Tuesday, 25 July 2017

In UK New Artefact Hunting Club Started up

'Responsible metal detecting' reaches out and yet another club is founded for 'citizen archaeologists', it appears anyone can join ('its about time we had a club for all thosepeople that really are pissed off with what we are expected to put up with. Itsa case of catch me if you can'):

This seems again to be about allegedly low Treasure valuations (some examples are cited which in the form given do seem rather on the low-side, I'd be interested in learning the facts of each of these cases) and delays in the valuation etc. process. Some of the responses to the proposal of a new group in response to these problems by responsible detectorists countrywide include a Steven Bailey who is still waiting for an outcome of a Roman silver ring which he handed in over 18 months ago ('I decided in Feb not to report any more of my finds'). A Scott Leitch curses 'them' and says that  he will 'never declaire anything ever again'. Somebody called Tez Sykes suggests that what is needed is a 'petition' sent to 'the British Museum FLO department' on behalf of every detectorist in the UK. One to watch.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Another Commercial Organization Eroding the UK's Archaeological Record

Apart from Nigel Jones and his happy band of pay-to-exploit diggers and collectors, there are other ones. Make no mistake, organizing commercial artefact grabfests is a money spinner. Here's another one, Let's Go Digging:
Lets Go Digging was the brainchild of Paul Howard, a detectorist who was becoming aware of the difficulties facing himself and his fellow ‘diggers’ when it came to getting permission to detect on farmland. With the rise in crime and other negative factors, farmers were becoming more and more reluctant to allow strangers on their property. Paul realised that the only way to convince landowners to allow detecting was to commercialise it, to recompense the farmers for allowing groups of people onto his fields. In no time at all, Paul’s venture began to gather pace with hundreds of people joining his Facebook page interested in being part of organised group digs. With the farmers seeing it as a revenue stream for their business, permissions began to increase and recommendations and referrals soon enabled Paul to organise frequent events around his home area in the West Midlands. Lets go Digging’s popularity has now stretched to almost 2000 members and land permissions being offered nationwide. Recently he launched Lets Go Digging (Wales) which is already attracting substantial interest.
They are now active in Wales. The first event in Brecon had a good turnout with 'a great range of coins and artefacts recovered, making the day a success for all' (except the main stakeholders, the British public whose heritage was pocketed).
With over 100 coins unearthed, including a few exceptional hammered silver pennies along with a few Romans and various artifacts (sic), the Brecon Rally was a positive start to the Welsh venture and already Paul has been approached by farmers offering permissions. 
Paul intends to take this venture further South and further North 'as further interest in the hobby is becoming increasingly apparent'.
Paul believes that with group digs, the administration and organisation will result in far better records being maintained of what finds are discovered and where. That landowners will be far more receptive to a respected organisation and that the hobby can be promoted to encourage more people to join in digging the history from beneath their feet.
Our archaeological heritage, our feet. I am sure Mr Howard would like to show us all those records of the 100 coins and other artefacts from the 'Brecon dig' on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. Where are they now?

What, though, is happening to the PAS' concept of 'citizen archaeology' as more and more businesses are being set up to commercialise the Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Heritage? We've had one off or annual commercial artefact hunting rallies on individual sites, now we are seeing the creation of businesses set up with the explicit purpose of identifying exploitable bits of the archaeological record and setting their paying clients loose on them. Surely, this is making a mockery of the claims of the PAS about 'responsible artefact hunting' (because doing it commercially is as far from a 'responsible' approach to the archaeological record as you can get). Will then a 'responsible' PAS be addressing these problems at any of their conferences any time soon? Don't hold your breath.

Tekkies Swap 'Their' Land

On a metal detecting forum near you, land exchange now

Are you a club looking for land?

Post by Oxgirl36 » Sat Jul 22, 2017 1:14 pm
Let's go digging have land in Wales, Lancashire and Devon that they can't use. They are offering the land to clubs that might need it as it could be lost otherwise. Interested? Contact Paul at LGD either via Facebook or via their website.
Surely, is it not up to the landowner to determine who they will invite onto their property, and from which 'pool' they are selected. Land not ransacked for collectables is not land 'lost'. Why is this land in these regions not profitable to search? 
It seems to me that metal detectorists are getting a bit above themselves, the more money they make from the commercialisation of the Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record. Do you get a PAS FLO thrown into the 'deal' too?

NYC Antiquities Dealer Sues WSJ over Story

A New York antiquities dealer, Hicham Aboutaam, is suing the Wall Street Journal for suggesting he and his brother have sold items looted by ISIS. (Sydney Smith, 'NYC Antiquities Dealer Sues WSJ over ISIS Looting Investigations Story' Media Ethics July 22, 2017).
The Wall Street Journal‘s spokesperson Steve Severinghaus told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “The Wall Street Journal‘s article about investigations into the trafficking of material looted by ISIS was thoroughly reported, fair and wholly accurate. We fully stand by the article and will mount a robust defense to Hicham Aboutaam’s lawsuit.” iMediaEthics has written to Aboutaam’s lawyer for more information.
Courthouse News Service uploaded a copy of the lawsuit, which was filed in New York. In the lawsuit, Aboutaam repeats his denial of buying or selling any looted items, and he accuses the Journal of “ignoring months of assiduous attempts to guide and correct [Wall Street Journal] reporters’ misconceptions, misunderstandings, and incorrect assumptions.” [...]
The lawsuit says that the Journal article caused Aboutaam to lose funding, business relationships and business opportunities. Hicham Aboutaam’s Geneva-based brother, Ali, isn’t suing over the article because his business hasn’t been as affected, the New York Times noted.
I wrote at the time that the article appeared largely built on innuendo. Media Ethics has an interesting breakdown of the manner in which WSJ referred to its 'sources'. Certainly a case that will be watched with interest by journlists and bloggers alike.

