Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Dugup Dish a Condemnation of Some People's Attitudes

Spotted by 'Chasing Aphrodite':
Barakat LA Assyrian Terracotta Dish Depicting a Standing Figure SKU SP.037 Circa 900 BC to 700 BC Dimensions:  8.5″ (22 cm) high, Terracotta, Origin:  Mesopotamia, Gallery Location:  USA (no collecting history cited upfront): "This well preserved masterpiece of Assyrian art speaks to the brilliant sophistication and elegance of their civilization",
but its purchase does not say anything good about our own, destroying sites to dig up items like this just to flog them off.

Greed Against an Important Social Good

Dealer with good stuff
More on the impact of the June 23rd  meeting of the Congressional subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance in the US House of Representatives:
In March of 2001, the Western world was alerted to a new register of conflict within the Middle East that departed from classical conceptions of war. This new register, while not involving the loss of life, carried a similar sense of anguish and despair at the symbolic level where cultural artifacts and history became the target of destruction. Here the Taliban, in a remote corner of Afghanistan, after numerous attempts, destroyed the 1,700-year-old Buddha of Bamiyan statues, standing more than 150ft high, through meticulously placed dynamite charges.
 This is according to: 'Changing Nature of Illicit Art Trading Revealed as US Steps Up Fight', Blouin Artinfo, June 27, 2017. The article goes on to say how the Taliban 'was wholly unapologetic to international outcry and continued to destroy all smaller non-Islamic sculptures belonging to Afghanistan’s cultural heritage, found in its national Museums'. It is argued that this assault on culture was the beginning of a phase when
culture artifacts and cultural heritage came to play a strategic role in the conflicts that cascaded through the region. Cultural artifacts, found in abundance, were viewed by Islamists as both a source of propaganda, where alien histories could be replaced by a true version of Islamic society, and as a source of funding, where looted artifacts could be used to fund local militias in Iraq and more recently ISIS in Syria.
The text then goes on to discuss the connection between looted artifacts and the financing of ISIS (specifically the results of the May 2015 Abu Sayyaf raid in Syria 'when documents were [reportedly] discovered by US special forces in a raid in Northern Syria, showing an active effort by ISIS to incentivize Syrians to unearth artifacts for profit'):
Here ISIS allowed for locals to earn much needed funds by looting ancient cultural sites, in exchange for a 20% tax on the perceived value of the artifact found. Thus the use of artifacts for funding was added to the list of strategic assets used by ISIS within the black market – although the scale of revenues has been shown to be dwarfed by the illicit sale of oil during this period. 
Readers will know that I dispute the authenticity of the documents being shown by the Department of State (which would be, if real, have been seized and retained illegally anyway). The HR meeting received testimony from three experts on the link between the illicit trade of art and antiquities, and terrorism financing, and this revealed
several pertinent points about the changing nature of cultural theft, particularly within combat zones, along with American efforts to protect cultural heritage.
Hmm, the US of course has not been undertaking this task alone, though it is true - as the article points out - that the United States has long been one of the largest markets for art and cultural artefacts – both legitimately sourced and illicit.
The [...]  nature of illicit art trading, according to Brian Daniels (PhD and Research Assoc. at the Smithsonian Institute), had changed in terms of its supply chain. While many looted artifacts from Northern Syria and Iraq were being smuggled into Europe via Turkey or Lebanon – where longstanding smuggling operations existed – increasingly, looted artifacts were being sent to Southeast Asia – Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – before attempted re-entry into art buying markets. Here artifacts could enter a Southeast Asia Freeport such as Singapore, and be warehoused and laundered as a legitimate artifact prior to resale. The destination markets have also changed, where buyers previously concentrated in the US and Western Europe, have now emerged in Russia, China and the Gulf States. To this point Congressional members suggested that the White House, and the Department of Treasury when engaging allies in the region, present this practice of illicit trade, as an action point. However, what this trend seemed to imply was that the problem was becoming more sophisticated and diffuse as conflict had dragged on in the region. Looters were finding new markets, while smugglers were finding new methods of distribution. Although the Committee was looking for key causal data points connecting culture to the defeat of ISIS, it was presented with a more nuanced response to a very challenging problem. What is encouraging however is that since 2001 the US has become more aware of the importance of culture and cultural heritage, and has raised it to the level of an important social good.
That is not of course the way US dealers and their lobbyists see it. For them, the artefacts surfacing clandestinely and anonymously on the international market are not public property belonging to the present and future societies from whom they are taken, but the object of their focus on (and struggle for) 'private ownership rights'. In the struggle to maintain no-questions-asked access to0 all these goods ('both legitimately sourced and illicit' indistinguishably mixed) they employ all sorts of arguments and weasel-worded, self-interest-ridden rhetoric, all of which can be translated into one word, 'greed'.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Beginning of the End of Excavation Archive Partage in Iraq

