Friday, 28 November 2014

Peter Tompa and his Childish Penis-Measuring Competition


Mine's bigger Than Yours"
To further illustrate the problems with ascertaining accurate figures on heritage matters (like those behind the current hounding of Michael Danti by the antiquities trade), in reply to my question, Peter Tompa not only differs markedly from the information supplied on his behalf by Wayne Sayles, but decides to use the Chasing Aphrodite blog to compare penis size:
 MarketWatch reports there are 7-10 million serious coin collectors in the US alone. There are no figures about the number of coin dealers in the US, but there must be thousands (individual shows in the US can draw out over 100). In contrast, Doug’s Archaeology page puts the number of archaeologists in the US at under 2000. So, it can be said with some confidence that the State Department is running a special interest program to benefit a very small number of academics [...].   
Yet there are currently only about 30,000 active members in the ANA, collectors of ancient, US and 'world coins' (see the thread on cointalk where a number of wildly varying answers to the same question can be found). So Mr Tompa is saying that in the USA there are 7-10 MILLION collectors of ancient coins, or 7-10 million serious collectors mainly of Morgans, wheat pennies and state quarters? Why the discrepancy between Sayles' ("fifty years in the business") 50 000 and Mr Tompa's seven million?

 Professor Danti, are you watching this?

Can we also get this clear. What Mr Tompa is interring here is that there are "under 2000" people in the US who - because of their convictions - are concerned about protecting archaeological sites from collection-driven exploitation and curbing the profits militant groups can gain from illicit activities with cultural property, and seven million people in the US who (presumably lacking those convictions and therefore) are interested in no restrictions being introduced on buying and collecting goods smuggled out of war-torn Syria, Iraq and potentially supporting the economy of the 'The Islamic State'. Does that really reflect the position of seven plus million coin collectors in the USA? All of them? On whose behalf do the ACCG speak?


The Scale of the Problem: "How Many" Undocumented Coins in US and German Collections?


Over on the Chasing Aphrodite blog, the collectors and dealers are still savaging Michael Danti for the way his opinions were represented by journalist Justine Drennan who quoted him as saying that apart from dodgy oil, a second major source of income for ISIL was antiquities smuggling. In the course of the discussion, Peter Tompa sharpens his poison pen and accuses behind the scenes "conspirators" of threatening the interests of dealers in and collectors of Middle Eastern antiquities through proposed new regulations in both Germany and the US. He says:
It’s absolutely critical that government decision makers in both Germany and the United States be making decisions that impact thousands of small businesses and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of individuals honestly interested in preserving the past through collecting based on accurate information.
In the interests of getting that accurate information in front of the public opinion in the two countries (and  holding him to the same standards as he and his dealer mates wish to impose on others), I politely enquired of Mr Tompa clarification of the basis for those numbers. Interestingly, he declined to answer himself, so Wayne Sayles stepped in and then Dr Geoffrey Smith Trustee of the San Diego Museum of Man. The latter seems to regard a question like that a 'flame war' (see his own comments discussed here) and Sayles gave a long rambling reply to my question addressed to Tompa. Sayles boasts that he has sold "60000 copies" of his popular compilation on ancient coin collecting, and assuming its only collectors who buy it, that would be a minimum number of collectors. He adds that he is "personally aware of several ancient coin dealers in the U.S. who have in excess of 15,000 names in their active customer list" though obviously the degree of duplication between those lists he has not ascertained. He goes on:
Almost ten years ago, in an article in The Celator, I estimated that the number of active ancient coin collectors in the United States exceeded 50,000. That number, I believe, was conservative because there are many collectors who trade only at numismatic conventions and local venues—where statistical analysis is virtually impossible. Based on my own experience with new collectors and book sales, as well as more than 50 years as a professional numismatist, I can say with absolute certainty that the private collecting of ancient coins is growing at a rapid pace and with absolute confidence that my earlier estimate was short of the mark. 
So that is far short of the putative "millions" claimed by Tompa, it's not even a tenth of one million. As for the "thousands of small businesses", the best Sayles can do is point readers to "the 133 VCoins dealers in ancient coins". The number of US (and probably, German) businesses, small and large, is likely to be measured - thankfully - in the hundreds and not "thousands".

