Thursday, 31 July 2014

Jedz Jabłka na złość Putinowi

Poles "#EatApples to annoy Putin". It'd be great if people everywhere bought more fruit and vegetables of Polish origin to help Polish farmers out as a result of Putin's revenge for EU sanctions.  The action started a bit too early, as the varieties that are normally exported to Russia in bulk are still on the trees, and if my orchard is anything to go by, not very big yet. The September harvest was the one that the Russian market swallowed - so get into your local greengrocer and ask "got any Polish apples?" I personally recommend Ligol and Jonagold varieties.  Anyway, our massive neighbour has for upwards of sixty years relied on Poland as a supplier of many commodities. The breakup of the Soviet Bloc was a huge blow to the Russian economy. I am sure the Russian people will soon notice the decline in the quality of the products imported to substitute for the products of the fertile Polish soil, and I hope they let Putin know what they think.


Iraqi Antiquities and Insurgency

Robert Seddon of Durham University’s Centre for the Ethics of Cultural Heritage has a general article ('Fuelling the Insurgency?Antiquities in Iraq' August 2014) in an online newsletter belonging to Victvs Ltd (Security risk management consultants).
Fighting needs funds, and there is evidence that ISIS’s funding sources include antiquities trafficking. The trafficking networks, however, were there already. Before ISIS, Al - Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) gained funding from the illicit antiquities trade. Meanwhile, the Mahdi Army reportedly claimed that the trade was moral if the money was spent on guns or building mosques. Iraqi security forces have spent years playing cat and mouse with both paramilitaries and organised criminal groups.

The Peer-Review Jerk Survival Guide

Oh yes, just what I need right now... Rebecca Schuman, 'The Peer-Review Jerk Survival Guide' Vitae July 28, 2014.

Tears, and Anger, as Militants Destroy Iraq City’s Relics

Isis militants blow up the Al-Qubba Shia mosque
The angry public reaction to the attacks on Mosul’s cultural history — including the eviction of Christians by militants, which outraged many Muslim residents who celebrate Mosul’s reputation for tolerance — appears to be the first spark of rebellion against harsh Islamic rule. [...] It is too early to declare that a wide-scale rebellion is underway, or that ISIS, whose brand of ascetic Islamic law deems shrines heretical, is losing its grip of control on the city. But it suggests that the militants are wearing out their welcome to some degree. Informal armed gangs of residents have already clashed with ISIS militants over the destruction of the tombs and shrines, residents say. Some militants have been killed in the clashes, they say, which have also led to the arrests of residents and could result in their executions.
Tim Arango, 'Tears, and Anger, as Militants Destroy Iraq City’s Relics', New York Times July 30th 2014.

For Sale: "A Genuine Metal Detecting find I have found"

Here for sale is a metal detecting find I have found That appears to be sacon in origin This was found on a site that has produced some great saxon and roman finds for me It looks like a saxon penny but maybe slightly bigger maybe made as a medallion or keep sake? Weight 3.0g Cheers Johm
Perhaps the site had been used for an historical re-enactment, or the object was 'planted' for a club dig...Chris Brewchorne informed the seller:

It is a modern copy of an Aethelstan Penny, made by my mate Dave Greenhalgh, aka Grunal the Moneyer, who lives at a settlement in Lincolnshire called Tanvats. It has his 'signature' on the reverse, Grunal on Tanvats. It is not Saxon, not historic, and he sells them for about £1. Its not Silver, its Pewter. Genuine coins weigh 1.5g, not over 3g

Leutwitz Apollo: What's Happening?

On the publication of a book presenting the statue and its reconstructed collecting history, both I and David Gill looked over the evidence of the origins of the the so-called Leutwitz Apollo currently in the Cleveland Museum of Art and came up with some pretty disturbing discrepancies and a number of quite specific questions were raised which require answers. Cleveland assured observers that they would be holding some kind of a symposium this year to discuss Bennett's book, so far no details have been announced, and the year has half gone.

Then there are the solder tests. They were a key part of CMA's and Bennett's story that the statue and the current base were joined over a century ago, yet ("for some reason" - ahem) those tests are being repeated after I queried them with the original analyst. The results should be available  about now - what were they? Do they support Bennett's 'soldered with old lead' argument or not? Either way, they raise questions about the way the CMA handled the scientific reports of the first set of analyses (details of which were never released).

Then there is the really odd discrepancy between two accounts of the academic relied on as confirming the reconstructed collecting history, the whole story of seeing 'bits in a box on an old estate' is not what the person concerned had written in another, published, account - one cited without comment by Bennett in his publication. 

Apollo of Gaza

Gaza Apollo
The human loss and utter carnage caused by the current war in the Gaza strip has aroused anger around the world. History will judge those who seek peace with bombs and seek to spread terror by attacking civilian targets. This blog however is not about my personal outrage about current events, but portable antiquities issues. So from that point of view, I'd like to invite reflection on what's happening about the Gaza Apollo reportedly held by Hamas. Has that too been shelled and blasted into oblivion? To recap, here are my old posts on this controversial object, linking to other work including by Sam Hardy and Rogue Classicist:
Friday, 31 January 2014: 'Remind you of Something?'
Friday, 31 January 2014: 'Vernon Silver on the "Apollo of Gaza"...'
Monday, 3 February 2014: 'Two Apollos, Two Mysteries
Thursday, 6 February 2014: 'Sam Hardy on Variant Stories About Discovering the Apollo of Gaza'
Saturday, 8 February 2014: 'Apollo of Gaza : Sam Hardy Untangles the Tangled Web'
Tuesday, 11 February 2014: 'Apollo of Gaza: Made in China?'
Friday, 21 February 2014: 'Apollo of Gaza New Photos'
Monday, 24 February 2014: 'Rogue Classicist on the “Apollo” of Gaza'
Sunday, 9 March 2014: 'More from Rogue Classicists on the Gaza Apollo'
Even if I am not at all convinced the thing is an authentic antiquity, it still needs further analysis. That however is the least of the problems of the Palestinians at the moment. 

On this day, seventy years ago, the Warsaw Ghetto looked like this.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

What Antiquity Collectors are in Denial About: Geopolitical Turmoil has Changed the Game

Tom Flynn ‏@Artnose writes (replying to @ChasingAphrodit @kyrikmk @odonnellhugh):
We can no longer do *real* due diligence on antiquities. Geopolitical turmoil has changed the game.
That I suppose begs the question how much real due diligence one thinks has been going on anyway, think "Leutwitz Apollo", Ka Nefer Nefer...

In any case, has not the geopolitical setting of the antiquities market been changing all the time since the 1956 Delhi document, the 1970 UNESCO Convention, and the US ratification of the latter with its cop-out CCPIA in 1983?  Time perhaps to take another look at them too and bring them up to date.
Vignette: It's a smaller world than in 1970

No Creativity, so Fixated Old Men Still Dragging the Ancient Coin Trade Through the Mud

Because they really have got no other ideas what they could be doing for collectors, the ACCG Files Reply Brief in Support of its Motion for Reconsideration (Wednesday, July 30, 2014) in the Baltimore illegal coin import stunt case.  Allegedly:
it discusses new Supreme Court case law and old legislative history that should be dispositive in favor of the Guild’s position that the government bears the initial burden of proof on where historical coins subject to forfeiture were “first discovered.”
While I am sure the appeal court will find that very entertaining, what the court has to decide (if anything) is whether those really scrappy bits of over-stripped metal ACCG dealers wanted to import on behalf of collectors are on the Designated List, and was an attempt made to import them  in accordance with current law or not. Nothing else. Surely those resources could have been better spent in finding ways to clean up this market rather than dragging it further down into utter disrepute.