Metal detectorist Sells Roman Fleet Diploma

Gavin Havery, ' Metal detectorist finds Britain's first Roman Fleet diploma near Lanchester, in County Durham' Northern Echo 21st July 2017
Mr Houston finds plenty of ring pulls from fizzy drinks cans, and his main artefacts tend to be musket balls. Until discovering the diploma his best find was a Palstave bronze axe head, which dates back thousands of years. He has now sold the diploma to Durham University’s Museum of Archaeology for a five-figure sum, splitting the money with the landowner. Mr Houston said: “For me, the only place it should be is in a local museum for local people because it is part of our local history, and a massive part of our local history. “This is the best place for it.” 
So he "sold" it. To us. And pocketed the munny instead of the artefact this time.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Detectorists Targeting Gloucestershire Farmland at Night

Baz Thugwit,  Nocturnal Citizen
Archaeologist Without Licence
examning one of his finds
Metal detectorists who hunt for buried ancient artefacts are targeting farmland in Gloucestershire. The practice involves people using metal detectors searching at night to hunt for valuable objects without the landowner's permission to be there and to take away their property (Illegal detectorists targeting Gloucestershire farmland  17 July 2017).
Gloucestershire Police said it contravenes the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and is rife during late summer after fields are ploughed. Farmer Graham Nichols, from Kingscote, said the people involved know what they are doing is illegal. Mr Nichols claims there are 150 acres of Roman settlements beneath his farmland. He said: "It's where people come with metal detectors to try and find Roman remains. The problem is all this land is scheduled so it's an illegal activity." "They know what they're doing is illegal as they are coming out at night when it's dark," Mr Nichols added. "This is history, and once they've taken that history away it can never be put back there, and this is the future for generations to come." Gloucestershire Police Sgt Garrett Gloyne said: "It happens at a particular time of year after farmers have harvested crops and fields have been ploughed." He warned if someone is found using a metal detector on a scheduled ancient monument they could be arrested, and also urged the public to notify the force of any suspicious activity.

British 'Responsible Metal Detecting' in Orl its Glory

"from now on anyone asks me what
to do with a find im going to be telling them
what i would do. and thats not whats written in books of rules"

I just found this on Facebook and think it should be shared with all those fans of British so-called 'responsible metal detecting'. It is associated with the band of artefact hunters associated with Nigel Jones, the guy who is going to get his legal team on me to block me discussing his commercial organization. While we wait for that to happen, I will continue discussing what I think needs outing and discussing. 
TO PAS OR NOT TO PAS, THAT IS THE QUESTION? SHOULD WE NOT KEEP ALL OF OUR FINDS AND SAY FUCK THE THIEVING STUCK UP ASS HOLES THAT KEEP LOSING OUR FINDS. Personally I hope all of our heritage gets stolen and sold abroad, because from where im sitting, the selfish bastards in the British museum cant be arsed to record finds correctly and even loose a metal detectorists finds. WHAT YOU GONA DO WHEN NO MORE FINDS ARE RECORDED AND THE MUSEUMS FALL EMPTY BECAUSE YOU LOOSE EVERYTHING............
 #pas #flo #britishmuseum #digitkeepit
Fans of British 'Responsible metal detecting' can also follow the hashtag 'dig it, keep it':  ...where this post is attributed to a certain Mr Jones, the organizer of a large commercial artefact hunting organization, and then we find this is the next call for a reporting strike in retaliation for uncomfortable questions being raised about the effects of current policies on Collction-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological Record.

'from now on anyone asks me what to do with a find im going to be telling them what i would do. and thats not whats written in books of rules' (Nigel Jones)

Of course the official view is that the so-called 'responsible artefact hunter' with a metal detector in the UK does not have to 'ask' Mr Jones or anyone else, he just goes to the FLO with what needs recording (as per Code or Responsible Collecting). That's the responsible thing to do.

So what's the difference between selfish taking of evidence of everybody's past for oneself without sharing the knowledge? That is Knowledge Theft, and I would say just as damaging to the record of our past as Nighthawking. Isn't it?

UPDATE 23rd July 2017
Since this was written, some of the commenters seem to have had second thoughts and the more revealing ones have been deleted... Something to hide, folks? 

Code? What Code? See You.

Nigel Jones (who is threatening to get his legal team on me for debating heritage issues) has set up a commercial artefact hunting organization, he makes money out of getting farmers to agree to some collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record of his land (perfectly legal in the UK). Considerable numbers of artefacts are being decontextualised and disappearing into scattered ephemeral personal collections made for entertainment and profit (when any items are sold off, members are told there is not obligation to return any of the proceeds to the landowner as long as the value of individual items does not exceed 300 quid). Here's a happy customer writing about the range of artefacts he got out of the historical record during one such event (no doubt we'll see the whole range of recordable items found on such a prolific site on the 'rallies' page of the PAS database)  to bulk out the rather poor showing from the commercial events recently.
Peter Lister zrecenzował: The Metal Detectorist5 gwiazdek  24 kwietnia
Had a really good day the event was really well organised and people were very friendly the detecting area was huge with no green waste - I found lead loom weights, trade weights, coins and buttons but left the event on a high when I found my first hammered and silver George 111  Just like to say thanks for a great day and see you all next weekend.
The Metal Detectorist thank you peter see you next week on the ridge and furrow we have to dig over the weekend
Don't forget to take your copy of the Responsbility Code with you.

Vignette: 'Ridge and furra', unploughed for centuries, stuff just there fer the taking... 