The failure to justify Tompa's hyperbole (notable in the context of the personal attacks on Danti which we are seeing at the moment from the collectors and dealers' lobby) however should not obscure the frightening scale of the phenomenon in just two countries. Fifty thousand (and growing) collectors even with thirty ancient coins in their trays and coin albums each is one and a half million coins in one country alone. Think - since not all metal objects signalled by a metal detector is a coin, let alone a collectable coin - how many holes in the archaeological record that represents. Yet some collectors have much larger accumulations stashed away. Despite what collectors claim about the literary achievements of the average collector based on the 'study' of the material they accumulate, we have very few published catalogues of  average private collections in the US with which to gain even a sketchy idea what the range is. Some collections however when they come on the market are revealed to have many thousand coins in them (Stephen Album is still selling coins from the private collection one of Wayne Sayles' own collaborators). So how many millions of coins are now stashed away in private homes all over the USA? Maybe Mr Sayles would like to answer that question.

Nathan Elkins ("A Survey of the Material and Intellectual Consequences of Trading in Undocumented Ancient Coins: A Case Study on the North American Trade," Frankfurter elektronische Rundshau zur Altertumskunde 7 (2008): 1-13 - page 2) has, among other things, to say in an important article freely accessible online that has not yet received any proper response from numismatists ('professional' or otherwise):
In 1993, it was estimated that 80% of all ancient coins openly sold on the market had been dug up within the past 30 years (McFadden 1993; see also discussion in Beckmann 1998: 25). Now, I suspect the percentage is even higher given that the supply of ancient coins on the market surged during the 1990s, particularly from Eastern Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain. In addition, the increasing use of the Internet for commercial activities has allowed dealers and collectors to network as never before and made auctions and dealer inventories easily accessible to a global audience, thus fueling a growth in demand that has outstripped the supply of previously documented and provenanced antiquities, including coins, prompting the search for fresh sources
We see here the aspect of the "absolute certainty" that a fifty years' observation of the industry that "the private collecting of ancient coins is growing at a rapid pace", outstripping the supply of material formerly in the collections of a former generation when there were fewer people participating. These are facts which demolish the "old collection, just lost their labels" model relied on by dealers pushing freshly-surfaced" ("from underground"?) material bought in from suppliers onto the growing market. Another text which should be read by those concerned about preservation issues connected with the no-questions-aqsked trade in dug-up ancient artefacts is Nathan Elkins' chapter "The Trade in Fresh Supplies of Ancient Coins: Scale, Organization, and Politics," [in] P.K. Lazrus and A.W. Barker (eds.), All the King's Horses: Essays on the Impact of Looting and the Illicit Antiquities Trade on Our Knowledge of the Past (Washington, 2012), 91-107. Again, this text has been ignored by numismatists ('professional' or otherwise) who probably imagine that by ignoring concerns, they will go away.

Given the totally carefree (not to say careless) manner in which US collectors have become used to treating the documentation of their fresh acquisitions, the vast majority of those millions of coins currently in US collections will have lost all trace of their collecting history and provenance. They are loose and decontextualised geegaws now stripped of any possibility of use for understanding the assemblages, sites and ancient landscapes they came from by the application of archaeological methodology. Instead we have just the picture-comparison 'it-looks-like' fantasising of the amateur enthusiast - imagining he is rewriting history (see here faux numis). This represents an enormous destruction of potential archaeological information. This is especially the case if we extend it over the very many years Sayles stresses that these coins have been ripped out of the ground, year after year, and circulated and mixed anonymously and shunted from continent to continent among no-questions-asking collectors and dealers.

Yet, those are the estimates for one country alone.  On a global scale, and let us remember that coins are only one class of artefact eagerly sought by greedy collectors, the ongoing scale of this destruction must be enormous.

Yet the collectors really do not care. The dealers really do not care. They are going to carry on arguing around and around in circles about what one man might have said to a journalist and stressing that we "don't need to change anything about the coin trade". Yes, we jolly well do.



