Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Supply of the Trade: Antiquities Seizure on West Bank


Antiquities discovered in Samaria Police spokesman

 Israeli police and members of the archaeological department of the Civil Administration raided a home in the village of Hawara in the West Bank  and arrested the owner, a man in his fifties, and seized a large number of ancient artefacts (Ido Ben Porat, 'Stolen Second Temple period antiquities recovered in Samaria', Israel National News 25/04/17).
The [man] is suspected of purveying ancient artifacts, not announcing their discovery as required by law and illegal possession of weapons. The search in the suspects house and store revealed hundreds of coins, pitchers, figurines, earthenware scales, jewels, basalt stones used to grind wheat, copper utensils, water and oil jars as well as a Sten gun and a rifle. Members of the archaeology department estimated that the artifacts were from the Hasmonean, Bar Kochba, Second Temple, Assyrian and Roman periods [...]. The Arab claimed on investigation that he had bought the artifacts for his own private collection. The investigation is continuing.
Note the use of terms like Samaria and Second Temple (and 'Arab') to claim these objects as the heritage of one group and not another. The supply of fresh artefacts onto no-questions-asked foreign markets is due to such people who buy the artefacts locally and then sell them on.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

'Treasure 20', British Museum Dumbdown and Perverted Misrepresentation of Archaeological Research


Laura Silverman in her 'lifestyle' presentation of Treasure hunting and the Treasure 20 campaign begins with 'a horror story in history (sic) circles about how we almost lost the treasure at Sutton Hoo'. which she then uses as justification for Mike Lewis enthusing how wonderful the Treasure Act is for saving 'many important archaeological objects' which 'were not protected by law', putting 'our heritage at risk'. This is the problem when you look at archaeology as merely about digging up 'treasures'. The Treasure Act only refers to artefacts made of precious metal (gold or silver) or prehistoric metal objects found in hoards. Any artefacts of bronze not in a hoard, or not prehistoric, any wooden objects (like those at Must Farm), wooden tablets with writing on them, pretty cavalry helmets, stone sculptures of gods and devils, fall through the net. This selective law based on the material an item is made3 of rather than its archaeological or cultural significance law is a travesty, a totally inadequate basis for defining cultural property. That's why collectors love it so much. It is worth asking ourselves which of the iconic items in the British Museum, found in Britain, would have been claimed for the nation under such a law. the Rosetta stone no, the Parthenon and Bassae marbles, no. The Folkton drums, Icklingham lead tanks, no. And som on - if the True Cross was dug up in a garden outside Glastonbury ift could quite legally be put on EBay by the finder. No Mr Lewis, the law you are praising is Bonkers-Britain crap and needs changing. Everybody is well aware of it, and nobody lifts a finger to do anything about it. Your dumbdown Treasure 20 campaign ('viewers vote' like some pathetic lowbrow reality show in a karaeoke 'who needs the experts' tekkie lovefest) does absolutely nothing to advance that public debate. It is shameful that someone in your position acts as if he does not see that.

In any case, reducing every piece of archaeological evidence (artefact) to the lowest possible common denominator of 'treasures' (and not treasures - like the Sutton Hoo ship nails) in this case obscures an important difference between Basil Brown and the the team of archaeologists who excavated the site and gormless grabby hoikers with metal detectors. That is Mrs Pretty was looking for knowledge, not 'treasure'. That may be difficult for 'lifstyle' journalist to grasp, but it is the job of archaeological outreach organizations to put them right. It seems from the resulting article written in collaboration with the British Museum that this task is well beyond the capabilities of the current team making up the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

STOP Institutional Promotion of Destructive Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaological Record


In response to the fatuous Treasure 20 initiative of the British Museum, perhaps a body advocating real-archaeology (the one that's not a grabby treasure hunt) could draw attention to five million portable antiquities which have NOT found their way onto the PAS database since it was set up twenty years ago and many of which are probably now in skips and landfill. FIVE million Portable Antiquities Losses due to current policies which allow artefact hunting and make responsible reporting voluntary.

I think equally the same responsible UK real archaeology bodies should be calling on the British Museum to call a halt to the Treasure 20 campaign, which only promotes treasure-hunting and nothing else. 

 

Metal Detecting 'Partnership'


Dave's a 'little treasure'Metal Detecting 'Partnership'
Artefact hunters hoiking stuff from the archaeological record for personal collection are the epitome of self-centred behaviour. Sam Hardy highlights something noteworthy in a bit of that Telegraph Treasure 20 article:
  5 godzin temu5 godzin temuWięcej"The coins were valued at £320,000. Crisp celebrated by buying his wife a box of chocolates and showering her in £200." True love.

Dismay in the Ranks: 'Archaeological Looting Can Enhance your Lifestyle - Have a go!'


A British archaeologist breaks ranks, describing a recent text in the media as:

one of the most crass, ill informed and damaging articles in national press I've ever read encouraging metal detecting
Another is inclined to agree with her:
Mike Nevell‏ @Archaeology_UoS 2 hrs ago. In reply to @lornarichardson  
 I can't see any redeeming features in this article or the event. Why would the BM do this? Undermines the PAS totally.
PAS started undermining their own mission from day two, I think.

I do not know which article so incensed Ms Richardson (because she thinks she has nothing to say of interest to me so to save me wasting time reading what she says there, she has kindly blocked me from accessing her tweets). Nevertheless I think it is a fair bet that she is referring to: Laura Silverman, 'What it's like to uncover buried treasure with a metal detector – and how to do it yourself' Telegraph [in the 'Lifestyle' section] 23 April 2017. This gaily announces:
To celebrate 20 years of the Treasure Act, the Telegraph is launching Treasure 20 in association with the British Museum. The competition will highlight the 20 best treasure finds discovered over the past 20 years, picked by experts and Telegraph representatives. [...]  Readers will then be able to vote online for their favourite.
Which - pray tell us British Museum - will result in what, precisely? The BM most likely are totally unable to explain what this is about in any sensible way, but of what they did contribute to this irresponsible 'loot-enhancing-lifestyle-lauding' text, I was interested to see this bit:
Lewis says there are up to 10,000 regular metal detectorists.
You've pinched MY (old) figures Mr Lewis. Sam Hardy says there are many more. I think he's right. And who remembers how much trouble we had dragging out of the PAS any kind of an estimate for the number of artefact hunters in England and Wales in the past? One of the PAS staff seems a bit confused by the dumbdown outreach they are forced to undertake:
Dr Marsden believes “an absolutely enormous amount” of treasure is left in the ground. “Metal detectorists are like rescue archaeologists,” says Dr Marsden.
No, Treasure hunters are Treasure hunters, archaeologists are archaeologists, archaeology is not 'just' about digging up old things and if Dr Marsden really does think that is all it is, in my opinion he needs to think about getting another job.