See also:

Sunday, 19 January 2014: 'Wrong-Headedness on the "First Found Principle" of the CCPIA',
Thursday, 23 January 2014: 'The Next US Coin Collectors' Comedy Turn',

Friday, 24 January 2014: 'The "First Found" Fiasco Continues',

and while you are at it to show this sort of thing has been going on far too long -
PACHI Tuesday, 9 November 2010, 'UNESCO 1970 Article 1'

Crowing over US SLAM Cock-up

According to Lee Rosenbaum ‏@CultureGrrl
SLAM stuck to its guns and won. Feds concede lack of proof that @STLArtMuseum's mummy was stolen, drop restitution case
Well, you can go off people, can't you. "Feds" did not concede lack of proof it was stolen, they saw they'd made a mess of things. As it happens,  it's probably one of the least harmful of the utter messes the USA has got itself into over the past administration. But still annoying as something that should not have happened. And then to see 'cultural' USAns crowing about it... It's up to USA public opinion now, isn't it? Anyone holding their breath? Don't.

PS they haven't got the "mummy", just its face with the name scratched off -  the significance of which SLAM did not see when they were going through the motions of "researching" (sic) its origins. 

Vignette: Museums filled with dodginess are nothing to crow about.

HAPPAH: 520,000 Historical Artefacts “are Stolen from Archaeological Sites in France Every Year”

It is not just undeveloped countries that suffer looting (Collection Driven Exploitation) of their archaeological resource, it happens in Europe too ('', The Connexion, July 30, 2014). Artefact hunting with metal detectors is causing massive damage to the archaeological record in France too: 
Raiders target archaeology digs
Raiders target archaeology digs
July 30, 2014
Raiders on archaeological sites in France are on the rise, experts have warned. An estimated 520,000 objects of historical value go missing from sites across the country every year, said archaeologist Céline Choquenet, who is a member of the [organisation Halte au Pillage du Patrimoine Archéologique et Historique]. “People go to sites every night,” she told France 3. “They head to Roman cemeteries, where there they can find gold, weapons and helmets.” The illegally acquired finds are often then sold to collectors. It can be highly profitable. Some items change hands for thousands of euros, Ms Choquenet said.
Collection Driven Exploitation is a major threat to France’s historic sites, experts say. Jean-David Desforges, head of the association Halte au Pillage du Patrimoine Archéologique et Historique HAPPAH said  recently ('French sites pillaged by wannabe archaeologist', The Local 30 Jul 2014) that:
many objects from ancient Gaul, and Nazi artefacts from World War II were being illegally dug up and sold on by thousands of prospectors using metal detectors. Desforges said many of the "pillagers" come from the UK and France's other neighbouring countries to hunt for archeological treasure and sell it abroad. "In Normandy and part of northern France a lot of English will come over with metal detectors and scour the battle fields from the First and Second World Wars. It is the same along the border with Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany where these people will cross into France to search war battlefields and take what they found back to their country," he said. Every time something is dug up, Desforges says, "France loses part of its history and heritage each time."
The Compteur Happah can be seen here. Current state: 
Nombre d'objets pillés en France aujourd'hui : 94
Nombre d'objets pillés en France depuis le début de cette année : 301,402
Nombre d'objets pillés en France depuis le décret n°91-787 du 19 août 1991 : 11,927,502

See also Metal Detectorists Loot France of Archaeological Treasures

French Artefact Hunter Arrested

A Frenchman is on trial in France accused of looting some of the country’s best historical sites after being caught with thousands of ancient artefacts. He is accused of  using his metal detector to pillage archaeological sites ('French sites pillaged by wannabe archaeologist ' The Local, 30 Jul 2014). 
While taking the stand in his own defence this week a Frenchman accused of looting thousands of valuable historical items from some of the country’s most culturally important sites, explained his crime simply. “I always wanted to be an archaeologist, but I couldn’t,” the 60-year-old winemaker told a court in the Paris suburb of Meaux on Tuesday, AFP reported. For years he’d used a metal detector to scour sites that are protected by law, taking home a piece here and a piece there. Until he had a collection of some 2,300 items including coins, pottery, rings and necklaces that prosecutors say is worth tens of thousands of euros. French customs authorities have asked the court to impose a €200,000 fine on the man, who is accused of illegally searching archaeological sites. Judges will decide whether he is guilty at a later date. 
The man was not named in media reports. His activities came to light by pure chance in February 2012 when customs officers pulled him over during a routine check, and found in his car 112 Gallo-Roman coins, which led prosecutors to order a search of the man’s home, where they found a large number of artefacts he'd amassed and hidden away through the years. His collection has since been turned over to the Ministry of Culture.

Metal Detecting Permits in the USA and UK

Metal detecting permits, advocated for European artefact hunters by Washington lawyer Peter Tompa and his fellows are already needed for artefact hunting in certain areas of the USA. They are also required on certain Crown Estate lands in the UK. Extending the system on the US-proposed model should be fairly simple and could be incorporated into the Treasure Act review. Metal detectorist John Howland from England warmly recommends that everyone abide by them.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Iraq: Weekend of Destruction

Christopher Jones (Ph.D student at Columbia University in New York) has an interesting blog "the Gates of Nineveh". The latest well-informed post however is not enjoyable read: 'Even More Islamic Heritage Destruction in Iraq', July 29, 2014:
Sadly, it appears that last Thursday’s demolition of the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul was only the beginning of a weekend of destruction by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Several more sites sacred to Sunni Islam have been destroyed in the Mosul area. It seems that ISIS first moved against Shia shrines and mosques in their territory. This is because the Shia, as embodied by Iran and the Iraqi government, are the most immediate threat to ISIS’ goal of establishing a Sunni Islamic caliphate.
First their monuments, then the people perceived as standing in their way? As for what is being done to try to save the cultural property of the region, UNESCO had a meeting:
Aside from banning things that are already illegal and reiterating that sixty year old treaties exist, the main effort of this action plan seems to be to direct resources into potentially moving antiquities that are under threat to other regions for safekeeping. It is not clear if this means taking them out of the country temporarily or moving them somewhere else in Iraq. If ISIS ever makes its long-feared push on Baghdad this sort of plan might have to be put into motion very quickly.

Metal Detecting Permits: A good Sign From Cultural Property Observer?

Over on the Cultural Property Observer blog, where remarks about regulating metal detecting are commonly encountered, a UK metal detectorist is writing approvingly about a recent conviction of a US archaeologist for removing 17 artefacts from state land without applying first for a permit to do so. It is good to see an example of the commitment of UK detectorists to the idea of search permits. The introduction of conservation and research orientated permits on the European model would be a good way of countering knowledge theft and bad practice, and a logical extension of existing doctrines and needs. It is good to see support from the milieu at this early stage for the idea of future regulation to further the needs of effective collaboration and allowing metal detectorists to better contribute to knowledge generation.

Photo: 2011 New York State Beach/Park Metal Detecting Permit $40 annually:, note, finds above $20 worth to be handed-in and no archaeological objects are to be removed.

Ka Nefer Nefer, Shamed US Government Throws in Towel

The SLAM Bumper sticker, more relevant now than ever before

The shame-faced US Department of Justice will take no further legal action over Egyptian mask in St Louis Art Museum after botched legal moves. Monday was the deadline for the department to ask for a rehearing of the June 12 decision by the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals.
“The Department of Justice will take no further legal action with respect to the mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer,” U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said in response to questions from the Post-Dispatch on Monday, the deadline for the Department of Justice if it wished to prolong the court battle. Museum officials couldn’t be reached immediately for comment. According to court filings, both sides are still discussing payment of the museum’s legal fees.
On March 31, 2012, U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey dismissed the government’s forfeiture lawsuit, saying that the Department of Justice failed to claim or prove that the mask was actually stolen. While Judge Autrey knew not how to make sense of the object being documented as in two places at once, thus casting doubt on one or other of the conflicting stories (and not considering why one side would have to have a false story and why and totally unwilling to adjudicate between them in a court of law), the rest of us can come to our own conclusions.  Sleep well Judge Henry, the akh of the Justified before Osiris, Ka Nefer Nefer is not, you should hope you never meet her.

