Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Ancient coffin breaks as child put in it at Southend museum

BBC: Ancient coffin breaks as child put in it at Southend museum
A "historically unique" 800-year-old stone coffin was damaged when visitors to a museum put a child inside it. Part of the sarcophagus tumbled over and a chunk fell off at Prittlewell Priory Museum in Southend, Essex, as the Southend Echo reported. Staff were "shocked and upset" at the "unbelievable incident", said conservator Claire Reed, who now has the job of repairing it. Those responsible were caught on CCTV but ran off without reporting it.
but they were 'ínteracting with the past' were they not? Just like artefact hunters and collectors (who damage whole sites by pulling out random diagnostic finds, and then do a runner, mostly without reporting).

Sussex man held in Turkey for smuggling ancient coins

Sussex man held in Turkey for smuggling ancient coins
A British man is facing up to three years in a Turkish prison for trying to take home some ancient coins found on the seabed during a family holiday. Toby Robyns, 52, an ambulance driver from Southwick, in West Sussex, was arrested as he made his way through security at Bodrum airport on Saturday. Airport security staff reportedly found 12 coins, which were later classed as historical artefacts, in his luggage. Mr Robyns told them his children found them while they were swimming. He is reportedly being detained at Milas prison on suspicion of smuggling historical artefacts.
I think one, two coins found in the same place is plausible, a story involving twelve is stretching credulity a bit. The PAS gives people in the UK the impression that finding ancient artefacts and walking off with them is OK - so when they go to more normal countries which see this as knowledge theft, Englanders do not know how to behave. Maybe the PAS needs to do more educating.

Dumbdown in extremis

A hyper-nationalist UK metal detectorist, while happily collecting the portable antiquities, imagines 'engaging in the past' includes the destruction of Roman sites and monuments
here in the UK, and elsewhere possibly, we'd better start dismantling all our Roman sites and remains as the 'racist' Italians held us Britons in slavery. Do think it possible that we Brits have a case for compensation against the present day Italians?
It seems the Portable Antiquities Scheme is failing to do any significant archaeological outreach among such people.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

One Born Every Minute...

Just GBP 38750, that is what it will cost you to buy a 'most rare precious artifact a Roman iron nail piercing bone ' from York Antiquities (Katie Borrows, York Y0265QT) on eBay. This 'most rare' item has a provenance:
A most rare and precious artifact a Roman iron nail piercing bone from Jerusalem found by my late father who was an Amateur Archaeologist in the 1950s on a small dig just outside the city while he was on leave from active service, the feel of this artifact is so very special a one off piece only know of other one in History been found from a Crucifiction. Offers welcome but please bare in mind the significance of this ancient artifact.
'Bare' in mind too what the photographic scale shows... the nail is about 4cm long. Neither does it 'pierce' the bone; a small indeterminate piece of bone is stuck to a corroded nail. No mention is made by the seller of any report by an osteologist, is the bone human or animal (crucified donkeys?). Or is this simply a coffin nail from a disturbed cemetery? No mention is made of this amateur archaeologist (a Tommy wiv a spade) having an export licence for this object, by the applicable law of 1948 antiquities are considered the property of the state (Morag M. Kersel, 'The Trade in Palestinian Antiquities' Journal of Palestine Studies 33 1980). In my opinion, the 'feel' of this object is something other than 'very special'.

But what are very special are some of her other artefact descriptions. I had many a good chuckle. This lady 'has been an eBay member since Oct 17, 2004' and in that time has sold lots of stuff to people who believed the spiel.

hat tip, Dorothy King


Saturday, 19 August 2017

The 'Jim Crow' Heritage of the Confederate South

There is a little debate about tearing down confederate monuments in the US today - rather like Poland's (non-)debate on removing reminders of soviet dominance 1945-1989. This video is an interesting comment on part of it: The truth behind most of the Confederate monuments being torn down tells an even larger story than you'd realize — explains.

hat tip: Katie Paul

Friday, 18 August 2017

Doing the Right Thing: Presidenting is More Difficult than Some thought

In the US, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities has just resigned, every member. They have made public the letter they wrote to him, very strong and fine words, It ends:
Supremacy, discrimination and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, we call on you to resign your office too.
PCAH is an official agency, that makes this the first White House department to resign.

Hex of Exhibiting Collectors' Artefact Stashes for Them

Steinhardt said Turkey should have raised its claim
years earlier, since the idol has been displayed publicly for decades.
He said the provenance questions he has faced are typical for major
antiquities collectors, calling the episodes “a little bit of bad luck.” 

Christian Berthelsen and Katya Kazakina, 'Hex of the Idol: Steinhardt, Christie’s Fight Heritage Claim' Bloomberg, 18 August 2017
Increasingly, courts and public opinion have supported claims by foreign governments to return stolen treasures, in challenges to museums, auction houses and collectors. [...] Gary Vikan, former director of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, said the pendulum has swung too far in favor of foreign governments. “The enthusiasm for disputing things -- which is borne from very just cases -- has gone beyond the boundaries of common sense. “If objects have been in the public domain, they acquire good title over time,” said Vikan, the author of 2016’s “Sacred and Stolen: Confessions of a Museum Director.”
Which is why Renfrew, nearly twenty years ago (Loot, Legitimacy and Ownership: The Ethical Crisis in Archaeology (Debates in Archaeology) 2000) was arguing that museums should not be showcasing poorly-documented objects from private collections, giving them a spurious legitimacy. Fortunately whether an object is illicit or not is based on other criteria than 'how many people saw it and did not ask questions'.