Paying Guest Pricey Pockets a bit of Your Past

While I wait in anticipatory trepidation to see what the legal team of Nigel Jones come up with in the way of a response to fair use discussion of the activities of one of the new commercial artefact hunting units in the UK, here's a testimonial from one of the members what a joy good thing it is to go hoiking with them, ripping out bits of the country's heritage to pocket it:
Dave Pricey zrecenzował: The Metal Detectorist5 gwiazdek 22 kwietnia ·
This is a great group with sum off the best land I have seen great atmosphere with in the club and sum great finds I will be atending as meany digs as possible my I add with the idear off tea and coffee to all on the digs is a great idear keep up the good work and credit where credit is due cracking club be silly to miss out [emoticon]
They used to have schools in Britain, before Brexit. How many of Mr Pricey's 'great finds' will be recordable items which see the light of day in the PAS database?

Deep Digger Dan, How's the Legal Action Coming on?

The detectorists' approach to discussing
issues connected with artefact collecting
Talking about legal threats from law-abiding 'responsible metal detectorists' who don't like the treatment of the heritage being discussed, we've not heard all that much recently from Deep Digger Dan (Daniel Holdsworth), have we?  Last I recall, he too had his own 'legal team' and had ambitions to prevent me debating heritage issues. Where is Deep Digger Dan when Nigel Jones needs him? 

'Deep Digger Dan Threatens to Close the PACHI Blog...' PACHI 19 September 2015


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Insta-Dead: the Rhetoric of the Online human remains trade

Bad taste art
Huffer, D. and Graham, S., 2017.  The Insta-Dead: the rhetoric of the human remains trade on Instagram, Internet Archaeology 45.

There is a thriving trade, and collector community, around human remains that is facilitated by posts on new social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Etsy, and, until recently, eBay. In this article, we examine several thousand Instagram posts and perform some initial text analysis on the language and rhetoric of these posts to understand something about the function of this community, what they value and how they trade, buy, and sell, human remains. Our results indicate a well-connected network of collectors and dealers both specialist and generalist, with a surprisingly wide-reaching impact on the 'enthusiasts' who, through their rhetoric, support the activities of this collecting community, in the face of legal and ethical issues generated by its existence.
Like the private collection of dugup antiquities:
"The amassing of human remains by private collectors of sufficient means is itself a modern microcosm of the ethical stance and practice of many American and European museums in the late 19th-early 20th centuries (see Redman 2016 for a comprehensive review). In the same way that those early collecting practices did damage and violence to communities from which the dead were collected, the emergence of social media platforms that facilitate collector communities seems to be re-playing that history. Not all of this collecting is necessarily illegal, but it is important to understand what is happening, where it is happening, and how these human remains are framed as collectable objects so that archaeologists, cultural heritage professionals, museums and so on are better equipped to engage with this desire and to channel it productively.
Hmmm, channelling the private collection of human remains 'productively' seems an odd idea. A bit like trying to make a silk purse out of the collection-driven destruction of archaeological context.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

'Really, Really Passinitly Interestid in th' Past'

One of the more easily recognizable Medieval artefact types, pilgrim badges:
Another good post John.. And very informative.. I always enjoy your posts.. But, again, had I found something like this, I would not know what it is   Micheal
The ability to observe archaeological information and record it for passing on to others requires you to know what you are looking at. Many people who go out artefact collecting with a metal detector have not the foggiest, so the activities of the average detectorist are always destructive of archaeological information. Always. PAS archaeologists, comment please.

You don't Need to be an Expert to Understand How the Antiquities Trade Works

Mistakes some might be making
A tongue in cheek piece commenting on Hobby Lobby's contraceptive-denying hypocrisy: Jane Ahlin 'Hobby Lobby changes the Ten Commandments ' INForum Jul 16, 2017
"You're saying you don't know about Hobby Lobby's smarmy antiquities dealings in the Middle East?" [...] did he say being asked to wire money to seven separate personal bank accounts didn't strike him as a wee bit unusual?" [...] "And did he say that mailing antiquities to Oklahoma in boxes labeled 'ceramic tiles' and 'clay tiles' wasn't to avoid U.S. Customs?" "Well...". "Well nothing, Sunshine. We're talking straight-forward stealing and lying." Mary smiled broadly. "That's why we gotta change the commandment 'thou shalt not steal' to 'thou shalt not insure contraceptives.'" [...] back then Steve Green talked about how ignorance of the Bible threatened America's future. For somebody who missed 'thou shalt not steal,' that's rich, don't you think?" [...]" Here's a guy claiming he's such a hotshot Christian, he gets to deny his employees birth control insurance coverage — which, by the way, most people including Christians see as personal and medical and none of his business — a guy who, as it turns out, has no qualms about smuggling looted antiquities for...wait for it...a Bible museum he's opening in Washington, D.C." "I see. That does sound like hypocrisy, not Christianity." "Amen to that, Sunshine."

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Hands off the Antiquities, USA

Cultural policy is about our relationship with other
countries and their pasts, which help shape their futures.
But it is also about values, those we share and those that
we, and perhaps we alone, prize