Robert Patrick, 'Ancient Egyptian mask likely to stay at St. Louis Art Museum after feds give up legal fight', Post Dispatch, 28th July 2014.

East Germany's Blood Art

East German officials systematically stole from the country's art collectors and sold their possessions to raise hard currency. Families have sought for years to reclaim the treasures or to obtain compensation.
It is a particularly ugly chapter in the history of communist East Germany (GDR). Political functionaries from the Communist Party, the SED, seized the property of collectors [...] to sell their possessions. The more desperately the country needed hard Western currency, the more often officials targeted East German art aficionados. Numerous spies combed the country looking for possible treasures, such as Baroque furniture, paintings, porcelain and silver. Then, the GDR's most important procurer of hard currency, Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski, would hawk the confiscated wares to rich clients in the West via the state-owned company Kunst & Antiquitäten GmbH (Art & Antiques).
Funnily enough, though, they did not find the "Leutwitz" Apollo allegedly standing right out in the open in the garden of a country estate just outside Dresden... One wonders how this was possible.

Rainer Erices, Nicola Kuhrt and Peter Wensierski, 'East Germany's Blood Art: No Justice for Victims of Regime's Treasure Hunt', Spiegel July 24, 2014.

Collectors' Methodologies (1): John Hooker's Celtic "Cables"

Collectors of dugup antiquities incessantly tell us that we should not "ban" (sic) collecting of dug up antiquities because collectors are really all scholars studying what they collect for all they are worth, and thus creating history, history which they say heritage professionals will never be able to duplicate (see coin collector Thomas Albert's writings on that topic for an example of the genre). Or you can take Canadian collector John Hooker. Like Mr Albert, Mr Hooker fancies himself as some kind of polymathic post-modernist genius able to see through the fog more clearly than his intellectual inferiors, academic archaeologists in particular (except the ones he name-drops because they seem to agree with him). He is bent on instructing us all on how archaeology should and should not be done, what jolly useful things 'Celtic coins' are in understanding life, the universe and everything (especially those attributed to the Coriosolites which he's studied lots of drawings of), and how nobody understands 'the La Tène religion of the Celtic elite' as well as he does. He claims at every opportunity not only to be superior intellectually to the rest of us hoi polloi, but to have applied a superior 'methodology' to that of logical chains of argument, the cable (a 'stuff different threads in the same bundle and twist it around'?) methodology. But then these cables for him have a independent existence: "The many strands of this cable weave in and out and over a vast time period in many places". I've already said that this is what von Daniken was doing, but Hooker's having none of that:
There will be detractors who are too lazy to do the research, or who have some personal grudge about my other activities ― aficionados of the yellow journalism which has crawled out of the woodwork and onto the Internet in recent years, and who use such unethical methods to influence even dimmer politicians, for reasons best known to themselves or perhaps their therapists ― but we will leave them to chew their cud, and I will be back tomorrow to give examples of  Megalithic petroglyphs and how they tie into later mythologies. 
Hmmm. So for Mr Hooker, a 'cable' methodology is one where he presents his bundle of things that might be 'evidence' and expects others to do the research to make sense of it, and if they are too 'lazy' to follow his pointers, then they have only themselves to blame that they do not understand what a genius he is. That is 100% the Von Daniken approach. [I can only assume that by the transatlantic term "yellow journalism" he means bloggers, I leave it up to my readers to decide which blogs actually fall into that category. Of course the "or perhaps their therapists" is not an example of such "yellow journalism", is it?]

What is clear however is that Hooker has not actually understood what these 'cables' he writes about are  and where they come from. In his rejoinder to John Howland, John Hooker writes:
Barford [...]  disagrees, very strongly, but without explanation or example of the cable reasoning put forward by the philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, modified by Richard Bernstein and applied to archaeology by Alison Wylie.
What Alison Wylie does with this is another matter, Hooker imagines he is being very pragmatic and post modern by applying what he calls "cable reasoning" (elsewhere: "this Peirce/Bernstein/Wylie [...] "cable" method of building a strong case for their theories"). This is all very odd, because he actually cites a relevant passage of   Richard J. Bernstein's 'Beyond objectivism and relativism: science, hermeneutics, and praxis' in an earlier post of his. If he'd actually understood the passage in its context (has Hooker read the book, or just found a convenient fragment on the Internet?) he'd see that he is barking up the wrong tree entirely. Peirce was writing about the epistemological notions of Cartesian philosophy, and the cable analogy describes the existing mode of scientific theory building. It is not a "method", still less one proposed as an alternative method by Peirce or Bernstein. Let us also note something that Hooker omits, the strands of the cable described by Bernstein constrain as well as reinforce each other.

Are the only people sceptical of Mr Hooker's reasoning really "people with a personal grudge" because he's a collector? I would say this type of moaning is the usual tactic of playing the victim beloved by this chip-on-the-shoulder milieu. In any case, he never got around to actually presenting anything conclusive about those "megalithic (sic) roots" in the following text. Indeed the notion of how things "tie into" was not defined and is not one of the subjects ever explored in any archaeology course I've ever attended. It's probably a term from a von Daniken book.

There is a general lack here of any precise definition of the theoretical framework within which we are to see the presentation of these "looks like" comparisons. True some names were dropped but nothing concrete. I guess we are expected to "do our research on that" too and then guess what it is Hooker is trying to do. Hooker is however very dismissive about explicit method and theory. He writes:
I don't know if we can blame Karl Popper for the prevalence of "theory-ladenness" in British and American archaeology, or those archaeologists for imagining that archaeology is science. The problem is mostly moot in German archaeology...
We can leave aside the jab at German archaeology, which is by no means theory-free these days, and the somewhat atavistic view of the status of archaeology Hooker prefers (I've pointed this out before, but - coiney that he is - he prefers to ignore current facts in favour of his old stereotypes. He avoids going into detail by saying "Anyway, much philosophical discussion about these matters is beyond the scope of this series". Well, not it is not actually, because this is all to do with the validity of the Von-Daniken "make a bundle of loose facts and similarities and let others make the connections" method which Hooker employs in his wanderings around and around the topic of the series, all the time failing to get to grips with it. In answer to his question, theory came into European archaeology well before Karl Popper. Popper's writings were applied to one stage of the theoretical development of the discipline, and still have relevance. We might look to the falsification of some of the identifications Hooker offers by closer contextual analysis than Hooker offers - preferring instead bundles of "looks likes".

We could ignore this pseudo-intellectual claptrap but for one reason. We are constantly told that we should leave the no-questions-asked trade in dugup antiquities alone because if we attempt to curb the amount of fresh material of unknown sources on the market, we will somehow damage the ability of collectors to do their "research". Here we have set out a perfect example of this 'research' and can examine it closely. Mr Hooker is unusual in the collecting world, in that he can spell, use apostrophes and write more than eight full sentences in a row. Many cannot do any of these things.We may compare the 'look like' methodology here with the assertions of coiney writers like dealer Dave Welsh with his romantic "hoards at the edges of battlefields" theory and the "wide circulation outside Egypt of the local coinage" accounts used politically (in connection with the MOUs), and we can start to build up a more general picture of the characteristics and potential (or lack of it) of the sort of research  done by collectors.

Collectors' Methodologies (2): Mega-cabling

Mr Hooker complains (see post above) that I do not give any examples to support why I do not approve of his amateur methodology of bundling loose ideas together, instead of making a logical case. This post will give just a few examples, mainly to offset the above criticism - it really is getting way off the topic of this blog.