Teotihuacan Trophies and Teddy Bears

Apollo magazine:
The problem is that you cannot "narrate the past" by collecting loose decontextualised objects together. The "stories" you tell are your own stories, your own constructs, not that of the living culture itself.

This is the kind of narrative you get, objects selected by the owner placed in groups by the owner, associated with other objects by the owner.

Teddy Bears' picnic: Card by Susan Rinehart

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Situation in Syria August 2017

Situation in Syria right now according to Thomas van Linge‏

All this talk in compilatory 'news' articles of ISIL-looted artefacts from Syria going directly across a porous border with Turkey (WSJ this means you, too) do not take recent political events into account.

Here is the matching one of his for Iraq:

What is left of the main core of ISIL terrotory in the Euphrates valley is some 300 km long and some ten or so kilometres wide with nominal control of large areas of desert.  There are two shrinking outliers in the Tigris valley (including Tel Afar).

Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit heading for closure

On the transfer of its three members to an investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire, in west London, which killed more than 80 people on 14 June, a former head of Scotland Yard's  Art and Antiques Unit suggests that the unit may be facing closure (Martin Bailey, 'Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit heading for closure' Art Newspaper 16 August 2017)
Vernon Rapley, who led the Art and Antiques Unit from 2001 until 2010, told The Art Newspaper that he is “worried that the closure of the unit is now being considered”. He added: “I am very concerned that the Metropolitan Police is unable to give assurances on when the three detectives who have been temporarily reassigned will be returned to the unit.” The three officers are detective constables Philip Clare, Sophie Hayes and Ray Swan. There is currently no detective sergeant responsible for the unit, following the departure of Claire Hutcheon last March. The Art and Antiques Unit was set up in 1969 and has built up experience and documentation on art theft, fraud and forgery. Its London Stolen Art Database, which stores data and images of 54,000 stolen items, is the world’s most important national police register of art after that of the Carabinieri in Italy. Rapley, who is now the Victoria and Albert Museum’s director of cultural heritage protection and security, believes that London, the world’s second largest art market after New York, “needs a dedicated art squad”. He says: “Losing it now, when cultural heritage is under threat in so much of the world, would represent a very serious loss.”
I do not think there are many dealers and collectors who'll be shedding too many tears.

Monday, 14 August 2017

High-value objects stolen from Norway museum [Updated]

High-value objects stolen from Norway museum  The Local - 14 August 2017
Several burglars climbed a scaffold to raid a collection on the seventh story of the University Museum of Bergen. [...] Which items were stolen remains unclear at the time of writing. [...] items from the Viking era may have been stolen [...] It remains unclear how it became possible to enter the building via the scaffolding. “One of our primary tasks is to protect cultural heirlooms. When we fail to do this, no explanation is good enough. This hits us at a very soft spot. We are all very shaky and feeling a sense of despair,” museum director Von Achen said. No arrests have so far been made in connection with the case.
Presumably, the objects will all be fully photographed and catalogud,. so very soon the market will be aware of what has been stolen and these objects will be impossible to sell openly. One does wonder though whether they particular items might not have been 'stolen to order' for a collector with no scruples.

Here's a facebook page with the stolen objects.

Bronze Age hoard near Lancaster NOT 'a Chance Discovery'

Lusting after all the nice artefacts they'll find, Dig Venture is excited that they'll get to excavate site of Bronze Age hoard near Lancaster in September (Lisa Westcott Wilkins, 11 August, 2017)
A team of archaeologists from DigVentures, Durham University and the Portable Antiquities Scheme will return to Lancashire this September to investigate an untouched Bronze Age barrow near Lancaster, where a chance discovery by an amateur metal detectorist has unearthed the most spectacular hoard of this period ever discovered in North West England. The project has secured the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) North West region and has received a grant of £59,300. Made possible by National Lottery players, the project will investigate the site where the hoard was found, and follows on from dig last year also in the local area, during which the team discovered a rare Early Bronze Age (2200 – 1600 BC) funerary urn, known as a Food Vessel, which is now undergoing further research.
One look at the photo of the site makes one wonder just what kind of eye-intellect disconectivity some British archaeologists have.

Totally featureless landscape under PASTURE in Lancashire,
'just right' for artefact hunting, innit?
Hands up, who CANNOT see what looks like a barrow right in the centre of this photo? By what measure of British bonkerness is running an artefact-detection tool over such a thing and finding something a 'chance discovery'? Many artefact hunters target precisely such features because they know they will find something there.

Besides which this is an 'untouched' site - until the metal detectorists got there with their digging tools, and its under pasture, so should be out of bounds for responsible detectorists - so if irresponsible detecting is going on (targeting obvious sites under pasture) will a reward be withheld?

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Stolen Gandharan Artefacts involved in Corruption Scandal Seized