U.S. cultural policy will become key as wars throughout the Middle East and North Africa give way to reconstructions argues Alex Joffe ('Hands Off the Antiquities Advice for U.S. Policymakers' The American Interest : July 15, 2017).
Collecting antiquities is morally and legally problematic. [...] The [Hobby Lobby] case brings American cultural heritage policy—how the U.S. government understands, supports, and defends cultural heritage, including antiquities sites and cultural property—into the spotlight once again. It also highlights the fact that cultural heritage policy is far more than a matter for law enforcement. Indeed, cultural heritage policy is tied to both foreign and security policy. Intelligent foreign policy demands deep understanding of how culture shapes conflict, including those cultural artifacts that can be removed from their places of origin. Meanwhile, both terror groups and transnational criminal syndicates often loot and smuggle antiquities to finance their operations. Non-state actors operate globally, thriving in corrupt, weak or collapsed states, where such activities are relatively easy. The cultural costs are the destruction of archaeological and heritage sites, the weakening of local economies, communities, and nations, and the erasure of humanity’s common narrative. 
While the U.S. government has responded to some of this with legislative and executive moves to restrict the import of stolen antiquities and other cultural property from Iraq and Syria, much remains to be done.
The U.S. government should also, along with NGOs and academic organizations, raise public awareness about the damage done by the sale of antiquities: One television spot with Kim Kardashian could put looted antiquities into the same category as baby seals.
Joffe argues that  'the problem of cultural heritage will become acute for both military and civilian authorities when stability operations in places like Afghanistan and Syria turn into post-conflict reconstruction'.
Here the U.S. government (and the international community) will be confronted by a series of problems, such as irreconcilable claims regarding the possession of cultural heritage sites and property from different ethnic, religious, and local groups. To whom do sites belong? What should be rebuilt and by whom? Will, for example, Shi‘a and Yazidi shrines and mosques destroyed by ISIS in northern Iraq and Syria be rebuilt? Who has responsibility for restoring ravaged antiquities sites in northern Iraq, like Nimrud—the Kurdish or Baghdad government? Cultural heritage problems will do much to shape post-conflict politics and landscapes. Local consensus will be difficult, and the international NGO and development communities will inevitably weigh in. The process is likely to cause further conflict, opening the way to more looting and destruction. Furthermore, the immense piles of money that are a part of post-conflict reconstruction will encourage looting. These will be policy issues for the United States, whether we like it or not. 

Tel Dothan Pots 'Contemporary with Abraham' Green Bible Museum

Whoah! They seem to assume that 'Abraham' was an actual figure (not like King Arthur then) and he can be given dates... in mainstream Biblical scholarship the historicity of the Patriarchs is no longer seriously postulated and this has been the situation since the mid-1970s. This 'museum' looks like it is going to be a real barrel of laughs. I cannot wait to see the artefacts of the 'Flood'.

Abraham, by the way is also one of the Quranic patriarchs, he is credited with building the Kaaba in Mecca.

Belgium is the "weak link" in the fight against trafficking in cultural property

Since December 2016, the "Arts and Antiquities" unit of the federal police has been dismantled, a decision endorsed by Interior Minister Jan Jambon. Since then, Belgium appears to be "the weak link in the policy against illicit trafficking in cultural property", deplored Edouard Planche, in charge of the anti-trafficking program at UNESCO, in the pages of Le Soir on Thursday. This unit was the only point of contact able to respond to requests from Interpol, foreign police and customs. Its closure at the time had alerted the International Criminal Police Organisation, which expressed its concern in a confidential letter to Prime Minister Charles Michel in September. For six months the bases of Interpol and Belgium, dealing with stolen works of art, are no longer provided and this is raising concern abroad. The federal police says that a "point of contact" for art traffic was however "recently restored."
Oscar Schneider, 'Belgium is the "weak link" in the fight against trafficking in cultural property', The Brussels Times 14 July 2017

Bible Bumble: The Befuddled Build-Up to the New Museum of the Bible

Something tells me that the opening of the Bible Museum on 17th Novem,ber is going to be met with a lot of criticism. The latest indication that this is going to be the case is an interesting text by Lee Rosenbaum (CultureGrrl, 'Bible Bumble: The Befuddled Build-Up to the New Museum of the Bible' July 13, 2017):
the reputational injury from being the intended recipient of goods that were “smuggled into the United States through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel, contrary to federal law” (in the words of the Attorney Office’s press releasecan’t be healed by a facile apology for “some regrettable mistakes.”

Privatisation of Knowledge Production Limits Critical Enquiry

Fiona Greenland  (assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia) discusses 'Hobby Lobby’s parallel universe of antiquity studies' on Dan Hirschman's 'scatterplot' blog, July 13, 2017
The Museum of the Bible’s Scholars Initiative invites academics to research and write about [the] extraordinary artifacts in its collection. As Baden and Moss have pointed out, however, before undertaking the research scholars are carefully screened. They must sign a non-disclosure agreement. Researchers who have refused to join the Scholars Initiative have been denied access to the collection. Researchers who did join have found themselves embroiled in controversy for appearing to toe the party line for Hobby Lobby.
It’s easy to conclude that squeamish academics should simply stay away. Nobody is forcing anyone to collaborate with the Museum. But to say that is to ignore the underlying problem of turning cultural objects that belong to “all people” into private interests. Here I like the concept of academic sovereignty as formulated by Charlie Eaton and Mitchell Stevens (2017). The concept gets us thinking about an organization’s power over scholarly inquiry and academic instruction. Academic sovereigns straddle multiple institutional domains, are autonomous, ubiquitous, and durable, and contribute to several discourses. While Eaton and Stevens focused on universities, I can’t help but see that kind of power in Hobby Lobby, which has annual revenues on par with several major US universities.
You don’t have to be a Near Eastern specialist to be concerned about the broader outcomes of a private group, with a pronounced political and religious agenda, having the power to control the empirical underpinnings of a discipline. What the Hobby Lobby-Museum of the Bible case means for all of us is that when the basis of knowledge production is privatized the grounds for critical inquiry are also vulnerable to delimitation.
Prof. Greenland is 'currently completing a book titled Ruling Culture: Art police, tomb robbers, and the rise of cultural power in Italy', which sounds as if it could al;so offer some interesting insights..

Palmyra artifacts recovered by Syrian Army

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has recovered several artifacts that were stolen from the ancient city of Palmyra by the so-called Islamic State (ISIL), the Syrian Arab News Agency reported on Friday. According to SANA the Syrian Arab Army and competent local authorities completed four major busts in and around the ancient city. SANA added that the stolen statues were handed over to the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums, as these ancient artifacts date back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D.  General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums considered that the statues had been stolen from the tombs of the southeastern cemetery which was repeatedly looted by ISIL
Leith Fadel, 'Palmyra artifacts recovered by Syrian Army', Al-Masdar News 14/07/2017.

