the rest of us by UK metal detectorists' complete ignorance of the law and the principles of decent behaviour revealed by the thread on a metakl detecting forum near you concerning ownership of artefact hunted finds ("Silence is complicity" 27/04/201. The attitude of entitlement all-too-visible there is food for thought. Many metal detectorists seem to work on the belief  that everything they find is fair game and theirs and that anything which is not Treasure on a landowner's land is automatically theirs because they "found" it. The total value of this appropriated property could be substantial. Silas Brown links this with what Central Searchers reveal about a recent rally of theirs:
They say 341 recordable artefacts were found at their last rally. So do the maths – if each was worth £20 and they have 50 such events a year plus a massive summer one – and loads of artefacts are worth vastly more than that and many are pocketed without anyone being told – the value being taken out of the fields by Central Searchers alone has to run into millions a year. And guess what, the rallies are run under their hidden Rule 11 that says all finds worth less than £2,000 (as privately valued by the detectorist alone) belong entirely to their detectorists.
For Silas, there is not just the point of what ten thousand metal detectorists are walking off with week after week, month after month, but that they are doing so in a relationship a government-funded body calls a "partnership": 
Friends, how come the government and it’s officials keep quiet about all this and do absolutely nothing to warn us or stop it happening? They must know perfectly well what is going on as their quango has had a grandstand view of it every single week for 15 years. What have we farmers done to deserve the official silence?
Let the PAS-partners onto their land without it being absolutely clear to what they have agreed, that's what. Note that on the Portable Antiquities Scheme website, after sixteen years of outreach (so-called), there is not any kind of explanation for their partners of the  law about ownership of finds, and so it is that we have metal detectorists such as "Janner" who thought "if the landowner didn't lose it then it must be ours to keep".

Also just where did the idea that giving the landowner a cut of any money made by selling their property was in any way a fair deal? The farmer is the owner of 100% of the non-Treasure items on their field (if not MOD etc property), so in what way is it "fair" for a metal detectorist to even consider taking part of their value? If an artefact hunter finds collectable items on a landowner's land, then they should be reimbursing the landowner by the market value of any items they keep and take away. Every farmer has the right to demand this in return for access to their land in order to search (the name metal detectorist refers to searching, not keeping).

The Sooty-Flakey-Mottled Patina Again

This coin in next CNG eAuction ( 326, Lot: 5) certainly has an interesting patina, doesn't it?

ETRURIA, Uncertain inland mint. Circa 300-250 BC. Æ Aes Grave Dupondius (97mm, 371.20 g). Wheel / Anchor; I–I (mark of value) across upper field. ICC 146; HN Italy 65b. VF, green patina. Estimate $750. Closing Date And Time: May 07, 2014 at 10:01:40 a.m. ET. 
Now, where have we seen this before, a sooty black underlayer with thin flakey mottled off-green upper layer? Where did this come from? Can we see an analysis or at least an SEM or two of that patina?

Oh dear, just a few hours later and it's gone. Withdrawn for some reason, wonder why?  Perhaps they took the hint and decided it would be nice to let the purchaser have some SEMs of that extraordinary corrosion together with the collecting history.

Duh, it's the lore Innit?

The capacity of metal detectorists for thickness never ceases to amaze even me. You'd think a normal person taking up a hobby (or getting involved with anything at all) would first make sure they knew the law which concerns participation in that activity. It seems that modern life teaches us this, what is the law about using my car on the road, if a rotten branch from a tree in my garden falls onto the pavement and injures somebody? When we go walking in a national park, can we build a fire and cut down some little pine trees to fuel it, things like that.  Not so a metal detectorists it seems. There is a very revealing thread on a metal detecting forum near you  which has been picked up by some blogs too. Responsible metal detectorist has a thread on this and also Janner. This is amazing:
I posted a reply myself saying surely if the landowner didn't lose it then it must be ours to keep. In all honesty I really thought this was how it was  until I read a reply to my post which the replier added a link. For some reason I couldn't open that link on my computer but googled a few words from it and came across this article here... I came across a few sites that explained the law regarding this in lawyer terms that were hard to understand, but the link above seemed to be the best one to read even though it took me a few reads for it to sink in. So it seems that all the finds we make on a permission really all belong to the landowner and we only get to keep what the landowner doesn't want himself. As I said on that forum, your never too old to learn something new.
But perhaps it would be better to do the learning before beginning the hoiking.  Of course "Farmer Brown" on the Heritage Action website has repeatedly been telling his readers this for well over a year now. It's just a mouse-click away for any metal detectorist with a computer, yet because all their pals are saying nasty things about Heritage Action, none of them are able to use that information to their own benefit. Perhaps attitudes of entitlement and disdain for alternative well-argued viewpoints need to change in the artefact hunting community.