In Pakistan, Customs officials in Sialkot were implicated in a foiled attempt to smuggle artefacts including Gandharan sculptures to Japan via Islamabad' (Bhagwandas Mohammad Asghar, ' Invaluable artefacts seized at Islamabad airport' Dawn, August 12, 2017).
In a report, the directorate-general said that six of the items recovered were genuine Gandhara pieces, he said. However, ten others were counterfeits.The export of such items was banned under Section 24(2) of Section 35 of the Antiquities Act, 1975, [....] While artefacts from Mahergarh and Naal in Balochistan were smuggled mostly to Europe, the Gandhara artefacts were in demand both in Europe, where the laws were relatively strict, and the Far East, particularly Japan, South Korea and Thailand. About 12 years ago, a Thai diplomat was caught trying to smuggle out Gandhara artefacts from Islamabad, Mr Qasim said. Smugglers now are increasingly using fresh routes, taking the artefacts to Dubai, which is a free port. From there the items were sent to their final destinations
Another paper comments on the case ( Editorial, 'Stolen Gandharan artefacts' The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2017.)
It requires high-level audacity to not only illegally acquire centuries-old precious artefacts for oneself, but to then smuggle them out of the country in attempts to profiteer. [...] Punjab and Islamabad, specifically, have been hotbeds of the looting and plundering style of corruption recently [...] the exporters, Japanese importers and the cargo company involved [must be] made an example out of to deter any such crime in the future. [...]  It is appalling that officials — especially those made responsible for maintaining the country’s welfare in some way — had the gall to profiteer from the precious artefacts that do not belong to them, but to the country and its rich heritage. 
Which outside agencies however are putting up the money which is used to corrupt state officials? Bribers are as much criminals as those who accept them. This is something dealers and their lobbyists wjho blame the illicit antiquities trade on 'corrupt local officials' should bear in mind.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

British Antiquities Experts Call for International Investigation of Antiquities Trade

British antiquities experts are calling for an international body to investigate and repatriate stolen artefacts to counter the looting and sale of antiquities from the Middle East (Bel Trew, Antiquities experts call for war on Isis looting in Syria and Iraq, Times  August 12 2017).
The pillaging of archaeological sites and museums as well as illicit digging has surged in the security breakdown that followed the 2011 Arab Spring, becoming a multibillion-pound trade. Satellite imagery of areas in countries such as Egypt and Syria now shows pock-marked landscapes, where opportunist thieves, including jihadist groups such as Islamic State, have dug for treasures to be sold on international markets.  

Greece Shared Info, then Egypt was Able to Arrest Smuggler-dealer of antiquities from Libya

A 30-year-old Libyan citizen was arrested on May 24, 2017 in Alexandria, Egypt for antiquity smuggling. A number of ancient objects were seized and the man charged with illegal possession and transport for the purpose of selling portable antiquities. This was the result of collaboration between the Department of Cultural Heritage and Antiquities of Attica, Interpol and the Egyptian authorities. Last August, the Department of Cultural Heritage and Antiquities received information about the Libyan citizen's action, he was looking for buyers in Greece and Europe to sell portable antiquities he had taken away from his country. The man however did not have the required documents to enable him to travel to Greece to finalize the transaction, so he arranged to meet a buyer in Alexandria, Egypt, where the Egyptian authorities arrested him
after being informed of what he was doing. This is the kind of international collaboration that is needed to disable the international illicit antiquities market. It is not clear whether the person arrested was a looter who had dug these things up himself, or a middleman. Sadly neither was the potential buyer apprehended, so we do not know whether this group of objects was sought by a dealer or collector.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Paintback Berlin Activists Turn Hate Symbols into Art

Since greffiti everywhere is a fact of life anyway, it is a shame that there are not more initiatives like this. Paintback: How Berlin activists are turning Nazi hate symbols into art.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Liberian Smuggler Captured in Libya with Coins for Foreign Market

Some of the 580 ancient coins
found on the Liberian suspect
 (Photo: Rada) 
Ity seems there is no shortage of potential buyers for smuggled items from war-torn Libya who will not be asking too many questions about how and when they left the country (Libya Herald reporters, 'Rada seize smuggler with ancient coins at Mitiga' Libya Herald, 7 August 2017)::
A Liberian national caught at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport with [...] ancient coins is reported to have told Rada deterrence force investigators that this was not the first time he had sought to smuggle out Libyan antiquities. Rada said that the coins are Roman, though some of the 580 seized pieces it pictured appear to have Greek lettering. [...] As yet, Rada has not said if the Liberian has revealed where he acquired the coins, which he admitted he planned to sell abroad.
Of course there are quite a lot of dealers and collectors in the US which would welcome the movement of such objects across US borders without any restrictions on their import. that is what they've recently been asking the Department of State to arrange for them.  Peter Tompa says in Washington that there is 'no reason' for them. Shame on the lot of them.

Thought Provoking: Where Does This all Come From? Where Will it All End?

Antiquities Coalition‏: On any given day there are at least 10,000 antiquities and ancient coins for sale on online,

learn more:

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

‘What is Grey about the “Grey Market” in Antiquities’?

There is a very vocal crowd in the archeological community

US 'coin collector and hobby advocate' Scott Barman posted on his blog an article about the need to oppose the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention by the US, an article recently highly praised by Wayne Sayles as representing 'the ancient coin collector perspective'. Barman named the post 'An Ancient Dilemma' but it seems to me the only dilemma he has highlighted are his own problems of understanding what he is discussing and in keeping to the facts. As an example, we read in his text, two thirds of the way down:
There is a very vocal crowd in the archeological community that would want to see everything dug up from the earth put into museums or otherwise locked away from the public. (Links to these people omitted on purpose) Using the pejorative “coinys” to describe collectors of ancient coins, these people have advocated for the confiscation of these coin so that they can be entombed behind display glass inside the state run museums of the world. They consider coinys profiteers who would rather trade in history than preserve history.
First of all, the term is 'coiney'. As far as I am aware, it is not yet used by any 'crowd' of archaeologists, vocal or not. Perhaps his inability to prove the truth of what he is saying is whuy he does not provide 'links to these people'. What is jhe afrraid of, that if he provided links, it would turn out that 'these people' do not say what he wants his gullible readers to believe?

