Friday, 23 June 2017

Investigating Metal Detecting: Big Funding, No Results Again?

Remember this (PACHI Thursday, 23 June 2016)?
Investigating Metal Detecting: Big Funding, No Results Again?Where is the final document of the Leverhulme Trust funded project 'ThePortable Antiquities Scheme Database as a tool for archaeological research' in which Roger Bland was principal investigator? It was due to finish last year and all we have from it so far is a rather slim and tentative "Guide to Researchers' which says mainly what we already knew.
Still no results published, still no answer to the question. Surely that slim booklet is not the product of a project funded on the scale this one was? Is it?

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Caring for the Archaeological Record?

"Provenance Creations"
Metal Detecting Finds...Transformed! My husband "Chicago Ron" Guinazzo leads metal detecting tours twice a year to England. We met in 2012, and I joined him on these trips. We dig all types of items; coins, tokens, buttons, watch winders, buckles, bells, clothing fasteners, etc. All of the artifacts we find are reported to the British Museum, and exported with proper documentation. I personally research, sort, clean, and polish the artifacts. In designing the jewelry piece, I try to maintain the integrity of the artifact. You are receiving [buying] a real piece of wearable history!
Yes, by stripping, drilling, mounting them on thongs, a tidy profit can be made in Chicago of bits ripped out of the archaeological record of another country. Please, give a link to the records of all of these items 'reported to the British Museum' - do the buyers of Ms Guinazzo's twee jewellery get a certificate giving the PAS numbers and link to that description of what it is in the PAS record? And a copy of the export licence?

So here we have it, detectorists claim indignantly "we ain't in it fer the munny", except when they are. Chicago Ron makes money from Britain's heritage by organizing metal detecting holidays for his paying American pals to go over to England to fill their pockets with artefacts ripped out of sites known-to-be-productive and take them out of the country, his wife takes the things these collectors reject and makes more cash by turning the 'non-collectable' artefacts into tacky trophy jewellery. It's a win-win situation for the artefact coveters, but what loses out is archaeological preservation and the British heritage.

When are these metal detecting holidays organized for legal-innit-looting parties from abroad going to be banned?

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Great Mosque of al-Nuri in western Mosul Destroyed

This aerial view taken on June 21, 2017 and
provided by Iraq's Joint Operation Command

 shows destruction inside Mosul's Nuri mosque
 compound CREDIT: AFP
The same area in August 2008 (Google  Earth)

The Islamic State has blown up The Great Mosque of al-Nuri with its distinctive leaning minaret in western Mosul, according to U.S. and Iraqi forces (Alex Lubben, 'ISIS blows up 845-year-old mosque, tries to blame U.S.',  Jun 21, 2017). The twelfth-century mosque, along with its minaret, was one of Iraq's most famous buildings. Haider al-Abadi, Iraq's prime minister, said the destruction of the sites was "an official declaration of defeat" by Isil in the eight-month-old battle for Mosul. Probably the aim was to deny the government the possibility of declaring victory there. The destruction of the mosque (apparently by explosives previously placed inside it) has also beebn taken by some as a form of confirmation that the Russian claim to have killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have basis in fact.
The leaning minaret  AFP
The mosque [...] carries symbolic weight in Iraq and the greater Middle East. The Great Mosque of al-Nuri also carries symbolic weight for the terror group: It’s where ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave his first speech as caliph in 2014, days after the terror group declared its caliphate in Iraq and Syria. ISIS has held the city as its de-facto capital in Iraq since then, using it as a central hub for commerce and illegal oil sales, and stealing stores of weapons and cash from the Iraqi forces who had abandoned the city. [...] But ISIS, over their newswire Amaq, contradicted reports from Iraqi forces, claiming instead that the U.S. was behind the mosque’s destruction. The U.S.-led coalition forcefully contested that claim, saying in a statement that the “responsibility for this devastation is laid firmly at the doorstep of ISIS.” The coalition added that it had confirmed through drone surveillance that the mosque was destroyed. An investigation is underway. Taking the mosque back from ISIS militants, who have waged a long and bloody campaign to hold the city since Iraqi forces began their offensive eight months ago, would have been a symbolic victory for U.S. and Iraqi coalition forces.
It is believed that ISIL is still holding up to 100,000 civilians in Mosul, using them as human shields during combat. The taking of the western part of Mosul, with its winding roads and small buildings, has proved more difficult than the eastern part which fell five months ago.
The Old City in West Mosul has been the site of the deadliest fighting in the course of the 8-month-long offensive. The Iraqi army believes there to be only 300 Iraqi fighters left in Mosul; there were 6,000 at the start of the offensive, according to Reuters.
BBC News Battle for Mosul: IS 'blows up' al-Nuri mosque 22nd June 2017. 

I am not fully convinced that the much-published footage of the controlled explosions that reportedly depict this tower being felled are authentic, at least one version in the web seems to have been manipulated. This film (disseminated by 'Palmyra Pioneer) shows the damage on the ground and you can see the building was blown flat by explosions from inside and there are no traces whatsoever of craters.  An air-conditioning fan is represented as a bomb fragment.

Warped Priorities

Ten countries, who account for 2.5% of world GDP, host 56% of the world's refugees. The world's 6 richest countries host The world's 6 richest countries host less than 9%

  <9 br="" orldrefugeeday=""> 

But guess where the bulk of the looted cultural property goes. People before trophy artefacts.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Florida Artefact Hunters Face Charges

James Call, 'Arrowhead hunters face felony charges' Tallahassee Democrat June 13, 2017
Florida Wildlife officers arrested two artifact hunters they say were mining Taylor County creeks and river channels for ancient arrow and spear points. Deanna Danielle Ray and James Garrett Taylor faced 3rd-degree felony charges for the unlawful removal of archeological specimens located on [state owned] lands. A Florida Wildlife Commission spokesman said officers were alerted to a suspicious vehicle in the Econfina Wildlife Management Area during the last week of May. Ray and Taylor, according to an FWC report, fled when a trio of officers approached them in a wooded area [...] Further investigation found artifact digging tools, a dig site and female shoes.
The use of a dog was necessary to capture one of the looters.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Well, What DO the PAS think?