Purpose: Only to Sow Confusion?

Peter Tompa was asked to substantiate his statements made on Ed Snible's blog concerning "Most European sellers [who allegedly] won't sign the required declarations as they don't have provenance information" allegedly required by CCPIA and he statement that the import process involves showing US Customs officers the imported items in old auction catalogues. Of course, since he appears to be making it up as he goes along, he cannot. Here we go again:
Mr. Barford, more evidenced (sic) you haven't the foggiest idea of what you are talking about. My statements about the auction catalogue requirement don't come from the CPIA, which is the problem [I know, I said so - PMB]. It comes from Customs practice for items designated under the CPIA. Customs takes the position it can ask for additional documentation beyond what is required by the CPIA. This has been verified by importers, other lawyers for importers and a former high ranking customs official. And you really don't listen or comprehend either.
This is yet another version of the "customs officer" story, you'd think since he seems to be placing so much importance on it, Mr Tompa would at least get his facts straight, so they do not vary each time he tells it, and provide some kind of supporting back story (like names, dates and what precisely the case discussed concerned). Certainly, if this was as Mr Tompa reports it, one wonders why the importer, unable to satisfy such extra-legal "requirements" by a US official and losing his property, was not immediately offered ACCG help to stage a court case which they'd have won (no mention of auction catalogues and other documentation in the CCPIA) and this verdict would have been a far more effective tool in "protecting collectors' rights" (the stated mission of the ACCG) than any conspiracy-theory-based Baltimore illegal Coin Import Stunt. That the ACCG did not go that way tells us perhaps more about the actual facts behind Mr Tompa's anecdote than the ACCG's willingness to fight for coiney rights. 

One wonders how much bluer in the face one would have to go to be able to explain the CCPIA to someone like Mr Tompa, who - despite being told a number of times that he really needs to check what it covers - persists like a scratched record coming out with the same old nonsense:
The CPIA requires less onerous options than restrictions to be tried first. I would think the PAS/Treasure Act would fit the bill for coins at least.
well, that is - not to put too fine a point on it - bollocks. Complete bollocks. The CCPIA does not, repeat does not, regulate provenance, nor "discoveries". It (as the name makes clear to anyone who can read it) implement the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and nothing else.  Neither the Portable Antiquities Scheme, nor Treasure Act have anything at all to do with "the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property". These are two completely different laws to do two completely different things. I would have thought anyone could see that. It is therefore supremely ridiculous for anyone to even suggest that one could do the job of the other. Mr Tompa however not only apparently cannot understand that, but simply refuses to even try. Thinking is apparently not what he's paid by the antiquity dealers' associations to do. His performance in recent months leads us to the assumption that he must be paid only to spread confusion.

I think those of us who care for an open discussion of the truth about artefact hunting and collecting will be heartened by the fact that Tompa's virulent anti-Egyptian efforts on behalf of his dealer sponsors have only managed to get fifteen negative (and off-topic) comments sent  to the CPAC in the first week of public commenting - while in the Bulgarian case the comparable figure was 112. It would seem Mr Tompa's evident lapses of judgement and logic displayed in his nasty CPO blogging and elsewhere are a severe hindrance in his continued dealer-paid efforts to spread confusion among responsible artefact collectors. Good for them.

Vignette: Hogarth Marriage plate 5: From the author's collection.  

Yates on 'The Power of Plausible Provenance'

Preview of Donna Yates' presentation on illicit antiquities for SAA2014: The Power of Plausible Provenance'  based on the Barbier Mueller auction. Worth a look, participants praised her delivery and the session she took part in. 

PAS and the Pear-Shaped Database

For many years now, the PAS database has been touted as a source of data about the pre-1700 AD non-Treasure items handed in for recording by members of the public which can be used in archaeological research. Collecting these "data" and making them available for research in fact is the whole basis for the partnership model of toleration of artefact hunting by British archaeologists. In recent weeks, this model has been coming under scrutiny.

