Friday, 15 December 2017

Eshamun Sculptures Return to Lebanon

Antiquities and diplomacy, getting the special tablecloths out, the Office of the District Attorney of New York sent back to Lebanon and its citizens three looted artefacts that had turned up in New York. At the Repatriation Ceremony earlier this week, Majdi Ramadan, the Consul General of Lebanon in New York expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the Office 'to enforce the rule of law, to eliminate the illicit trafficking of antiquities', Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent-in-Charge of HSI New York, said:
“These three pieces have travelled through the underworld of art, being recovered here in New York. Now it is time that they are returned to Lebanon, their rightful home. The trafficking of cultural property and art is a lucrative criminal enterprise that transnational criminal organizations seek to partake of to make a profit; nonetheless, the cultural significance and worth of these returned treasures is beyond any monetary value.”

The three pieces that had travelled through that arty underworld to New York were all sculptures, and notably, all from the temple of Eshamun an ancient place of worship near Sidon in southwestern Lebanon excavated in the 1970s. They were probably part of the group of 600 items that had been stolen from a storeroom to which they had been evacuated on the outbreak of war. So far relatively few of this group have been recovered. The three concerned now are:

1) Marble bull’s head, circa 360 BC looted during the Civil War. This was recovered from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it was on loan for display by a private collector who acquired the statue after it was somehow sold to private collectors. Nobody was arrested. (Value to the market approximately $1.2 million). [For some reason, the photo shows that this was going back to Lebanon without the mount on which it was displayed - maybe the collector claimed it back to use again?]

2)  'The Calf Bearer': In October, a marble torso, circa the 6th century BC. was recovered from a private owner who acquired the artifact after it too was 'stolen during the Lebanese Civil War, and sold to private collectors'. Nobody is on record as having been arrested. The value of the object to the market was approximately $4.5 million.

3) 'Torso E1912: In November, a marble torso, circa the 4th century B.C.E., was recovered from a private owner who acquired it after the statue was 'stolen during the Lebanese Civil War and sold by an antiquities dealer before being shipped to New York.' Nobody is on record as having been arrested. The value of the object to the market was not stated.

Pictured (from l-r): Torso E1912; the Bull’s Head; and the Calf Bearer.

Note here totally missing are any of the names of the three collectors involved in buying artefacts with unverified licit origins. We know the name of the owner who lost his bull head (but seems to have kept the stand) but the October and November seizures seem to have gone relatively untrumpeted - why?

One may speculate whether or not the fact that these three items were found and seized so close together in time indicates that somebody implicated in their trafficking was induced to 'talk' about their clients. The Sidon head was the one seized first and interestingly, had been 'bought from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector'. The dealer is unnamed. Can one speculate that this hypothetical London dealer had pressure put upon him or her somehow and revealed the name of a client in New York who'd bought 'the calf Bearer' and who maybe had just shipped a third piece (torso E1912) to New York where the DA could seize it? That is an interesting possibility, especially when one would consider how a New York DA would pressurize a hypothetical British dealer to do anything at all... also it raises the question what else such a hypothetical dealer might have shipped out to places where the Manhattan DA cannot touch him?

I rather think there was a message being sent out by the display and repatriation of these three objects together.  I think we might watch the doings of the reformed Scotland Yard Art and Antiquities Squad with some interest.

And a final thought for collectors: You may think you can 'trust' the 'reputable' dealer in the shiny shop who has a trophy antiquity that you covet but - he regrets - somebody has mislaid the paperwork for. But the moment American (let's say) investigators get him or her in their sights and make them 'an offer they cannot refuse'  (like not go to jail if you co-operate), they'll have no compunction about dredging their business records for the names and addresses of people that have bought dodgy items from them, no-questions-asked. No compunction.

Terminological Vaseline from the British Museum

“Metal-detecting can make an immense contribution to archaeological knowledge, if practised responsibly, and the vast majority of people are keen that their hobby has a positive impact.”
(Michael Lewis, head of portable antiquities and treasure at the British Museum, following the announcement that a record amount of ‘treasure’ was found in Britain’s fields and ditches by member of the public during the past year). The point about this is that the metal detector as a tool can make a contribution, but collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record, as its name implies, can only be exploitive and erosive. Which is probably why Mike Lewis does not call a spade a spade.