Portable Antiquities Scheme may Contain Traces of Nuts

Portable Antiquities Scheme may contain traces of nuts

Friday, 14 July 2017

Dumbdown 'Engaging with the Past', First 'Metal Detecting', now Selfies

Dumbdown 'engaging with the past', first 'metal detecting' (Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological Record) to 'get people visiting museums', now selfies
"Museum selfies have become a thing, and are even encouraged by some museums to draw younger visitors. There are entire blogs dedicated to museum selfies. Museum Hack, which gives quirky, unofficial tours of major museums around the country says on its website, “Museum selfies are an awesome way to engage audiences with your museum and collections"..." (Sopan Deb, 'Oops! A Gallery Selfie Gone Wrong Causes $200,000 in Damage', The New York Times).
'Awesome'. While you are there, why not scribble your name on the wall to say 'I engaged with the collections here'?

Egypt, Site Guards Murdered

In Egypt, masked gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on a security checkpoint in Giza province on Friday killing five policemen (AP, 'Gunmen kill 5 policemen near Egypt's oldest pyramid in Giza',  14.07.17)
The drive-by shooting in the early hours of the morning took place in the village of Abusir in Badrashin, part of Greater Cairo [...] The attack took place near the famous Step Pyramid of King Djoser, [...] The attackers stole the weapons and radios of the victims and tried to set fire to the bodies but fled upon seeing people gathering nearby, witnesses said.
The slain policemen were part of the force tasked to guard Saqqara, with its concentration of funerary complexes, temples and tombs. This event should be borne in mind by those dealers and their lobbyists who insist that, instead of buyers lifting a finger and eliminating the possibility of financing the looters and thieves by buying unselectively, no-questions-asked,  foreign governments should  provide better site security by placing guards 24/7 on all archaeological sites, everywhere. A team of five armed guards however was not in a position to fend off this attack. What human cost does the dealers' insistence involve? Why can they just not clean up the portable antiquities business?

Dealers' Associations Scraping the Barrel

The sad spectacle of the Baltimore Illegal Coin Import Stunt continues. The dealers of the US simply will not accept that they have to obtain at least minimal documentation of the recent history of items they want to bring onto the market to separate the licit from the potentially illicit. What selfish jerks. So their lobbyist Peter Tompa hopefully announces (CPO Thursday, July 13, 2017: 'ACCG Gets Amicus Support'):
Six collector and trade groups have supported the Ancient Coin Collectors' Guild's appeal seeking to ensure that the due process rights of collectors are protected. 
Balderdash, they are seeking to perpetuate ther damaging no-questions-asked business practices. Let us just name and shame these cowboys: 
(1) American Numismatic Association; (2) Association of Dealers and Collectors of Ancient and Ethnographic Art; (3) Committee for Cultural Policy; (4) Global Heritage Alliance; (5) International Association of Professional Numismatists and (6) the Professional Numismatists Guild.
'Integrity and responsibility'? That's a laugh.  Once again, the content of the relevant legislation is being misrepresented to collectors:
Under the Convention for Cultural Property Implementation Act, the government may only seize and forfeit archaeological and ethnological objects “first discovered within” and “subject to export control by” specific countries.  And even then, the government must make some showing that the articles left that country after the effective date of those regulations.  Here, at most, all the government showed was that the coins were of types on the “designated lists” for Cyprus and China.
Which is indeed the criterion applicable to items seized at the US border without documentation supplied by the exporter that it complies with the requirements laid down by the CCPIA. While the US law is atavistic in relationship to today's antiquities market and a piece of crap legislation in general, its wording is perfectly clear in relation to the items which these dealers conspired were to import into the US.

When will this farce stop, and when will responsible collectors tell the dealers they buy from that they expect better standards, not only within the business practices of the trade, but also behaviour of those involved in it?

 It may end sooner than we think when the international dealers' associations promoting it realize that while they've been faffing around with the CCPIA to protect one end of the market, massively more restrictive moves have been happening over here in Europe where it is not 'whether one can import' that is in question, but the legality of objects themselves. American dealers will now have their export market to worry about too.

The ACCG and the dealers and collectors that support it have been pissing into a pool of filth which is rapidly drying up as they watch.

EU on Illicit Cultural Property

When should the import of a cultural good be considered illicit? 
The import of cultural goods into the EU can be considered illicit when those goods have been exported from a non-EU country illegally, i.e. it is the laws of the exporting country which determine the licit or illicit character of the goods in question. These laws can range from national legislative measures for the protection of cultural goods, or implementation of the UNESCO Convention.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

An American 'Global Heritage Alliance'

In the Libya CPAC comments is one from the 'Global Heritage Alliance and the Committee for Cultural Policy' written by Gary Vikan, 'CCP's President and a GHA board member'. It is the usual claptrap from those who want to see the CCPIA fail to implement the measures of the 1970 UNESCO Convention in even a milnimalist fashion on yet another part of the US antiquities trade. But the question is what is this 'Global Heritage Alliance'? It seems to have no website detailing what it is, who supports it and what it does (except write pro-trade claptrap), Who are these people and what does an organization with such a hackneyed name represent? Is it really global in its membership, or is it another case of US neo-imperialistic attempts to impose an alt-right version of 'American values' on the rest of the world? 

MOU Comment from Mar-a-Logo?

Although this was posted anonymously, the written style closely resembles that of a well-known Twitter contributor who has received prominence recently: [a comment on the U.S. Department of State (DOS) Notice: Meetings: Cultural Property Advisory Committee  - DOS-2017-0028-0001]
It's long overdue for the State Dept. to stop rolling over and playing dead.