The  issue started to emerge as a response to my post of Sunday, 20 April 2014 ("Bumper haul for Central Searchers, How many of Bumper haul for Central Searchers, How many of these Archaeological Finds will we Ever See Again?". This prompted an irate reply from Central Searchers' Gill Evans who justified the hoiking on a metal detecting forum near you:

our FLO has a standing invite to our digs but we never see her. Besides she is only interested in the good stuff not broken artefacts and roman grots
This I followed up two days later (Tuesday, 22 April 2014 ) with "PAS Database not a True Sample? Coin Finds Ignored?" which got some discussion going, an anonymous commentator (who later turned out to be Philippa Walton) started laying into me in a most patronising manner for having observations on the PAS and its policies. She stopped just short of denying flat that there was any selection of pre-1700 finds (here and here). She says the answers are in her book - I comment that if the book is based on the PhD, they will not be (I must get the book I suppose - seems an expensive way to say "I told you so" though).  

Then Ms Evans' FLO (Julie Cassidy Northamptonshire County Council, Northampton) joins the discussion (Tuesday, 22 April 2014, "Central Searchers' Claim Untrue? ") she says the statement about selection of finds is "demonstrably false [...] Only need to look at database to see that". So another denial. This however misses out the point that looking at the database will in no way provide information about what was not entered into the database - which is what the discussion is about. Duh.

On the same day I posted a text on the comments of other metal detectorists on the forums which had the same import as Ms Evans' comments (Tuesday, 22 April 2014, "More from UK's Detectorists on PAS' Selectivity in Recording". On the forums there was nobody (least of all a PAS representative or partner) saying this was untrue.

This was followed by a post on Andy Baines' blog (Wednesday, 23 April 2014,
'Is the current PAS scheme starting to show signs of fatigue?') commented upon by me: "PAS Needs Fixing?" Baines asks whether the selective recording being discussed on detecting forums, but consistently ignored or downplayed by supporters of the Scheme means that the PAS is on the verge of collapse. He challenges the PAS to set out their policy.

Baines followed this up by another post, asking the question (Wednesday, 23 April 2014)
"What message does the PAS selective recording give to metal detectors?",  - commented upon by me here: "What message does the PAS selective recording give to metal detectorists?". Baines is more concerned with the system failing (and therefore no longer shielding artefact hunting from criticism), though I would say the archaeological implications of the lack of transparency about a whole set of factors affecting the content of the database is the key issue. In a comment, Anonymous "Steve" (23 April 2014 23:24) says that "Its always been the case as the PAS is resource limited in what it can and cannot do so prioritising what is recorded must take place". He also points out that this selection process for what is recorded is probably variable from FLO to FLO as many have competing demands upon their time.
Most if not all FLOs have more than one manager and so they have to balance their time and output to meet these demands. For example their local managers will require a prioritising of finds which are relevant to various local agendas and needs, whilst the national management team in London will want their overall demands satisfied. I have heard that this burden of demands has caused a few unhappy times for some FLOs.
In a further comment the same person (24 April 2014 20:08) again stresses that he is sure that selective recording is the norm, and suggests that "detectorists will have to get used to the idea of selection in what the FLO's will record and the delays in getting finds back. After all it is much better than no reporting facilities , a situation that existed pre 1997". He is mistaken, finders took finds to museums well before the PAS existed.
I waited a couple of days to give the PAS a chance to add to the discussion here on an archaeological blog of the information they'd so readily supplied four hours after the question was asked there on the blog of a metal detectorist. Of course they did not avail themselves of the opportunity, artefact hunters are their partners, not preservationists. I referred to the posting of something vaguely like a policy statement that appeared at some unknown time and in unclear circumstances in an inner recess of the PAS website (Saturday, 26 April 2014, "PAS Selective Recording, Undated Policy Statement Raises Questions"). It really does raise questions concerning the nature of the data" held in a database, and whether they can be used in any meaningful way to study anything at all.  Though, quite seriously, i do not expect anyone outside the PAS to take a proper look at its implications as a sampling policy, nor anyone associated with the PAS to step out of line and say it matters. 

But it does. As does the continued denial.