The British Museum should be urged by British archaeological and heritage conservation bodies to to drop this ill-considered 'Treasure 20' campaign, which only promotes treasure-hunting and nothing else (it is not even 'encouraging reporting, because reporting Treasure is obligatory). Scandalous. 

Treasure 20: 'What it's like to uncover buried treasure with a metal detector – and how to do it yourself'


Following the Code by Detecting on Pasture?
And here's some 'advice' how to trash an archaeological site on your own courtesy of the British Museum's 'Treasure 20' and their approved treasure seeker Dave Crisp:

Artefact Hunting: How to get started



  • Buy or borrow a metal detector. The Garrett Ace 150 (£149.95) is popular with beginners. Experienced enthusiasts swear by the XP Deus (from £715). Both from regton.com.
  • Take a small spade for digging, and a bag and piece of cloth for potential finds.
  • Pick a field. There is no magic location. The same field can turn up nothing one day and a hoard the next.
  • Get written permission from the landowner. You can download a form from the National Council of Metal Detecting website (www.ncmd.co.uk).
  • Follow the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal D-detecting (finds.org.uk/getinvolved/guides/codeofpractice). It is important that all finds, not only treasure, are recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
  • Be methodical. Swing the detector slowly, keeping the level with the ground.
  • Stay alert. I have found a Neolithic axe head, fossils and pottery in the grass just by looking.
  • Be patient. The joy of metal detecting is in the surprise. For your local metal- detecting club, see ukdetectornet.co.uk.
Metal Detecting: All You Need to Know To Get Started by Dave Crisp (Greenlight Publishing, £12)

You see, that is "all" you need to know to go about dismantling an archaeological assemblage in order to fill your pocket with collectable artefacts. there is (of course) NOTHING more to know about deposit taphononomy, deposition conditions, soil changes, surveying and plotting techniques. ANYBODY can be a 'citizen archaeologist' by simply buying a machine and going out there wiv there spade.

Mr Crisp, you have a lot to answer for. British Museum too.

 

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Binning a Large Part of the Nation's Archaeological Heritage


In a rambling unfocussed post on his blog ('Cufflinks, Superstitions and the Death of the Tanner' 23 April 2017) veteran artefact hunter John Winter is candid about just how much artefact hunting actually is 'artefact rescue' as is so often claimed by its unreflexive supporters:
In all my years of swinging the coil, I have amassed quite a few odds and ends. They will be worth very little – if anything – to my descendants. When I eventually shrug off my mortal coil they’ll just see them as a nuisance and hire a skip for disposal. 
They'd be 'worth' a whole lot more to us all if they were properly documented. Is that not part of the 'best practice' the PAS should be imparting to these folk? Since 'metal detecting' has been going on since the 1970s and demographically it always was a hobby predominantly associated with males already of about retirement age, one wonders just how many of the hundreds of thousands of unrecorded artefacts that they hoiked in their day have already ended up in skips and landfills, wasting all the information destroyed in their selfish removal?


 

 

What the No-Questions-Asked Commerce in Portable Antiquities Does to the Archaeological Record





All over the classical world, sites like Caere (Modern day Cerveteri) are looted repeatedly to supply dealers with portable antiquities to profit from by selling them to collectors. In the no-questions-asked trade in artefacts there is no distinction between dodgy dealers and the others. They are all mixed up in the 'dirty art' trade. Those that oppose heritage protection measures should be ashamed of themselves. (photo  Redazione, 'Tombaroli ancora in azione a Cerveteri' OrticaWeb, 6 April 2017).

Hat tip Lynda Albertson

Call Yourselves Archaeologists




A FLO is 'all set for local heritage roadshow' (in West Berkshire Museum) and invites people to 'pop by and say hello! – ' and admire the display. It seems 'members of the public' today are mainly capable of noticing metal objects, while in the past, as our HERs, journals, museums and local society records show that in the past they were capable of finding much more finds of pottery, stone, bones, oystershells and other stuff. Look at the 'what we are interested in' field of another FLOs poster, but note the general preponderance of metal objects shown on the whole:

 

Are the public being adequately informed about what 'archaeological evidence' is, or are they being shown mere Treasure Hunting? Archaeology, what is it, FLOs? Do any of your public displays include a proper definition of the term

Carl Sagan on Knowledge


Today on March for Science Day the words of Carl Sagan on public attitudes to knowledge seem  apposite to the progress of dumbdown, karaoke science and expert-dismissal we see al aound us, but also reflected in archaeology through the appearance of the PAS and its own particular promulgation of what constitutes 'citizen archaeology'. This should be challenged and resisted, but Britain's jobsworth archies have yet to find a stomach for it. 

Tale of Two Hoards


Heritage Action once again put facts into context - an activity the many (hundreds of?) supporters of private collecting of archaeological artefactsin Britain are all to obviously incapable of: 'PAS performs another round of the Darwinian quango survival dance!' 22/04/2017 ). They juxtapose the way the public are ionformed about two similar hoards of gold sovereigns: the 'piano hoard' and the 'Twinstead hoard' ( “Metal detector enthusiasts on a charity day ended up in a brawl after 300 sovereigns worth £75,000 were found in a field. They then ran off with the loot”).
Strange, isn’t it? In Bonkers Britain PAS garners oodles of news coverage from one hoard yet they (and the police) downplay mass theft of an extremely similar one. Such is the consequence of setting up a quango whose sole survival chances depend on pretending that buying a £10 ticket to a detecting rally transforms totally random people into “citizen archaeologists” with immaculate morals.
It is not so much strange - the PAS has always done precisely this sort of thing where their 'partners' are concerned - it is however a very serious scandal that the public are not being properly informed about portable antiquity issues by the 'scheme' set up to do precisely that and for twenty years have consistently been utterly failing to do so. The schemers are busily colluding to avoid informing their public properly and objectively about the downside of private collecting of historical artefacts.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Why Were Roman Coins Seized in Cincinnati ?