Using Foreign Office documents, Dr Juliette Desplat discusses 'Decolonising archaeology in Iraq?' (National Archives Blog,  Tuesday 27 June 2017):
A new Law of Antiquities was approved in Iraq in 1924, as the country was under a British Mandate. Drawn up by Gertrude Bell, it was very generous towards foreign archaeologists, allowing them to receive and export a substantial share of the artefacts uncovered. It all started to change in 1933, a year after the Kingdom of Iraq was granted independence. The ‘Arpachiyah Scandal’, involving Agatha Christie’s husband Max Mallowan, was the first step on a long and winding road towards an attempt to decolonise archaeology.  At the end of the season the Director of Antiquities, German archaeologist Julius Jordan, divided up the objects found by various expeditions, as usual. [...] As Mallowan was about to leave, he was told the export permit needed to bring the artefacts back to the UK had been denied (FO 371/16923).
In October 1934, Julius Jordan was replaced by Sati al Husri. For the first time, Iraq had an Iraqi Director of Antiquities. He immediately started drafting a new law [...] [and] was finally promulgated in April 1936. Article 49, laying out the provisions for the division of the finds, stipulated that archaeologists would receive half the duplicates, the objects the Museum didn’t want and could make casts of the others.

Art and Antiquities Sellers Should be Subject to Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorist Financing Laws

Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire comments on the video of the USHR hearing on 'The Exploitation of Cultural Property: Examining Illicit Activity in the Antiquities and Art Trade':
In light of the subcommittee's important discussion, Congress should revisit the question: Shouldn't Art and Antiquities Sellers be Subject to Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorist Financing Laws? The answer, of course, is yes.
I suspect that the dealers and their lobbyists would give another answer - but I'll wager they cannot actually provide substabntive arguments why not.

Those 'Old-Collection coins'

SNG Copenhagen ONLINE!!« on: August 27, 2004, 05:59:28 am »

Automan Procurator Monetae Caesar Offline Posts: 532 Silver and Gold? -Yuck!  
Here's a link to SNG Cop online that I found when searching the web for coins of Tyra. Alas, only coins of the Black Sea region are listed. Nonetheless, this is an important site for finding specimens for comparison, references etc.

Jerome Holderman Caesar  Offline Posts: 1668 My name is Jerome, and I am a coinaholic! 
Reply #1 on: August 27, 2004, 06:18:02 am » AWESOME!! Considering all the coins I get from one supplier are all from this region!!

And how were they reaching Mr Holderman and where from? And what will happen to the coins from the Holdermamn collection and their documentation when he passes on?

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Seller Sayles Demands 1417 Methods of Dealing with Art Traffickers

This is how they dealt with things in 1417
Dealer Wayne Sales has a go at the participants of the hearing on The Exploitation of Cultural Property: Examining Illicit Activity in the Antiquities and Art Trade" in the US House of Representatives. He calls it 'A Sad Day for America' (Ancient Coin Collecting, Friday June 23, 2017) and takes a tub-thumping populist stance:
it may say something about the very nature of representative government and who is actually represented versus who the electorate is. The three bureaucrats testifiying before Congress in this hearing presented one point of view. They [...] essentially blamed that loss on private ownership [of artefacts].
Well, no they do not. They place the blame on the business methods of the antiquities trade, the trade which Sayles is part of and party to. The blame is on the dealers who fail to take adequate steps to avoid trade with illicit sources - "traffickers". It may be argued that if all dealers and collectors took these steps, there could be a substantial reduction in trafficking. Sayles wants to see the blame placed on those no-good foreigners:
Nobody in the room talked about the failure of law enforcement worldwide to stop "trafficking". [...] Academia and Bureaucracy have no actual control over foreign governments, so they turn their attack instead toward the innocent who are blameless. [...] The failure of governments and law enforcement in foreign lands to eliminate looting and wanton destruction has become a harpoon in the side of law abiding Americans who love the past.
I really do not see any dealer or collector who buys portable antiquities on today's contaminated market without ensuring that the items they handle have documentation of licit origins as in any way 'blameless'. On the contrary, it is precisely this no-questions-asked approach which is responsible for the ease with which freshly surfaced objects of illicit origin (stolen, looted, faked or smuggled) can be monetised by being clandestinely slipped onto the undiscriminating market. The no-questions-asked approach is to be directly lamed for the existence of a market for illicit antiquities. That is a fact that must be obvious to all (it seems) except excessively unreflexive people like Mr Sayles. He whinges on:
How is any buyer in an international market able to distinguish between an object recirculating in a vibrant and venerable trade from one stolen yesterday? That is not the "buyer's" job, it is the role of law enforcement [...]