Sunday, 27 April 2014

The infamous Overzealous US Customs official and the Auction Catalogues

Peter Tompa alleged a few weeks ago:
There is [...] the issue of the overzealous CBP officials. For example, one recently retired official in CBP's New York office was known to reject the certifications authorized under the CPIA. Instead, he apparently often demanded that the importer produce pictures of artifacts from auction catalogues to prove that an artifact was out of the country of origin as of the date of the restrictions. Obviously, if applied to coins, this would pose a major burden to importers.
Today, in order to create an impression of the huge difficulties facing US coin importers because of legislation attempting to clean up the antiquities market, this has become:
Customs often won't accept it. They will only accept pictures in an auction listing with pictures predating the restrictions. How many coins do you think have that kind of documentation. 1% or 2% or more?
So this is one oddball ICE officer, now out of the service, or all ICE officers? Since the CCPIA quite clearly does not mention anything like "auction catalogues" (please check it for yourself, section 307) it seems to me that if that really has been happening, it is difficult to explain why the ACCG are not using collectors' money to fight a specific and demonstrable breach of the law by US Customs instead of staging the Baltimore illegal coin import stunt? They'd win that one hands down. But perhaps Mr Tompa is not actually stating the full facts about why in the cases to which he refers, the evidence from auction catalogues was sought.

UPDATE 28.04.14:
Now we have another version of the story:
My statements about the auction catalogue requirement don't come from the CPIA, which is the problem. It comes from Customs practice for items designated under the CPIA. Customs takes the position it can ask for additional documentation beyond what is required by the CPIA. This has been verified by importers, other lawyers for importers and a former high ranking customs official.
I'd say it was time for Mr Tompa to set the facts straight, and give some support for his anecdote, so if it is "verified" where can we start to look for that "verification"? (Mr T. baldly stating somebody said something is not verification). Which "importers"? When, where? What happened? Which other "lawyers for importers"? What did they do when their clients were faced with such an extra-legal demand? Were the superiors of these aberrant customs officials notified by the importers and their lawyers of the abuse of the law by their subordinates? What did they do? Is this information about official misbehaviour in the public domain (where/ why not)? This "former high ranking customs official" has he ever been brought to account for making extra-legal demands? Is that why he is no longer a "high ranking customs official"? Who is he?

Vignette: The scary zombie customs officer  - a job for Mythbusters, maybe?

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Ed Snible's Fouree and Views on the Egypt MOU

In general, I regard Ed Snible's "Gift for Polydektes" blog to be one of the more intelligent in the coiney blogosphere, miles ahead of the bitter ranting, posturing and conspiracy theorising of the ACCG herd. Sadly, fuzzy thinking is never far away in collecting circles. Mr Snible (Friday, April 25, 2014) decided to try and garner support for opposition to the Egypt MOU currently under consideration. he does so with reference to a coin he "could not buy because of the MOU" which he says is a die link with a chewed0-up one he already has in his collection ("Let's not forget to comment on the ancient Egyptian coins for the proposed MOU"). Now, I do not think that the two coins, though obviously the same type,  are in fact die-linked [look at the relationship between stock and shank of the anchor and the position of the crayfish within the anchor for example], but that was merely a secondary rhetorical device. My concern was with the way Mr Snible quite clearly misunderstands the CCPIA. I commented on his initial post:
Did you actually ask the seller whether details needed to comply with the CCPIA were out of the question? What did he say? Did you actually ask, or did you just assume? section 307. Since you are importing from Germany and not Bulgaria, the requirement section 307 (a) does not apply. Your import would, in the event of any queries, come under section 307(b) and (c).

Note the requirement in (c) is for the importer to supply customs with one of two types of documents. These are in fact "best belief" statements.  Could you not do that if you believed that the coin you bought was indeed legal to import into your own country under the CCPIA? The wording of the CCPIA involves quite a lot of wiggle-room, don't you think? It actually is an incredibly poorly-drafted law.

So, how do you think that coin reached Germany? If you believe (or ascertained) that the German dealer could not assure you that it was by squeaky-clean legitimate means, then is the MOU not doing its job?  Other countries have similar legislation, a UK buyer could not legally buy it if it was illegally excavated and smuggled (2003 Dealing in Cultural property (offences) Act).

[...] As for Egypt, why would anyone  want to oppose an MOU on a whole range of artefacts because you Americans want the "freedom" to buy loose coins without having to ascertain whether they were on the international market outside Egypt before a certain date? Given the degree of thefts from museum stores and sites 2011 onwards, why would anyone WANT to buy such items blind? Surely anything which cleans up the US market should be welcomed by buyers?
His reply totally ignored most of the issues raised. He was very concerned to convince me that the two coins were die-linked. Despite me laying it out in black and white for him, he dodges the question of what documentation he actually needed to legally import that coin from Germany to the US  and admits that his approach was assumption rather than checking. He ignores the point about cleaning up the antiquities market, which is disappointing. In reply to the point I made about his caution as a buyer and the MOU doing its job, he gives an astoundingly wonky definition of what he sees as the intention of the MOU/CCPIA and 1970 UNESCO Convention.This is my reply to his fact-dodging response. I began by suggesting we agree to differ about the die link - a subjective coiney picture game:
You wrote: "I did not ask the auctioneer about the possibility of documentation"

So I do not see how you can use this as an example of why the MOU is in any way a hindrance. Your problem was your own fear and misapprehensions, than the actual status of that coin.