Secondly, if he is referring to me, Mr Barman misses my whole point because this blog is not about what should happen to 'everything dug up from the earth', but rather about those that dig them up for private entertainment and profit, thereby destroying archaeological evidence. It is about the effects and context of the action, but Mr Barman is exclusively and simplistically concerned with its products. I do not know how it is in the US, but objects placed in public collections are not 'locked away from the public'. They are kept there on trust for the public. Mr Barman presumably would like to see them in his personal ephemeral collection and scattered among those of his acquisitive collector mates.

It certainly would require Mr Barman to cite links to statements where 'those' who 'use the pejorative term coinys to describe collectors of ancient coins', have advocated 'for the confiscation of these coin so that they can be entombed behind display glass inside the state run museums of the world'. What utter nonsense. Artefacts which are illicitly obtained should not be illicitly obtained. My focus is not on the object but the deed. Let's use legal sanctions against culture criminals that by participating in the market for illicit artefacts trample over others' rights to access the common heritage. They can keep their illegal coin collection during their punishment for all I care - let them reflect on why this has happened and whether it was worth it.  But then what should happen to those coins afterwards? Can anyone sell them with a clean conscience? Can anyone buy them, knowing what they are? Perhaps Mr Barman moves among people who would have few such qualms, he does not say. But his comment is another example of the US fixation on 'repatriation' of artefacts, rather than a reason why an artefact has been rendered stateless by the actions of the no-questions-asked commerce in antiquities.

As for 'them' considering coineys to be 'profiteers who would rather trade in history than preserve history', .I think that is a pretty good characterization of the trade which turns the destruction of archaeological evidence into commercial goods. Mr Barman can show us in how many V-Coin or EBay descriptions we can find preserved the collecting history of an item. Let us recall the statements of dealers that they cannot provide this for their artefacts because that would put the price up. So, history is indeed lost for commercial reasons.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Citizen Classicists Now

21 godz.21 godzin temu
Dave, plumber from Milton Keynes, says Mary Beard, professor of classics at Cambridge is wrong about Roman Britain. Ok.
  Mary Beard: A Don’s Life 'Roman Britain in Black and White' TLS August 3, 2017
There is a conundrum underlying this. I feel very strongly that talking about history isn’t just for professional historians, and I don’t much like the line which goes ‘I’ve read more than you on this topic so I am right’. But in this whole exchange I did resort sometimes to asking ‘Have you read any book on the history of Roman Britain?’. A few people had the grace to say they had not. And there were glimpses of some obvious ignorance and misunderstanding. [...] It also feels very sad to me that we cannot have a reasonable discussion on such a topic as the cultural ethnic composition of Roman Britain without resorting to unnecessary insult, abuse, misogyny and language of war not debate (and that includes one senior academic). It’s a bit of a bleak outlook for how we might talk about modern ethnic diversity. We should reflect, I think.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Artefacts Looted in Middle East Conflicts Today 'May not Surface for Decades'

Dave Lawler, ' Ancient treasures looted by ISIS may not surface for decades', Axios 7th August 2017.
In a Sunday deep dive, the Wall Street Journal has traced the path of artefacts looted by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and found parallels with the Nazi art looting some 70 years prior:
"ISIS's territorial grip is fading fast... but the group's legacy of looting will linger for many years, in much the same way that art looted by the Nazis continues to surface 70 years later. The ancient statues, jewelry and artifacts that ISIS has stolen in Syria and Iraq, are already moving underground and may not surface for decades."
[...] Most artifacts go first to Turkey or Lebanon. Next they're typically sent to Eastern Europe or Asia, before being sold to buyers in Western Europe (oftentimes Switzerland or Germany) or the U.S. They often sit in warehouses for years, and ownership histories are fabricated. It could be decades before many of the artifacts are sold publicly.

What is Grey About the ‘Grey Market’ in Antiquities

The global market in antiquities has been described as a ‘grey market’ in discussions by various commentators of the problem of illicit cultural property. In this contribution, we set out to interrogate that terminology, ultimately providing (we hope) a definitive breakdown of the meanings and implications of the idea of ‘greyness’ as it applies to this particular illicit market. As we shall see, the term ‘grey market’ has been rather liberally applied by researchers working on illicit markets in cultural objects, and is in danger of becoming a generic but unrefined synonym for the interface between certain illicit practices in excavation and the public antiquities trade. It would seem helpful therefore at this point in the development of the research evidence base on illicit antiquities – and particularly in the context of the theme and other contributions in this book – to pause and reflect on what we mean when we observe greyness in this market.
Mackenzie, S. and Yates, D. (2016), ‘What is Grey about the “Grey Market” in Antiquities’, in Beckert, J. and Dewey, M. (eds), The Architecture of Illegal Markets: Towards an Economic Sociology of Illegality in the Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Download Article from trafficking Culture site.

Patience Running out with Trite ISIL-Focussed US Journalistic Hyperbole

More US Fake news:

1) Michael Press‏ @MichaelDPress 3 godziny temu
I see ISIS's loss of territory hasn't stopped the flow of crappy articles focusing misleadingly on only ISIS looting
2) Michael Press‏ @MichaelDPress 3 godziny temu
Once again, ISIS was never the only looter (or even the biggest looter) operating in Syria and Iraq
tudy Finds ISIS Militants Aren’t the Only Ones Looting Syrian Archaeological Sites' Hyperallergic October 26 2015
Responsible estimates have actually been much lower, & $100+ mil/year was debunked long ago (is there new evidence?)
5) 2 godz.2 godziny temu
In fact, *most* objects coming out of Syria likely fake. Look at the article's photos, esp the "early Byzantine" Bible "excavated" in Aleppo

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Getting America a bad Name: American Exceptionalism Abroad

Don't give a damn about your laws
Coiney Scott Barman (The law of unintended consequences Sep 26, 2013) draws attention to a recent case involving US tourists that  unwittingly reveals more about collectors' attitudes than he intended.