The countries with MOU's and would-be MOU's *never* existed in ancient times.

By denying American collectors to have the same right to collect as virtually every other country, two problems are created.

1) Tax revenues will by reduced by an estimated $50 million. GNP down a shade. Plus legal dealers will have reduced incomes for no good reason.

2) Collectibles sold by third-party countries (everyone but us) will now be significantly more expensive to Americans. Unfair.

A level playing field? No, this is a tilted playing field.
Or perhaps this kind of expression is contagious.

Academics Handling Portable Antiquities

Apropos the 'Green Scholars', contractually mixed up with the Hobby Lobby affair:

Joel Baden‏    12.07   W odpowiedzi do Więcej
Any academic who does not demand provenance - and check it thoroughly, and report it publicly - is complicit.
but this, quite clearly, applies to all.

Basra policeman found a "treasure" of antiquities

The Iraqi mdia are reporting that 'a Basra policeman found a "treasure" of antiquities that has been prepared to be smuggled out of Iraq'. Except he has not. The ones in the video that you can say something about are most likely fakes (0:06-8, 0:11-14 seconds, 1:05-11 glass and stone; 0:28-30 cast coins with filed edges) . The glass looks modern, the pots I cannot tell, but there is nothing much to say they are ancient dugups rather than modern replicas. I do not know what the ground-down bases are 1:45-48, any ideas? The problem is that pieces which were intended to scam no-questions-asking artefact collectors end up discrediting the over-eager preservationists wanting desperately to show a victory over the criminals.

A Challenge to Apologists of Metal Detectorist Collection-Driven Exploitation of the UK Archaeological Record

Eric Moron and his metal detecting
mates think it is enough to repeat the
same words time after time and 
people will believe them
British metal detectorist John Winter (re) publishes an article  'carefully put together by a great detectorist' (Rod Blunt) which sets out his thoughts on 'Metal Detecting – The Hobby and its Detractors'. Underneath it is a comment where on John Stokes reckons
Yes, things have changed, to some degree, opinions sadly have not, as far as some are concerned, including one very large thorn in the side. He will never admit to being wrong, nor will he change the opinions of those who actually know the truth.
I do not know how a metal detectorist goes about constructing his or her version of the truth and their opnions, there are those of us (not all of us have degrees) who base them on rational argumentation and analsis of various pieces of information.

Mr Blunt presented his views in 2007, Mr Winter republished them verbatim on his own blog in 2011 and reckons that 'in 10 years little has changed … time for a reprise, I think!'.

Possibly Mr Blunt's views on what the 'detractors' of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record have failed to make any headway outside the hobby because his arguments are palpably false. If a metal detectorist wants to convince us that there is validity to what he says, then they have to address the comments made by those who have read his text and thought the points he makes through. There are a number of issues with the construction and contents of his narrative, why, therefore, does he not follow up the initial effort to address these concerns? It is not enough for unthinking dullards to dismiss attempts to put another side of an argument and properly debate the issues as a 'thorn in our side'. Here are some comments made on the original text which metal detectorists pretend not to see.
This is why Mr Blunt is wrong. Merely repeating unsupportable arguments verbatim, time after time, does not make them any the more acceptable. Mr Winter and Mr Blunt are perfectly welcome to engage in discussion of the points I raised (as they were as long as six years ago) in the comments under this post - or on their own websites. Let us see what they come up with ten years later... or has 'nothing changed' in their own understanding of the situation in that time?

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Hungary Buys Second Half of the Sevso treasure

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban said Wednesday that the country 's government has bought the remaining seven objects of a Roman-era silver treasure believed to have been found near Lake Balaton in the mid-1970s and then smuggled out of Hungary in the 1980s (AP 'Hungary Buys 2nd Half of Roman-Era Silver Treasure'. July 12, 2017). The hoard consisted of  14 silver trays, bowls and jugs some of which were contained in a copper cauldron and date from the 4th century. Hungary purchased the first seven objects in 2014 for 15 million euros (then $20.7 million) and paid another 28 million euros ($31.9 million) for the current batch to undisclosed sellers. 

EU Plans Tough Checks on 'One of the Most Persistent Illegal Trades in the World'

'The black market of antiquities and culture
constitutes one of the most persistent illegal trades in the world'

In the EU there is increased concern about stopping militants and jihadis financing terror through trade in stolen art, there will be tighter checks on imports of ancient artefacts (Jim Brunsden, EU plans tough checks on imports of ancient artefacts', Financial Times 12 July 2017).
The European Commission will set out plans on Thursday to fix a patchwork of national procedures that it says makes it too easy to ship objects looted from Syria and other war zones into the EU. [...] Pierre Moscovici, the EU’s economy commissioner, told the Financial Times that his plans would “complete our arsenal as we tackle the trafficking of works of art”. “Money is a weapon of war for those terrorists who target our continent or who are engaged in fighting in Iraq and Syria,” he said. “For our security, we must at all costs diminish their sources of financing, starting with the trafficking of stolen art in third countries.” 
A number of seizures of artefacts (not all of which are reported in the news) and evidence of systematic looting  'on an industrial level' in areas under militant control is the reason for this concern.  It is clear that such business constitutes a direct threat to Europe, the money raised not only goes directly to the financing of militant groups in the MENA area but also could be used to finance attacks on European soil.
Brussels will propose common rules on the details that importers must give customs officials and national culture ministries, with the toughest rules for archaeological objects such as sculptures and monuments as well as for old books and manuscripts. Such goods would only be allowed into the EU after an importer proved they had been exported legally. Customs agents and other national authorities would have 90 days to examine the claims and decide whether to grant an import licence. Officials say national standards vary widely. While some countries, such as Germany and France, demand that goods are accompanied by an export certificate from the source country, procedures in other EU nations are much less thorough, leading to problems of so-called port-shopping.  The planned EU rules would apply to goods that are at least 250 years old, and national governments would have to put in place effective and dissuasive sanctions to punish rule-breakers. 
A Brexited Britain will have to put its own measures into place to police its extensive portable antiquities market, otherwise face accusations that it is fqacilitating terrorist activity and endangering the rest of us.