The problem seems to be that instead of finding out what the CCPIA, together with the Convention mean for you, you have let yourself be led astray by the dealers' lobbyists and tub-thumpers.

We see this here: "I see the MOU's job as getting accidental finders to report discoveries to the Bulgarian authorities instead of having them handed off to antiquities "runners" .  Eh? How on earth do you get from the texts of the CCPIA and 1970 Convention to that odd conclusion? I suggest you stop uncritically accepting what the lobbyists are telling you, and start looking for yourself. Your interpretation 100% parroting Peter Tompa and the ACCG and is 100% wrong.

"I can't think of a system that would have the effect you want except a PAS-like scheme implemented on the Bulgarian side."

Ummmm. I suggest you really have not the foggiest what it is the proponents of the CCPIA consider its only function. Please read it up. It has nothing to do with any "PAS" - this is another Tompa/ACCG red herring which you have allowed to mislead you. If you are going to oppose the MOU, then please at least do it actually knowing what it is and is not and not parroting what others have told you to think.
This is dreadful, Ed Snible seems to me to be one of the more intelligent and thoughtful of the US dugup ancient coin collectors one can meet online. If someone like him is being so badly misled by the ACCG and their propaganda machine, what hope is there for the less well endowed intellectually? Wayne Sayles and Peter Tompa are personally responsible for this and have a lot to answer for. In pursuit of their own agenda, they have consistently (and I am inclined to believe deliberately) totally misled the US coin collecting community. It is astounding to realise that there are people out there collecting coins without the foggiest idea of the context. These are the sort of people that will believe the stories about the coin fairies and coin elves and all of the other worthless junk-arguments of the no-questions-asked trade.  Disgustingly, instead of helping collectors understand their position and obligations, the ACCG and other dealer-interest-groups working in the same direction are exploiting their intellectual weakness and confusion to the furthest extent. Absolutely sickening, totally legal, but morally reprehensible.

PAS Selective Recording, Undated Policy Statement Raises Questions

"Because many FLOs are working
at capacity they need to be selective in what they record".

As I earlier predicted, the Portable Antiquities Scheme ignored the fact that questions were being asked by archaeologists about their selective recording of pre-300-year-old items reported by metal detectorists and other finders, but were quick to answer the same questions on a metal detectorist's blog.
Let us just download that first text here in case it diasappears the same way that it quietly appeared (note it is undated and unsigned - like many of the PAS additions to their webpage which is very lax procedure as the website fossilises material from 2003 alongside later additions). I have highlighted bits of the text in red: 

Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) and their work

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has been extremely successful, thanks to the contribution of the many metal-detector users and other finders who have volunteered archaeological finds for recording. However, most FLOs are now working at capacity, and therefore unable to record all finds offered for recording. In some areas volunteers and self-recorders are invaluable, but it is nonetheless necessary for FLOs (Finds Liaison Officers) to develop strategies to decide what to record and meet finder's expectations. The aim of this note is to summarise the guidance offered to FLOs by the PAS Central Unit (British Museum) on how to work under these pressures.


  • FLO areas are diverse in their geography, the number of finders and the number of metal-detecting clubs etc, and therefore the PAS needs to adapt to differing local circumstances.
  • All FLOs share a job description which is the basis of the funding agreement between the British Museum (which manages the PAS) and the host partners (which employ FLOs).
  • Although FLOs work flexible hours they should only work their contracted hours. Therefore they need to balance their time in and out of the office (in order to dedicate enough time to recording finds) by restricting non-office based activities, such as visits to metal-detecting club, finds days etc.
  • FLOs receive guidance on PAS policy from the PAS Central Unit via national and regional meetings, and by email. FLOs will normally refer to staff at the Central Unit for guidance on issues such as Stewardship Schemes, nighthawking etc.
  • Most FLOs welcome volunteers or self-recorders, but due to practical issues can only take on a certain number at any time. They also must work within the rules set by their local host partners.
  • FLOs attend training offered by the British Museum and the PAS Finds Advisers. However, they will refer to other experts about finds offered for recording as necessary. Unfortunately PAS staff cannot invest time investigating objects that are unlikely to be recorded.
  • Any misuse of social media or any other complaints should be reported to or PAS, Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory, British Museum, London, WC1B 3DG. Tel: 0207 323 8611/8618.