Manhattan DA now has Antiquities Trafficking Unit

The Manhattan District Attorney's office is opening an Antiquities Trafficking Unit to bring increased focus on suspiciously unpapered artefacts in the trade passing through the region and prosecute criminal offenders. This is obviously a good step forward in fight against dodgy antiquities on US market. This has the potentiate of affecting dodgy dealers outside the jurisdiction;
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the formation of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s first-ever Antiquities Trafficking Unit [...] When a new matter is brought to the attention of the assistant district attorneys, analysts, and paralegal who staff the unit, a team is assigned to collect information about the origin of the item in question, potential criminality with respect to its possession, and the trafficking network, where applicable, associated with the movement of the artifact. From there on, members of the unit work closely with partners in law enforcement and foreign governments to gather the evidence needed to seize the item, prosecute criminal offenders, and return the artifact to the rightful owner. 
This unit will formalize the collaborative processes and partnerships that led to the previous successful recoveries proudly listed in the press release. It is time London got one, focussing specifically on the massive antiquities trade which passes through it, rather than one that treats the issue as just part of the wider 'art and antiques' market.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Sophie Flynn (Essex FLO) is Invited to Tell me What's What...

☺️Here, Sophie, is a space for you. Send me your comments and I will publish them in full. [emoticon]

Yesterday, Ms Flynn posted on Twitter some fluff about the TV series 'Detectorists' suggesting that the 'star', McKenzie Crook should mention the PAS and how they are there to 'help',

Given that most of the objects they record now come from Collection Driven Exploitation of the finite and fragile archaeological record by artefact hunting metal detectorists, I tweeted her with a perfectly valid question:
19 godzin temu
W odpowiedzi do
"help" who do what Sophie?
Now, I'll give her her dues. Most FLOs would run a mile from such a question from me. They prefer patting tekkies on the head and posting their finds up on Twitter with cutesey texts (any day now we'll have the 'Twelve days of Christmas' finds going up - HOW many "gold rings"?). Anyway, she tried:
19 godzin temu
‘Help’ with the admistration of the Act, ‘help’ people discover more about their local history and heritage, ‘help’ responsible detectorisrs understand the opportunities they can bring to the study of archaeology... the list goes on Paul, but I shan’t bore you [smiley emoticon]
FLOs do not read this blog, so they do not know what position I occupy on precisely these issues. That would explain why an otherwise intelligent girl (I trust) gave such a dumbdown answer. So what is she trying to say...  and does not what she said raise more questions than she answered? I replied in several tweets:
23 minuty temu
Forgive me if I am wrong, but surely the PAS was set up 20 years ago not to deal with Treasure, which the Act establishes goes through other channels, but to deal with NON-Treasure material. Somehow that distinction seems to be lost - with Treasure now being reported twice
Meaning in the Treasure Reports (which is what the Treasure Act requires) and the PAS database, which is extralegal, not in the Act, duplicates effort and information and merely serves to bulk out 'finds reported' numbers. As for her second point...
38 minut temu
W odpowiedzi do
There's more to "local heritage and heritage" than a few loose coins pulled out of a field somewhere. We left the object-centric view of the past in about 1870 - PAS promotes a very atavistic 'view of the past', don't you think? Not a boring question - quite a fundamental one.
The third issue is indeed a pretty fundamental one, not only about the terminology, but the loopy ideas hiding behind it...
36 minut temu
W odpowiedzi do
What is "responsible", please, about any form of *Collection Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record*? Can looting in Syria, Egypt etc be made "responsible' by installing a PAS-clone in Damascus or Edfu? Or Central America? Fundamental question, have you an answer?
I think she must have, as she apparently has no qualms about working with these people (because she took the job). Will she be bold enough to share it with us?  Then those alleged opportunities which supposedly mitigate the huge damage done:
37 minut temu
W odpowiedzi do
What "opportunities" does Collection-Driven Exploitation of the basic body of evidence by rough and ready means (eg carrier bags and wallpaper scrapers in fading light at Lenborough) "bring to the study of" real archaeology? Most metal detected finds are NOT reported, as we all know
So, even the 'opportunities' she (apparently) sees have been offset by a far larger number of missed 'opportunities' and this has been going on for twenty years.  And to conclude, her parting comment
37 minut temu
W odpowiedzi do
" I shan’t bore you [emoticon]".
I assure you, you will not bore me if you give proper answers to my questions, its the superficial ones which we've all heard mindlessly chanted like a mantra so many times before that are the boring and intellectually bankrupt ones.