Heritage Action have another cogent observation about how Britain treats the nation's archaeological heruitage (Metal detecting: six words that still can’t be said', 18the June 2017)
At a time when detectorists persuade farmers to deep plough to maximise their loot, when a huge registered business called Lets Go Digging is paying up to £1,000 to get access to farms and at a time when Dr Sam Hardy’s work is pointing to between 90 and 98 percent of recordable finds not being reported, we’d like to make the point we made a few years ago: “Ever heard PAS or the Government say “not reporting detecting finds is immoral?” How come? Well, Britain is special. It’s the country where theft of society’s knowledge of it’s past isn’t morally indefensible [...] [This] dates from when it became evident that most detectorists take “voluntary” to mean “not necessary”. At that point, for the Scheme to assert reporting was necessary on moral grounds would be to point out a too-painful truth to their partners and indeed to their funders. Thus, “moral obligation” has been dropped.
HA suggest that it would be an interesting litmus test of attitudes if one was to write to PAS, or one of the FLOs or the Government and ask them straight out “do you think not reporting detecting finds is immoral?” I thought I'd do just that: (the topic name comes from an earlier -bulk post requesting information):
Sunday, June 18, 2017 8:48 AM
To: 'Michael Lewis'; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; 'Mary Chester-Kadwell'; 'Helen Geake'; 'Lauren Speed'; 'Robert Webley'

Subject: Re: Maintaining high levels of reporting by artefact hunters: from Paul Barford

A question for the PAS from myself and Heritage Action:

do you think not reporting detecting finds is immoral?

Thank you
Paul Barford


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Metal Detectorist Lost

Someone who I assume to be an artefact hunter asks me to do his footwork for him:
Could you signpost or provide a link to the laws/ regulations relating to metal detecting in France. Despite Google I can only seem to find interpretations which don't refer or link to the source of the knowledge.
He and any other people intending to go artefact-hoiking abroad (and those buying artefacts coming from foreign countries) would do well to have a look at the UNESCO Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws'.
2756 laws of 188 Member States are published on the Database website. There have been 10,812 researches and 1,196.049 impressions in the last three months.
Uh-oh, though ten thousand other folk have managed it recently, he does not seem to be able to suss out how the search engine works...  metal detectorists, huh?

What you need, Mark is the Code du patrimoine Version consolidée au 12 mai 2017; probably what you are looking for is in Livre V Archéologie/ Titre III: Fouilles Archéologiques programmées et Decouvertes Fortuites (for example (Section 1 : Autorisation de fouilles par l'Etat. (Articles L531-1 à L531-8), Section 3 : Découvertes fortuites. (Articles L531-14 à L531-19)) but probably most of all Titre IV : Dispositions Diverses, in which if you look, you'll find: Chapitre 2 : Utilisation de détecteurs de métaux. Is that it? Can you manage by yourself now?

Friday, 16 June 2017

Thicko Hoikers and their 'Partnership' with the FLOs

Read this thread, note the thicko who cannot read even plain English:
    Nickinstick: [,...] (Camping NOT included) .Camping isn't available onsite but Thorney Lakes Campsite is right next door, (please book separately) [...]  bob79  [...] Hi Nickinstick, is the cost of camping included in the price[?]  Bob  [...]   Hello Bob No it isn't I'm afraid, there isn't room on the site. But Thorney Lakes Campsite is right next door. Thanks Nick [...] bob79: £15 a night, sorry mate too expensive. 
Obviously for some of these folk, pocketing pieces of the past is something that should come cheap.

Now ask yourself if the FLO will be present on the Muchelney Weekend Rally 30th Sep - 1st Oct and if so what he or she will say about the search methodology... and will any thicko understand anyway?

Irresponsible UK Collectors "Refreshing" the Pillage Rate by Inciting Deep Ploufghing

"The farmer has been pursuaded (sic)
to deep plough and sub soil all worked land so
the already productive fields will surely yield more!"  (the the deliberate destruction of a productive
UK archaeological site
for personal
 entertainment and profit)

Heritage Action draw attention this week to the problem of  collectors of archaeological artefacts emptying a 'productive' site of diagnostic and collectable metal artefacts and instead of walking away and fully and informatively recording and disseminating the archaeological evidence they all claim they have 'saved' from obliteration n the active ploughsoil, merely ask the farmer to slice into the archaeological material still in situ beneath the normal reach of the plough. They do this so they can get their grubby scabby hands on more and more of the archaeological collectables they crave and covet. This is by no mens any kind of 'saving' evidence, still less preservation, it is utterly destructive - especially when accompanied by the crude kind of recording of associations that we see from the vast majority of these collectors (the ones that do record and report anything at all which is a minority).

This is appalling and has been going on for many years while the PAS watch on apparently with their hands in their pockets (no chance then, of this being part of the 'best practice' PAS shrinking violets are being paid to effectively instill. Pathetic showing).  I was searching for the source of the quote, but... well quelle surprise, following the link brings us to:  
The requested topic does not exist.
clear evidence that somebody in the metal detecting world knows full well that what was being proposed is completely and utterly wrong and calls into question what these hoikers give as their justification for pocketing the lot. 

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  

Complete Misunderstanding from Dealers' Representative

The US-based representative of international dealers' associations quite clearly does not understand the intent of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the legislation implementing it in the US (Peter Tompa: 'Problematic MOU Request', CPO Friday, June 16, 2017). His reaction to the fact that a war-torn country has asked the US for help  to prevent the passage of smuggled items of cultural roperty onto the open and highly absorbent US market :
It remains to be seen how a country with two competing governments, that is over-run by militias and which remains in danger from ISIS can meet its obligations under UNESCO and the CPIA to protect and preserve is own cultural property let alone that which may be repatriated from the US under the terms of any agreement.  
 What a tosser. This request is precisely in order to gain help in protecting its endangered cultural property from the US. The USA is one of the few countries which signs the 1970 Convention and then requires other states party to individually ask before it will lift a finger to actually put into action what signing the Convention actually would oblige a less-hypocritical nation to do automatically - that's the point of having the blooming thiung in the first place. Libya is in no way governed by the USA, and what the CCPIA 'obliges' it to do is neither here notr there. Just who doe these Trumpists in Washington think they are? The very idea!

Once again we see the low-brow superficiality in teh antiquitiest' lobby who see everything merely in terms of 'repatriation'. What we are talking about Mr Tompa is preventing smuiggling, by dodgy exporters selling smuggled items to equally dodgy US dealers. Are you and the dealers' associations you represent (at last count IAPN, PNG and ACCG) supporting the dodgies? Are you supporting the dodgies?
 It remains to be seen ..
what? By whom? They have asked for help because they need help.
 that help should be focused on protecting its world class archaeological sites from the depredations of ISIS and other radical Islamic groups. Turning US Customs loose to seize and forfeit "undocumented" "Libyan" artifacts will only harm legitimate trade and the appreciation for Libya's ancient cultures.  It certainly won't help protect Libyan archaeological sites and museums from their greatest threat, which is hammer and explosive wielding religious fanatics.
I'd say all and any help should be focussed on all the issues, and not merely the ones that do not hurt US "trade" in artefacts from the region. There is no reason for scare quotes when referring to documentation. The CCPIA lays out quite clearly what documents are required for an object to leave Libya and enter the legitimate US market (that is the bit that is legitimate and acknowledges art. 3 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and uses documentation to verify legitimacy). But the scare quotes by the representative of the IAPN, PNG and ACCG again suggest support of the dodgies .  Let\s leave US 'appreciation of Libya's ancient culture' (sic) to those who handle objects with documenatble legitimacy. The cowboys and pirates have no claims to legitimacy.