Two tourists (coyly named as 'Fred and Wilma') dug up somewhere in an unnamed 'Mediterranean country' some ancient coins (they say, on a beach) and then after flashing them around in the hotel went looking for a dealer who identified them. They decided to take them home, but were stopped at the border with them hidden in the case (they coincidentally just happened to have a written statement by the dealer available saying they were 'cheap' coins).* They were then detained for nine days for trying to smuggle the coins - and faced a three year sentence if found guilty. The situation is presented as two wide-eyed innocents abroad accidentally caught up in a nightmare of bureaucratic bumbling due to their ignorance of the 'unreasonable' local law ('the average retail price for the coins would be $20'). Nevertheless lex dura sed lex, even for Americans. It seems to me that most of the good guidebooks to these countries actually do have a section on 'shopping' and what you should not bring into or take out of these countries (currency, firearms, endangered species, antiquities). There are US campaigns warning US tourists about this too. Ignorance of the law is no defence. But look what conclusion the coiney blogger draws:
I have written several posts about the impact of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA; 19 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq.) and the potential for foreign countries to use Memoranda of Understanding that the State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) agrees to without considering citizen comments. The CPAC has said that the collateral issues raised by the comments are baseless. Fred can tell them otherwise [...] Next time the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) asks for assistance in addressing a call for comments from the CPAC regarding a foreign country’s MOU request, please remember the plight of Fred and Wilma. Although their ordeal lasted “only” two weeks, the next person may not be as lucky and find themselves in the jail of a country whose laws are far less humane than the United States.
The law is perfectly 'humane':
even if you are an American, don't steal any of our cultural patrimony.
I do not see anything wrong with that. If there is a law in Turkey-or-wherever about raping their little girls, or destroying million-year old rock formations in the national parks, reckless driving after drinking alcohol, or shooting at black men who scare you, I'd suggest 'Fred and Wilma' abide by them while in Turkey-or-wherever until they are back in their own country with more 'humane' laws on such things.

But what shallow-minded lunacy is this? The CCPIA (still less any MOU) in no way affects the laws of a sovereign country outside the USA. Like the Convention it is intended to implement, it recognizes the existing laws of those countries and the right of the states that have them to have them. Nothing else. No amount of  'public comments to the CPAC' will ever alter that situation - and nor is the CCPIA process in any way intended (by 'Congress' or anyone else) to change that.

'Fred and Wilma' broke the law in the host country and were potentially facing the consequences. They did not because the US government waved a big Uncle Sam stick at the foreigners and the two were let off  (where a native having less power to avoid charges probably would not).

But the really odd thing about this is the notion that 'supporting the ACCG'  will in some way help people to get away with breaking heritage laws in foreign countries. This post clearly shows that in the coiney mind, the ACCG is engaged in helping antiquities smugglers escape justice. 

Let us recall that the leitmotif of the US dealers' lobby is precisely the allegation that foreign countries 'are not doing enough' to police antiquities crime at  home, and that the US government should force them to do that by withholding help (help, guys, know what that concept means?) until they do. They insist that source countries police sites to prevent pillaging, and police borders to stop smuggling. I guess that means, unless the smuggler happens to be a US passport holder. 

*The dealer was possibly the one who 'shopped' them and alerted customs. In supplying a written statement, should also have in good will informed them of the laws involved in possession of such items in his country. Never trust an antiquities dealer. 

US Coiney Brain Fluff

Follow me, Sam
Wayne Sayles has created a post which shows more clearly than anything I could ever produce the extent of the intellectual marasma  prevalent among coin fondlers over there.
He writes of some 'unintended consequences' of the USA implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, and alleged 'ideologically inspired bureaucratic overreach', something this old man has been banging senselessly on about for decades without changing his tune. So now he's posting some links to a coiney blogger (Scott Barman) has been writing in past years which he feels independently endorse his views. He calls Barmen's writing 'insightful', from a coiney perspective ('Mr. Barman exhibits a remarkable degree of restraint and appeals both to law and common sense'). He then gives the links. I'll give them too, so you can  'evaluate the ancient coin collector perspective'. Sayles says these links to what Barman writes will enable you to do that 'without the mindless media disinformation barrage of our times', well let us see where the mindlessness lies:
'Why you should care about restrictions on collecting ancient coins', Apr 8, 2013

'The law of unintended consequences', Sep 26, 2013
'Ancient Collectors need your help', May 13, 2014

 'An Ancient Dilemma' Jul 11, 2014

'Stop the government from turning ancient coin collectors into criminals', Apr 25, 2016

' Collectors of ancient coins need your help!', Sep 19, 2016
Two of these posts consist mainly of a cut and paste from propaganda posts by paid lobbyist Peter Tompa, they do not represent Mr Barman's 'insight', just that he's a sheep following the bellwether into coiney La-La-Land. In the other three Mr Barman shows he has not really dissected the coiney trade reasoning and actually established for himself what the CCPIA is about. I rather think that if you look at Barman's arguments, he has simply followed the ACCG line with zero independent thinking and analysis. His anecdote about the tourists caught smuggling shows he is totally unaware of the connections between facts and cannot distinguish them from the damaging fantasy propagated by the coin trade.

I recommend reading this guff to show, once again, why it is a total waste of time trying to discuss things with a group of people so wholly wrapped up in narratives of their own creation which have little relationship to the realities of the actual case against the no-questions-asked trade in a market potentially supplied by looters and smugglers. They wilfully alienate themselves from meaningful participation in the heritage debate.