Finds Recording

  • The core role of an FLO is to record archaeological finds to further our understanding of the archaeology of England and Wales. Outreach by FLOs is (normally) only undertaken to encourage the further reporting of finds (see above).
  • FLOs record on average at least 1000 records a year and these take time to produce. They include a description of the find, find spot details, weight and dimensions, and a photograph or photographs. The PAS ID for the find allows finders to see it on-line and download a report should they wish to have one.
  • FLOs will limit the number of finds they take in for recording, and this might vary from FLO area to FLO area. It is sensible for the FLO and finder to agree a time frame within which finds should be returned. FLOs will usually record finds on a first come first served basis, in order to be fair; occasionally there may be finds that require urgent attention that need to be prioritised.
  • Because many FLOs are working at capacity they need to be selective in what they record. It is at their discretion whether or not they record a particular find, based on local knowledge and experience.

In general:

  • FLOs will not record finds with poor find spots (generally less than a 6-figure National Grid Reference (NGR)) as finds without good spatial information are less useful to archaeology
  • FLOs will selectively record post-1700 finds
  • FLOs will selectively record post-1685 coins
This document is very revealing. It suggests that 37000 objects recorded a year represents "the PAS working at capacity".

It seems that there are indeed local strategies for accepting or rejecting finds offered for recording. Nevertheless there does exist (it admits) secret "guidance offered to FLOs by the PAS Central Unit (British Museum) on how to work under these pressures". Why is this not published in order that users of the database can assess any likely biases it would introduce? This policy document should be in the public domain. What, however is clear is that these (undefined) local strategies are yet another factor which considerably reduce the ability to utilise the PAS database in order to study nationwide patterns of finding of specific categories of artefacts.

Interestingly, the core role of the FLO is stated as being "to record archaeological finds" and normally to restrict their outreach "to encourage the further reporting of finds". Somewhere along the line the idea that they were being financed by the state to promote best practice in artefact hunting seems to have been lost and best practice is reduced to a simplistic formula or "showing us the goodies".

The Antiquities Trade as Organized Crime

Christiana O'Connell-Schizas ('Cyprus: Antiquities bust in Aphrodite’s city' ARCA blog, April 16, 2014):
 It is widely accepted that the vulnerabilities in the antiquities trade has presented the opportunity to make a profit through organised crime. Art. 2(a) of the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime 2000 defines organised crime as being: “[a] structured group of three or more persons... acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offences... to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit.” The following subsections go on to define 'serious crimes' and 'structured group', but it evident that the group  that was caught in 2010 fits the UN definition. There are various definitions for organised crime. The UN's definition is broader than say that of the FBI's to include crimes such as antiquities, which are not necessarily motivated by money. They also do not need to be in a formal organisation but must have committed criminal not civil offences.
Vignette: Organized crime.

Antiquities Market: an Ambiguous shade of Grey

Cf Peter Tompa: 
 Christiana O'Connell-Schizas ('Cyprus: Antiquities bust in Aphrodite’s city' ARCA blog, April 16, 2014) adds:
Illicit antiquities are frequently sold on the open market. McKenzie argues that, because the trade in antiquities is legal, it turns the issue from black and white to an ambiguous shade of grey. See Mackenzie, Simon, 'The Market as Criminal and Criminals in the Market: Reducing Opportunities for Organised Crime in the International Antiquities Market'.

El Hibbeh Facebook Fail

I noticed by chance that the Facebook page put up by US Egyptologists hoping to draw attention to ongoing looting of 'their' archaeological site of El Hibbeh has been taken down. Perhaps the autocratic manner (here too) in which they deal with discussion drove people away. The problem is however that it seems not all members of the team behind this effort really were terribly interested in the truth, but only  their own version of the facts ('El-Hibeh and the Truth' Thursday, 24 January 2013).  Despite the fact that this post was debunked, with the precise location and nature of the evidence which falsifies it over a year ago, Andy Dailey has the nerve to totally ignore that and persist in spreading a lie (this page is still up). It is this kind of thing that does the preservationist cause no good at all. Mr Dailey, STOP this please, you are helping nobody. 
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