As an example of the collector Hooker's 'thought cables' attempting to make sense of decontextualised objects, we might take his latest post on the religion of La Tène elites. In it, Hooker jumps around from topic to topic making his bundles ("cables"). So we have an alleged use of the same component of an image on some Celtic coins (none other than the Coriosolites which pop up in almost every other post on Hooker's blog, no matter what the topic, because he's studied lots of drawings of them) and, jumping jehosphats, some of them appear on megalithic monuments !! Rectangles with diagonals for example. There must be a connection, eh? Put it in the cable!

Coin (Ossimi) after Rudd
More "cable" fodder is a stater of the Osismii which Hooker reckons "tells the whole story of the year" going round the head of somebody he is sure is "Hermes Ogmios". There are heads joined with a beaded line which "carry the story". Why one coin would have the "story of the year" on it is not explained. Personally, seeing as the many Celtic coins carry heroic themes, I'd ask why these are not trophy heads on ropes. But that'll be dismissed as me being "too lazy to research" to prove John Hooker right. I see though that Chris Rudd is also "too lazy" to agree with Hooker.

Some more "looks like" cable fodder, a ('girdle') clasp from a German site has a complex decorative scheme around a human head, and Hooker pulls out just a small part of the design a tendrilly-thing probably ultimately inspired by south European motifs. "Look", he says excitedly, "the same shape is on a Coriosolite (who else, eh?) coin from my book!" Cable! No matter that he gets the name of the well-known classic site wrong (Weiskirchen, not Weisskirchen/Weißkirchen) more serious is that Hooker seems oblivious to the fact that plants are plants and hair is hair and the resemblance between the two, in reality as well as representations is just a coincidence. To have any meaning at all, Hooker would have to show much more than he does. But hey, that's me being "lazy" no doubt unwilling to climb the "cable" of coincidences. Neither would I do so following the double-S-shape that is another "cable" strand. Hooker dodges showing any more "megalithic" motifs that he can find coincident ones on Celtic coins and metalwork - nasty archies put "copyright" on their pictures and Hooker doubts whether his is "fair use" I presume.

Now, actualy there is not much here that is new. First of all there are a whole load of other people (loonies some of them) who've written books about "Britain's Ancient Heritage"  (I've got a few from a crooked book club I used to belong to) and which predate Hooker's "cables". They do the same thing, find signs on standing stones and the suchlike and then show the same things in later 'art' (including medieval churches) which they see as firm evidence of spiritual continuity. I see no difference between that and what Hooker is doing. Its also the same idea as Alois Riegl had at the beginning of the last century (Stilfragen: Grundlegungen zu einer Geschichte der Ornamentik).

Skipping over the triple spiral, Rig Veda ("an intermediary position between Newgrange and the Celts"), Pythagoras and Lucian (and dismissing the untrue assertions about the absence of platinum inclusions in Cornish gold - of dubious relevance to the subject under discussion anyway), we come on to some 'supporting evidence' that there is some sort of  ("ties in") connection between 'megalithic culture' and Celtic art of the elite. Cable! From some [1960]book on Brittany  in the popular Thames and Hudson Ancient peoples and places Series, Mr Hooker seizes on a passage that "ties in" with what he's trying to prove. Unspecified "skeletal evidence" led the French authors to reason that "the inhabitants of Brittany just before the Roman conquest consisted of about a 50/50 mix of recent Celtic arrivals and descend[a]nts of the Megalithic indigenous populations". Whoopee, cable! This is really amateurish. First of all, physical anthropology has  certainly made a lot of advances since 1960, so do later studies of skeletal micromorphology confirm this half-century-old conclusion? Which skeletal traits were these anyway? Surely not the old outlived "long heads long barrows, round heads round barrows" trope of nineteenth century barrow diggers? Thirdly, studies of this kind today are done on DNA haplogroups and so on. Has Hooker looked at the evidence from that (warning doing it on the net inevitably brings you into contact with some pretty nasty 'Blut und Ehre' Neo Nazis). Anyway, if we are talking about bloodline connections between megalithic cultures and celtic elites patronising the artists, Brittany is irrelevant since, as far as the rest of us mortals are concerned, the art styles had their beginnings well to the southeast, pretty well outside the range of anything that really could be called 'megalithic'. This "cable" does not seem particularly strong.

Quite apart from the fact that for Mr Hooker, a large part of the bit of prehistory that he is dabbling in can be explained by migrations, often the main evidence he offers is a philological interpretation of the exonyms. As my old professor used to say of these models of the 1950s and 1960s, "instead of using imagined migrations as an explanation, how about explaining the migration?".  

Ministry of Works Signage Appreciation Society

This is wonderful, nostalgia. For those who appreciate the qualities of a good old-fashioned heritage sign.  Ministry of Works Signage Appreciation Society. Is there one for the old fashioned sixties guides and postcards too? I've got several box loads...

Renfrew, Monument Destruction a War Crime

They destroy tombs
wearing masks
Lord Colin Renfrew has criticised the destruction of the Mosques and shrines of Iraq by ISIS militants and compares the loss to the destruction of an English medieval cathedral. He adds:
“It would seem that governments are powerless to intervene militarily. But the loss of Iraq's cultural heritage by deliberate action could be considered a war crime. The United Nations, advised by Unesco, could condemn it, and seek to proffer charges against the perpetrators. Such charges could be implemented when the political situation changes, as in the case of the charges against Slobodan Milosevic and other Serbian leaders recently,” he says. Meanwhile, Sam Hardy, an honorary research associaconflict antiquities.
te in archaeology at University College London, commented on the conservation challenges, saying: “Governments, IGOs [inter-governmental organisations], NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and others may be able to help by documenting looting and destruction (or supporting and processing locals' documentation), to enable prosecution and reconstruction, and by building capacity for conservation and reconstruction at the earliest opportunity in the post-war environment.” Hardy is documenting the damage on his blog,
Buying antiquities from the region without checking that they are not soiurced to ISIS is aiding and abetting war criminals, but utterly irresponsible collectors in the UK and US only laugh.

Gareth Harris, 'Blowing up Mosul's historic mosques is 'a war crime'...', Art Newspaper online: 28 July 2014.

Human Chain Saves Minaret, for Now...

Associated Press 'In Iraq’s Mosul, radicals unleash their vision' July 28 2014.
Residents of Mosul have watched helplessly as extremists ruling the northern Iraqi city blew up some of their most beloved landmarks and shrines to impose a stark vision of Islam. Next up for destruction, they feared: the Crooked Minaret, a more than 840-year-old tower that leans like Italy’s Tower of Pisa. But over the weekend, residents pushed back. When fighters from the Islamic State group loaded with heavy explosives converged on the site, Mosulis living nearby rushed to the courtyard below the minaret, sat on the ground and linked arms to form a human chain to protect it, two residents who witnessed the event told The Associated Press on Monday. They told the fighters, If you blow up the minaret, you’ll have to kill us too, the witnesses said. The militants backed down and left, said the witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from the militants. But residents are certain the militants will try again. Over the past two weeks, the extremists ruling Iraq’s second largest city have shrugged off previous restraint and embarked on a brutal campaign to purge Mosul of anything that challenges their radical interpretation of Islam.

Where will this stop?

How many hundred kilometres is it from Raqqa to Masada? Less than six hundred. Today it's the Tomb of Jonah, the Shrine of Seth. Is it conceivable that at some future date ISIS takes another few hundred square kilometres on the back of local strife and threatens Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, The Holy Sepulchre and other precious monuments not so far from where they are now? Israel is not exactly doing a great job at present of showing it can live alongside its Sunni neighbours and working very hard to earn a generation's resentment from much of the Moslem world. Let us remember that ISIS is also ISIL, and where that "Levant" is.