Thursday, 27 November 2014

Steinhardt statue withdrawn


Christie's was due to sell the Steinhardt  Sardinian marble female statue seen by Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis in the Medici archive in their upcoming December 11 New York City sale. According to the ARCA Blog the object has now been withdrawn for further clarification of its 'less than optimal collecting history' as someone put it. Good.  The news aroused a (small) Twitter storm of applause, mostly in Italian.

UPDATE 28 Nov 2014
David Gill sees another aspect to the issue ('Announcing news on Thanksgiving Day'; Looting matters Thursday, November 27, 2014:
But what is surprising is that a major institution like Christie's has not absorbed the lessons of the last eight years in what has become known as "The Medici Conspiracy". Academic researchers now realise that it is important to probe and investigate "collecting histories". And we know that it is important to check the photographic archives that have been seized by the Italian authorities. Staff in the "Ancient Art" department at Christie's need to adopt a more rigorous due diligence process to prevent this type of incident happening again. They ought to recognise that their present process is not "fit for purpose". It is perhaps timely that my next essay in the 'Context Matters' series for the Journal of Art Crime is on this very theme.

Dealers Again: "No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Artefacts Funding ISIS" (1)



The International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art wants to brush away the suggestion that the German part of the no-questions-asked trade in dugup antiquities is in any way involved in funding ISIL. "Extremely unlikely" is how they phrase it. So they've just released a triumphant text 'No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Art Funding ISIS' (Basel, November 25, 2014). They announce it in Coin Weekly: "Exhaustive investigation has revealed that the most important sources of the allegation the trade in ancient objects would finance IADAA are not existing". So collectors can sleep soundly tonight. 'Sorted' says the IADAA and the majority of them will now most likely as a result not fatigue themselves by reading another word on the topic. But one gets the impression that this is the idea of producing such a text in the first place - to prevent collectors thinking and questioning the dealers who supply them with stuff.

The notion that coin collectors are homegrown scholars, doing important "research into the past" is a recurrent leitmotif  in their attempts to justify the continuance of the damaging status quo. So let us have a look at this scholarly "exhaustive investigation". Does it consist of an exhaustive literature search of where claims have been made and the verification of their sources? Does it perhaps consist of a breakdown of the information we have about the mechanisms of ISIL funding in general? Well, heck, no. "during the last week, two articles have been published by independent parties supporting our point of view, one from Suddeutsche Zeitung, the other the blog ‘Chasing Aphrodite’".  So this "exhaustive investigation" consists of just a single newspaper article and a single blog post. Moreover, the author of this text (Ursula Kampmann) actually cannot even manage to quote either of those accurately in support of her thesis.

And the "First IADAA Smoking Gun" is:
The source of the rumour: The Guardian, June 15, 2014
Martin Chulov [...]
I've discussed this problematic material about Nabuk at least twice here,[1] Sam Hardy[2] has also returned to the topic a couple of times. Ever since it appeared we and others have been saying there obviously is something wrong with the way it is quoted. That does not mean that sales of antiquities are not involved, but the information has become garbled. For the IADAA it is their key argument: 
This unverified allegation was taken up by numerous activists and journalists who concocted a purely fictional story about how these ancient objects were sold in the German art trade.
Well no, actually not. The main discussion was and still is focussed on the global trade, and not Germany. The 'Nabuk antiquities' story was NOT by any means the beginning of the story. In many news items, many web sources as well as in the archaeological literature (some of it discussed down the years in this blog)[3] there has been much information about looting in Iraq and Syria used to finance militant (and terrorist) activity in this region. It began soon after the 2003 invasion in Iraq (actually the looting began before), and then spread with the 2011 civil war starting in Syria. The story, and the smuggling routes that they involve have been active long before ISIL. The IADAA then goes on to say that: 
Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 15/16, 2014 It is somewhat ironic that Volkmar Kabisch, who was responsible for the ARD documentary “Das geplünderte Erbe”, has now had to admit – after careful examination of the 160 usb sticks: “But where does the money come from? There has been much speculation about art trafficking, revenues from kidnapping or the sale of oil but no such information can be gained from the documents.” Nevertheless, his broadcast “Das geplünderte Erbe” is still aired by Phoenix. The IADAA demands that this and similar broadcasts that are based on false and obsolete information are removed from the program at once.
There are three cogent points here.
1) The IADAA "demands" that this whole story is suppressed "at once" because they claim that it contains "false and obsolete" information. Just who do they think they are, to dictate what we can watch and what we cannot? Fine, they think the information can be shown to be "false and obsolete" and they can present their arguments as above. It is then up to the viewer to decide, not for them to dictate to what information they have access. That's totalitarianism in action.
2) If you've not watched it, have another look at “Das geplünderte Erbe”, and work out for yourself just what part the "memory sticks" motif plays in it. Take them away, does a story not still exist? Yes, it does. IADAA is "demanding" suppressing all the rest of the information and opinions expressed (for that is what interviews are constructed of - both of the interviewee as well as interviewer/editor) because they think they can contest one fragment of the programme eleven seconds long.
3)  But then, is Ms Kampmann actually citing her sources in context and accurately? On looking at the article quoted (thanks to Sam Hardy for getting this for me) we see two things which simply dismiss her argument.
[UPDATE: Just as I was about to send this, I got a tweet from Esther Saoub with the link to: '‘Islamic State’: A Bureaucracy of Terror' [translated by Candice Novak] an English summary of the text: Thanks]