36 minut temu
W odpowiedzi do
I invite you to make use of my blog's comments section for a proper reply, no space on Tewitter:
Right, start holding your breath... now. No, don't. She's probably awaiting instructions from Bloomsbury.

Looted Artefacts Represent the Destruction of the Past

A rather pedestrian article which reproduces what has been said before and adds little new, but useful to keep the issue in the public eye: Lexi Churchill and Jiwon Choi, 'In looted artifacts, archaeologist sees destruction of past' global  journalist 14 December 2017.No doubt the antiquities trade lobby will again want to dismiss all this as (quote) 'loud-mouthed propagandists' and
'peddlers of heritage fake news, mostly academic grant-grabbers (with a smattering of pig-ignorant camp followers) having an axe to grind, or, working to private agendas, [...] street-corner rabble-rousers [...] with their fingers in the propaganda cookie jar.
but I think there is a case to answer, and instead of insults the antiquities market (all of it) should strive to clean up their act.

The antiquities trade always destroys knowledge.

A Smithsonian Magazine article is misleadingly called 'Archaeologists Are Only Just Beginning to Reveal the Secrets Hidden in These Ancient Manuscripts' (palaeography probably would be a better description) but there is another point here.

Imagine if these had been found by an artefact hunter, divided up into little bits like the recent Dead Sea Scroll fragments and sold off piecemeal to greedy collectors. We'd know none of this. The antiquities trade always destroys knowledge. Even when its supporters claim it is in some way creating knowledge, the wrenching of the artefacts out of their context of deposition and discovery and putting them, decontextualised, in collections (or on the market) is always destructive. Discuss. 

Antiquities trade: Is it any wonder we are where we are?

A few days ago, a lobbyist for the no-questions-asked antiquities trade Peter Tompa published an article on his 'Cultural Property Obfuscator' blog called 'Hipster Internet Art Newsletter Raises Alarm About Antiquities being "Weaponized" for Political Purposes' which aims to discuss the text by Professor Michael Press ('How Antiquities Have Been Weaponized in the Struggle to Preserve Culture' discussed by me here). Rather than addressing the issue discussed, that is the weaponisation of cultural heritage by the US government (and the fact that in order to do that, the state has been lying to its citizens) we find the tenor of the ensuing discussion rather telling. One collector wrote somewhat emotionally but apparently in all seriousness (December 9, 2017 at 1:49 AM):
Hello Peter: These peddlers of heritage fake news, mostly academic grant-grabbers (with a smattering of pig-ignorant camp followers) having an axe to grind, or, working to private agendas, rightly deserve censure. The street-corner rabble-rousers have been caught bang to rights with their fingers in the propaganda cookie jar. I'm sure many loud-mouthed propagandists know the game is up and will be running for cover to both protect their backsides and what’s left of their reputations. Happy days ahead perhaps.
Here we see the tendency prevalent in the political right to reduce any political issue to the personal level, and then by overloading their text with epithets and derogatory adjectives to demonise those implicated. Another feature is the implication that when thus-demonised opposing views are silenced, some form of social utopia will emerge. Senior coin dealer Wayne Sayles (December 11, 2017 AT 4:24 PM) goes down the same road, blaming anything and everything on his own private bugbear, archaeologists. He has his own views about what needs to go to bring about a pie-in-the-sky  'Fel Temp Reparatio'.
Fact #1: Ancient coins have been collected and traded from literally the beginning of their existence in the 7th century BC.

Fact #2: No culture on earth ever considered, much less imposed, trade controls on ancient coins before the rise of archaeology as a "science" and the acceptance of these scientists as "experts".

Fact #3: Many millions, if not billions, of ancient coins legally crossed national boundaries without controls of any kind as late as the early 20th century when archaeology (once a hobby itself) started to achieve some recognition as an academic subject of interest. There is literally no way to determine modern ownership of ancient coins based on point of origin.

Fact #4: Between 1970 and 2017 the archaeological community has aligned itself with a progressive socialist ideology that radically opposes private ownership.

Fact #5: Radicals never let truth prevail and readily pervert truth for the "greater good".

Is it any wonder we are where we are?
No, with this kind of reasoning, it is no wonder that we are where we are.  So-called 'facts 1-3' are a smokescreen, if antiquities (this is not just about coins) have a collecting history that allows them to be shown to be part of that earlier phase of the circulation of collectables, then there is no problem. The problem is that dealers like Mr Sayles consider it perfectly acceptable to move large numbers of antiquities around the market he inhabits without any documentation of licit orgins and no-questions-asked. His problem is that opinion is shifting away from acceptance of such a state of affairs, nineteenth century trade models based on anonymous and colonialist exploitation no longer look, in the twenty-first century, as 'acceptable' and moods are beginning to swing away from the free-for-all/anything-goes' trade model favoured by many of the dealers in operation today who, for the most part, demonstrably pay only lip service to the concerns. 