Roissy Again and the Thai Connection

The Financial Times reports on moves to tighten up the antiquities market to stop it becoming a tool for the financing of terrorist activity  (Jim Brunsden, EU plans tough checks on imports of ancient artefacts', Financial Times 12 July 2017).
Brussels has been spurred to act by cases such as that of two bas-reliefs seized by officials at Roissy airport, Paris, last year. The reliefs, which are about 500 years old, were packed in a wooden crate labelled as containing decorative garden ornaments and were en route from the Lebanon to Thailand.
The case was discussed by me here scandal at Roissy. The place of Thailand as a destination used by exporters to 'launder' portable antiquities was mentioned recentyly in the June 23rd meeting of the Congressional subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance in the US House of Representatives.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

American Collector acquires Trophies out of 'Passionate Interest in Nature'

Chump doing what chumps do
In Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record, artefact hunters will tell you they blithely and damagingly trash the archaeological record looking for collectables in order to 'save' them. Hunters of animal trophies say they slaughter 'game' in order to save them too.

[For those lucky souls for whom US Republicans are an unknown alien species, the stomach-churning photo shows Donald Trump Junior - yes, the very same one as in the Russiagate emails].

Can You See the Forest for the Trees?

Roman ruins to take away
As has been remarked on this blog a number of times, portable antiquities collectors are notable for not being able to see things clearly through the intellectual fog that clouds their brains, they prefer to 'touch the past' rather than think about it. Every few days the internet provides yet another example to confirm this general rule. Peter Tompa, one would have thought, would be better equipped than most, he has a degree and wears a suit. Sadly he tends to allow the fog to take over his thought processes - so in his "personal comments" on the CPAC's Libyan MOU discussions, the American attorney struggles to make any sense. Let us recall that what is being discussed by the CPAC is something called the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, which is a local law putting into effect the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Among other things Peter Tompa urges the CPAC to tell the DoS to:
4. Frankly, instead of yet another round of import restrictions, the State Department, along with other international organizations, should instead focus on helping Libyan community groups protect Libya's 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites from the deprivations of Islamic fundamentalists. Ultimately, Palmyra and Nimrud suffered severe damage because local communities didn't care enough to protect them from ISIS. Let's help those locals who care about these sites protect them.
First of all it is utterly insulting and shows zero sensitivity and awareness to place the blame for the destruction of sites by ISIL on a 'local community that did not care enough'. The fate of at least one Syrian archaeologist in Palmyra and the execution of Samira Saleh al-Naimi ('Execution of Human Rights Activist in Mosul, she Criticised Destruction of Historical Monuments' PACHI Sunday, 28 September 2014, not discussed in the Cultural Property Obfuscator blog) shows what happened to people who did care. Has this callous American apologist for the no-questions-asked antiquities trade no shame?

Secondly,  I doubt that the towns of Cyrene and Leptis Magna really are actually in danger of being packed up and illicitly exported. For a cultural property lawyer, Mr Tompa shows a surprising lack of awareness of the actual topic of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property), and to suggest that the US should protect just these five sites from being 'exported' under the CCPIA is simply fatuous. Also, Mr Tompa seems unaware that none of these five sites is in a region under control of ISIL-affiliated militants!

Remember Gentle Reader, there are (at least) two different UNESCO Conventions which, although collectors of portable antiquities muddle them, decent folk who care about preservation should be able to differentiate:
Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (Teheran, 1970)

Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (Paris, 1972)
One protects things against criminals, the other celebrates significant places.

More Laundering by Misdescription - "Clay Objects"

Customs officials have foiled an attempt by a dealer to bring in priceless ancient Indian artefacts from Switzerland by wrongly declaring them as 'items made of clay, brass and stone', when they were in fact antiquities ranging in date from post-Maurya (200 BC) to the 5th century AD, according to the Archaeological Survey of India ('Rs 10 crore worth artefacts smuggled in as clay objects?' TNN Sep 20, 2014):
The 19 items collectively worth around Rs 10 crore were smuggled out of the country and imported back, officials said in an affidavit to the Kerala high court. The court is hearing a petition filed by Natesan Antiqarts seeking directions to customs department for release of the goods. Natesan Antiqarts had declared the value of the items at Rs 5 lakh. The import appears to be a method to camouflage and legalise the acquisition of articles which cannot be otherwise accounted for before the authorities,'' the affidavit said. Natesan Antiqarts, an established dealer in handicrafts and antiques with branches in Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore, Mumbai and London, has accused customs officials of purposefully delaying the clearance of goods. They have also contended that the consignment need only be cleared by the customs authority of the country from where imports were made. The imports were made in January this year. They were declared by Natesan Antiqarts as articles of clay, stone and brass and not as antiques
The items seized were illegally exported out of India because the export of such items is not  permitted, and the importer is liable for action for receiving stolen property, officials said.
If the declarations of the items were made correctly, Switzerland Customs authority would not have permitted the import as such illicit import is not allowed as per a 2003 Swiss law named Cultural Property Transfer Act, the customs department said.
The lack of transparency in the antiquities trade and near-general acceptance of laundering by misdescription as described, for example, by US dealers Ken Dorney and Dave Welsh (Classical coins) can create conditions for the wholesale passage of stolen, looted and smuggled portable antiquities onto the international market. This needs to STOP, responsible dealers should take the lead to help stamp this practice out.