Dealers playing the victim are still moaning about a 2014 ICE seizure of 190 coins:. These brain-rot sufferers really do not understand anything, poor souls. Here's the original announcement which got them going:
One hundred and ninety ancient Roman coins that were illegally imported into the United States from the United Arab Emirates were seized by officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The ancient coins were originally detained in March 2014 during a routine inspection at the Port of Cincinnati cargo facility by CBP officers before the investigation was turned over to HSI. The intended recipient told investigators the coins were of Middle Eastern origin based on information received from an overseas seller. CBP officers contacted a coin expert to authenticate the coin’s origins and learned they were late 2nd or 3rd century Roman coins. Authorities subsequently issued a seizure notice to the intended recipient alleging entry of goods by means of false statements. The intended recipient abandoned the claim to the coins, which will now be repatriated to the appropriate country of origin at a later date. The coins have an estimated value of approximately $1,000.
Well, of course determining a 'country of origin' for goods where the paper trails have been deliberately obscured by the sellers is pretty well impossible (barring US waterboarding of a dealer or two, which I would not support). The legible mintmarks on the coins point to some being minted in Antioch (in Roman Syria), but as dealers insistently point out, 'coins circulated widely' and these artefacts could have been dug up on almost any site in the eastern parts of the ancient ('classical') world and items from different sites (note the variation in corrosion products) from different sites amalgamated in a job lot of artefacts orphaned from their paperwork and any context. It is the evil no-questions-asked antiquities trade and dodgy dealers involved in it that have destroyed the context and destroyed the evidence of origins. It seems disingenuous of spokesmen for the same industry now to be creating a fuss about the measures adopted to respond.

Could the coins have been exported to the US by an unnamed seller based, perhaps, in Dubai? How many dealers in dugup antiquities gathered from several regions of the ancient world are there in the UAE, and Dubai in particular? It seems that 'Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading in Dubai' has gone out of business (or underground) since the fuss around Salem Alshdaifat. Who else is active in Dubai and are they ACCG members?

The point is of course that dealer "Dubai Dakhil" (let's call him) exporting antiquities as coming from the UAE as the country of origin when they did not in fact come from there is trying to 'launder' the artefacts that in all likelihood came from one or more other country (for example Syria) - for the export of which he is unable to supply the proper documentation. If he cannot show that the coins arrived  in UAE legally, then he cannot show that he has title to them and therefore cannot show that he is exporting them himself legally. In that case then having been stopped for examination at the US border, they cannot then be allowed to pass onto the US market.

What then to do with them? They cannot be sent back to the dealer who claims 'ownership' but cannot show legal title, they cannot be sent back to the country of origin as that dealer destroyed all evidence of where they came from and how they arrived in the UAE. They cannot stay in the US. Perhaps they should just be destroyed as decontextualised bits of old metal which have no known owner? Perhaps they should be sent to another country to sort out what to do with them after the antiquities trade rendered them orphans? This, in fact is what the US authorities in this case decided to do.

Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930-2017)


Sad news. Internationally-acclaimed Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz has died at the age of 86

Sacred Sculptures treated as Props in NY Gallery




There are some deeply disturbing photographs on the Facebook page of Kapoor Galleries, New York City. They show people holding a drink or two in front of some bronze idols of Hindu gods and goddesses which should be in the sanctum sanctorum of temples in south India. Then there is this Buddha statue made to wear a Santa Claus cap. Not funny. In fact, it is quite painful for any devout or just anyone who loves and respects antiques. For the uninitiated, Kapoor Galleries belong to Ramesh Kapoor, the brother of Subhash Kapoor, who is cooling his heels in Puzhal Central Prison.
([ Anon TNN], 'For God’s sake, save our idols from New York parties' Times of India: Apr 20, 2017).

The author not only argues that American dealers and collectors are treating sacred images with no respect at all, but for shifting the onus of proving the veracity to the seller and not the source country.

Vignette: Buddha Christmasised

Thursday, 20 April 2017

'Orphaned' Roman Coins Given to Italy


Tampering with identities...
In a press article (Gintautas Dumcius Boston Public Library takes part in returning nearly 200 ancient Roman coins and other artifacts to government of Italy April 19, 2017) we learn that after the 'intended recipient abandoned the claim to the coins' and determining that the sender was not going to tell where they actually came from (let alone be able to provide documentation), US homeland security officials and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh handed over to the government of Italy for safekeeping in a Wednesday afternoon ceremony. The objects are those that were discussed here earlier: 'HSI Press Release Stupidity in Ohio', PACHI Friday, 31 July 2015. Looking at these coins and guessing the mintmarks from the fuzzy photo supplied, I wonder just what the likihood is that some of them were ever in Italy before. Still, since they have officially been denied entry across US borders, they cannot stay in the UK (still less go to their hapless buyer who did not assure himself before purchase of the dealer's ability to document licit provenance), nor can they be assigned to their country of origin, so passing the problem of what to do with them to Italy is as good a solution as any other.

These are the consequences of buying artefacts which a dealer has divorced from any paper trail of how they arrived on his stockroom. It's like buying a car where the chassis number has been filed off. Buyer, beware such dealers, they are nothing but trouble.

 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

More on the Fate of US Collector Jonathan Bourne


Jonathan Cornelius Bourne
I have discussed the case of Jonathan Bourne on this blog before ('Amateur Collector loses Artefacts'. PACHI Saturday, 12 September 2015;  'California doctor pleads guilty to looting Native American artifacts from public lands' PACHI Saturday, 20 August 2016).* There is a longish piece in the 'Adventure' section of something called Men's Journal discussing the case (Kathleen Sharp, 'How a California Anesthesiologist Became One of America’s Largest Antiquities Looters' Men's Journal  n.d.).