Cheated: What you will get if you buy from the No-questions-asked antiquities market

In 2002 new 'Dead Sea Scrolls' fragments began to appear on the antiquities market, most of them through the Kando family. A new research article presents evidence that nine of these Dead Sea Scrolls-like fragments are modern recent forgeries: "Nine Dubious ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ Frgs from the Twenty-First Century" Authors: Kipp Davis; Ira Rabin; Ines Feldman; Myriam Krutzsch; Hasia Rimon; Årstein Justnes; Torleif Elgvin and Michael Langlois in the series 'Dead Sea Discoveries' (Brill) 2017
DOI: 10.1163/15685179-12341428

The Racism Inherent in the International Trade Lobby

Michael D. Press ('Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Looters', Textual Cultures, Material Cultures Friday, August 4, 2017) draws attention to a rarely discussed issue, the disparity between treatment of looters and treatment of others involved in antiquities trafficking.
The antiquities trade involves looters, dealers, and collectors, along with various middlemen. Of the three main groups, almost all of the burden of punishment falls on looters. This is both unfair, and unsurprising, because looters have by far the least power of the groups involved in the trade. Dealers and collectors are generally richer, and often located outside the source countries that tightly regulate (or outlaw) trade in antiquities – and so are beyond their reach. 
He then discusses at some length the case from 2004-5, involving the Bar-Ilan University scholar scholar Hanan Eshel who bought some ancient documents found by Bedouin looters on the West Bank, they were investigated for handling stolen artefacts but not charged, but the looters were. he concludes:
I’ve come to believe that many people, including many scholars, while they may pay lip service to the evils of looting, prefer to see looted objects on the market – because it means more goodies for them to study and publish than could ever be found in controlled excavation. Condemning looters (while protecting scholars) is a convenient way to use the least powerful players in the antiquities trade as a scapegoat and avoid meaningful change. The case of James Charlesworth (a prominent professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary) is exceptional but illuminating: the questions and answers  section of a lecture first highlighted by Årstein Justnes (of the University of Agder, Norway), Charlesworth expresses excitement at the poor Palestinian economy, because (as he claims) Arabs are now digging under their houses and selling him their finds more cheaply. Shanks’s piece (whether it was argued in good faith or not) draws attention to how vastly different such scholars are treated from looters – but then appears to embrace an idiosyncratic conclusion (let’s honor the looters!). Instead we can take other approaches, such as holding accountable those with the real power in the antiquities trade who break laws and ethical codes.
Of course it is the lobbyists and supporters of the dealers that are among those clamouring most loudly for the problem of looting and pillaging of archaeological sites to be dealt with 'in situ' 'in the art-source countries'. Once again the dealers' lobby is perfectly complacent about racist campaigns to discriminate against the brown-skinned folk while leaving their own interests alone. If white collectors and dealers really want the brown skinned looters to suffer for involvement in the illicit trade, all it needs is for them to stop buying its products. But I rather think what they are contemplating is using a campaign for the arrest of looters as a smokescreen for the continued no-questions-asked purchase from those potentially supplied by looters and middlemen who are not behind bars.

Friday, 4 August 2017

US Congress Seeks to Punish Victims of Heritage Crime

This is not a way to MAGA
in the world's eyes
In Welthaupstadt America', the Witschonke Approach rears its ugly head again. ACCP's headline gleefully notes (Congress Holds CPAC Accountable American Committee for Cultural July 25, 2017):
Congress has finally taken steps to ensure that the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) actually documents the effort (or lack of it) that art-source countries make on their own behalf to inventory and protect sites and museums. The law that CPAC operates under requires that a country requesting import restrictions meet this requirement:
19 U.S.C. § 2602(a)(1)(B) that the State Party has taken measures consistent with the Convention to protect its cultural patrimony.
The Cultural Property Advisory Committee has often been accused of ignoring this requirement
Yeah? By whom and on what evidence? As for these so-called 'art source countries', which countries are not art source ones? Also is not the term 'self help' redolent of  neo-colonialist patronising? Many nations have no problem looking after their own onterests and have no need to as a 'Big Uncle Sam' to step it - but what they are asking in the CCPIA is that 'Nasty Uncle Sam' stops its citizens nicking their stuff.
“The Cultural Properties Implementation Act (CPIA) requires countries participating in MOUs restricting cultural property take significant self-help measures… The Committee also requests the Secretary of State review the feasibility of collecting and reporting on the cost of measures taken by partner countries in support of their cultural property MOU with the United States and be prepared to report on such review during the hearing process on the fiscal year 2019 budget request.” 
So, let's get this straight, a country which suspended its UNESCO contributions in protest over a democratic vote to recognize Palestine's interest is now demanding that other states demonstrate that they fulfill the measures of the 1970 UNESCO Convention when they themselves do not recognize Art 3 (apparently), or to any but the most insignificant degree Arts 5-8, 10-14, and I bet they don't either fulfil Art 16 and are not eligible for Art 17. The very nerve! Just who do these people think they are? It is time for the USA to act honestly and withdraw from the 1970 UNESCO Convention as their government clearly does not understand the thinking behind it. 

Art 9 is about helping other people, not punishing them for falling victim to the evil international illicit antiquities market. Helping people. Do Republicans understand that? 

Soon, no doubt, in a US headed in that self-righteous direction, rape victims will have to prove that they were 'properly dressed' and 'took precautions' before the event before they are given help.

Do-Righters Don't Collect Antiquities?