Perhaps it escaped the notice of Ms Kampmann, but the journalists  state quite clearly that they did not see all the documentation (Cf "a German journalist has checked all 160 data carriers, the Guardian article wrote about"). They also specifically note that were shown (by Iraqi intelligence officers) documents relating to Iraq. That is the Iraq which is a neighbouring country to Syria, where one will find al-Nabuk (where the antiquities were reported to have been from). It is perhaps not surprising then that the Germans did not see the data about Nabuk in the documents they had available about ISIL's Iraqi provinces. Duh. In fact what they also say is the documents they had access to concerned mostly social services in 'The Islamic State'. Martin Chulov, was reporting about what he'd learnt from another part of the same batch (maybe the intelligence services of the two countries have apportioned the material since Chulov saw it).

In passing, I must say that I found some of what I read in that article extremely disturbing, and I am not sure that "hey there's nothing about antiquities here" is the first thing that would come to even my mind on reading it.

And the "Second IADAA Smoking Gun" is: 

Moving on from misquoted sources. The Second "key piece of evidence" for the IADAA is the "second not fifth or whatever" argument. Personally, I think using the tactic of deflecting discussion onto a side-issue treated pars pro toto as the only argument is a typical example of the smoke and mirrors tactics always adopted by the antiquities trade and artefact collectors. The only reason I return to this already-tired point it is because the IADAA see fit to treat it as the "smoking gun".

Now, this idea that "the trade in ancient art provided the second largest source of revenue for ISIS" was treated with scepticism before Jason Felch wrote about it, that IADAA has not really been following this discussion is nobody's fault but their own.[4]  For them it is "news" that it turns out to be journalistic hyperbole. In fact, if they'd done any reading on the topic beforehand, they'd have found other articles published at the same time which gives a much more detailed breakdown about what we know about ISIL's funding, it's not exactly an unpopular or un-newsworthy topic at the moment, but no, it suits them to continue hounding the one point.

IADAA allege that this is all a conspiracy of the United States (against the German antiquities trade?). Kampmann alleges:
In his function as co-director of a State Department funded campaign to track cultural heritage destruction in Syria, Danti had published an article in the magazine “Foreign Policy” on October 17, 2014, in which he called the illicit trade with ancient objects the second largest source of revenue of ISIS.
True to coiney form, no link to that alleged article by Danti is given. Too many facts spoil the story I guess. The article  ('Black Market Battleground') was by Justine Drennan and she was quoting Danti. I wish Ms Kampmann the luck that the next time she is interviewed by a journalist, what she says is presented absolutely verbatim and having the meaning she gave it. Most of us in archaeology have completely the opposite experience. I think it is an unfortunate consequence of speaking to the press and consider it par for the course - as I think we all do. In my own case the only time my words have never been twisted was when I wrote a short piece myself for the local newspaper back in England. None of us knows what Michael Danti actually said, I think most of us who read the article smiled wryly when we read the article. Only the coineys seem insistent on treating it as a case of an archaeologist deliberately twisted a fact. But then, we all know how they love an "everyone is against us" conspiracy theory; it fosters a feeling or brotherhood.