The article was written, one suspects by somebody who was less well-informed than she should be about the reason why these laws exist. The manner in which it is written suggests that she thinks (as most Americans do) that, rather than protecting archaeological sites, the issue is solely one of 'ownership' and therefore 'repatriation' (that name itself when applied to returning objects to other US citizens living in the same country speaks volumes for insulting US attitudes to their native communities). Placing the text in the section on 'adventure' suggests the attitude of the commissioning editor. WE therefore are treated to stuff like....
Jonathan Cornelius Bourne — even his name evokes a 19th-century explorer. Wiry, with sandy hair and a craggy, weatherworn face, he was born in Australia but grew up in Upstate New York...
Bourne was a wealthy Mammoth Lakes anesthesiologist who had filled his large house with Native American items he'd collected over the years. In 2014 he was investigated for artefact on federal land and his house was searched.
Within months, the respected anesthesiologist would find himself facing 21 felony counts and at the center of a criminal investigation that became one of the largest stolen-goods cases in the history of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). But to hear Bourne tell it, he's just a passionate collector who took a few items to ensure they weren't lost to time. [...] His defense was simply that he had not done this for himself but to preserve the objects. "He has never sought financial gain from his collection," Penny says. Rather, he had long flirted with the idea of donating his collection to a museum — although few, if any, museums accept artifacts of unknown or illegal provenance. "I did hope to donate my collection ultimately," Bourne says. 
These are all typical collector's mantras. Artefact hunters and collectors represent themselves as acquiring objects not for greed and the desire to seek self-aggrandizing trophies, but because of a 'passion', an interest in 'history' (or other cultures). Objects which have survived relatively intact (because collectable) are represented as somehow mysteriously threatened ('by time') if they are left in the ground in the intact burial context that has preserved them, collectors represent themselves as 'rescuing' the objects from this fate. While commercial collection-driven exploitation (CDE) of the archaeological record is recognized as reprehensible, somehow we are asked to believe that not-for-gain trashing archaeological sites is in some way a better form of trashing. Giving the 'Jonathan Bourne collection' a home in perpetuity in a public institution to be admired by an impressed public is represented as an act of beneficence, but is in fact yet another form of self-aggrandization and one-upmanship.  The amount of trashing involved is deplorable:
when investigators showed up at Bourne's home, they were stunned at what they found: some 30,000 relics displayed artfully in room after room. Half of them, Bourne admitted, had been taken from federal lands or Native reservations. Others had been purchased at antique stores or from other collectors. "It was top-notch stuff," says one expert. [...] The agents soon realized that they had stumbled onto one of the country's largest caches of stolen antiquities.[...] Bourne had stolen pieces from thousands of sites in four Western states: California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. 
The collector kept journals detailing his exploitative trips, many of them to national parks, they not only involved several family members and friends, 'there were other doctors, nurses, several business owners, and a prominent developer. Even a former police officer and a high school teacher had apparently been with Bourne when he broke the law'.
After a yearlong investigation, a federal grand jury indicted Bourne on 21 felony counts, including looting, possessing, and transporting stolen government property and artifacts from national parks, national forests, the BLM, and several tribal lands. He faced a maximum of 98 years in prison and a $2 million fine. [...] Bourne also stood to lose his medical license. And because his journals named his two grown children, now physicians, they could possibly lose theirs, too. [...] In August 2016, after months of negotiating, Bourne struck a deal with the federal attorney overseeing the case: He pleaded guilty to two of the 21 counts and faced a maximum of two years in prison. [...] In the end, however, Bourne received only two years of probation and was ordered to pay $249,372 in restitution and a $40,000 fine. [His medical license is up for review this month.] When the court adjourned, he wrote a check for the full amount. To preservationists and Native American leaders, Bourne's court-approved plea deal was a slap in the face. [...] It will take years for the pieces, now at California State University in Sacramento, to be repatriated properly. Bourne was not happy with the judgment, either. "It's not a good deal," he told me. "I escaped prison, but I still think that the scope of the problem and the things I had done are not commensurate with the punishment. I have to pay a lot of money!"
He need not worry, the full cost of matching the artefacts to the sites they came from will cost more than the nine dollars he paid for each of them, and the tax-payer of California will be paying the rest of the sum required to attempt to in some small part rectify the effects of his misdeeds.

* This is not to be confused with the issue of the John Bourne collection (here, here and here)

US Museums and their Acceptance of the Existence of a Parallel Universe Occupied by the Antiquities they Buy


Regular readers of this blog will know that I am extremely concerned about the alleged 'provenence' of the so-called 'Cleveland Apollo' which I feel more appropriately should be named the 'Leutwitz Apollo' after the place where it is supposed to have been found in the rubble of an East German farmhouse (yeah, yeah, pull the other one).  So, I am wondering whether the lessons the museum learnt from the 'Drusus Debacle' will be applied to the reported collecting history of that controversial object.

The Sessa Aurunca Drusus (as we now know it to be) was excavated in 1925/6 near Naples. But when Phoenix Ancient Art sold it to the museum, it came with a collecting history from 'an Algerian collection as far back as the late 19th century'. So, between the late nineteenth century and the 1920s, this object is claimed  (by the Aboutaams) to be documented as having been in two places at once, an Algerian collection as well as buried deep in Italian soil.

That's rather like another object the Aboutaam brothers handled and much discussed in this blog, the St Louis Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask, documented as being in Cairo Museum at the same time as documents (supplied by the brothers Aboutaam) claim it was on sale in Belgium and then in a collection in Croatia. In both cases these are now 'dead-man's documents', their authors having passed on beyond further questioning years ago.

It's the same with the Leutwitz Apollo isn't it? This too is documented as being in two places at once (PACHI Friday, 25 October 2013, 'Leutwitz Apollo (9): Dr Marinescu Spills the Beans'). Between 1992 and 1994 the statue was both in a restoration lab in Germany as well as lying in a pile of rubble in Leutwitz (yeah, yeah, pull the other one). This is what I wrote four years ago:
How "thoroughly" have Michael Bennett, Katherine Reid and the entire board of trustees of the Cleveland Museum of Art done their due diligence if they (a) have not spotted the discrepancy here and (b) totally fail even to mention it, let alone explain it away in their "exhaustive" publication which is intended to "settle" the matter of where that statue was before they bought it? If nothing else this is intellectual dishonesty not to even quote or mention this information, and typifies a totally superficial approach to the task in hand.
And maybe it is time for Cleveland Museum of Art to take a proper (and source-critical) look at the documentation for the Leutwitz Apollo and when they have worked out what seems bleeding obvious (that a physical object, at least in the universe we inhabit) cannot be in two places at once, they can at last take effective steps to determine where the object really came from, and somehow it seems to me that a 'pile of rubble in an outbuilding in Leutwitz' is not going to be the answer.  There remains the question of those misquoted lead isotope result to be addressed too.


Vignette: Can you believe this nonsense? 


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Cleveland Drusus Debacle


The Cleveland Museum of Art admits that it has bought another object which turns out to have been stolen (Steve Litt, 'Cleveland Museum of Art returns ancient Roman portrait of Drusus after learning it was stolen from Italy in WWII (photos)' The Plain Dealer April 18, 2017). This one, the head of Drusus broken off from a larger marble statue, was bought from the New York based Phoenix Ancient Art (Ali and Hicham Aboutaam), The museum and Italian police have discovered that the piece, bought by the museum in good faith for an undisclosed sum in 2012, was stolen in 1944 from a provincial museum in Sessa Aurunca near Naples. The museum has agreed to return the work to Italy. When it bought the piece from Phoenix Ancient Art,
  **
the museum believed it had clear title, and that the work had been in an Algerian collection as far back as the late 19th century. The museum and its Italian counterparts now believe that Italian archaeologists excavated the Drusus head in 1925 or 1926 in Sessa Aurunca, in the Caserta Province of Campania, Italy, about an hour's drive north of Naples. The archaeologists had the Drusus photographed at the time, along with other discoveries including a marble portrait head of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, father of Drusus Minor.
The marble heads were all placed in the archaeological museum at Sessa Aurunca, where they remained until they were removed in 1944. It seems that the Drusus and Tiberius heads were stolen and sold off by French occupation troops in 1944 while they were billeted at the museum in Sessa Aurunca, or the works might have fallen into the hands of North African troops active in the area at the time, perhaps explaining the later appearance of the Drusus in Algeria as claimed in the collecting history supplied to the museum at the time of the sale.
The museum believed at the time that the portrait had been the property of the Bacri family (later known as the Sintes family) of Algiers, Algeria, as far back as the late 19th century. The museum said in 2012 that Fernand Sintes and his wife, then of Marseilles, France, inherited the work while living in Algiers. They subsequently moved it with them to Marseilles in 1960. Fernand Sintes subsequently sold the Drusus at an auction at the Hotel Drouot in Paris in 2004 to an unnamed buyer. A day later, Parisian art dealer Jean-Philippe Mariaud de Serres, who advised Sintes on the auction, provided a "certificate of origin" for the work that included the Bacri-Sintes history. That document and independent research carried out by the museum later buttressed its faith in its 2012 purchase. [...] because Algeria was a French possession in 1960, no export documentation was required for the Drusus. As a result, no record of the transfer from Algeria to France exists. [....]  The museum also didn't know who owned the work between 2004 and 2012.
In light of some concerns that were being raised about the object, the Cleveland museum posted a description of the Drusus on the "Object Registry" of the Association of Art Museum Directors, a global online clearinghouse for objects whose provenance is not entirely known (this page has now mysteriously disappeared).