Antiquities crime is still a significant problem in many countries, but particularly Southeast Asia ('The real cost of looting', Frontier, August 03, 2017).
There are many reasons for this: poverty, porous borders, the region’s rich cultural history, weak law enforcement, and the relative lack of archaeological work that has been conducted – to name but a few. When we think of looting, it’s often large or particularly significant items that spring to mind. But as Phacharaphorn Phanomvan, a PhD Candidate in economic history at the University of Oxford, wrote in a recent article for the Tea Circle blog, even smaller, less obviously valuable objects have their market. Phanomvan wrote that beads from Dawei and elsewhere in Tanintharyi Region have become popular among buyers in Thailand and some other countries, not just for their appearance but also perceived spiritual power. They are being sold online and even in markets in Bangkok, which has long been a clearing-house for antiquities looted from around the region (as well as many more reproductions being passed off as antiquities). This is about more than the loss of a country’s physical heritage. In and of themselves, the things that are often being taken – beads, coins, small amulets – have little monetary value, and would probably not find pride of place in a museum. 

We are all familiar with the self-serving arguments of the dealers - people who profit from these sales - that what should be being preserved are only the 'items of cultural significance', this totally avoids the main issue:
But the looting process is highly destructive. Looters, be they area residents or more professional outfits, have little interest in objects that are not valuable or desirable in some way, and will throw them away like rubbish. Their methods result in more than just the loss of historic items. The looting damages the integrity of archaeological sites that often have not been properly surveyed, or even studied at all. Even if items are recovered, the context in which they were excavated cannot be recreated. To an archaeologist or anthropologist, the item itself is not as valuable as what it can tell us about the people who created, used, traded or discarded it. This is the real loss from looting: the opportunity, when the resources are available, to learn more about Myanmar’s many cultures. In particular, non-Burmese cultures, which have often been neglected by the authorities. In the meantime, Myanmar and its neighbours clearly need to do more to stem looting and the illicit trade in antiquities. The key is to diminish or eliminate demand, because if there are no buyers there will be no looting. That will require enforcement, education – and more people, like the Bodles, who make the effort to do the right thing.
 But a moment's perusal of the literature shows perfectly clearly that few collectors are making any effort to perceive what is right, their attention is almost always focused on what it merely legal (or not-exactly-illegal), like the collectors who are going through a court case to hang onto something they bought which they now know there is every reason to believe was looted from a storeroom in a civil war.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

US Collector Wants to hang on to Relic With Disputed Past

From New York Times
The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael H. Steinhardt, in 2010. Mr. Steinhardt lent the relic to the Met that year, but after learning that Lebanon was disputing its provenance, he asked the Beierwaltes to take it back and compensate him.
Seven years ago.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The Art Market’s Informal Economy

In an interesting text which paints some of the background to the 'ancient art' and antiquities trade, Prof. John Zarobell describes 'What Actually Happens in the Art Market’s Informal Economy' (Artsy editorial August 2nd 2017). The term is used to describe economic transactions that are unrecorded, literally off the books.
I use the term “informal economy” here to refer to any transaction that is unrecorded, untaxed, and unregulated but not explicitly illegal. This is also described as the “gray market” to distinguish these economic activities from the explicitly illegal “black market.” The number of synonyms alone testifies to the prevalence and diversity of this economic sphere, but the question that everyone wants to answer is: How big is it? [...]  estimates can mask the interpenetration of the formal and informal domains of the economy: it is impossible to entirely pull these two domains apart. But one can consider a number of characteristics of the informal economy when assessing the size and the nature of the global art market, which blends the black and gray markets with legitimate, if less regulated, art market. Given present offshore financial mechanisms employed by high-net-worth individuals who invest in art, it would be difficult for a seller of a work of art to determine whether the money transferred to cover the artwork was “clean,” because money launderers are known to employ the tactic of “layering” to hide the origins of assets and blend “dirty” money with legitimate investments. Artists, too, are the perfect example of an unregulated labor pool, performing work at home and thereby evading workplace regulations, consigning and sometimes selling it without a formal contract, and working on the margins of the formal economy.
The same would go for artefact hunters.
Spotted by Emiline Smith‏

A reminder to those studying unprovenanced antiquities:

   A reminder to those studying unprovenanced antiquities:
 You're (almost certainly) working on stolen property.

How Dodgy are those Artefacts 'Legally Bought' from Israeli Dealers?

More fallout from the Hobby Lobby scandal ('Arrest of Jerusalem antiquities dealers opens a smuggling Pandora’s Box' Times of Israel, August 1, 2017):
In a conversation with The Times of Israel, Eitan Klein, deputy director of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Looting, said the case is significant in that it highlights the fraudulent use of Israeli law in the dealing of artifacts looted across the Middle East. As Israel is the only country in the region that legally allows antiquities commerce, dealers of looted antiquities and smugglers from neighboring countries make use of the Jewish state as a clearance point for resale in order to give their wares a veneer of legitimacy. “In all other countries — Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq — it is illegal to deal antiquities. The problem is that the dealers that we gave permission to deal antiquities are using our law to deal in looted artifacts,” said Klein. The position of the IAA is that antiquities sales should be forbidden in Israel, said Klein, and it is in exploratory talks with the Justice Ministry to investigate legal options after twice failing in the Knesset to amend the existing law.
The main issue in the current case against the Israeli dealers arresed a few days ago, apparently in connection with the Hobby Lobby case is
unreported tax and forged documents on the sales, because over 90 percent of the sales were done abroad. The suspected purchase and sales of looted artifacts in Dubai that were then sent to America are not the purview of the IAA. However, sales that were sent through Israel directly to the US were allegedly made with forged documents, and those are being investigated by Israeli police. The IAA is currently investigating the dozens of unreported artifacts found in the dealers’ houses and shops.  According to Israeli law, all found artifacts must be reported and turned over to the IAA within 50 days. The punishment for looting is incarceration for between seven months and a year, said Klein. Sales of items considered as looted by the IAA carries a punishment of up to two years in prison. Klein noted that each year more than 40,000 antiquities artifacts are exported from Israel. The IAA estimates that some 99% of the artifacts sold today are purchased by dealers from looters.
How dodgy are artefacts 'legally bought' from Israeli dealers?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Collector's Sculpture Seized from New York's Museum of Art

