Friday, 28 August 2015

Progress of the German Petition

Here's a map showing where the currently 15.712 German signatories of the "Für den Erhalt des privaten Sammelns" petition live:

It is perhaps clearer on this version that the opponents of a closer due diligence in the market come mainly from the towns and cities. The dot distribution corresponds to the population density to some extent, but note the lighter scatter relative to population figures in former DDR. Is this due to different attitudes, or simply purchasing power across the 'united Germany'? Berlin and Munich are noticeable black spots, as are Tubingen, Heidelberg, Frankfurt and the Rhine valley, Bonn, Cologne, Dusseldorf and Hamburg. The situation of Dresden and Passau down near the border is interesting.

Here is how the petition is growing at the moment, 54 days before the end:

It looks at the moment as if the final result will be somewhere around 35000 "against". Though what actually they all think they are against is debatable.

Most interesting is the the information "where they come here from":
Numismatic:,,,,, [Paris],, [Münzhandelsgesellschaft Deutsche Münze, Braunschweig], [Spain], [A. H. Baldwin and Sons Ltd, London], [Fritz Rudolf Künker, Osnabruck],, and [Bocholt].

Collectables retailers and auctioneers [Internationales Auktionshaus fuer Antiken, Alte Waffen, Orden und Ehrenzeichen, Historische Sammlungsstücke Munich]   , and for some reason two stamp sales sites:   [Note: flagged as untrustworthy link:,- Suchmaschine für Briefmarkenangebote], [Briefmarken, Braunschweig], there are also two Metal detectorists and miltaria collectors:,, and one Other site for investors:,

Here we can see that the initiators of this action are dealers, and over three quarters of the agitators noted are coin dealers.  The repetition of this pattern (see the opposition to the measures of the CCPIA in the USA) makes it clear that it is coin dealers in particular who are a stumbling block to efforts and any measures adopted to clean up the antiquities market in general. In order to get co-operation from the collecting world, first of all those dealers who at every step want to frustrate  such efforts need to be dealt with.

Collectors Choose to Finance the Syrian Conflict?

In the cardboard-cutout mentality world of US collectors of dugup antiquities, Peter Tompa in both denial and 'Two Wrongs' mode:
"remains dubious that looted material is reaching our shores in any quantity, and further wonders whether the ultimate source of any such "fresh" material is just as likely, if not more likely, to be the cash-strapped Assad regime or the Free Syrian Army rather than ISIS". 
So presumably he sees financing conflict with collectors' money for material freshly looted from the sites and monuments of Syria or Iraq as less of a problem for consciences if the money is going to buy munitions for the Syrian regime or the (US-backed) FSA.

Aleppo Syria September 1, 2014: a small
boy runs ahead  of a group of men carrying his
mother, killed in an aerial attack.

Peter Tompa of Bailey and Ehrenberg LLC represents several dealers' interest groups (including the IAPN who have been funding his lobbying to the tune of several tens of thousands of dollars over the past few years to say exactly this sort of thing). His blog is widely read among dealers and collectors. Now have a look at the comments under his posts. Does a single one of them respond, "yes, Peter, but don't you think...?" and then writes something showing even a glimmer of a social conscience? Absolutely not. You'll find things like personal attacks on "this Bokova woman" (UNESCO DG) and other views focussed on the "rights" of collectors to buy what they want how they want and not be challenged - but absolutely zero evidence that any of them see what Tompa writes in any kind of wider context. What does that tell you about the type of people that collect antiquities and claim these "rights" over the common heritage of us all?  Baz Thugwits, the lot of them, it seems.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Human Trafficking Route Looks Like Antiquities Path to European Markets

The story of fifty "migrants" (no, let's call them what they are - refugees) found dead in a lorry in Austria is accompanied by a map.

It strikes me that this is very much like a map of the movement of antiquities into Europe from the Middle East (through Turkey and Bulgaria on to Austria and SE Germany) which I'd written about a few years ago for the HAPPAH volume. The knowing participants in the market for antiquities smuggled across international borders by criminals should be ashamed of themselves. What other illegal activities are their friends the smugglers involved in?

The EU and Refugees

Attributed to "Banksy"

Alms for Portable Antiquities Scheme

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is collapsing in on itself, it has just now set up a charity page 'Supporting the Portable Antiquities Scheme':
Many of you (sic) have asked how you can help support the PAS over the past 18 years and with your help through Just Giving we can continue re-writing the archaeology and history of England, Wales and your local areas. Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity.
The British Museum Learning, Volunteers and Audiences Department is not however a charity. Neither does the PAS have an accounting department, so what happens when this money enters the British Museum? The webpage does not say.

 A bit incongruous don't you think? One wonders when the Treasure ransom system will be linked with the need for funds to administer it.  

Maybe metal detectorists will now run fundraising events, not for the usual range of 'socially conspicuous' aims (Men in uniforms, Children, disabled children, boy scouts etc), but to raise money for their 'partner' which does so much to bolster their image. And let them not be coy about it and do it anonymously, let them stand up and shout, "I'm a metal detectorist and I support the PAS!" Metal detectorists and antiquity collectors from across the Atlantic who say the PAS is the next best thing to heaven need not be shy about donating either, their money will not be turned away. Stout, Sayles, Welsh and Tompa, this means you. 