Once again, we see the consequences for a person's health of getting involved in supplying collecting histories for objects sold by Phoenix, Informants quite often tend to die before the object comes to sale or shortly after. This is rather inconvenient if one might want to ask further questions of them. Anyway, due diligence must be seen to have been done:
According to the AAMD write-up, the Cleveland museum contacted Fernand Sintes who reconfirmed everything stated in the 2004 certificate of origin authored by de Serres. 
But there were uncomfortable questions to be answered:
Articles published in Italian archaeological magazines in 2011 and 2013 by scholars Giuseppe Scarpati and Sergio Cascella, respectively, reproduced the previously unpublished 1926 photographs taken when the Drusus and Tiberius heads were first unearthed. Those articles suggested that both pieces had been stolen from the local museum in 1944. A third article by Scarpati in 2014, in the Bolletino D'Arte, or Art Bulletin, mentioned the Cleveland museum's purchase of the work, and urged that it be returned to Italy. [....] The museum's purchase of the Drusus portrait in 2012 earned instant criticism from experts including archaeology Professor David Gill at the University of Suffolk in Ipswich, England. He and others complained of gaps in the provenance, or ownership history, of the object.
Note that one of the articles was already published before the 2012 sale. Why did the Museum not spot it?  It was only last year that the Cleveland museum contacted Italy's Ministry of Fine Arts in late 2016 and proposed collaborating on further research on the Drusus sculpture that also involved the Carabinieri. It was established that the Drusus head was the same as the one shown in the 1926 photograph, which means it had been removed from the museum at Sessa Aurunca.
William Griswold, the museum's director said that the museum isn't pointing fingers at Fernand Sintes or at Phoenix Ancient Art. "There's a gap [in the Drusus provenance] from 1944 until the 1960s, when the object was in France," Griswold said. "We have every reason to believe it was in Algeria through the '50s, but that's not fully documented." Griswold declined to comment on whether the museum would be reimbursed by Phoenix. 
It should be noted that the same Italian author (Scarpatti) has  spotted what looks very much like the missing Tiberius head at another gallery, and also sold in 2004 with a '1960s Algerian collection' provenance backstory'.

This bust has been discussed by me on this blog three times previously. In my first post (busy with other things as I recall), I took the published collecting history at face value [Monday, 13 August 2012, 'Cleveland Museum of Art buys Roman Bust', but on reading what colleagues were writing decided to take a closer look: Monday, 13 August 2012 'Cleveland Bust: "That World" Already asking Questions, Museum on the Defensive'. David Gill was looking into this object as was the cultural property lawyer Rick St Hilaire ("Unable to Obtain Documentary Confirmation" - Due Diligence and Questions Posed by the Collecting History of The Cleveland Museum of Art's Drusus Minor Head CHL Wednesday, August 15, 2012).  My third text referred to this and discussed that collecting history: Thursday, 16 August 2012, '"That World" Getting Closer, That "Due Diligence" Looking Still More Skimpy'.

**A 1926 photo taken after the excavation in Sessa Aurunca, Italy, documenting the discovery of the head of Drusus, lower right, (Ministero dei Beni e Delle Attivita Culturali del Turismo)


Monday, 17 April 2017

So-called 'Crosby Garrett helmet' Temporarily on Display in Cumbria



The so-called Crosby Garrett helmet is being placed on public display in Cumbria for a special exhibition starting in April. Its anonymous finders say it was discovered near Kirkby Stephen in 2010 but excavations on the reported findspot produced results which inexplicably conflicted with its typological dating and raise questions about its context of deposition which most British archaeologists are playing down. Seven years on, we are therefore not an inch closer to understanding the archaeological context of this object and merely contenting ourselves to rejoicing when a private collector deigns to allow another public exhibition of this highly-restored trophy artefact.


Them and Us [Updated]


Believers in a 'partnership' between UK heritage professionals and amateur artefact hunters probably do not spend much time reading what the latter candidly write on the internet  - because that would soon erode their faith in the possible existence of such a form of co-operation. We can take a recent post on the blog of a UK artefact hunter, chortling about an event during an amateur 'excavation' in Aylesbury in the 1920s as an example ('Sometimes even the ‘experts’ in the archeological world can be wrong in their assessment of metal objects. Such mis-identifications makes [sic] one realise that often the person with the real edge on determining the past use of a find is the detectorist with years of experience'). Leaving aside the epistemological issue raised by that statement, we may note the 'Us/Them' dichotomy that is created by the presentation of this anecdote. Metal detectorist Paul Mower (17 April 2017 at 2:46 pm) comments:
Yes the experts do occasionally get it wrong. I have seen objects on the PAS database incorrectly attributed. The worse examples are people selling objects on EBay and you have to be really sure what you are buying!
Here we should note that it is more frequently artefact hunters and collectors who are going to be selling artefacts on Ebay than archaeologists. I would recommend not buying any ancient artefact on eBay (or anywhere else) which have no supporting paperwork verifying its squeaky clean licit origins - whether or not you 'know' what it is.... If there was any true collaboration, Mr Mower would have written about the number of times he has notified PAS staff of their errors.

Vignette: The little man and jolly japes at the expense of the establishment.