It is quite important to see the context (we know how some coineys despise that word) of this soundbite. Drennan was writing after the US airstrikes on Syrian towns had begun and in the context of Kerry's Sept. 22 gung-ho speech at the Met (see here too). She herself says "my aim was to show how ISIS’s looting necessitates non-violent efforts to stop trafficking, not military intervention". That is the context in which she used whatever Danti had said. It was a useful quote because Kerry was using ISIL's mistreatment of the "cultural heritage of all mankind" to justify the US no-boots-on-the-ground remote bombing them into the Stone Age (and anyone else who happened to get in the way of US bombers - see yesterday's report on the deaths in Ar-Raqqa). Drennan wanted to make the point that there is another - bloodless - way of doing that, and Danti's quote served her to uphold that argument. But then others copied it out of that original context. I really do not think Prof Danti can be held responsible for that. But then, I'm not a vindictive archi-(b)hating coiney.

The upshot of all this is that as proof  that there is "No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Artefacts Funding ISIS" - the two items adduced by Ms Kampmann as such turn out on closer scrutiny to be nothing of the kind.

Footnotes for those with a longer attention span

[1]  Monday, 16 June 2014, 'ISIL and its "36 million" ; Monday, 16 June 2014 'Iraq/Syria: ISIL/ISIS fundraising by antiquities trafficking: Implications for the Market'; Monday, 14 July 2014, 'Syrian Heritage Task Force on the Antiquities Trade' ; Sunday, 31 August 2014 'More on Isil Looting, but What's Really Going on?'; Tuesday, 2 September 2014, 'Art Net News, Looting Bankrolling ISIL?' ; Wednesday, 3 September 2014, 'ISIL Looting: In war, the first casualty...?' and not so long ago that IADAA can't find it themselves Wednesday, 29 October 2014, 'US Brigadier General Urges Proper Antiquities Market Transparency' and Wednesday, 29 October 2014 'Conflict Antiquities' in Syria and Iraq: How Much for it to be "OK" for dealers?' (and for interest: Tuesday, 17 June 2014 'Collectors Criticised by Esquire blogger') 

[2]  Reuters blog  ('How the West buys ‘conflict antiquities’ from Iraq and Syria (and funds terror)', October 27, 2014 and conflict archaeology, passim  many of these texts referenced in the above-mentioned blog posts.

[3]  You kidding? Use the search facility up there above (little box).


[4] Wednesday, 12 November 2014 ' Mulder on Blood Antiquities', Thursday, 6 November 2014, 'Newsweek and ISIL Funding'; Wednesday, 29 October 2014 'US Brigadier General Urges Proper Antiquities Market Transparency' Saturday, 18 October 2014 The connection between ISIL, Looting and the Antiquities Trade (1) ; Saturday, 18 October 2014, 'The connection between ISIL and the antiquities trade (2)'.

UPDATE 26/11/14

Michael Müller-Karpe replies to IADAA "proof"
I have checked with Volkmar Kabisch, the „German journalist”, mentioned by Ursula Kampmann, who allegedly “has checked all 160 data carriers, the Guardian article wrote about.“ Mr. Kabisch has explicitly stated in the documentation, that he had access to parts of the information only. And he made statements about the contents of these parts only. The allegation by Dr. Kampmann is simply false.

Dealers Again: "No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Artefacts Funding ISIS" (2)


The International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art claims they have "proven" that there is 'No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Art Funding ISIS' (Basel, November 25, 2014). Their published  argument is, to put it mildly, weak and based just on two 'sources', one post in a journalist's blog and one weekend newspaper article. That's it.