No, it is a function of the market's functioning based on verifiable evidence of the legitimacy of each object surfacing on it. If no verifiable evidence is available that an object is of licit origins (even in the 'absence of direct information that it is not'), that object cannot be acquired - because due diligence cannot be applied. This means producing a proper and verifiable collecting history on any object offered for sale by a reputable (repute-worthy) dealer, even in the case of so-called minor antiquities. This is the only reasonable response to the recent flooding of the international market by the products of cultural crimes such as theft, looting, falsification and smuggling.   Relying on a 'gut-feeling' that an object 'does not look like a freshly dug antiquity' is quite obviously not enough. In such a situation as the contaminated market of the 21st century, the burden of proof that something is licit quite clearly remains with the seller.

Henry V - king of England 1414-1422,
not known to have collected coins
Who gives a tinkers how long people have been collecting antiquities in the same way as '600 years ago'? This is the pathetically weak justification of the dealers today - they want to carry on doing things like it was still 1417. I doubt there are many other professions (apart from thatchers, fletchers and coracle builders) who'll use the same kind of argument. Yet the whinging goes on:
What those few elected representatives in Congress present did not hear [...] was the six-hundred-year-old story of how private collectors of antiquities have saved countless objects from loss through physical destruction for intrinsic metal value (for example, melting down silver and gold coins) or the countless museums worldwide that are populated with cultural property donated by private collectors. Why was that perspective not made clear? [...] The actual truth is that private collectors do far more to save the past than the loose-lipped academics ever dreamed of doing.
Mr Sayles needs to take a deep breath and a step back to reflect that the topic of the meeting was not 'antiques and antiquities in culture today', but specifically Collection-driven Exploitation of cultural property, and specifically, 'Examining Illicit Activity in the Antiquities and Art Trade'. Collection-driven exploitation of historical sites destroys culture. Rows of headless buddhas, the sources of the loose heads in many a western 'art' gallery, are just one expression of this. Dug-over sites which produce the type of metal artefacts Mr Sayles sells are another.

Dealer held "98% of objects without supporting documents": Sentenced in France

A 49-year old French collector-turned dealer sold 'archaeological objects of doubtful provenance' and remains of protected animal species on the Internet  between February 2013 and January 2017 in  Tanneron, near Draguignan in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, in southeastern France (G. D. , 'Il vendait des objets d'archéologie de provenance douteuse et des restes d'espèces animales protégées sur Internet' Varmatin 23/06/2017). Since he was unable to produce documentation of licit origins of the objects he stocked and sold, he got an eight months suspended sentence and fined 30,000 € for the possession, importation and sale on Internet of objects of archaeological interest and protected animal species. The authorities seized from his home a group of twelve thousand objects.
L'affaire est partie d'une plainte de la Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles (DRAC), qui a constaté sur son site la mise en vente de diverses pièces, principalement des lampes à huile, provenant d'un site de fouilles archéologiques, dans un centre antique des Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, propriété de l'État, classée au titre des monuments historiques.
The dealer, M. Laurent sold a large quantity of archaeological objects (such as Gallic coins) that could have come from unauthorized excavations. There were also gold rings and other metal objects. His house had been searched in February 2016 and all suspect objects were seized then, but a second search last January showed that Laurent, despite being under investigation, had continued his activity. New seizures were made, bringing the number of objects seized to twelve thousand. The dealer was unable to produce evidence that the objects he had were legally obtained.

Pour justifier le fait qu'il n'avait pas été en mesure de produire les attestations de légalité, qu'il aurait dû exiger de la part des personnes auxquelles il avait acheté ces pièces, Laurent a expliqué qu'il se les était procurées auprès de professionnels reconnus, en toute confiance.
Yep, we know this one, in order to justify the fact that he had not been able to produce the certificates of legality which he should have required from the persons from whom he had bought these documents, Laurent explained that he had procured them from recognized professionals, in whom he had full confidence. But of course the court saw this matter differently and declared it unprofessional:
Insuffisant de la part d'un vendeur professionnel, a estimé le tribunal. Tout comme l'absence d'un livre de police, d'un livre d'achats et de recettes, d'un registre de vente d'or et d'autorisations douanières pour des objets du néolithique et du précolombien qu'il importait des États-Unis. Laurent n'a pas non plus pu présenter au tribunal les factures de ses acquisitions, ce qui a conduit le procureur Michael Darras à remarquer : "En fait vous détenez 98 % d'objets sans justificatifs." Impossible dès lors de prouver que les objets qu'il vendait n'étaient pas d'origine frauduleuse.
His defence lawyer, Mr. Ludovic Serée de Roch, used the tired old argument that while Monsieur Laurent had lacked rigour, especially from an accounting point of view, 'que des milliers d'objets circulaient en France depuis des siècles, dont on était incapable de justifier la provenance'. For him, his client was an accidental victim of a "complaint on principle" filed by the Drac, to counter international trafficking. According to him, the case is flawed because the authorities had not been able to give a precise place of origin for the objects in dispute, and the investigation had therefore been insufficient. He is planning to appeal this judgment.

In addition to objects of doubtful origin, this same dealer also handled trophies of animal species (such as a monkey skull and  jaws of the Nile crocodile) protected by the Washington Convention.

Hat tip, David Knell
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