UPDATE 18th April 2017

After the usual lowbrow banter about 'we've been barfordised' over on the tekkie blog, Mr Mower responds to my criticism of the them-and-us attitude underlying the mutually fostered illusion of some kind of a 'partnership' (18 April 2017 at 2:20 pm)
Like a bad smell given time it will disappear. Sometimes it’s best to ignore him John and not provide ammunition for him to use. You are not going to change his attitude and like a martyr he will continue to fight his corner!
This is pretty typical, artefact hunters and collectors imagine that if they 'ignore' a problem, then it will disappear 'like a bad smell'. But the issue is that the PAS was not set up to enable the artefact hunters of Britain to ignore the problem in their midst and carry on regardless. It was set up to effect a change in attitudes, which I think it is very clear from comments like this that after twenty years of trying (at huge public expense) is just not going to happen. The self-centred likes of Mr Mower simply ignore the arguments that there is a need for change (and who, actually, in this exchange is attempting to 'play the martyr'?).

Simpletons who merely take critique personally are not seeing the wider context. The 'ammunition' (as Mower calls it) used by their critics comes from what artefact hunters and collectors themselves write and say about what they do, This is shows very clearly how those engaged in the private exploitation of the archaeological record for collectables see the activity, its effects, and its relationship with wider concerns. That is what I intend to demonstrate in this blog - because none of these things are in face like the manner in which they are portrayed by the British archaeological supporters of artefact hunting and private collecting of portable antiquities.

Mr Mower and the rest of you head- in-the-sand artefact hunters, what would change my attitude to your selfish, exploitive and destructive hobby would be clear evidence that attitudes had actually changed deep within the hobby, rather than the declarative facadism that is what we see at the moment. Until we see that, I will continue to fight in the preservationist corner for wider public recognition that the way artefact collecting is done today must change. I hope the PAS will one day get the guts to show that it is, indeed, on the same side,  At the moment though both gumption and guts seem to be missing there, empowering people like Mr Mower to come out with such airheaded, divisive  anti-preservationist defiance.

Syria: US Mosque Attack Likely Unlawful



United States forces appear to have failed to take necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties in a March 16, 2017 remotely-controlled aerial strike early on in Trump's period of office that killed at least 38 people in western Aleppo in Syria, Human Rights Watch said in a report released April 18, 2017
The 16-page report, “Attack on the Omar Ibn al-Khatab Mosque: US Authorities’ Failure to Take Adequate Precautions,” found that statements by US military authorities after the attack indicate that they failed to understand that the targeted building was a mosque, that prayer was about to begin, and that a religious lecture was taking place at the time of the attack. A proper analysis of the target and its use would probably have established at least some of these elements. Human Rights Watch has not found evidence to support the allegation that members of al-Qaeda or any other armed group were meeting in the mosque.
(source of quote: Syria: US Mosque Attack Likely Unlawful; see also, Attack on the Omar Ibn al-Khatab Mosque). Once again, it is the US employment of their traditional hands-off remotely controlled airborne assassinations based on remotely-gathered indirect information that is the root cause of this problem, if the act of aggression had involved regular troops in contact with the community, this sort of mistake would not happen so frequently. Where is the US declaration of war on the state of Syria? What legal conditions sanction such an air strike by one foreign power on the territory of a sovereign state?


Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Lost Library Book and the Antiquities Market


Something missing...
In the text of a review by Sarah Keating, of the book 'The mystery of the library book that went missing for a century'* involving an early printed work removed from Dublin's Marsh’s Library there is a brief discussion of book theft in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
In the 18th century, the catalogue records various missing copies of English-language travelogues. In the 19th century, “it was popular novels and popular science that went walking”. In 1863, one user was sent to prison for 12 months with hard labour for smuggling a book from the library. It wasn’t until the late 19th century, however, “that rare books started to go missing. There was a new awareness that there a market for these early books and the knowledge they contained.” 
The existence of the market promoted the creation of a supply. This is an analogy to the collection-driven exploitation of archaeological sites. Collectors deny the existence of the market has any influence whatsoever on giving cruddy old bits dug out of an ancient site any commercial value. They are simply lying of course, because a twelve year old can see that such a statement is wrong.

*The Lost Library Book by Amanda Bell, with illustrations by Alice Durand-Wietzel, is published by Onslaught Press on May 14th

Saturday, 15 April 2017

That 'Subsistence Digger' and 'Old Collections' Mantras


Extreme poverty statistics
We have all heard collectors suggesting that the main reason for the existence of  collection-driven exploitation (CDE) of the archaeological record which produces the portable antiquities that surface on the market is the number of poor people who are forced to dig over ancient sites for scrap metal to survive. They say the only way to STOP CDE is (for archaeologists - sic) to 'solve the world poverty problem'. Here is a chart of the proportions of the global population still living in extreme poverty, as opposed to that  of those that are not. We see that the number of people in extreme poverty fell by 137,000 since yesterday, as it has done for every day in the last 25 years. There is still a long way to go, but this argument seems less valid today than it might have seemed when first formulated by self-justificatory collectors in the 1960s and unreflexively chanted as a protective mantra for the following decades.

I'd draw attention to another consequence of these statistics. The omnipresent claim by collectors that all the unpapered artefacts apparently freshly-surfaced on the market 'could have come from' old collections ('people have been collecting ancient artefacts since....') is nonsense. the green area includes people with disposable incomes - potential collectors. It is very easy to see that in the decades preceding 1970, the number of people living above the poverty line was much, much smaller than today. It is quite simply a physical impossibility for there to have been enough antiquity collectors in the (pre-intrnet trading) world to have pre-owned the number of antiquities currently surfacing on the market. This is simply a highly-implausible lie.

I challenge any dealer in portable antiquities to produce verifiable figures showing I am wrong.

 

Humanity's heritage under threat from treasure hunters


"Treasure hunting is not as cool as it is portrayed in "Indiana Jones", nor does it serve a higher purpose." (Ahmet Gunhan, 'Humanity's heritage under threat from treasure hunters' Daily Sabah April 10, 2017 ). The question is whether the PAS and its supporters will have the courage (or arguments) to polemicise with this - entirely reasonable - statement. Are they up to the task, or will they join the ranks of the British academics who simply pretend the issue does not exist? If you are optimistically waiting for a PAS response - do not hold your breath.

Vignette: PAS partner Treasure hunters in action.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

International Museum Day


International Museum Day Sunday 21st May 2017:
This Museum Day, let us consider how museums can foster mutual understanding, cooperation, and peace.