It's particularly annoying that the dealers and collectors persist in maintaining this totally superficial approach to the whole issue when there are a lot of people making a lot of effort to produce better information, and more nuanced analyses on the basis of the slim information we can get from an illicit activity conducted by several secretive and dangerous groups in a country ripped apart by civil war. There are people out there on the ground risking a lot trying to get this information to us, something just totally dismissed contemptuously by the IADAA spokesperson for the antiquities trade. How dare they? The responsible legitimate trade should be trying to help us make sense of this information as a whole rather than  trying simply to pick holes in other people's work like this. And I stress that, the truly legitimate and responsible part of the trade - where is it?

I am not in the so-called "ancient art trade", I would not know where to get a Tell Brak figurine from. But there are people who do, and - as we all have had the opportunity to observe for as long as I've been watching the market - have been doing it for a good number of years. My suggestion is that these are the very people who'd very likely have an interest in hiding precisely how that Tell Brak figurine, that cylinder seal, that cunie, came on the European market. Because, they are not really going to succeed in kidding anyone these days that they really are all "from an old collection, found at the back of a dealer's cupboard" and have accidentally just happened to have "lost its label".

The subject of looting in Iraq and Syria is not a new one, there are many, many texts on the subject. I've discussed some of them on this blog, in some cases finding reason to agree with the conclusions, sometimes being sceptical of some elements of the reconstructed narrative. This blog is full of my observations on these issues (I am not going to hyperlink them all here, there's a search box at the top of this page). That is certainly a vast amount more writing about and sharing views and observations about these issues than most dealers (and we are told there are several thousand of them) have been doing. All they can do is moan, snipe and try and pick holes. None of them will engage in any real, deep, searching discussion, and when they do say something it never goes much beyond the superficial (and the ad hominems for which the milieu is infamous). 

The dealers will have to explain - if that is what they claim - how it is at all possible that trade in antiquities is going on under the noses of ISIL, but the latter are keeping their distance from it. 
Perhaps the dealers lobbyists will deny looting of archaeological artefacts is going on in Syria and Iraq and has been for some time. I am among the many who believe the evidence shows it is.

Perhaps the dealers lobbyists will deny smuggling of archaeological artefacts out of Syria and Iraq is going on and has been for some time. I am among the many who believe the evidence shows it is.

Certainly some of the sites which we know have been heavily looted (Dura Europos, Mari) are in ISIL-held territory (others are outside it).

Certainly some of the smuggling routes we know of are through ISIL-held territory. Others are outside it.

Basically, those who ask us to believe that ISIL is not taking funds from this activity ask us to simply accept that for some magical reason (coin dzinns?), the antiquities trade is treated in some privileged way by ISIL. Let's be clear, the opportunities the commodity offers are ignored by ISIL leaders, by ISIL local commanders, as well as by the individual groups of trigger and knife-happy young men who get 400 dollars a month to oversee what's going on on the ground. we are asked to believe that these opportunities are ignored by the ISIL who reports say are inserting themselves into deep into the daily lives and control the behaviour of the 'citizens' of their polity. They are simply, but mysteriously, ignored by the same ISIL who reports say uses all manner of pretexts to extort payment in one form or another from anybody and everybody. That is the ISIL whose finances have (insofar as the data allows) been analysed by dedicated 'terror finance analysts' and whose income is thought to come from a variety of forms of transactions involving even mundane commodities such as grain.

Furthermore the IADAA (and all who want us to dismiss from our heads the idea that ISIL can be getting their cut of the profits of any antiquities trade) ask us to believe that in today's Syria and Iraq, groups of people can, without attracting any attention to themselves:
- dig huge holes in the open, pull out objects which may be assumed to have some value,
- sell them on to a middleman who fills a suitcase or truck with them,
- the latter can then drive them on somewhere to sell to somebody else,
- somewhere in the process objects arrive at a border, somebody is bribed to let the illicit goods out, (and over the border somebody most likely has to be bribed to let the smuggler in).
Yet all of this we are asked to believe would take place without ISIL asking for a cut? Furthermore that all these people are working independently of, and have zero contact with, any ISIL people, they are free agents working for themselves and contributing nothing to ''The Islamic State'. 

Now of course we can all assume that this is the case. I am sure it is the most comfortable assumption to make if you are a collector or dealer. But there is, isn't there, a greater likelihood that this is all self-delusion. Like much else in antiquities collecting of course - so nothing new there.