An ethnic map of the Levant (A World in

William Wilberforce died today 1833

William Wilberforce died today 1833

Hooker on Why Ancient Coin "Numismatics" is not an Academic Discipline

Heavy handed hooker
Readers of this blog will know that I have long been questioning the assertions of those involved in the  no-questions-asked commerce in ancient coins (ie decontextualised archaeological artefacts) that to regulate this trade in order to reduce out the possibilities of fresh illcitly-obtained material circulating on the market would in some way damage the discipline these people claim to be involved in. A discipline (see here, here, here and here for example) which they assert adds a great deal to our knowledge of the past (citing construction of Parthian ruler lists as one achievement) and which professional researchers have no time for, making the contributions of avocational scholars of the discipline more valuable and worth encouraging rather than regulating. They claim that in a heap of decontextualised coins on a table there is some magical "numismatic context", which it is important to preserve because archaeologists allegedly in some way destroy it ('Preserving Numismatic Context from Destruction by Archaeologists') . This is in some way linked with die link studies, without which there can allegedly be no numismatics.

So far so good. But then does 'spot the difference' picture-matching of a heap of loose coins of unknown origins on a table  (like Mr Snible's alleged die link here and revisited as a result of my comment here) actually merit the label of 'discipline'? Is there a bona fide discipline which can function using data which are derived from evidence primarily of unknown origin and potentially including that which is of illegal and unethical origin?

Readers will know that I have questioned this a number of times and never received a satisfactory answer from those engaged in or benefiting from this shady commerce. In particular I have had little success getting references to anything looking like a textbook of this discipline, defining its methods, assumptions and theories.

It seems to me that for something to be a 'discipline' (the name itself meaning it follows certain rules or norms) it has to be a branch of learning or scholarly instruction with its own rules and methods. One defining character of an academic discipline is that it would offer career paths for scholars, and here universities, validating suitability for individuals to  professionally engage in academic careers, are at the core of the question of disciplinarity. Here the fact that even coin collectors and dealer stress that numismatics is taught as a separate subject in relatively few universities (rather than as part of another discipline such as archaeology, classics or art history) is not without importance.

In broader terms however a discipline would be comprised of a community of scholars with similar research interests, engaged in one particular area of study and sharing the same heuristic assumptions and epistemological concepts (central concepts, facts/empirical knowledge, organizing theories), and a certain amount of agreement on the methods (i.e. research traditions) they embrace to build up a body of knowledge, and providing a forum for sharing research and insights through established channels, including a recognized body of specialist literature.

Can this be said of the amateur 'heap-of-loose-coins-of-unknown-origins' study? Well, apparently not. The 'Ancient Coin Collectors' (sic) Guild' back in July 2004 said they were going to 'establish a far reaching program of public education, through public media, to highlight the accomplishments of private collectors and their contributions to our knowledge and understanding of the past'. It has never actually done that, suggesting that in fact the task is not too easy and less effective as a tool than was initially considered. Meanwhile it was precisely the ACCG that was engaged in serial dodging of my requests for some of their thoughts on the epistemology and methodology of 'heap-of-loose-coins-of-unknown-origins' coin study.

Now Canadian coiney John Hooker has tried to get them off the hook, in a digression to his next turgid and wayward blog post in the series "The La Tène religion of the Celtic elite" ('part 14: The classification problem). This starts off by discussing the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning (with a neat little chart for people who never did it at school - most metal detectorists I guess). He then waffles on about inductive reasoning:
[Sherlock] Holmes was not trying to find general scientific principles, he was looking at clues to discover "who did it". Sometimes, he would demonstrate this method by telling someone whom he had just met, quite a lot about themselves and their recent history. His theories were not general, they were specific. This is the way that the best numismatists work ― by looking at the series of coins that interests them and not by trying to come up with some general numismatic theories that can be applied willy-nilly to all coins of all times and places.
The point about Holmes is wrong. The interpretation of the material traces and evidence to which Hooker refers cannot be done in isolation (out of context). That context into which they have to be fitted for them to be the basis of any kind of interpretation is precisely patterns of human behaviour and their material correlates.  In 'The Sign of Four', we find the fictional detective boasting:
I am generally able, by the help of my knowledge of the history of crime, to set them straight. There is a strong family resemblance about misdeeds, and if you have all the details of a thousand at your finger ends, it is odd if you can't unravel the thousand and first.
It is only in terms of being material correlates of a past action, which in turn is part of a whole series of behavioural and cultural interactions - of which an underlying assumption is that in general they will fall into patterns - that we consider that we can use observed material facts or traits as evidence on which basis we can reach an interpretation of the past. This is in fact precisely the foundation of Hooker's own interpretation of the typology of Coriosolite coins to which he eternally returns in his blogging, whatever the topic.

Hooker therefore wills us to believe that there can be no underlying theories and assumptions to  'heap-of-loose-coins-of-unknown-origins numismatics' because 'the best numismatists' concentrate on empirical observations of trivial details of the pictures and writing on coins, without any attempt to apply 'some general numismatic theories that can be applied willy-nilly to all coins of all times and places'. This study is portrayed by him as taking place in some anarchistic atheoretical vacuum in which 'anything goes'.

What makes archaeology a discipline (and making 'cables' of undigested 'facts' à la Von Daniken not), is the validation of the interpretations by recognition that they fall into acknowledged and definable research traditions. Those traditions can change, and should change; phrenology is no longer considered a mainstream discipline. In the same way I think that until coineys can show otherwise (which they have not yet done by any means) we can dismiss the notion that 'heap-of-loose-coins-of-unknown-origins' coin fondling is any kind of academic discipline, especially with the rise of other areas of the study of dugup numismata (such as the applied numismatics written about by Philippa Walton of Oxford University and others, or the contextual numismatics developed in several European academic centres, not to mention the achievements of the entire Polish school which seems to have escaped North American coineys' notice because they are not keeping up with the academic literature). 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Three Colombians arrested for trafficking Pre-Columbian artifacts

Police were tipped off to the activities of a gang of looters when artefacts were seized with a falsified export permit. Three Colombians were arrested last week in the town of La Cruz in southern Colombia, accused of trafficking in more than 850 archaeological relics. The three are believed to be members of the same family, and are accused of "illegally digging up (pre-Columbian) pieces and art". The artefacts were stored in one of the diggers' homes and were being sold to tourists and collectors, who were taking them out of the country.

Agence France-Presse, 'Colombia Busts Antiquities Traffickers', July 28, 2014.

UNESCO Urges End To Destruction Of Iraq's Cultural Heritage

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has called for an immediate halt to intentional destruction of religious and cultural heritage monuments in Iraq, a statement issued by the UN agency said. Referring to the intentional destruction on 24 July of the shrine of Prophet Jonas and the mosque built in his honor in Mosul, Bokova said: "I am shocked by this violence against the millennial heritage of Iraq -- destroying places of religious and cultural significance is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated."
  UNESCO Urges End To Destruction Of Iraq's Cultural Heritage   7/28/2014

Illegal Metal Detecting in Yellowstone National Park

Erika Angulo, 'Yellowstone treasure hunters run into problems looking for buried loot', TODAY July 27, 2014
Summer at Yellowstone National Park usually means a steady stream of tourists, but this year a different kind of visitor has rangers on alert — one hoping to strike it rich by digging in the park. Armed with metal detectors, shovels and camping gear, treasure hunters are making their way to Yellowstone in search of a gold-filled 42-pound chest that a New Mexico millionaire says he hid in the Rocky Mountains some four years ago. [...]  But treasure hunting at a national park can land you in jail. "People are coming into the park unaware of the regulations that protect the resources that preclude invasive treasure searching techniques such as digging, metal detectors, anything that destroys or impacts the resources," says Chief Ranger Tim Reid.
Well, if somebody was digging to bury something in the park, they too should be prosecuted, surely?