Was not the US fighting a war on the hammer and explosive wielding religious fanatics? How's it going? Stopped any yet - or is this post by one of the supporters of those efforts an admission that throughh total incapacity of the present administration, the problem is still spreading? And by what US law, in fact are ' hammer and explosive wielding religious fanatics' in foreu=ign (sovereign) countries stopped by US agency? I would like to know.

In the meanwhile, regardless of the protests, moans and false arguments/misdirections of the dealers' associations, let us do all we can to stop artefacts looted, stolen or otherwise illicitly obtained by dodgy dealers and middlemen in the MENA region from being exchanged for US dollars paid out by dodgy dealers and middlemen in the USA. That would be a start. 

I would say it is an indicator of legitimacy of dealers whether they wholeheartedly support (and include in their own business practice) such measures, or whether they fight them.

And by the way ... coins ARE both archaeological artefacts as well as significant cultural property - that's before Tompa starts his traditional weasel-worded campaings of trying to rile compliant coineys to comment-bomb the US Department of State in the public consultation phase of any CCPIA deliberations. Watch this space for some coiney-comedy.

Where Did You Say Those Antiquities Came From?

Libya now asks for US market to be regulated

Libya, another ancient coin-producing country, requests US assistance under Art. 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention. (Notice of Receipt of Request From Libya Under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property).
Libya's request seeks U.S. import restrictions on archaeological and/or ethnological materials representing Libya's cultural patrimony from the prehistoric through Ottoman Era. 
What twisted lies will the dealers lobbyists be telling US collectors this time to get them all riled up and opposing the move?  Let us see.

The names say it all

Here are some metal detectorists who've signed up to irresponsibly dig up pasture:
Peck106, Bicks, ahc56, chriscuddon, Paulhills, Murf, Thills, Pete2317, KevDavis, bodger, Saffron, Hhills, Carlallison20, Kphillips, Welly8812, marks, rickyfletcher, granv, Springj86, Frey@1stheB3st, TigerSteve, Noobie, Bargeman, TEZZA, Howie26, AnnTurrell, JamesG, Aggyh16, phil2401, LordDarren, badger1970, parki17, parki, Dobbi, Karlwall, Justicou.

Six look like real names, the rest are the transparency-dodging made up alternative identities under which UK artefact hunters hide what they are doing.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Naked Truth

The Naked Truth (St Louis)
 has a nice pair of torches
I am blocked from commenting on the misleadingly-named Cultual Property Observer blog, run by a US-based lobbyist for the international dug-up antiquities trade. So under one post about the five-year extension of US-Peru bilateral cultural property agreement under the CCPIA we read there are 'no comments', this is the seventh I have sent to the discussion and which has been rejected/ignored:
  US-Peru encourages information sharing to identify sources of jeopardy to Peru's Cultural Heritage. Have you or your collector and dealer friends shared any information which would help identify these threats, Mr Tompa? Or are you just concerned to attempt to redirect attention to other issues because you want to have any restrictions removed from free-for-all commerce which would include the fruits of plunder and smuggling?
Your refusal to engage in any discussion of this and any other related matters here is clearly indicative to everybody of your (plural) TRUE aims. Shame on the lot of you - you claim altruism, but the rest of us can see that the sole motor here is greed. 
There will be no answer because deep in his black soul, the lobbyist knows this is the naked truth.

"Jammy Geoff" in Not-Very-Christian Dispute Over Bronze Age Gold Find

Matthew 13:44 for all those committed
Christian metal detectorists out there
with their misplaced feelings of entitlement
(Rembrandt understood this back in 1630)
There is a  dispute between a metal detectorist and a group of Hampshire land owners after a Bronze Age gold bracelet was found in Meon valley ('Row over bronze age bracelet found in Meon Valley' Hampshire Chronicle June 14th 2017)
Metal detectorist Geoffrey Slingsby, 76, from Waltham Chase, has unearthed so many items over the years he is known as 'Jammy Geoff' to British Museum staff.
Jammy Geoff, who is on such familiar terms with the staff of the BM is a 'committed Christian' and 
'says that he has given all money made from his finds, amounting to several thousand, to his church the West End Community Church which has just spent four million pounds on a new building. Over the years he has found a gold medieval wedding ring, a Saxon belt strap end, an Elizabethan gold ring as well as a broken Bronze Age torc'.
And no doubt several hundred other pocketed non-Treasure finds apart from those three Treasure items. I suspect this is the church. If so, these Baptists are not averse to taking money from the collection-driven exploitation of archaeological sites (reminder: Matthew 13:44). Shame on you.
Winchester Coroners Court heard that a gold Bronze Age armlet or bracelet was found on April 23 2016 at a site in Soberton in the Meon Valley [5.37 km from his home, PMB]. The problem arose when the landowners of his latest find were not all agreed as to whether Mr Slingsby had permission to detect on their land or not and whether he has a right to the money given as compensation for the bracelet being declared treasure. [...] The detectorist Mr Slingsby asked for permission to detect the land from the tenant farmers however he was not aware at the time that they were just tenants [...] The land in fact belongs to three people jointly, Ann Jordan from Guildford, her niece Deborah Stefek from New Zealand and her nephew Alan Richards from Portchester. [...] The senior coroner Grahame Short ruled that the armlet should be declared treasure but he would not apportion ownership, saying that was for the parties involved to settle.[...]   Mr Slingsby [...]  said: “I had full permission from the tenant farmer. It should be shared 50/50 between the landowner and the finder. I won’t be detecting on that land again.” 
Yeah, since he clearly does not know the law, probably not. I think actually the finder, who reportedly did NOT ascertain who was the legal owner, and would therefore have been acting illegally should forgo any of the discretionary reward due to the apparent lack of legal basis for him carrying out a search on that land for collectable artefacts to take away. Furthermore, if that is the case, he should obviously surrender any other artefacts he removed from that property to the legal owners.