Vignette: National Museum, Warsaw

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Islamic State used Mosul museum as tax department


The apparent links between ISIL antiquities sales and the raising or revenue are touched on in a recent Reuters article: Ulf Laessing Islamic State used Mosul museum as tax department Reuters Wed Apr 5, 2017.
After they seized Mosul two years ago and destroyed the priceless Mesopotamian artifacts in its museum, Islamic State militants found a practical use for the building - they turned it into a tax office. [...] In a basement room under the main exhibition halls, there was a pile of envelopes used to issue orders to pay Islamic tax, one of main sources of funding for the militants. "The Islamic State ... seeks to levy your duties which were forced by God on the rich people's money," read a message on the envelope stamped with the group's black-and-white flag. The "Diwan Zakat", or Islamic tax department, then left a space for names and file numbers to identify the payments. Next to the tax receipts were green leaflets with Koran quotes, from the same department based in "Nineveh Province", whose capital is Mosul. [...] The militants searched the building methodically for valuables, even breaking up the ground floor in their search for vaults with artifacts inside that they could sell, according to Federal Police officers. Apart from taxes, oil sales, antiquities smuggling and ransom from kidnappings were also sources of income for Islamic State.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Pewsey Roman coin hoard


Donations by the finder and landowner enabled Wiltshire Museum to acquire the Pewsey Roman coin hoard… The finders left it in situ to be excavated by the Wiltshire FLO Annie Byard, 'Unusually the coins were in a layer of lead sheet and fur'. Like the Lenborough Hoard, I wonder how many Sainsbury's carrier bags the FLO used to excavate this one?

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Name and Shame Dodgy Exporters and Importers nstead of Supporting Them.


ACCG board meeting at Gainesville 'House of Angels'
The ACCG and professional numismatists trade associations' illegal coin import stunt still drags on... and on....   their persistent lobbyist suggests:
>It's important to defend the principle that the government must make out every element of its prima facie case before it can take private property<

Is it? Surely collectors should be upholding the prnciple that it is important when importing objects into the US to comply with US law. By that law the coins should have certain paperwork, these coins did not (and that failure was due to Spinks not supplying it). I suggest that the ACCG should be advising 'fellow collectors' to avoid buying from this supplier if they cannot take simple steps to comply with US law. 

The prima facie case is that the coins you imported were not imported according to US law and nobody has to 'make out any element' of anything other than 'was the paperwork required submiitted in the time allowed'? Yes/ no?

Name and shame dodgy exporters and importers.

Go, be a man and post this and then tell us where the logic is wrong from the point of view of a 'guild' of responsible collectors complying with the ACCG Code of ethics.


Friday, 7 April 2017

Fake Dead Sea Scrolls Sold In The US: Products Of Sophisticated Archeological Forgeries


The so-called Dead Sea scrolls are a favourite subject of forgeries, the National Geographic said (Regin Olimberio, 'Fake Dead Sea Scrolls Sold In The US: Products Of Sophisticated Archeological Forgeries' Science Times Apr 4, 2017). Collectors will pay through the nose often no-questions-asked for trophy fragments of these celebrity manuscripts. Forgers work with fragments of ancient parchment to make expert forgeries.
Recently, 48 fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls popped up in the US and the numbers are growing. Most of these fragments were sold by unknown individuals who claimed that they were once owned by antiquities dealer Khalil Iskander Shahin [my link PMB], Live Science reported. Since the 1940's, Shahin collected many fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls and sold some of them to American collectors. However, Shanin's son William Kando expressed concern over the ballooning number of scroll fragments that are popping up. Kando stressed that the number of claims doesn't match to the scrolls and fragments that their family actually sold - the numbers simply doesn't add up. For example, one claim says that they purchased 15 fragments from the Kandos in 2002 but the family said they sold only 7 in that year.
Kando has recently been making efforts to "authenticate" some of these newly-surfacing Dead Sea Scrolls fragments. I guess that mostly concerns identifying the ones that he can prove were sold by the family.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Criminality Without Borders


At the end of last month, Lynda Albertson, CEO of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) gave a lecture at the John Cabot University in Rome (Camilla Voltolini. 'Criminals Without Borders: the Illicit Antiquities Trade' April 3, 2017).
Albertson stressed the complex structure and set of motivations behind the looting of art, and placed art crimes within a commercial context. Through a series of examples, she illustrated how stolen artifacts enter a complex network in which looters on subsistence living, middle-men buyers, distributors, auction-houses, and collectors each vary in their motivations and opportunities for engaging in the illicit art trade. According to Albertson, “art will always attract criminals, not because they love it, but because there is a market for it.” Looted art and artifacts often appear on the market a long time after they have been reported missing, and in different places. This is the result of differences between countries in terms of laws and restrictions on import/export, and in the paperwork and documentation necessary to accompany a work of art. Thanks to these legislative vacuums, looters are able to move the stolen items around the world. Punitive legislative measures often have little impact in contrasting looting. Instead, we must change the way the market thinks, and understanding how the market is fed becomes of capital importance to accomplish this goal.
Readers of this blog will be aware that I see enough evidence in what they say and write to make me extremely sceptical of the notion that collectors and dealers are capable of sentient thought at all, let alone enter into a proper discussion of collecting and the issues surrounding the antiquities trade. .

Anyone who willingly gets involved with a chain of 'ownership' that involves culture criminals across borders deserves all that is coming to them.

Vignette: No-questions-asking collectors acknowledge no boundaries.

'Shohidul Islam Robin': Lying Spammer metal Detector Dealer


One annoying spammer Md Shohidul Islam Robin cannot seem to get his head around the idea that this blog is not exactly the best place to try and advertise metal detectors made in Bangladesh. yet he stubbornly day after day tries spamming my comments section with his asinine and LYING adverts. Yes, Projuktishop.com is certainly LYING when they try to con people into buying one of their metal detectors:

Detecting to a depth of 3.5 metres ('11 feet')? What cheek. Liars.


Maybe employ somebody who can write English? Shohidul Islam Robin stop spamming my blog, go and find somebody else to abuse.

 Md Shohidul Islam Robin, Md Shohidul Islam Robin.  Md Shohidul Islam Robin; Md Shohidul Islam Robin, Md Shohidul Islam Robin.  Md Shohidul Islam Robin; Md Shohidul Islam Robin,
Md Shohidul Islam Robin.  Md Shohidul Islam Robin;  Md Shohidul Islam Robin, Md Shohidul Islam Robin. Md Shohidul Islam Robin; Md Shohidul Islam Robin, Md Shohidul Islam Robin.  Md Shohidul Islam Robin;
 

'The Chambers of Numismodeath'