So-called fact #4 is an egregious example of the sort of weasel wording these people use. The issue is not 'private ownership' (as Mr Sayles, slow to learn, obviously has been told many times). There is nothing 'radical' about accepting that - given the realities of the day -  if one wants to buy certain commodities, then there are requirements to ensure they are of licit origins, and to be able to demonstrate that when they are passed on to  new owner. Like a second-hand car, or a venus fly-trap (protected species in the wild).  Once again we see the political right in action, anything even vaguely relatable to 'communism' is automatically demonised in their minds, even if the actual accusation is so entirely in the face of logic it leaves normal folk scratching their heads in bewilderment at such a logic-lapse. Sayles' Fact five I would apply to antiquities dealers.

 Is it any wonder we are where we are?

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Not Even Kossinnism Now...

Re: Delay in Treasure process BlackBridgeBoy (Wed Dec 13, 2017 3:24 pm) writes:
I also don't have a great deal of confidence in some of the FLOs. My local FLO took over a year to respond to my e-mails, after I had registered on the site. She hardly ever holds Finds Surgeries, and trying to track her down is like trying to nail a jelly to a wall. In the end, I contacted the FLO in the next district. She was completely the opposite, and responded promptly and kept me up-to-date with details of her Finds Surgeries. In fact, her last e-mail message contained the following, which might be worth noting...
"The PAS policy on how we prioritise finds has changed slightly. Instead of concentrating on finds that are more than 300 years old, we now prioritise finds that date from before AD 1540, but we do still selectively record younger items too. It is also preferred that you hand in all your recently discovered finds, on the understanding that they will probably not all be recorded. This allows me to better understand the range of material being discovered, and helps me decide which objects and which geographical areas should be prioritised."
Looks as though, apart from Treasure, you might be wasting your time sending in Finds that are post-1540, unless they are of special interest. My guess is that we are finding, and reporting, too much for them to cope with it!
So if only certain geographical areas are being prioritised, that rather reduces the value of the PAS-favourite technique of dot-distribution maps.  Equally if there was a period in which finds from 1540 (so somewhere within the reign of Henry VII who died 1547) and 1696 were recorded following a period starting from an undefined date when those finds were no longer being recorded, intruduces yet another inconsistency in the PAS database.

The thread is worth reading, detectorists seem to be getting a bit uneasy (as well they might) about the future of the PAS as a form of mitigation of their hobby. They seem to think that an increase in the numbers of detectorists and an increase in the exploitation of the archaeological record means that 'the government' "should" employ more FLOs to deal with it. Nobody seems to be asking why and whether there is a cheaper alternative for the nation which would also save lots of archaeological sites being trashed to fill collectors' pockets.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Act to enable UK to implement the Hague Convention

Act to enable the United Kingdom to implement the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954 comes into force 12th December 2017.

 That was the nineteen FIFTY-four Convention.

If only they'd given Brexiting as much thought and debate...

DMSC claim can only raise a hollow laugh, to be 'leaders' you'd have had to implement it half a century ago,

Monday, 11 December 2017

Fluffy Thinking on Metal Detecting: The Legacy of the PAS

In response to the article 'Night hawkers (sic) defile (sic) Cirencester's Roman amphitheatre' one Graham Burgess naively following the official line  replies
True. But don't decry all detectorists. Recent report from PAS shows that 98% of reported finds were from them. RAMs need better protection and public education to report nighthawk desecration
I am not sure what kind of 'protection' he wants to give ancient monuments and how you can 'report' what you cannot see (because they go out at night Mr Burgess, when it is dark).  There is however the problem of fluffy thinking:
What do you mean "98%" Mr Burgess? 98% of what, precisely? How many finds dug up by artefact hunters simply disappear into their ephemeral collections *without record*? This is a process in which, legal or not,  *all* detectorists are involved
Also, somewhet disturbng is the use of teh verb 'defle' in the original text, what does it mean here? And of course a "hawker" is somebody who sells something. While illicit artefact hunting may be done for profit, the term usually used is "nighthawks". Let us stick to one terminology otherwise we get in a muddle.