This is quite interesting, because I was told by the Kent Coroner (when I asked in connection with the 2014 Holborough finds and the evidence that needed to be examined about whether the artefact hunter who dug up this 'Treasure' actually did have permission to be on that site that day), that the establishment of these circumstances of the discovery was not the task of the Coroner's inquest. As readers will know, there has been absolutely no media report of any Holborough Treasure inquest - which in the circumstances I think is a very significant comment on the role of the PAS.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

"What we know and cared about is only that it's a Statue of Zeus Enthroned'...: Just Say No

The Getty has landed itself in another dodgy portable antiquities mess and are trying to extricate themselves by sending an object back to the presumed source country. This 'Statue of Zeus Enthroned' was exhibited by them in Malibu and Cleveland in the trophy-art show 'A Passion for Antiquities: Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman' (October 13, 1994 to April 23, 1995) and its skimpy collecting history is given as:
[before 1987] Robin Symes (London, England), sold to Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, 1987. 1987 - 1992 Barbara Fleischman and Lawrence Fleischman, American, 1925 - 1997 (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1992
. Trying to put on a brave face after wiping the egg off, they announce:
“The decision to return this object continues our practice of working [...] to resolve issues of provenance and ownership of works in our collection in a way that responds to new information as it emerges [...]”
The key point though is that in any respectful and respectable (respect-worthy) acquisitions policy of any portable antiquity, collecting and verifying the full information of how a particular object the museum is interested in acquiring got onto the international market and left the source country should be a sine qua non of any further considerstions. Obviously, if the Fleischmans had not themselves obtained such documentation, the Getty and its Trustees should simply have walked away from the proposed 'deal' wit them.

The dealers' defiant "they-can't-touch-you-for-it-legitimacy" came undone in this case.

This object was 'grounded' by the Italian authorities presenting a joining fragment found more recerntly near naples. How can collectors claim to be 'preserving art' if the process which leads to it coming on the market in fact divorces fragments of the whole one from the other due to lack of proper excavation?

Let's Go Digging Up 100 Acres of Freshly Cut Pasture

Chris 'Gloucester dig, Slimbridge 16th July 100 acres of freshly cut pasture' Let's Go Digging [up Archaeology for Personal Entertainment and Profit],  June 14, 2017.
The postcode for this dig takes us to the heart of Slimbridge near to the village church of St John the Evangelist which dates from the early 13th century and is a grade I listed building. There are 6 Roman roads identified in this area and various Roman villas. The following write up, with special thanks to Slimbridge Dowsing Group says it all really! We have the area, hopefully we will have the finds!
The fact that the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting says keep off pasture dig seems not to have affected these people's decision about where to take their members, who'll presumably not be a bit interested in what the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting says either. Water off a duck's back for this crowd obviously. Their idea of good practice is something else. This instruction from the organizers says it all:

Please note: We expect all items considered treasure for the finder to provide identification and a contact number. Whilst it is not our responsibility to report items of treasure found on our digs, we will advise the finder to do so and expect confirmation it has been done.
 Not a word though about reporting with the PAS. That's because The Treasure Reward is held out to landowners as the reason why they should allow these grabby people onto their land in the first place. This is all being done for profit, profit, personal profit - at the cost of the heritage, at the cost of the public purse from which the Treasure ransom comes, and the organizers pocket large sums week after week, a nice little earner. And of course everyone asserts that nobody is in metal detecting for the money - except those that are. Targeting known sites of Roman villas and roadside settlements and around Grade I medieval sites is a sure way to allow each participant to fill their pockets with finds worth hundreds in aggregate on the portable antiquities market. This is simply disgusting, and the British archaeological establishment stands around with its hands in its pockets watching - the PAS in the front row.

Leyline Lunacy: What UK Detectorists Say About the Past

Dowsers talking to their dowsing rods
An artefact hunter 'Chris' ('Gloucester dig, Slimbridge 16th July 100 acres of freshly cut pastureLet's Go Digging [up Archaeology for Personal Entertainment and Profit],  June 14, 2017) as a result of his collecting portable antiquities reckons this is how the past looked:
“One of the main features of Roman roads is that they are usually remarkably straight. There is a theory that this may be because the Romans used dowsing to plot the route in the first place. If you stand in Bath and ask your dowsing rods the whereabouts of Salisbury, you will get a one-direction straight answer. 
Another guy ('what have the Romans ever done for us?') reckons it was the Druids wot done it.

There are a whole load of straight highways in Poland built through the dense forest from one city to another between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Sadly nobody here has found any documentary evidence that the Tsarist engineers who were responsible for the ones I tend to travel most often 'asked dowsing rods' to get from Warsaw to Białystok.

As a matter of interest, can anybody tell us the number of Treasures reported under the Treasure act were found by dowsing rather than metal detector? That statistic should give a pretty good indication of the degree to which 'dowsing works'. How many? The database seems not to want to say - maybe we need to search it with dowsing rods.

Mosul Museum Changes hands Again

The situation in central Mosul is still fluid. @ArchLayla reports that ISIL has reoccupied the Mosul Museum.

Yahoo Portable Antiquities Collecting Forum

I am told that an attempt at rabble-rousing by one of the dealers involves a comment concerning the demise of Yahoo which hosts the ancient artifacts forum:
This change will very likely be well received in Warsaw, where members of this group were recently described as "antiquities pirates."
Indeed, and also for the most part too illiterate to know the significance of when I refer to them as 'Yahoos'. It was another Swift who coined the term  in 1726 in his novel Gulliver's Travels (1726) 
Swift describes them as being filthy and with unpleasant habits, resembling human beings [...]. The Yahoos are primitive creatures obsessed with "pretty stones" they find by digging in mud, thus representing the distasteful materialism and ignorant elitism Swift encountered in Britain. Hence the term "yahoo" has come to mean "a crude, brutish or obscenely coarse person".
Perhaps dealers and collectors prefer that to the term 'pirates'?

Half-brains digging up Pasture

Three giggling people playing teenage retards attempting to be entertaining while they detect on pasture. Typical of the genre. Pathetic.

"Metal Detecting Somerset With Manic Dev and RoyG" posted on You Tube by "The Ferret" 20 Feb 2017 

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".   

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Sotheby's and the Intelligent Soil Acids: What's the Real Grounding?

Here's an interesting thingy from the recent Sotheby's ancient marbles auction (lot 51):

So is this rather odd visage  properly grounded? Well, what they say is:
Rome art market, 1960 or earlier
Adolph Loewi, Inc., Los Angeles, acquired in Rome prior to 1961
acquired from the above by the [Denver Art] Museum in 1965 (inv. no. 1965.22)
It'd be interesting to know why they thought this arresting image should not be in their Roman art collection and why a Los Angeles dealer had problems shifting it. An art historian may not spot it, but the archaeologist in me is really (and I mean really and utterly) intrigued by the behaviour of those soil acids which attacked the marble of the ear, hair and beard, but respected (almost deliberately) the face and breast. This seems not to be a restorer's recarving, as it seems to me you can perhaps see this in the right eye and lips.