Hobby Lobby Case Shocking

Chip Reid, '"It was a civil case, which is quite shocking": Archaeologist weighs in on Hobby Lobby case' CBS News July 6, 2017.
Archaeologist Amr Al-Azm, a professor at Shawnee State University, says Hobby Lobby got away with a slap on the wrist. "It was a civil case, which is quite shocking considering the amount of material that was basically looted," Al-Azm said. "The fact that it was very clear they knew what they were doing."
Why, anyway, did the Green Collection want to buy:

Isn't that just rather greedy? What 'research' value do they have if they were just piled on the floor or loose in boxes (so therefore not kept in any kind of relationship to where they were found)? What display value do so many repetitive items have?

CCPIA Public Comments ('Tips of Submitting Effective Comments')

The US government is obviously fed up with time-wasting commenters on the www.regulations.gov website and has produced these Tips of Submitting Effective Comments'
. The summary could be addressed to the time-waster vacant comments of the coineys:
Read and understand the regulatory document you are commenting on
Feel free to reach out to the agency with questions
[...] The comment process is not a vote – one well supported comment is often more influential than a thousand form letters
So coineys just cutting and pasting the ready-made answers such as provided by lobbyists like Peter Tompa or Blondie Sue McGovern which do not address the actual contents of the regulatory document, but merely some imagined paper tiger argument are no way to present an effective comment. Of course.
7. If you disagree with a proposed action, suggest an alternative (including not regulating at all) and include an explanation and/or analysis of how the alternative might meet the same objective or be more effective.
Suggesting a recording scheme mirroring the UK's PAS is obviously not a way to address any issue regulated by the 1970 UNESCO Convention or the US legislation implementing it. This is simply a case of the commentator not reading the document being discussed and having no idea about what this 'alternative' actually does and why.
8. The comment process is not a vote.
Peter Tompa and his followers simply cannot get their heads around this seven-word concept. Duh. Here is the same idea again (too many words for coineys?):
Form Letters
Organizations often encourage their members to submit form letters designed to address issues common to their membership. Organizations including industry associations, labor unions, and conservation groups sometimes use form letters to voice their opposition or support of a proposed rulemaking. Many in the public mistakenly believe that their submitted form letter constitutes a “vote” regarding the issues concerning them. Although public support or opposition may help guide important public policies, agencies make determinations for a proposed action based on sound reasoning and scientific evidence rather than a majority of votes. A single, well-supported comment may carry more weight than a thousand form letters.
But I'd say the best tip of all for collectors of dugup antiquities is not there. "Think for yourselves, don't listen to Peter Tompa".

Monday, 10 July 2017

My Libyan CPAC comment

Although I am totally against the US applying a discriminatory approach to the 1970 UNESCO Convention , I decided to  produce a comment to set alongside the coiney ones opposing any form of control over illicit artefacts on the US market. Here it is:
As an archaeologist with a special interest in the issues surrounding the collection of and trade in archaeological artefacts, I would like to suggest a few topics for the consideration of the CPAC in connection with the request for help in stopping the illicit trade of artefacts from Libya. 
Since the outbreak of the civil war in Libya in 2014, there has been increasing pressure on the cultural patrimony of the country and from pillage of archaeological material. Just a few weeks ago, it was reported that government forces discovered a stockpiled cache of looted artefacts in a location abandoned by fighters with ‘Daesh’ affiliations. Material of types known to occur in the Libyan archaeological record, apparently freshly surfaced, is turning up right now on eBay and in venues such as the US-based V-Coins portal. 
It is in the unstable situation caused by the war that the cultural heritage is at most jeopardy and requires care to keep freshly smuggled illicit artefacts off the major markets – of which the US market is undoubtedly among the most voracious. It is telling how many US dealers and collectors of dugup antiquities time and time again attempt to oppose any attempt under the CCPIA to keep such material off the US market. 
Already well before the present War, Libya took measures consistent with the Convention to protect its cultural patrimony, most notably in the maintenance of a state body, the Libyan Department of Antiquities tasked with this care. This is still functioning under the present straitened circumstances and deserves all the help we can give it to achieve this task. The reported involvement of local communities in the protection of the heritage is also indicative of the importance it holds to many citizens. 
ICOM, in collaboration with the US Department of State has recently released the Emergency Red List of Libyan Cultural Objects at Risk in recognition of the importance of keeping track on cultural items crossing international borders. Most other countries which are party to the 1970 UNESCO ‘Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property’ apply it to the cultural property of all other member states without discrimination, the Convention is after all intended to foster international collaboration and ‘build peace in the minds of men’. The US is one of the few countries that apply it selectively, on a country-by-country basis, dividing international partners into ‘better’ and ‘worse’. If the US applies restrictions on imports of artefacts exported from Libya to only those properly documented, it would only be joining the rest of the international community in implementing the Convention. The US, surely, should be a leader in such a concerted effort, not a reluctant tagalong – especially given the size and nature of the no-questions-asked US antiquities market and the appetites of those involved in it. 
Doing all possible to prevent illicit material passing onto any major market is obviously going to be of substantial benefit in deterring the development of a serious situation of pillage in these times of enormous social dislocation in Libya. There is no need to see anything ‘drastic’ about keeping illicit artefacts (or those not complying with the liberal measures of the CCPIA) off the US market. On the contrary. 
Quite clearly, and in particular in the current situation, the restriction of antiquities originating in Libya through applying the measures of the CCPIA is not only completely consistent with, but also imperative in, the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for cultural, scientific and educational purposes.
I was going to write more, but there was a protest mach in my city on the 10th at which I wanted to be. I restricted my comments to those four determinations which the CCPIA defines - which most coin fondlers and blondie antiquities dealers (who have probably never even read its text) simply fail to address in their comments. More on the vacant dealers' spokesperson tomorrow.

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