Ahmad Al Mahdi Destroyed Heritage, Sentenced in Court

The destruction of Cultural Heritage is a War Crime! Meet Ahmad Al Mahdi, the first person convicted of the war crime of having deliberately destroyed Cultural Heritage. Learn the story. (UNESCO).

Smokescreen Challenged

Antiquities trade lobbyist Peter Tompa from his '@Aurelius 16 11 80' account poses a  loaded question, Peter Tompa posing as a one-man cultural property (recte: antiquities trade) lobbying organization laughably called Global (sic) Heritage alliance ' answers it.... fortunately on the other side of the fence are people who - unlike most collectors it seems - can use what they have in their heads:

In fact, if you took away about six people, the entire US pro-no-questions-asked antiquities trade lobby in the form of multiple pop-up mouthy 'heritage organizations' would just collapse.

For who the GHA purports to be, see here. \

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Treasure Registrar: Tell the Whole Story - Like it IS

Artefact collectors as a whole love playing the victim, now's their chance:  Heritage Action, 'The Treasure Registrar: fake news and misleading the taxpaying public' 10/12/2017
[...] If anyone can show how this isn’t clear evidence of the Establishment spreading fake news and misleading the taxpaying public about the true nature of metal detecting in Britain …. we’ll publish it!
Any takers?

Vignette: Naked bias needs exposing

Friday, 8 December 2017

' Antiquities are a solid investment'

Chris Carter ( 08/12/2017) reckons ' Antiquities are a solid investment' . The article is full of auction results indicating that artefacts can ndeed be very valuable on the market. That is of course if you have the paperwork. The Montreal Persepolis relief fragment is now commerciqally worthless now we know where exactly  it is from.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Mosul Eye, the Blogger from Occupied Mosul

Amazing AP News story about the man behind Mosul Eye, 31 year-old historian, Omar Mohammed. 

Antiquities Have Been Weaponized

US aerial attack in Syria 2014
In a readable article, Professor Michael Press highlights what some of us have been saying for quite a while ('How Antiquities Have Been Weaponized in the Struggle to Preserve Culture'). In his overview of  the reporting on Syrian antiquities over the last six years he agrees with those among the archaeology bloggers and (it must be said) the dealers' advocacy who have been pointing out a parade of errors in the media reporting of looting and heritage destruction in Syria, Iraq and other MENA areas. He emphasises that 'most, if not all, of the errors cut in the same way: to inflate the threat ISIS poses to cultural heritage while ignoring the threat posed by other armed groups'.
Since early 2014, ISIS has been presented in news reports as the greatest threat not just to human life but also to cultural heritage in Syria [...] the reality that looting of and damage to antiquities take many forms. And when we compare that reality to its portrayal in media outlets over the course of the war, we find that most reporting has ignored — or hidden — several basic facts. ISIS is not responsible for the majority of antiquities looting in Syria. By early 2013, experts were already pointing out that Assad’s forces, rebels, and jihadist groups were all involved in antiquities looting, before ISIS was in control of much territory. A study of satellite images of six select sites by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), published in December 2014, showed significant looting by ISIS by this time, but also significant looting in areas controlled by other groups (though this was not emphasized by the press release or subsequent news reports). The most detailed study was published by the Cultural Heritage Initiatives (formerly the Syrian Heritage Initiative) of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR CHI) in September 2015, when ISIS was close to its largest extent in Syria. The study determined that areas held by ISIS, Syrian government forces, Kurdish YPG, and other rebel groups all experienced significant looting of antiquities. More surprisingly, the study concluded that only 21.4% of the sites evaluated in ISIS-controlled territory had been looted, which was lower than percentages for YPG and Syrian opposition groups. Overwhelmingly, however, news stories have focused (and continue to focus) on ISIS looting.
Some of this has already been detailed by me on this blog and also covered by others (Professor Press mentions them in his acknowledgements), so there's no need to go over it again here, suffice to mention that it is gratifying to see the threads pulled together in one text.

He summarises the points under several headings
1. ISIS is not responsible for the majority of antiquities looting in Syria.
2. Most estimates of the amount of money ISIS has made from antiquities looting are vastly exaggerated. [I really have never understood why so much attention is given to this issue - is looting and smuggling going on? Yes. That's reason enough to stop it, no matter how many green ones somebody pockets from it].
3. Most of the objects coming out of Syria are forgeries.
4. Much if not most antiquity destruction in Syria has been conducted by groups other than ISIS.
5. Syria is only one of many countries where massive looting and damage to antiquities are happening in wartime.
6. Most threats to antiquities don’t come from war at all but from everyday activities.