Knocked off bull head on loan
to the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
photo CreditWilliam and Lynda Beierwaltes
Another ancient object has been seized by Manhattan prosecutors from the displays at the Metropolitan Museum of art (Tom Mashberg, 'Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors New York Times August 1st 2017). The broken off head of a bull about 30 cm high was on loan to the Museum from a private collection. Concerns were raised last year by the Museum's curatorial staff that the object might have been looted from a Lebanese storage area in the 1980s during Lebanon’s civil war, prompting the museum to alert Lebanese officials, who asked the American authorities to step in and retrieve it. Museum officials delivered it to the office of the Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance last month.
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return. The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael H. Steinhardt, in 2010. Mr. Steinhardt lent the relic to the Met that year, but after learning that Lebanon was disputing its provenance, he asked the Beierwaltes to take it back and compensate him.  The Beierwaltes are also suing the antiquities directorate in Lebanon as part of a federal lawsuit in which they argue that neither the Lebanese government nor Manhattan prosecutors have offered convincing proof that the item was stolen.
William G. Pearlstein, a lawyer for the Beierwaltes, said that his clients believe that the district attorney’s position is ill-founded, adding: 'The Beierwaltes are bona fide purchasers with clean hands. By contrast, for more than 50 years, Lebanon has failed take any action domestically or internationally to report any theft of the bull’s head'.
The item has a rich history. According to museum and Lebanese officials, it was first cataloged in 1967 by a Swiss archaeologist excavating the Temple of Eshmun in Sidon, Lebanon. It is believed to be of Greek origin, was warehoused in the city of Byblos, the site of a looting spree in the 1980s.

Saving the Heritage... without the Artefact Hunters

Rescue have published an eighth version of Fighting Back – our suggestions as to how to campaign to save our museums, archaeological services and the historic environment. These notes are intended to provide guidance for campaigners seeking to protect and preserve local and regional archaeological and heritage services and museums from cuts which will damage the service they deliver to the profession, to academia and to the public at large. They are also relevant to campaigns to protect and preserve specific buildings, sites and landscapes from destruction or destructive redevelopment. They are based on the experience of members of the committee of RESCUE – The British Archaeological Trust and on advice we have received from other campaigners.
Given all the guff from the Establishment about UK artefact hunters 'saving the past' due to their 'passionate interest in history', it is noteworthy that neither they nor their organizing bodies are anywhere mentioned in this document (neither do they have one of their own).

Irresponsible Artefact Hunting, How to Deal with it?

Daylight Knowledge Theft
An archaeologist colleague sent me this:
[...] on our way back we stopped near Castle Howard - surrounded by ridge and furrow in a little hamlet. I commented on the archaeology to the owner who said that he regularly gets metal-detectorists who are looking for the medieval manor - and that they were making some good finds. But nothing on PAS database. {...] can give you details if you are interested.
The details would however be of just one of thousands, possibly tens of thousands of sites which are being stripped of collectable finds up and down the country every year, with next to no reporting going on. That is the implication of the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter. The detectorists may be 'looking for the manor', but when they find it, chances are it will be well and truly done over to pocket or flog off all the metal artefacts and coins from it, rather than any serious research on the patterning of the surface evidence for its nature, layout and extent. Another element of the archaeological landscape will be trashed, some private pockets filled, as more people simply drive past.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Hunting for Artefacts and 'Fun'

Arsenal football club’s owner, Stan Kroenke, has launched a new UK TV Channel called My Outdoor TV (MOTV). Viewers of the channel can watch trophy hunting programmes featuring the killing of animals such as elephants and lions for ‘sport’ [...] “The channel claims to show ‘ethical, fair chase and legal’ hunting. Most people won’t agree that trophy hunting is in any way ethical, and studies have debunked claims that most of the blood money goes towards supporting conservation. I’m not sure in what way an idiot with a gun against an elephant is a fair chase.
Collection-driven exploitation of teh archaeological record is legal too in the UK. Whether or not it actually is a good way to treat the archaeological record is highly debatable. Not, though, that you'll see any real debate about it in British archaeological circles... and why not? Do they not really care all that much about the archaeological record unless as a source of goodies to look at?

Five israeli Dealers Allegedly Involved in Tax Dodging

From Daniel Estrin‏:
Yesterday police said they arrested 5 antiquities dealers for alleged tax offenses. Now an Israeli official connects some of the dots.  Israel Antiquities Authority's Eitan Klein tells NPR that the dealers allegedly didn't declare their income in Israel from [...] sales. Police say the dealers allegedly gave fake invoices for sales to an unidentified American who got tax breaks and paid dealers kickbacks. Unclear if this alleged scheme, fake invoices for tax breaks, is connected to the Hobby Lobby.
Unlikely, isn't it? I mean the good Christian men of Hobby Lobby would not be paying kickbacks for fake invoices for tax dodging, would they? Would they? Anyway, the offical story is that there were three Israeli dealers. Is it not the case that the buyer would be a candidate for a tax refund in the US if they donated the objects they bought to a museum? Which Museum got objects imported with false invoices, I wonder? Any ideas?
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