UK Metal Detecting: Reading Problems Compound Thinking Difficulties

My comments on the Macedonian antiquities convictions aroused interest among the airheads with metal detectors. As usual the "passinitly interestid in th' 'istry" mob seem unconcerned about any of the other issues raised here about the responsibilities of artefact hunting and artefact collecting (indeed, laughing about them). The moment mention is made of an archaeologist being mixed up in some dodgy dealings, then suddenly their ears prick up. One of them (from the camp totally oblivious to the nature of the issues are with thoughtless airheads hoiking artefects to collect), unreflexively writes on his blog: "we are painted with an extremely broad brush as bad guys by those in the ‘holier than thou’ enemy camp, yet when misdeeds like the following happen they are always labelled inaccurate, misconstrued, taken out of context or political in nature".  Another of the same ilk, calling himself supernova1c
guffaws that this made him laugh. He says he "found the article on the greedy archaeologist very interesting, you don’t hear them shouting about that!". The artefact hunters' favourite "two wrongs make a right" argument.

I wonder whether any of them had actually read the article properly, rather than the headline. You know reading, where you put words in a row and then understand them? If you follow through the articles about the case going back over a year (I doubt any of them even thought of doing that, even though the information is in the Internet a mouse-click away) they would have found that the archaeologist they are "laughing" about has been sentenced for giving permission for artefact hunting, for aiding artefact hunters like themselves. Whether out of "greed" or not is not recorded.

The point I was making in my earlier post is that although the permits (which I presume exist) bear his signature, the precise conditions under which they were issued may not be so clear. Note that the antiquities ring is reported as being run by his deputy in the office. I think one can see that there is a variety of possible scenarios from which the court could have chosen, for various reasons. That is the point I was making about the political context here.

In most eastern European countries you need a permit to conduct archaeological excavations. Without them, excavations are illegal. Yet artefact hunters cannot get these permits, because state legislation in these countries usually specifies out who can get them and what for. To issue such a permit to people who do not fit those definitions is illegal. This is the dilemma artefact hunters have in many parts of Europe. I have written about this a number of times on this blog in the past, Raimund Karl wrote about it in support of Austrian artefact hunters. Polish archaeologists complain they cannot legally work with metal detectorists because of this sort of legislation and suggest modifying it. Chortling airhead metal detector users in the English-speaking world however cannot strain their search-engine-using mouse-clicking fingers too much or read more than eight sentences at a time, so they prefer to remain permanently ignorant. Then they can play the victim when somebody points out they are exhibiting minimal intelligence in what they say about their hobby and its contexts. They like that, it's an undemanding role to play ("we are painted with an extremely broad brush as bad guys by those in the ‘holier than thou’ enemy camp"). It helps foster the them-us division which increase the "hobby solidarity" within which so many of them seem to find comfort and a personal identity.

To judge by the reports in the public domain, Macedonia's Kuzman "and other office employees in 2011 gave permission to third parties to dig in locations near the town of Delcevo and along the road from Skopje to Veles". The reports of the case indicate that he has been convicted of issuing artefact hunters  with excavation permits, allowing them to dig openly. The point is that Macedonian law does not have the possibility for him to do that, he has therefore been declared guilty by a court of an illegal activity and has been sentenced to three years in prison. For being "guilty of aiding a criminal ring to excavate and sell off valuable archaeological artifacts". Giving permission for artefact hunting, in the specific Macedonian context, has been adjudged "misuse of office".

I would have thought that metal detectorists capable of thinking would have adopted a somewhat different attitude to the jailing of an (old and sick - to boot) archaeologist whose crime was giving permissions to artefact hunters.  But no, I cannot see any evidence that thinking metal detectorists will be An archaeologist jailed for helping artefact hunters, ha ha, ROFL eh?"
taking that one up. Instead we see mindless airhead guffawing: "

 Vignette: 'Illiterate Britain: One in five adults struggling to read and write' and many take up metal detecting.

UPDATE 28th July 2014:
Despite the pointer given above that actually reading some primary sources might help understand matters a bit better than the stereotypical archie-bashing flabberjaw that in the world of airhead detecting passes for 'informed comment', we still find that the slow on the uptake have problems unentangling the written word. One of them has just accused Dr Kuzman of being "fit and well enough to organise a criminal gang of archaeologists and reap the rewards of his ill-gotten gains", despite the fact that the name of the smuggling gang's leader is given in the Macedonian press reports based on court records. I hope when the slandered individual comes out of prison, he deals with the libellous publication of Howland and Stout in a manner appropriate to the accusation.

UPDATE UPDATE 30th July 2014:

If exploring the issue further in English is beyond the cognitive capacities of metal detectorists intent on archie-bashing, then it's no use pointing them to a text written in French, I guess. For the rest of us, there is a text which gives some additional information about the case (Daniela Veljanovska, 'Trafic d’antiquités en Macédoine : trois ans de prison pour Pasko Kuzman', Le Courrier des Balkans (from Dnevnik - translated by Jaklina Naumovski)). The first concerns the nature of the permits Kuzman issued:
 L’accusation reposait sur des autorisations qu’aurait signé le directeur pour permettre à des « chercheurs » d’effectuer des fouilles dans les régions de Katlanovo à Delčevo. Le premier site, Dramski rid, était supposé abrité dans un tunnel une grande quantité d’armes que l’armée allemande aurait abandonné durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Le second site, à Katlanovo, était supposé abriter de l’or, [Nazi gold too?] pour une valeur de plusieurs millions d’euros. L’archéologue aurait outrepassé ses pouvoirs et permis des fouilles illégales avec l’espoir de découvrir un nouveau « trésor ». 
The newspaper also reflects on the possible political background to the conviction of Kuzman:
 Pasko Kuzman, personnage clé du projet Skopje 2014, fut soutenu et protégé pendant des années par le gouvernement conservateur du VMRO-DPMNE, mais il s’est retrouvé face à ses accusations, lâché par celles et ceux qui lui avaient donné carte blanche pour effectuer toutes les fouilles et mener tous les projets en rapport avec le patrimoine culturel du pays. Cependant, ses dernières prises de positions et critiques ouvertes contre le projet de « Las Vegas » à Ohrid, par l’investisseur indien Subrata Roy, ont-elles joué dans la balance de ce jugement ? La question reste sans réponse, mais le mutisme de la ministre de la Culture et d’autres soutiens habituels de l’archéologue incite à la réflexion. 

Kuzman reportedly came into conflict with these two,
Subrata Roy and the Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski

For Mr Roy, see a number of articles in the media, including:

Deana Kjuka, 'Dubai-Style Plans Emerge For Macedonia's Ohrid Area ' Radio Free Europe , 29th November, 2012,
Coilin O'Connor, Macedonian Heritage Site To Face UNESCO Probe', Balkan insight 27th August, 2013,
Sinisa Jakov Marusic, 'Indian Tycoon Throws Lavish Party in Macedonia', Balkan Insight 3rd Oct 13
Prasad Sanyal (ed.) 'Sahara chief Subrata Roy sent to Tihar Jail', 4th March 04, 2014
Xhelal Neziri, 'Macedonia believed Sahara chief was India’s return gift for Mother Teresa' The Indian Express, 21st March, 2014.
'Subrata Roy and his Love for Macedonia – the land of Mother Teresa and Alexander the Great… Where he plans to build Super Luxury Las Vegas…', Viewology, contrarian newzing, 21st March 2014 (with further links to sleaze).

UK Metal Detecting: Heritage Action Challenged Again (Yawn), by a Newbie

Paul Currell a Weston-Super-Mare (Somerset) clock repairer and metal detectorist has been posting a few comments to the Heritage Journal trotting out the usual tekkie objections to anybody commenting on the effects of current policies on the archaeological record:  “I am new to metal detecting and you are all wrong, wrong wrong, you don’t know what you are talking about” [or words to that effect]. Having had the first three of his "points" at explained to him, and before he's had time to digest it, he starts off on another tack. "The Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter [...] is ridiculous" he insists because on his club digs (he's been on two) nobody finds very much (he seems to see that in terms of the number of coins found).