Belatedly, I have found the drafts of three posts I wrote nearly two years ago in response to some nonsense being put out by metal detectorist cum pulp-science-fiction writer Dean Crawford. This concerned that old argument that metal artefacts are being dissolved wholesale in ploughsoil by 'artificial fertilisers'. The reason I did not post them at the time was that I lost all the photos of the results of the experiment (and the coins themselves are not locatable either). I think though that something is better than nothing, especially as I see that the original claims are now being resurrected again by the supporters of the artefact hunters.
Attentive readers may remember that 24th November was the date I set for examining the contents of the "Two Warsaw Chambers of Numismodeath" (PACHI blog Thursday, 29 October 2015). This was an attempt to duplicate the results of Dean Crawford's "kitchen sink" coin-colouring experiment which seemed to me suspicious (see my text 'Artefact Hunting, the "Lesser of Two Evils"? More on "Fragmentation"'). I really do not see how the chemistry of what he describes worked and wanted to duplicate his "experiment" to see what would happen. They involved burying fresh and patinated coins in artificial fertiliser for three weeks (as Mr Crawford had described) to see what degree of damage was caused. I'll do this in two posts, for the experimental methodology (so to speak) see the earlier post, for the summary of results you can skip to the third post in the series.
Experiment one is here: Artificial Fertliser (1)  PACHI   Friday, 27 November 2015

Experiment two here: : Artificial Fertliser (2) 


and the summary: The Artificial Fertiliser Experiment (3) PACHI   Friday, 27 November 2015

As a result of this experiment which failed to duplicate Crawford's results though it used the same methods, the metal detectorist's claim seems to me to be a load of nonsense - as one might expect because of course not a single ground-dug ancient artefact he illustrates in a series of posts looks anything like the examples which he says were only three weeks in the ground. 
 
Anyway, the reader can go to a garden centre or agricultural chemical supplier, get a bag full of fertiliser and try the experiment themselves. In Britain soon there will be a whole load of scrap pound coins of varied alloy composition to practice on. 

Vignettes:  Pirate heritage grabbers expect us to believe them, better though to check out what they say before trusting any of them and their supporters...



More UK Archaeologists Approach PAS Database Uncritically


Cooper, A. and Green, C. 2017 Big Questions for Large, Complex Datasets: approaching time and space using composite object assemblages, Internet Archaeology 45.
This study tackles fundamental archaeological questions using large, complex digital datasets, building on recent discussions about how to deal with archaeology's emerging 'data deluge' (Bevan 2015). At a broad level, it draws on the unprecedented volume of legacy data gathered from many different sources - almost one million records in total - for the English Landscape and Identities project (Oxford, UK). More specifically, the paper focuses in detail on artefact evidence - material derived primarily from surface surveys, stray finds and metal detecting. 
and guess where they got that from? Yep this is another PAS-inspired fluff piece.
Novel computational models are developed that extend and connect ideas from usually distinct research realms (different arenas of artefact research, digital archaeology, etc.). Major interpretative issues are addressed including how to approach background factors that shape the archaeological record, and how to understand spatial and temporal patterning at various scales. Overall, we suggest, interpreting large complex datasets sparks different ways of working, and raises new theoretical concerns.
Except they do not discuss what the difference is between what collectors do to archaeological sites versus what others do... Quite a fundamental point one might think. I am totally unconvinced by their manner of calculating the statistics of the percentages of known sites being targeted as potentially productive sites by these collectors. My suspicion, based on knowledge of how artefact hunters go about 'researching' a region is that there is methodological error in the way they are counting this. Something to look into.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

FSA buys 'Important Plastic Style' Object: And 'Responsible Collecting'?


John Hooker FSA has recently added another dealer-bought artefact to his collection in Canada, and 'Dale' (Dobunni Celt) comments January 2017 at 14:57
Hi John, Well done on spotting and adding two important Plastic Style pieces to your collection and making them known! Great work. Dale 
The problem is what he does not 'make known' is whether the object was legally exported from the country of origin (and thus does not come under the UK Dealing in Cultural Objects (offences) Act) and indeed from which precise country it actually came. This is just a loose paperless decontextualised object, removed from its findspot as a result of irresponsible collection-driven exploitation.

The text in question is  'New type: two plastic style ring-headed pins of the middle La Tène Objects' (Past Times, Present Tensions blog, Thursday, 5 January 2017) concerning three artefacts ('all central European, 3rd Cent. BC, pers. coll.'). The first was purchased at a Timeline Auction in August 2016, believed to be from Bohemia or France.
Several months later, I noticed another example of the type for sale on an Ebay auction from the U.K. It was part of a lot of three artifacts and so I bought that lot as well. Although the seller was in Britain, the items he had for sale were fairly consistent with objects I saw that were offered from Serbian sellers. [...] Another object in the Ebay lot provided a clue to the second pin's origins. I reasoned that the items in the lot most likely had all come from the same country, and while the second item in the lot was rare, the type had been well recorded with details of the locations of archaeological sites where they had been found. It was a pseudo-filigree fibula of the later 3rd cent. BC. [...] The archaeological site finds (24) of the pseudo-filigree fibula are as follows: Hungary (29.17%), Slovenia (25%), Serbia (16.7%), Slovakia (8.33%), Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Romania and Czech Republic (all 4.17%). Another clue (for what it is worth) is that the British seller had a Hungarian first name and a variation of a Slovak last name. [...]
Archaeological artefacts from all of these countries are protected by law and can only be legally exported if certain procedures are followed. The Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries however does not mention that he ascertained that this was the case, but shockingly instead invokes a 'they-can't-touch-me-for-it' argument:
There are no problems with the legalities of these items as[,] although many of the source countries mentioned in the paper which discusses the pseudo-filigree type have export restrictions, Canada will only recognize claims for objects that have only a single country where they are found. With this lot, there are no records at all for the plastic style pins[,] and the pseudo-filigree fibula is found in at least nine countries, and probably more. Some countries do not follow the letter of the law. For example, the U.S. has seized objects of types that are found in a number of modern countries deciding this on place of manufacture rather than where found. These extra-legal actions could be due to ignorance by archaeologists and/or customs officials and even perhaps even nefarious motives of politicians. Early Celtic art spans a great number of modern countries and finds can be scattered over vast distances from any known homeland of a style.
But there is a problem with the legality of items which passed from one of these source countries to Britain where somebody with 'a Hungarian first name and a variation of a Slovak last name' dealt in it and then exported it to a buyer outside the EU. A stolen car or Caravaggio nicked in Hamburg Germany does not become 'unstolen' by the mere act of transporting it to Burgham  in the UK without being stopped at the border. An FSA should know that and not be crowing about 'outsmarting' the authorities.  The country of origin can be determined by seizing the business records of the dealer that Mr Hooker has shopped and detaining the gentleman himself if it is found that he has been engaged in commerce in Illicit antiquities while in Britain. Seven years you can get for that. What kind of commercial (or maybe 'family') links are implied by the information Hooker FSA has imparted about the dealer's name?

Vignette: More empty words from the British Archaeological establishment on the illicit trade.   The Society of Antiquaries of London decries the commerce in illicit antiquities, but when one of their fellows boasted in January of being a participant, they do nothing. 

 
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