Statement of laziness: I cannot recall for the moment my Sotheby's login, so have not checked what the 'condition report' says about the chemical composition of that encrustation or its disposition (because for some reason that escapes me, you need to log in to see that highly sensitive part of the object's description). From past experience the answer would probably be 'not a lot' as the so-called condition reports rarely actually describe the condition in any significant detail that anyone who has prepared one would recognize.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Gotcha Again Gulliblies: The Uncomfortable Truth

'The involved trafficker who supplied 

Becchina with this antiquity,was known to 
have been involved in the acquisition of numerous
 illicit antiquities from Greece in the past'.

Another ancient geegaw should be being quietly withdrawn from sale in a gullible auction house about now as potentially tainted (Greek hunter of stolen antiquities identified a Greek marble funerary stele).
 The stele is lot 8, at the 12/6/2017 Sotheby’s antiquities auction in London. Tsirogiannis identified it in the confiscated Becchina archive, and, judging from the documentation, the stele appears to have been in Becchina’s hands from 1977 until 1990, when it appears to have been sold to George Ortiz. Note that both Becchina and Ortiz are not mentioned in the ‘Provenance’ section given by Sotheby’s. Therefore, at least the two first parts of the ‘provenance’ section must be false, one way or another
and the auction house was again too gullible to check out the dealer's say-so. And again, their reputation takes another blow.  How many of the other items 'checked' with the same 'thoroughness' but handled by dealers who have not yet let their business records get into the hands of the investigating authorities come with similar dodgy collecting histories? Given the state of this market, will the truth ever be known? By refusing to verify and document collecting histories, this market is still generating thousands of potentially tainted artefacts for future generations to cope with.

John Hewett

The reported collecting history of the stele in the Sotheby's sale (lot 8, at the 12/6/2017 Sotheby’s antiquities auction in London.) is odd as David Gill notes: 'the fragment appears to have been provided with a falsified collecting history (that can be traced back to the 2008 sale at Sotheby's':
John Hewett, Bog Farm, Kent, 1960s New York art market, acquired from the above on November 3rd, 1980 American private collection American family trust (Sotheby’s New York, December 10th, 2008, no. 28, illus.) acquired by the present owner at the above sale
There is a 'Bog Farm' in Smeeth, Ashford TN25 6QX. Who was this John Hewett?  Presumably this guy -  . He had a range of items, including stone things, like this broken-off corbel ('acquired in London' - ummmm) and this knocked-off head of Apollo sold at Christies in 2015 , also  this bronze and some other stuff; (here too). Here is one handled by Hewett, now in the getty, with a much better collecting history - but in the light of the Sothheby's mixup, we might be justified in asking whether it is real. He handled paintngs too.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Ancient artifacts from Mosul Museum found in ISIS home

The Iraqi Ministry of Interior on Tuesday announced the recovery of  artefacts belonging to the Mosul Museum in Mosul city (G.H. Renaud, 'Ancient artifacts from Mosul Museum found in IS home'', Kurdystan net, 6 June 2017). They were found inside the house of Islamic State (IS) militants on the eastern side of the city.  While militants filmed themselves smashing up items in the museum, when the latter was liberated, it was found that many objects had been taken away
 In later reports, it was discovered some antiquities were sold and trafficked by the militants. Iraqi forces recaptured the museum from the extremists on the western side of Mosul in March, but the museum and its content suffered significant damage. IS militants destroyed items left in the museum and part of the collection is still missing, assumed to be stolen or smuggled out of Iraq. The extremist group took over the museum in 2014 when it first emerged in Iraq.

'Metal Detecting', a Hobby for Grabby Oiks

Artefact hunting
There is a rather pathetic 'comedy' making a social coomment by parodying irresponsible detectorists, those who search the archaeological record to find historical artefacts in order to appropriate for themselves and do what they want with them in private (including sdestroy them and hide - thus steal - the knowledge) and expects everyone to bow and pander to them. What a contemptuous breed of losers.

Love the mac. His mum bought it for him.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

More Barrel Fish-shooting in UK

"A keen eyed treasure hunter has unearthed a 13th Century crucifix that will now undergo valuation by experts, before interested museums can bid on the item" (Bucks Herald). It's got nothing to do with eyes, reward-hungry hunters are equipped with electronic tools for finding metal items to sell back to society or they'll grab the lot. Museums do not 'bid', Society foots the ransom bill, which is set at a fixed price by the valuation committee.

Vignette: Get a metal detecvtor, can't miss.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Metal detecting damages 3,000-year-old wooden road

Damaging the archaeological record
Illegal metal detecting has caused irreparable damage to a prehistoric road in central Ireland with the country\s leading heritage charity calling on the Government to intervene to save the road (Ryan Nugent, ' Illegal metal detectors damage 3,000-year-old wooden road ,Irish Independent 2 June 2017).

An Taisce: The National Trust for Ireland [...]  has criticised the Minister for "standing idly by" and wants a licensed metal detector survey carried out along the route. Dr Mark Clinton of An Taisce said that the area is of international importance and [...]  "These pits would have been dug by illegal metal-detector operators - 45 'hits' could have equated with 45 ancient objects of antiquity," Dr Clinton said. "How much longer is the Minister going to stand idly by while this monument of International importance is destroyed?"

Hopis Hoping to Recover Katsina Friends

Yes we can
John Christian Hopkins, 'Hopis Hoping to Recover Katsina Friends' Lake Powell Newa, June 01 2017
The Hopi Tribe is not abandoning its efforts to reclaim artifacts that the tribe insists have been stolen. The tribe is vigorously asserting its claims in the international arena – particularly in Paris, where objects considered sacred by the tribe have been auctioned off to collectors in the past. Of special concern to the Hopi Tribe are the katsina friends – painted, wooden objects symbolic of tribal deities. “We need to bring all our katsina friends home to their rightful place on the Hopi lands,” Hopi Chairman Herman Honanie said. According to Hopi tradition the katsina friends are not supposed to leave the Hopis’ ancestral lands. But the EVE auction house is planning to hold a sixth sale of tribal objects. The French auction house has more than 200 cultural items taken from Arizona, New Mexico and other states. The Hopi Tribe has been fighting to recover the sacred items since 2013.
French courts have refused to block the sales. Maybe if the US actually implemented the 1970 UNESCO Convention, instead of selectively doing so, they'd actually have a legal leg to stand on. Otherwise this is just so much whingeing, moaning and hand-wringing. It is apparently not entirely clear how these objects came top the market. The Paris auction house has insisted that all of the items sold were obtained legally.

