Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2012, That was a year, that was (part two)

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The second part of my review of the year in antiquities issues seen through the prism of the PACHI blog continues in much the same vein as the first, though there definitely seems to be more action in what has been happening over the past six months.


The beginning of July began with a bitter taste as the Americans running the Save ElHibeh campaign were not interested in proper disdussion of the issues raised (by Peter Tompa) and though I had been very supportive of their efforts in general, threw me off their Facebook page for linking to it. Since no other heritage blog was discussing the case, I am left in the dark about what they actually achieved in the end . Maybe somebody can enlighten me (see here). One of the things this blog is about is how most sides of the antiquities debate cling to stereotypical one-sided views which merely aim to justify their position, one would have at least expected a group of US academics to attempt to pretend at least to a more pluralistic and nuanced approach to the tangled complex of issues, but like everybody else they simply shut out what they did not want to hear. 

 Still in America, there was a surprise ending to the Cabinet W case when it turned out that those dodgy-looking coins seized in New York were indeed (Sicilian?) fakes and  Dr Arnold Peter Weiss was sentenced ... to write an article about how dodgy the coin trade actually is. Perhaps fitting, though many questions about this case remained unanswered - at first under the pretence that it was still 'ongoing', six months later it seems that this was not a true reflection of the situation. Subash Kapoor was to be extradited to India from Germany and the long saga began.  The Khouli case also developed, I discussed the Dead Dad Provenance for some of the artefacts concerned (based on material presented by Rick St Hilaire). The University of Chicago Persian antiquities crisis continued  and is still unresolved. The Cyprus MOU was extended. There was some interesting discussion in the NYT of the smuggling and then theft of the Aleppo Codex. A stolen sarcophagus was found in London in the effects of a deceased antiquities dealer. (Imagined) threats to cultural heritage were used in political black propaganda, when rumours were spread that the Islamist government of Egypt was calling for the dismantling of the pyramids.

July was the month that the PAS-inspired Treasure grabfest TV programme was scheduled, and this blog covered the runup to it (e.g., the appearance of its Webpage ) as well as a running commentary on the programmes themselves which made up a substantial number of posts in July. My popular but premature drinking game did not even approach the full awffulness of the final product, and I covered the many negative comments this ill-advidsed programme atteracted. Even the CBA distanced itself from it in the end. A most disappointing showing.  

August the Kapoor case continued to hold our attention, as were the Koh Ker statues which had been floating around the antiquities market. Several posts on both this month. Greece, Turkey were among the countries still applying pressure to get help to protect their cultural heritage. More information emerged about those sarcophagi in Jerusalem (The London Connection and Israel Bought Smuggled Coffin Lid). Jordan however was maintaining an embarrassed silence about those silly lead codices. Cleveland Museum of Art bought some stuff which produced a flurry of blogging in several places. The Tarby case continued , I began to worry that the lawyers engaged by the dealer were getting a head start on the US government lawyers. Over in England an artefact hunter acting illegally got a rather lenient sentence.There was also some discussion of the scam involving the NCMD and the UK Detecting Code of Practice which many UK detectorists blatantly reject and ignore.

September was a busy month. I actually attended an international coin fair here in Warsaw, met a couple of foreign dealers, including one who's been handling the Spengler coins, sat the other side of the table for a while too - gave a bit to think about. In a notable case, a US Dealer's heirs lost title to some of his coins which lacked documentation of how he got them, it would be nice to think that the principle might in future be extended to undocuemented dugups. Dr Weiss produced his essay suggesting that in the case of buying dugups, "US Collectors Should Lead by Example", I gave the essay a 3- for effort and content, while the editor of the trade paper where it appeared stressed that if people collected more ethically "Collecting Ancient Coins will be Different, but will not die out". Coiney lobbyists on the whole refrained from discussing the issue, except one who saw a 'Conspiracy' behind the case outcome.  Florida fossil dealer Eric Procopi's lawyers kept the US Gubn'mint lawyers on their toes in the Tarby case. There was at last a more sane judgement in the loopy Chabad-Lubavich Library  case. It was in September that a Harvard scholar went prematurely public with an unprovenanced papyrus which purported to refer to Jesus' wife which this blog was among the first to argue from the beginning was a fake, a verdict that over the next few days became more and more generally accepted (though for other reasons than the ones I gave in a series of posts). There was continued concern about the situation in Mali

In Britain there was an EES webinar about the antiquities trade, marred a bit by technical difficulties, but a whole range of ideas were presented and discussed (I never finished my third post on that, sorry).  In a related matter, there was (and still is) also a fuss over the deaccession of an Egyptian statue in Northampton. The metal detectorists got quite a bit of cover too. Their non-Green "partners" in Bloomsbury were supporting their call for a BAN on composting green waste. The Crosby Garrett Helmet was loaned by its private owner to a Royal Academy Blockbuster exhibition before being whisked away to hiding again in December. I pointed out that the promnised rethinking of the Treasure Act that the loss of this piece to the national collections prompted seems to have stalled and become another one of those antiquities issues that the British have become so accustomed to sweeping under the carpet hoping that nobody remembers about them. Anyway, still on a Crosby-Garrett theme, the attractive young Christies lady was again in the news this month. There was a new definition of that cover-all label "nighthawking" from Glasgow ("the Glasgow Fourth") which disturbingly was reformulated (toned down) on their website when the implications were discussed - so much for the Glasgow Project leading the way in getting tough with culture crime. English Heritage was caught making some PAS-inspired   stupid comments on the Chesil Iron Age Mirror Grave in September. Sadly enough, they didn't reformulate them when the implications were discussed.