PD Currell admits he belongs to a club, members of which are not very good at finding stuff on "club land" and which (because he admits to not knowing much about it) apparently does not put its members in touch with the PAS. He seems to equate "archaeological record" with "coins". He seems not to have heard of the PAS through the club (would that be Weston Historical Research and Detecting Association - WHRADA, or The Somerset Artifact (sic) Seekers?). 

I suggest that before hastily concluding that his two novice detecting trips with his "club" are representative of the whole, he might like to research the matter a little more deeply. He might for example like to look at Katherine Robbins' 2012 doctoral thesis:  "From Past to Present: Understanding the Impact of Sampling Bias on Data Recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme" in the University of Southampton Research Repository. Dr Robbins gives proper data on finds rates from her case studies (a bit more than just a novice's two trips). On page 239 she gives an estimated quantification of the numbers of artefacts being recovered by metal detectorists across England and Wales. Her result is a little lower than the HA one (but then based on a lower number of detectorists) but certainly the same order of magnitude. She concludes the annual number is ~265,000. Now it seems from the finished document that her academic supervisors did not question either her methodology or her results, her reviewers likewise. Nor did Roger Bland of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, so much so that on the basis of her work he offered her a job in the BM  continuing the same line of research. I'd say that was a pretty good vindication of the conclusions reached earlier (by different methods than Robbins' just asking detectorists) by Heritage Action. I suggest that if the clock-loving but sceptical detectorist wants to take up the issue, he complains to Dr Robbins.

Once again, we find ourselves beset by being dragged into pointless discussions with those with a totally superficial approach to the problem and a fundamental lack of knowledge. This is Britain's awful dumb-down karaoke culture poking through. Lager lout takes on reason. It does not matter to people like this that people like Heritage Action have invested a lot of time (13 years they've been at it) and thought to the issue of quantifying and studying the effects of  the UK's policies on artefact hunting. A cocky novice wet around the ears imagines that he's got what it takes ("common sense innit") to show they're wrong. Even if he hasn't. This one's been out on two club digs with his new detector and imagines he knows everything there is to know about detecting in its wider context. In his opinion, HA "must" be wrong, cos that's wot his M8s say, and any thicko straight from the street thinks that without any reading up the issues discussed during those 13 years he will defeat them with a few pathetic stock arguments they've heard from airhead detector users on a forum somewhere. Those usually concentrate around themes of:
chip-on-the-shoulder playing the victim,
nasty ad hominems ("Did an ex-wife run away with a detectorist by chance?"),
extrapolating a vision of normal archaeological practice from something seen on Time Team,
application of a 'two-wrongs-make-a-right' argument,
and so on.

This is really pathetic, and makes you wonder just where fifteen million pounds on PAS "Outreach" has gone. What has the general public really absorbed from all that money being spent on informing them about archaeology by this organization? And the small (minority) of the British public so "passionately interested in 'istry" that they've bought metal detectors so they can rip large swathes of it up for their personal consumption, what have they really learnt from the PAS in all those years? Really. I think that by the repetitiveness of the absolute junk we see weekly emerging from this milieu, the answer is pretty obvious - not a lot. In my opinion, long term observation of this phenomenon indicates starkly that it's a waste of money trying to outreach to those that resist education. And its a waste of time British archaeologists persisting in  faffing around at the tax-payers' expense trying to achieve the unachievable for the only reason that its easier to deceive yourself and others that its different than it is, than actually taking real action to deal with the problem of collection-driven exploitation (CDE) of the archaeological record head on.


"Iraq is Heading Toward Total Destruction of its Historic and Human Heritage"

The war-mongers may be in denial, but Ali Mamouni is in little doubt who is ultimately responsible for the current destabilisation of the situation in Iraq
Iraq is heading toward total destruction of its historic and human heritage, which will turn it into a barren desert isolated from its time-honored cultural and religious history. This is taking place in light of chaotic circumstances involving terrorism that is on the offensive, Iraqi government ignorance, global silence and an international letdown — specifically from the United States, which [has] completely abandoned its responsibilities toward the situation in Iraq.

Ali Mamouri, 'Islamic State destroys sacred shrine in Mosul', Al-monitor July 25, 2014 (transl. Cynthia Milan).

UK Metal Detecting: "[...]k off and Die Heritage Action, Barford and the rest of you"!

"Remember that when you are out with
your metal detector you are an ambassador for our
hobby. Do nothing that might give it a bad name
Over on Heritage Action's blog we see a typical metal detectorist reaction to a discussion of artefact hunters selling finds.  It's from a John West and was sent 27/07/2014 at 22:47
Dont waste your breathe or typing skills on this bunch of twisted blinkered [...]ers. You could give all your finds to a museum and they still would call foul. [...]k off and die heritage action, barford and the rest of you syncapathic (sic) [...]ers... Here endeth the lesson. [...] at least us (sic) detectorists are actually finding pieces of the past rather than belittling those that do Pathetic [....]ers. Now post this you twisted [...]k. You know who I am and I will return to plague your [...]t sake of a site !!!
Yes, they always do. Very few of them feel the need to engage in anything but whining, feeble pseudo-justifications, threats and outright vulgarity.This is why there really is no point in trying to discuss anything with artefact hunters, but we need to be discussing what the rest of us can do about artefact hunters like this whose only justification for "finding pieces of the past" is to throw it in the face of the rest of us like this. Without the PAS they would be nothing but looters, yet the paradox is that the PAS was set up to negotiate best practice with the milieu represented here so eloquently by John West. How much chance of an effective resolution to the artefact hunting problem do you think the mentalities behind this and a host of other posts made by metal detectorists which anyone who looks can see all over the internet give them? 

Mr West's ISP is available to NCMD officials - just ask.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Arrests for Egyptian Antiquity Possession in Malawi

Press Trust of India, '2 Egyptians arrested for possessing illicit antiquities', Business Standard, July 27, 2014.
A 59-year-old Egyptian worker and his son were arrested today after police recovered 604 antiquities of Pharaonic and Roman era from their possession. Gamal Rashid Mandour and his 30-year-old son Odai were arrested in Malawi village in Menya by the Tourist Police Unit for possessing 526 ancient metal coins dating back to the Pharaonic and Roman era and 42 Pharaonic statues, state-run MENA news agency reported.
Baswed on their reported location, it might be assumed that, although the brief text does not state this, these items would have come from the looting of the Malawi Museum a year ago (Aug. 14-17, 2013).It is heartening to see that the people holding them had not been able to find an Egyptian  buyer for these 'hot' items. In September 2013 there were reported to be 873 antiquities still missing. But in December 2013 it was reported that of the 1050 objects believed to be stolen in August: "Ibrahim said that 800 of the items have since been recovered" and I've seen reports putting the number at 900. So this rather begs the question what Mr Mandour is alleged to have had in his possession.

"Wotch Out Baz, Farmer's Coming!"

Dick Stout's fave UK metal detector supplier carries a nice line of Night Vision Monoculars (that by the way is the Google cache, at the moment you get this if you click on the 'Night Vision Monoculars ' dropdown on their website - hiding something guys, or have you had a lot of sales?). They start off at about 150 quid up to 800. Heritage Action ('A Community Archaeology project to reduce nighthawking!') charitably suggest that the explanation might be offered that  they are "a must have’ for Treasure Hunters who need to scout out [sites] at night" (and these would be albino vampires who cannot go out in sunlight presumably) or “for  guarding my metal detecting sites from night hawkers“ (because the farmer is drunk and incapable of looking after his own property). I think the dealers who say they are used by paranoid metal detectorists "to see who is coming when [...] out at treasure sites", have nailed it. 