UK Artefact Hunting: "Not in it Fer the munny' ("The everyday people who found their fortune in a field")

David Booth at 2009 Treasure report launch

On the watch of the PAS the Sunday Mirror is promoting metal detecting as a get rich quick hobby (Charlotte Ward, 'The everyday people who found their fortune in a field - from 18 carat gold crosses to Viking artifacts worth millions' Sunday Mirror, 3rd June 2017).
When Derek McLennan’s metal detector began bleeping in the middle of a field, little did he know it would set him up for life. His find – including silver bracelets, brooches, a gold ring, a Christian cross and a bird-shaped pin – was quickly revealed to be the richest collection of rare Viking artefacts ever found in the UK. Now, three years after uncovering the 10th century hoard in Dumfries and Galloway, 47-year-old Derek is set to receive a cool £1.98 million. [...] As he gets ready to enjoy his windfall, we investigate the other treasure-seeking detectorists who landed themselves a fortune with one small bleep… 
And there is not a single comment underneath by:
- a British archaeologist pointing out what the Treasure Act is for,
- from a single PAS staff member pointing out to the Mirror-reading public what the Treasure Act is for,
- a single 'responsible metal detectorist' objecting to the tone and repeating the mantra 'we ain't in it fer the munny'.
The archaeology luvverly treasure:

Roman coins and jewellery in Hoxne, Suffolk - worth £1.75 million  Eric Lawes

Harrogate  Viking treasure in Harrogate - worth £1,000,000 Father and son David and Andrew Whelan

Chalice in County Tipperary - worth £50,000 Michael Webb and his son uncovered this gold chalice in 1980 while searching the site of a Christian abbey in County Tipperary - hid it for 3 weeks.

Torcs in a field near Stirling - worth £462,000 David Booth  on his very first metal detecting outing 

Pure gold cross in a field in Nottinghamshire - worth £25,000 - anonymous amateur detectorist

Iron Age jewellery in Staffordshire Moorlands -Joe Kania and Mark Hambleton - the artefacts are set for valuation.
('Their sale to a museum could soon leave Joe, 60, and Mark, 59 – and the owner of the land – rolling in it' that means all of us pay out to get the common heritage from these two artefact hunters with a treasure hunting tool).

52,000 3rd century coins in Frome - worth £320,000 "Dave Crisp was rolling in it"

Bronze Age cup in Kent - worth £520,000 Cliff Bradshaw

Friday, 2 June 2017

For All Those Metal Detector Users....

... not showing on the Heritage Action Artefact Eroson Counter because they never find anything old and PAS-reportable:

Ringpull typology

Collectors Abusing the Archaeological Heritage

Nigel Jones has started up a company (The Metal Detectorist) which gets access to land to search for artefacts and then swells those rights to third parties.
Are you a landowner with around 30 - 40 Acres of Land? Land that we could hold a metal detecting event on? Do you own farm land? If you do and you give us permission to metal detect on that land we could provide you with a secondary income.
It all sounds a bit Nazi:
We do not allow any member on any land who has not submitted, fully confirmed and had their personal information checked. We ask for their name, address, postcode, metal detecting insurance number, telephone number and we ask, for their links to their social media accounts so we have a visual reference each and every member.
They oversee the new members on 'a supervised dig' and they have to  'demonstrate how they complete an artefact recovery from the ground using a metal detector, pin pointer and small spade to locate and remove a find, and how they replace the ground after they have removed that artefact [...] That task is done on pasture so we can see how neat they can replace their clod of earth.
Apart from hole-filling courses the firm also has a whole load of rules and regulations. Also: 
Every member is made aware of the treasure act and how important it is, that they follow the governments strict rules about what to do in the event of finding something of considerable value. During the past couple of years we have had a number of significant finds where landowners have all recieved (sic) there (sic) 50 percent share of finds over £300.00 (sic)
No mention of how that value is calculated and by whom. What about a group of finds made by one guy on one day the commercial worth of which (as given for example on the finds valuation pages of 'The Searcher') comes to £301,50? When every member can literally fill his pockets with found artefacts to a total value, perhaps, of hundreds of pounds, why is it only in the case of single finds that the collector has to pay for them?

As for other aspects of this distorted view of 'best practice', there will be minimal reporting if the landowner so wishes:
 If any reports are made to a finds liason officer no geographic details are released without your express permission. Metal detectorist's who make these discoveries will be introduced to you by Nigel Jones where you can both arrange how you present it to a finds liaison officer and what information is released during that process. 
 The company holds out the promise of 'four figure sums of money for each day they hold a commercial artefact hunting event on the landowner's property. Also:
If you receive stewardship grants and we find a significant find, those grants are increased, dependent on the type of find we recover and the size of the land we are using. 
So the farmer is counting on the conservation grant being increased after a landowner has compromised the protection given to the historical environment of a certain site by it being included in a conservation zone? Bonkers, truly bonkers. Fortunately much of this has historically been EU money and thus after Brexit these abuses will stop.

A Different Interest in the Past: Artefact Hunting

On a recent trip to Cambridge, England I filled my car boot up with books and one of the ones I bought back was the third edition of Clive Gamble's 'Archaeology the Basics' which in general I liked. Apart, that is, from pages  48-9, where the index told me I'd find the bit on 'metal detecting'. This is part of chapter two (pp 25-56), 'how many archaeologies are there?' This is a totally valid question and compactly, informatively and competently answered. Well, almost. What on earth is the problem with British archaeologists that they really cannot get their heads round a simple issue like artefact hunting?

Part of the problem is how we define archaeology. Gamble on page 2 gives his own one ("archaeology is the study of the past through materials and material remains. It is about objects, landscapes and what we make of them"). Well, obviously (given the question posed by Chapter two), no one definition can cover everything, so I'm not going to quibble (wot about standing buildings though?)  suffice to say in my own definition, I'd have somewhere 'by archaeological methods'. That begs the question just what that means of course, but what is clear is that (for example) the 'looks like, so must be' method of Chariots of the Gods/Von Daniken (missing from the index) manner of inference is not an archaeological method that I would find acceptable. In the same way, it is my opinion (and one that I am prepared to argue on the basis of familiarity with what collectors do) that antiquitism (artefact fondling/collecting) is not archaeology.

So anyway, Gamble disagrees it seems. Here's what he wrote on page 48:
and here's the end on page 49:

I would question to what extent collection driven exploitation of the archaeological record can be considered 'community archaeology'. Is it when it takes place in Isin in Iraq as well as Islip? I really do not see why there is tyhis disconnect between what is happening in other countries (which we call 'looting') and the same stripping out of collectable items when it happens in England. Is it OK because the laws in England are crap? Collecting of coins and brooches stripped out of a site is no more archaeology than collecting costume barbie dolls is ethnography./Please anyone who disagrees, show me where I am wrong.