The Welsh need not bother, they'll probably not have a PAS much longer

Dealer Maupin and the Killing of Khaled al-As'ad

Pot-shotting dealer Maupin hefting a pot
In the opinion of this blog, antiquities dealers can at times be nasty, unpleasant jerks. Nowhere is this more clearly seen in the reaction of several of them brutal decapitation of  Khaled al-As'ad, a person who was well-known, liked and respected, among others, by my colleagues in the Polish expedition to Palmyra. His death shocked the world, and not just the archaeological world.

Antiquities dealer Chris M. Maupin of Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities (Wilmington, NC) however is not bothered by that. He deserves widespread condemnation for his insistence that what we know of the archaeologist's final days was just "rather silly claims" and that he had been murdered for nothing more than "being a member of the Ba'ath party" (like 18% of the whole population of Syria).

This follows by poison-dwarf Tompa's claim of the same thing ('Exploiting a Tragedy', CPO August 21, 2015) on his blog conducted as part of his IAPN-funded  lobbying (the executive board of the IAPN, asked several times have not attempted to deny this). Tompa asserts that al-As'ad was killed merely for being a member of the Ba'ath party and "it appears the claim that the scholar was murdered for refusing to disclose the location of hidden antiquities is based not on eyewitness testimony but upon the claims of antiquities officials of the Assad regime in Damascus" - as if the latter (for whom Al-As'ad had been working for five decades) would not have been able to contact the dead man's family.

Palmyra/Tadmor fell on May 21st. Evacuation of the Museum may have begun earlier, but contemporary accounts reveal that much material was being moved when ISIL fighters were already in the town's suburbs and even taking pot shots at those loading the material onto the trucks as artefacts were snatched from under their noses. The 82-year old Al-As'ad was reportedly amongst those helping evacuate the artefacts. (Each of those busts by the way would probably weigh somewhere in the region of 100kg.)

Neither Maupin or Tompa have, I would guess, much experience of conducting such an operation in the face of an ongoing disaster, either military or natural. Those of us who have will have some appreciation of what may have been involved trying to do anything like that in a town in the process of falling to an enemy and everybody who can trying to get out too, lack of vehicles, lack of fuel for them, negotiating roads crammed with fleeing refugees, lack of people willing to help loading and the driving when their homes and families are in the front line. The trip to Damascus is about 200 km, I think it pretty obvious that some museum items may have been dropped off nearer to Palmyra (in a safe house or buried in the desert) in order to get back to the museum to remove more.

Al-As'ad was reported to have been arrested by ISIL twice after the fall of the town. The first time was at the end of May, along with his son Walid, who was later released.
Asaad and his eldest son Walid were picked up by Islamic State on May 22, two days after Palmyra was captured. They were taken to Islamic State headquarters in the northern city of Raqqa and questioned, then released two days later.
During this time they were questioned about alleged "stores of gold" in the city. According to Pádraig Belton in the Spectator:
Palmyra fell on 21 May. Mr al-Asaad and his son were taken into captivity, says Dr Denis Genequand, a University of Geneva archaeologist who worked closely with Mr al-Asaad, and knows his family. ‘One thing that we know from the son, who is now in Damascus, was when they were together in jail, the militants tried to make them tell them where some of the treasures, especially gold, were stored,’ he says.
Al-As'ad was then released. He was reportedly re-arrested at the end of July after several ISIL-collaborators in the town had made accusations of various things and arrested a second time . 
On July 20 Islamic State came back. This time the fighters were rounding up archaeologists.
Mr Asaad was held and interrogated for more than a month. On Monday 17th August, the jihadists had appeared to relent, telling relations that his release was imminent. The next day, he was taken to a city square and beheaded. His body was then put on public display. The accusation on the placard in the display of his mutilated corpse was of “supporting the Nusayri (Alawi) regime because he is the representative of Syria in Blasphemousness conferences, being the director of the archaeological idols of Palmyra, visiting Iran and attending the concert victory of al- Khomeini’s revolution, communicating with his brother the head of the intelligence branch of Filistin and communicating with a general in the presidential palace”. Two days later they cut off his arms and legs, according to his son Mohammed.

Why would the dealer who runs Clio Antiquities be so concerned about whether ISIL were trying to locate caches of antiquities or not and to dismiss those reports? 

Danti - Coin Trade an Exception

Discussion of the difficulties of assessing the scale of the trade in illicit artefacts from Syria and Mesopotamia in the Art Newspaper, Dan Duray, 'Just what is Isil looting in Syria?' Art Newspaper 26 August 2015. They suggest that not a lot of stuff is leaving the 'back rooms of dealers in Turkey and Lebanon' yet
One exception is the coin trade, says Michael Danti, a Boston University professor who co-directs the ASOR Syrian Heritage Initiative, a joint venture between the US State Department and the American Schools of Oriental Research dedicated to documenting incidents of looting. 
He says coins are a problem. I agree with him. Clean up the ancient coin trade.

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