September was the month when a crowd of shaven-headed Polish artefact hunters spent a couple of days taking advantage of Britain's loopy-liberal historical environment 'preservation policies' (I use the term loosely) and the hospitality of the Crown Estates on a private all-Polish artefact grabfest. Their aim is to get the preservation laws back home changed more in line with the British ones. They however seemed less than keen either to appreciate their position here or take the opportunity to discuss this in any detail, preferring a hostile silence. Ich wybor, to nie mój problem. On the subject of another rally, I drew attention to an old video Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Just Three More Years which had been made with apparent reference to something I had earlier said, the lack of responsible recording was what I was drawing attention to, but the original post made two years previously had some very revealing comments added in September 2012. Worth a look by thinking people. My blood boiled when I found out that two metal detector users (Scott Mitchell and Allan Oakley) have admitted stealing coins and other artefacts from a protected Roman site in Baylham (Baylham Rare Breeds Farm), near Needham Market which I know very well. The site is regularly done over by nighthawks, including some who are very violent men.
    In October, we saw the first anniversary of the US cutting UNESCO funding - which has still not been reinstated. At the same time a collector was for some reason named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. The big, and surprising, news was that the previously obdurate SLAM had apparently belatedly decided to do the decent thing about the Ka Nefer nefer mask (the details of the deal have not yet been revealed). In this month too, the ICE held a media circus to celebrate some repatriations of Mexican stuff, thogh increasingly critical voices are becoming associated with these events, such as questions whether such hoo-haa only serves to deflect attention from the smuggled antiquities that ar being missed as they pass through the US borders. Also how many convictions are associated with these "repatriations"? In a surprise development in the Tarby case, Florida fossils dealer and professional palaeontologist Eric Procopi was arrested, were his lawyers doing too well? Anyway with the new problems this produced, the dealer at this point engaged a new lawyer. A US tour guide was US Tour Guide sentenced heavily for fossils theft in Alaska.  An American woman caught leaving Macedonia with coins and antiquities in her luggage was sentenced, though not without a huge amount of revealing emotional special pleading back home. In Basel an alleged portable antiquities smuggling ring was bust, and in Iraq, antiquity smugglers are still being arrested. Violence and looting in Bangladesh was followed by an influx of dealers. In Pakistan, police resources are stretched by trying to prevent looting.

    The court case concerning the ACCG's Baltimore Illegal Coin Import Stunt reached what seemed to be the end... (oh, yes, you've guessed it - see below). The US Coineys continue to act as though they have drawn a battle line, and continue their shameful personal attacks on anyone who thinks differently about irresponsible collecting, even fellow numismatists. US dealers and collectors were trying desperately to overturn a New York court ruling that obliges them to reveal the name of consigners. The fate of this bid remains unknown. In another case involving provenance and commerce, Rabbi Menachem Youlus ws finally sentenced for fraudulently misrepresenting the origins of Torah scrolls he was selling, a verdict it seems many readers of this blog were impatient to learn.

    A map of reported looting hotspots seems to show that Britain is particularly badly affected by this problem. It is also exporting it, a Lothians man went metal detecting in Poland and found coins,  apparently oblivious to the local laws.   Two Treasure cases were in the news in October, the Sandridge solidus hoard where some leaked (but subsequently hidden) videos revealed some interesting activities associated with this find. The other case was the attempt to raise the cash for the Bredon Hill Hoard which actually had an archaeological context. the cash was raised and the hoard was not scattered by being sold to dealers and collectors.  There was a discussion here with a rather cantankerous Dutch tekkie on metal detecting ethics , and a few comments on find recovery rates by artefact hunters, and another case of illegal artefact hunting targeting a known site. Discussion of the "Glasgow Fourth" continued with one artefact hunter announcing that he'd get loads of archaeologist "partners" to denounce the definition of illegal behaviour and he would publish them all. Needless to say, to judge from what subsequently happened, not a single archaeologist sent him a publishable comment opposing what the Glasgow team had said. There is also a discussion of a survey of metal detectorists by Suzie Thomas, published on the Glasgow Trafficking Culture Project's website. Finally at the announcement that the popular and successful TV archaeology programme "Time Team" was coming off air , the hostility of some artefact hunters towards archaeologists in general was revealed by some of the reactions.
     
    Throughout this part of the year, I continued to demonstrate - with verifiable reference to real-life cases - that the idealistic rosy picture painted by both artefact hunters with metal detectors (as well as no-questions-asked coin dealers and collectors across the seas) about their aims and activities fails totally to correlate with the far more complex realities of both milieux. It is only by wholly ignoring these issues that anyone can even begin to contemplate calling these people their "partners" - but that is exactly what the British establishment does, and most likely will continue to do.

    Vignette: a long-missing, twice-stolen hippocamp turns up. 

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