Secondly the evidence for the relationship between artefact hunters/collectors and archaeologists still 'growing'  is simply not there. In fact, by the admission of the PAS itself (now) there is still minimal recording of non-Treasure artefacts. The majority are pocketed and sold off on eBay with no record at all being made. I do not see this as any 'growing relationship', much less any kind of 'partnership'.  I think we are all being taken for a ride.

 Thirdly, it is just false to say that the reason for the looting problem anywhere is 'the lack of a modern Treasure law'. I'd like to see Professor Gamble argue that creating 'modern Treasure laws' in Egypt, Guatemala, Bulgaria, Crimea, Italy, Greece, Syria, Iraq or any other country where collection-driven exploitation is destroying sites like Archar, Apamea and Dura Europos. Sorry, but that is just nuts. What we need (and right now) are modern laws regulating the flow of artefacts onto and through the antiquities market, not laws that liberalise looting - making the problem worse. Also the British Treasure Act is (I think we can all agree) absolutely useless as a means of regulating the exploitation of the archaeological record for collectables and I really do not see the archaeologist's motivation for pretending it is otherwise.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme was not set up to 'provide archaeological support for [artefact collecting]'. That is what it does of course, and again, I fail to see whatyany archaeologist should be complacent about the distortion of the original mission, which was to instil 'best practice' - something it has consistently failed to for for twenty years. The PAS was set up to support archaeology, but has instead joined the Dark Side by declaring a 'partnership' with collectors (and no, professor Gamble if you looked at a few metal detecting forums, you'd see that it is far from the truth that 'the two sides can work together' - and what kind of 'work' is building up a personal artefact collection?).

Fifthly, and this one really takes the biscuit. The professor of archaeology in a top British university says that through working with the PAS and its Finds Liaison Officers, 'detectorists who reported (sic) their finds were (sic) rewarded for their discoveries at full market value'. Eh?  That a US law professor or a simple-minded US lobbyist or dealer can confuse the PAS with the Treasure Act is bad enough, but that an archaeology professor gets it so wrong... unbelievable. And this, folks, is the book's third edition, it was first published in 2001 with exactly the same text.  As a point of fact, Treasure rewards (ransoms) are not paid for discovering the find, they are paid for handing them over, They are a purchase - otherwise the find returns to the finder and landowner to sell off on the market (or whatever).  The British public is forced by this rubbish law to buy back its own common heritage.

Sixthly, Gustav Kossinna assiduously produced distribution maps. Most other archaeologies have gone on beyond those simplistic tools. Not so the object-centred PAS-retro-archeologie. That is because PAS does not produce real archaeological data, and mapping findspots of specific types of emblemic artefacts is about the limit of what one can in fact do with these 'data'.

Treasure cases are reported by their finders not because artefact hunters 'see a benefit' in doing so, but because that is what they are legally obliged to do (rather like if they run somebody down in their car on their way to go metal detecting). If the number of Treasure cases reported is rising it is clearly because on the watch of the PAS, despite all the nonsense about instilling best practice, the number of people taking up artefact hunting and collection is steeply increasing in the UK. Professor Gamble sees this as a good thing and an example of 'community archaeology' and 'engagement'. It instead represents a totally avoidable deliberate trashing of increasingly big areas of the archaeological record with pathetically little effective mitigation by proper recording. It is an archaeological  heritage crisis on a scale no less tragic than what is happening in Syria under ISIL (except in Britain the archaeologists watch it happening with folded arms and smiles on their faces). Professor Gamble sees it as 'agreeing about Treasure'. I am afraid I cannot see it like that, and I do not think there should be any 'agreement' (from the archaeological community and a properly informed public) to this sort of thing.

An eighth point is that with regard the closing sentence of that brief presentation, I would have liked to see Professor Gamble paying more attention to what the differences in 'interests in the past' actually are between the archaeologist and the collector of geegaws. The answer to that question is fundamental to whether the collector exploiting the archaeological record as a source of nice things to grab for himself can in fact pass on information which is of real archaeological use (apart from atavistic dot-distribution maps).

A Short Film on ISIL Looting and What it Means

There is a new video by the Wall Street Journal dealing with a rather tired subject (ISIS is Selling Syria's Antiquities to the West 5/31/2017). The spiel says:
Even as Islamic State is destroying antiquities in Syria, the militant group is also shipping them -- to intermediaries working with buyers in Europe and the U.S. The Wall Street Journal reveal​s​ a pattern of plunder that takes priceless ​relics from the battlegrounds of Syria to art traders in the West.
At first sight this is the by-now routine story regurgitating the same facts and (I would say) to some extent false news to make up some kind of an antiquitist shock-horror story. That was actually the tenor of my first draft of this post - a sort of a 'not-this-again, why-do-we-bother-trying-to-more-closely-examine-the-issues' moan. On second thoughts, however I spotted something else. which encourages me to try to analyse it more carefully from the point of view of how it might have been put together.

The authors of the report  Benoit Faucon and Georgi Kantchev are neither of them specialists in the field of 'arts' let alone the archaeology, This means they are somewhat naive reporters of what people have told them to say - but also not perhaps so astute about what not to say...

Readers of this blog will know I by now have become very sceptical of the relationship between 'official narrative' put out by the US administration/ institutions/ media  and what actually can be determined to be happening in the domain of looting by various militant groups in the Middle East. I therefore reject some of the things said in this video and I do not want to go over again whether or not ISIL are have been looting Dura Europos and Palmyra, 'how much money' they make or whether those Abu Sayyaf documents are real or fake and were legally taken by a US night raid. It's all in this blog to be found (unless you are two Wall Street Time journalists, who quite clearly did not get very far down the page of Google hits when doing their research, so missed it all).

The video's first 58 seconds is an introduction, setting out the skeleton of the story and repeating snippets which are repeated later in the film. One piece of information however is worth drawing attention to, the sources (40-52s): 'based on Islamic state documents (sic - see above) and interviews with traffickers and law enforcement officials, the Wall Street Journal can reveal a pattern of plunder that takes priceless antiquities...' . There is a bit of journalistic hyperbole here (antiquities in their world are always 'priceless'), and they only actually give us the testimony of one alleged trafficker (below) - but nowhere does any law enforcement official appear on camera. Neither is any thanked at the end of the film. Is this a lie, or did the 'official' not want to go on record?  This is significant for what comes later.