It is interesting to note that although UK tekkies will no doubt continue to claim that those buying this equipment are doing so for entirely non-nefarious reasons, the number of detectorists listing them in the long lists of equipment-wot-I-got with which it is now fashionable to adorn the signature line on metal-detecting forums (to illustrate the "investment" these folk put into their benign-heritage-helping hobby) very rarely include them. A 'must have' for legitimate artefact hunting, or something those who have them prefer not to advertise to avoid questions being asked?

It is also interesting to note that when the "we is all responsible blokes" bluff is called, and groups like Heritage Action (for PAS never does this guess why) call on all those allegedly "responsible blokes" to take responsibility for the hobby and do something about those who spoil it for everyone else, not more than two will ever step forward and actually do anything. hardly evidence for widespread responsibility, or maybe its 'Alternative Responsibility' that is claimed.

To be clear, anyone hoiking artefacts from little holes with a night-vision apparatus is not going to be able to record properly the associations and avoid damaging information, and should be expelled from a club of responsible detectorists immediately. Anyone found carrying one around in the back of their car with their metal detector (with back-lit screens) and spades (for example turning up at a weekend rally with one) should surely be reported to club authorities by his responsible fellows.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Hopi Masks in France: Dialogue with the Deaf

Cheerleading for US
Cultural Protection policies
It's bad enough having to discuss the notions of the airheads with metal detectors or ancient coin collections. I am naive enough to expect a little more from academic staff of US universities though. I posted on the Museum Security Discussion List a brief reaction to the objectionably-phrased self-promotional complaint that the French were not falling prostrate before the demands of a US-based group questioning the sales of some Native American objects. There was only one objection to my remarks, a rather defensive post from Dr Lucille A. Roussin (Adjunct Professor of Law, the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, a member of the Cultural Properties Legislation Committee of the Archaeological Institute of America and something big in the LCCHP) who begins patronisingly: "I suggest Mr. Barford read..." and citing a whole load of US legislation and cases, claiming that these showed that the U.S. has "sorted out the legal status of objects like these" but which instead appears to show that she'd not the foggiest what I'd written about. She is involved in Holocaust art activities and it is not clear what here relationship with Ori Z. Soltes, Ciric Law Firm, PLLC, or the Holocaust Art Restitution Project. Here is my reply, trying to set the record straight:
Dr Roussin,
Thank you for your comments. I do not think, however, you take my point. We are talking here about illicit export, aren't we? And you seem to want it to become a case of illicit import in France. But on what, precise, grounds?

But first, let's take a look at how US dealers, their lobbyists and US museums react to just such claims from foreign claimants (we might take as a good [bad] example the SLAM Ka Nefer Nefer mask - according to a US court in two places at once so "not stolen" and staying in the US). Time and time again we all observe how, when it comes to antiquities in particular, many US dealers are quite happy to flog as much stuff as they can get their hands on, their lawyers arguing quite openly that "no US law" is broken. I am sure you are well aware of the debate that's going on about the gap between practice and the law in the US at the moment - the latest from the "Committee on Cultural Policy", it is a serious problem.

My point is that Mr Ciric was bemoaning the fact that the "foreign authorities" would not recognize that these objects were "stolen and smuggled". Yet we have an international Convention of which both the US and France are states parties, and because of the failure of the US to do any of the things it stipulates which allows definition of US cultural objects as such (Art 5, 6, 7, 10a) then the French authorities had no legislative grounds to come to any other decision in the light of their own legal system. So yes, regretable, to be sure, but the US has not safeguarded items like this from this point of view (no export licencing system in place for such items for a start) - so to then attack the French over this seems a little unfair.

I suggest that if you want to enable the French Board to help the US next time this happens (and I think it will) then surely we/you need to start pressurising the US government to take another look at how the US is "implementing" the 1970 UNESCO Convention, with regard to US cultural property. [You might like to consider that since the US itself opts to implement the Convention selectively - calling on Art 9 - the US not having actually signed a bilateral cultural property MOU with France as part of its "implementation" of the Convention might not be irrelevant here either].

As we've all seen, the US is all too keen (in its Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act and its process of CPAC adjudication) to stand judge over the other State Parties, so it seems fair that we should be able to take a critical look at the US system too.

And I note you do not answer the point I made about the US not even having a rudimentary market regulatory system in place to equal the French organization Mr Ciric is criticising.
Paul Barford 
Her off-list reply indicates that the lady from the LCCHP has still not understood  why I assume that what Mr Cirik was discussing was a repatriation (and therefore illicit export/import) case. She's not understood my reference to Mr Pearlstein's points in the Committee on Cultural Policy "White Paper" (presented recently in a publication in her own institution) and for some reason seems to assume I've never looked at the LCCHP's website (duh...*). She tries to tell me that I don't know anything about the Ka Nefer Nefer case, which I venture to suggest I've done more reading and writing on than she seems to have done (and her own summary of it differs markedly from the actual facts of what happened!).

She then crowns it all by blurting out her opinion that the CPAC and the CCPIA "seem to be working very well". Well, I could not agree less about that last point, and I suggest I am not alone in that. What a loopy thing to say in 2014. The "CCPIA and CPAC" are doing bugger all about Syrian antiquities being sold this very day through US dealers.  And by the time the CPAC gets round to meeting about it, there is no telling what ISIS will have done.

To be honest Dr Roussin, that was not a very well informed or useful reply at all. That's probably why she says "I have no intention of getting into a dialogue with you on social media". No, probably not. She's happy telling me in patronising terms that I know nothing (metal detectorist talk that), which is merely a strategy (as it is with metal detectorists)  to dodge actually addressing any of the points made. We have social media Dr Roussin in order precisely to talk about issues. Surely, if the heritage belongs to all of us, we should all (not just US lawyers) have a voice in what happens to it. Simply refusing to discuss it honestly (in anything but the glibbest of facile terms) is a cop-out by whole segments of the heritage sector on both sides of the Atlantic. I personally think that the US approach to implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention is may ways (argued on this blog) a failure to address the issue, and a damaging one at that. It's my opinion reached after looking at it closely and carefully for a number of years (and if you look through this blog, you'll see it was not always like that). I am entitled to my opinion and Dr Roussin is of course entitled to hers. The difference between us is that I think this is worth discussing and am having a go at defending my views, Dr Roussin apparently is not. Not only that, her correspondence suggests that she's not really paying much attention to what the other side is saying, apparently simply dismissing it because it conflicts with her own preconceptions, which are that the CCPIA is "working very well". If that is typical of the approach of the US heritage community as a whole, then we'll not be seeing any much-needed change soon.

*Not noticing that this blog has been a firm supporter of the LCCHP, including its recent campaign to heighten awareness about the significance of the Charles B. Rangel/Steve Israel moves to weaken measures for curbing antiquity smugglers.

UPDATE 12th August 2014
Lobbyist Peter Tompa complains in one of his sillier posts, linking to this text: "Mr. Barford also goes after those who agree with him philosphically [sic] if they don't agree with him on a specific point. See this condescending post here directed at an attorney associated with the LCCHP. From this I gues we are supposed to conclude (a) that being LCCHP is akin to being the Queen Mum for Peter Tompa, and (b) if someone "close to Peter Tompa philosophically" said something he thought was wrong, he'd stay silent on it. I am sure  Dr Lucille A. Roussin  (and Mr Ciric) are wrong, and explain why, she has refused to engage with that discussion and explain to my readers where it is I who have it wrong. Refusing to present any counter-arguments is hardly advancing the heritage debate. Mr Tompa also cannot be bothered to present any substantive points, preferring merely to judge the value of the arguments by the tone in which he perceives them as being written.

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