As is noted by Sam Hardy, who has done much sterling work on Conflict Antiquities, and especially that in Syria and Iraq recently:

[...]  As has been conclusively demonstrated – as has been confessed by participants – sites are being looted by paramilitaries and antiquities are being sold by paramilitaries.

As has been explained – repeatedly – the key question is not “how much money are they making?” but “how can we minimise the money that they are making?” And we can only do that through material protection, trade regulation and policing.
Yet what we see the antiquities trade engaged in is distracting polemic about the first quite clerly intended to stave off the possibilities of the second ever happening.

Dealers Again: "No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Artefacts Funding ISIS" (3)


Syria and Europe (Wikipedia)
The International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art in their attempt to wash away any suspicion that the no-questions-asked trade in dugup antiquities is in any way causing harm in Syria have produced their "proof" that it is all made-up lies and conspiracy against collectors ('No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Art Funding ISIS' Basel, November 25, 2014). This text ends with what the dealers say should be done.
The International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art says that when it comes to looting of archaeological sites in Syria:
"The only way to effectively implement the Protection of Cultural Property is [not regulation of the antiquities market but] the protection of archeological sites in situ, as outlined in the UNESCO Convention 1970, (article 4) to ensure that the human heritage is preserved for future generations.
Well, I am sure that now the IADAA have "proven" that no ISIL militants stand behind the looting, we'll have loads of collectors "passionately interested in the past" who'll be volunteering to go over there with truncheons, hard hats and handcuffs and help those who are currently finding that job a little difficult and scary in some parts of Syria. And, by the way, the IADAA who a few days ago were castigating German journalists for allegedly getting the details of law wrong, might like to look again at Article "4" of the Convention. I think they've got the wrong Convention (and the wrong organization).* Last time we all looked, whatever the dealers' lobbyists think, Syria was not in Europe.


* European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Revised) Valetta, 16.I.1992
 

Dealers Again: "No Evidence of Trade in Ancient Artefacts Funding ISIS" (4)


a duck..?
And two of the comments under a presentation of the reportage "Das geplünderte Erbe - Terrorfinanzierung durch deutsche Auktionshäuser" are rather annoying. The first by Dr. Ursula Kampmann, Kulturgüterschutzbeauftragte (sic) der IADAA calls the film "Eine Schande für den Qualitätsjournalismus" - a disgrace. The IADAA proceeds to tell the film makers how they should make films and advises them on the "journalistic deadly sins" they'd committed. Then she launches a personal attack on Dr. Michael Müller-Karpe (this is not the first time dealers have used the same attack on him. Terrible.

The second comment is also by the same person. This one (am 19.11.2014 um 11:08 Uhr) is "Widerruf von Volkmar Kubisch". It begins: "In der Wochenendausgabe der Süddeutschen Zeitung vom 15./16. November 2014 ..." - you can see where that is going. Well, readers can see above in part 1 what I made of her use of that source and look it up for themselves and work out what relevance it has to anything at all. The reason why "there is no information in the documents" about looting in western Syria is the documents examined were all about Iraq (still a different country if somebody had not realised). Then a remonstration: "Wir fragen uns, warum die Quellen nicht vorher konsultiert wurden..." Ummm, because they contain sensitive information about western fighters in ISIL and are in the hands of the intelligence services. Is that so difficult to understand? Once again we see these attitudes of coiney entitlement and exceptionalism: no matter what else those documents contain, the fact that they impinge on the collectors rights of coineys induces the latter to think they have a right to make demands on foreign intelligence services. For goodness' sake. The next demand:
Und wird man nun auch in der Tagesschau darauf hinweisen, dass die Nachricht, der deutsche Kunsthandel würde den IS finanzieren, eine Ente war?
Well, let's see if Ms Kampmann's arguments, demands and personal attacks on one of the interviewees featured in the video cut any ice with the TV production company. Coineys may feel she's done them a favour and shown the world what a duck is, the rest of us feel that perhaps given the circumstances better public relations for the antiquities trade might have accrued from another less uncompromising approach to the issue...

 
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