Let's skip the bit from 60 seconds in to about 124s, I disagree with a lot that is presented as bald facts (but have a think about the wider significance of what Prof Danti says about 'metal detectors')*, Who are these 'western security officials' (guessing about the revenue ISIL - not the dealers at the other end of the chain - get from sales of looted objects)? But let's pass on.

There is something Danti says (124- 144 s) which is worth highlighting, on the value of artefacts for various organizations, which goes beyond the normally simplistic view that they are sold and the money is used to buy arms [the images shown here is a cache of antiquities recently found in a house in recaptured Mosul]:
an example would be a particular extremist organization needs to get people across a border. They could use antiquities to secure that service (sic) from people... from accomplices working on the other side of the border, in customs and border protection for example. In a conflict zone, they could be used as bribes in that case they could be traded for weapons. 
From 144 seconds for a bit there is a presentation of the Abu Sayyaf documents that the US say they have (which for reasons I explain elsewhere on this blog, I strongly suspect are planted false documents). The documents themselves have been discussed here before, but in my previous discussions I suspect I missed one point. The journalists show (160-167s) a document which they say is a permit (but it is not, its a receipt) issued by the 'Islamic State's antiquities division, headed by Abu-Layth al-Ansari (al-Dayri), as it now seems that the official picture is that Abu Sayyaf was the head of the organization of which a department of antiquities forms a part (but remember I am sceptical about the authenticity of the documents shown).

The next section deals with moving the looted antiquities out of ISIL controlled territory where they are 'sold to middlemen'  ['I would say it is rather the middlemen who are putting together the artefacts still in the source country and smuggling them out]. We are told, traditionally, that they are going to Lebanon and Turkey. Then we are introduced to 'middleman Mohamed Al-Ali a Syrian antiquities dealer who has fled the country' who speaks of 'here near the border' being lots of antiquities for sale. Later in the film we learn he is based in [Gaziantep in] Turkey. In the course of following the stories of antiquities smuggling, we have met many of these individuals purporting to be dealing in smuggled antiquities, most of them are named 'Moham[m]ed' and when you see what they have for sale it is generally a load of crap. Mohamed Al-Ali's stock is not shown in the film. The only thing that might identify him is the regret he shows for the destruction the looting and smuggling does to his country's heritage, which as I recall featured in another story about a 'Mohammed' (Mike Giglio's?), but I suspect that this sentiment might not be restricted to a single individual. How the two WSJ journalists contacted him is not revealed. It seems to me that the speaker's voice has been electronically altered (03:41).

Al Ali tells us (03:38) about a 'network' of antiques dealers 'here' in Turkey and the pool of objects comes from ISIL territory. He says:
'in Turkey there are so many customers but [I] deal with people from Germany, from London, from France, from Switzerland, from USA. There are so many customers coming here' .
What is not stated is whether the 'customers coming here' are individual collectors, or dealers.

Then we learn (03:42) that 'Al Ali says that Islamic State's Abu-Layth ar-Dayri contacted him asking him to find a western buyer for this Roman era golden ring, Al Ali says the ring was sold, but by another middleman, not him'. Phew, eh? That's convenient because the ring shown is a well-known one, it figures in a rather odd forfeiture claim in the form of a civil lawsuit filed by the US government back in December 2016. The ring seems to have surfaced on the market in November 2014. What is interesting is that the film uses other photos of the object than the ones in the public domain earlier. Did the variant photos actually come from Al Ali?

The film then goes on (04:40-06:09) about smuggling of artefacts out of the middle East and into western markets, for example (04:45-05:12) some
'bibles (sic) filmed by Mr Al Ali [...] excavated from a third century church at the Dura Europos archaeological site and then smuggled to Gaziantep in Turkey. Mr Al Ali says a buyer paid ten thousand euros [...] to have it then smuggled from Turkey into Russia, hidden in a car full of vegetables'.
In the film, a card is shown dated 13/08/2016. Russia has no land border with Turkey and the journey (after mid-August 2016) through Georgia (Tbilisi) is about 1000 km (and is Russia a 'western' market?) a long way to take vegetables... anyway, these artefacts have been discussed by Sam Hardy and myself and I am sure they are fakes, so not actually looted from any church in Dura Europos.

Al Ali describes the scale of bribery needed to get antiquities across borders (I assume he means here the Syrian/Turkish one). According to him a single shipment can cost the exporter/importer 5000 dollars in bribes.

After 5:37-5:45 we are told that 'the antiquities tend to follow an established route' from Turkey and Lebanon to Europe and the US 'according to French and Bulgarian officials'.  This is where attempting to reconstruct how this report was compiled gets interesting. Have they been in contact with French officials? The conspiracy theorist might like to put this together with the next section of the film, talking about the 'Freeport system' of laundering objects by 'art dealers'** where they are held for a time before being 'trickled out onto the market' (06:09- 07:28).  Here (06:17) they now mention 'Swiss officials' . But also, again referring to unspecified 'western security officials' (06:57),
artefacts are moved from warehouse to warehouse , often being stored for years on end. The time allows for the items' true history to be blurred and for a new one to be fabricated, French officials say documents are forged using old typewriters. Swiss authorities say they are now clamping down on the freeports, but that some artefacts have been in the system so long that it is almost impossible to trace their true origin.
Which is why no artefacts should in future be being sold without firm and wholly verifiable documentation that it came on the market in known and licit circumstances.  

Here it starts to get really interesting. Prof. Danti seems hesitant when saying his next line (07:29-39): 'we have fairly reliable information on the location where some of this material is being cached, and then it would eventually be shipped on in a year, two, three, ten years from now...' - except (07:54-08:14):
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is investigating a number of US based antiquities dealers who they suspect may be handling looted Syrian and Iraqi according to people familiar with the probes. Swiss and French authorities say they are conducting similar investigations across Europe
 At this point on the soundtrack, the camera glides over photos of two (fake?) Palmyran busts lying on an oriental carpet - one with a tape measure stretched out over it, then a photo of a Hellenistic or Roman stela, a small fragment of (Hittite??) relief, and then one of the variant photos of the gold ring mentioned above. Are these all photos from Al-Ali's camera?

At the end of the film, Danti says we are faced today with an unprecedented cultural heritage crisis, and Al-Ali has the last word - justifying his line of business - he is profiting by feeding the poor:

*and I do not know the reason why he says 'sites like Dura Europos or Tel Salahiya in the region of Dura', they are surely the same site (and what is meant by that 'Byzantine religious paraphernalia'?) As Salhiyah Syria Al-Salihiyah

** note the Orientalist attitude there, when in Turkey, the objects are handled not by dealers but 'middlemen', once they are in Yurope, by 'art dealers'.

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