Professor Press addresses the issue of the quality of the journalism in English that informs public opinion and the problems inherent in how we go about making and handling 'news':
Experts have spent years trying to inform journalists of many of the same points I have raised above. They have been largely ignored. According to one expert on antiquities trafficking who wrote on this issue in early 2016: Editors want to hear about Daesh making millions of dollars from the trade, they do not want to hear that its financial accounting is difficult to know, or that other combatant groups might be profiting too. What explains this state of affairs? For one thing, ISIS sells. ISIS has become such a successful bogeyman — far beyond the already significant threat to human life and culture that they pose — that their mere presence in a headline means papers sold and links clicked. After so many years of emphasizing this threat, some media members may naturally assume any claim about it to be true. But why was ISIS made into a bogeyman in the first place? Here we cannot avoid the fact that it was the threat of ISIS that was used to justify Western military intervention in Syria. 
In short, the U.S. government has (he says 'appeared to have') used concern for antiquities to galvanize support for its intervention in the Syrian war. I am of the opinion there is no doubt about it.

Just as threats to the Yazidis of Sinjar were used to justify the bombing of Syria, so too was the threat ISIS posed to Syria’s cultural heritage. Before 2014, news stories about threats to Syria’s cultural heritage generally ignored ISIS (just as other aspects of their violence were ignored) — even though they were already damaging sites and destroying monuments. This suddenly changed in 2014, as media outlets then focused on ISIS (while downplaying threats posed by other groups). In addition to correct reports, some false claims of sites destroyed by ISIS were circulated. [...] News stories on antiquities looting in Syria gradually increased over 2013 and early 2014. But there appears to have been a major spike in this reporting in September 2014, the same month that the U.S. began its airstrike campaign against ISIS in Syria. Cultural heritage was enlisted in the war against ISIS. The war must be sold. In enlisting cultural heritage, governments’ use of archaeologists and other scholars is a notable feature. 
He points out the involvement of ASOR CHI, funded to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars per year from the U.S. State Department. Their purview
includes Syria, Iraq, and Libya, all of which have seen U.S. military strikes targeting ISIS since 2014. But other countries in West Asia whose heritage is also threatened have been ignored — notably Yemen, where damage to sites and monuments has been caused mostly by Saudi Arabia, a US ally. 

He mentions that noteworthy speech by Secretary of State, John Kerry at the Metropolitan Museum of Art just hours before the missile campaign against members of the Islamic State began.
 Kerry used that speech, at the opening of the Met’s exhibition Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age, to argue in favor of intervention in Syria. The speech is striking for its emphasis on the threat to cultural heritage over the threat to human lives. But it is also striking for repeating some of the false and misleading claims of many news outlets
Which makes one wonder about the nature of that Fake News in the US political process. Readers may recall that I suspect the Abu Sayyaf  'invoices' are forgeries and if so that would be another pointer in support of the thesis that the US government s using concerns for cultural heritage as a cover for other activities. Then Dr Press turns to that thorny issue of terrorism:
[P]olitical measures to address threats to cultural heritage are focused primarily on antiquities looting [recte looting and smuggling PMB] as a source of funding for terrorism. This is a problem for several reasons. Terrorism is a heavily loaded word, used inconsistently to refer to enemy groups of the moment, rather than according to any neutral standard (what techniques the groups use, whether they target civilians). As a result, national legislation and UN resolutions against trafficking in antiquities from Syria have focused exclusively on targeting funding for ISIS and (to a lesser extent) Al Qaeda and its affiliates. They do not address the many other groups looting and damaging cultural heritage in Syria. Blanket bans on importing antiquities from Syria would affect these other groups as well, but political solutions have avoided mentioning them or targeting them specifically. Also, since legislation is focused solely on Syria and Iraq, the broad and serious problem of antiquities being used to fund conflicts worldwide is barely addressed. And since most threats to cultural heritage lie outside armed conflict, these are ignored altogether. 
I think it is largely the Americans who have been guilty of the overuse of the T-word, and in the rest of the English-speaking world we should be on our guard to slavishly assimilate their usage into our own (and here is one useful result of a Trump presidency, focusing European attention now less on the similarities but the differences between us). I would add to what Dr Press says that also being barely addressed due to the current focus of (in his case US, but let us add international) legislation on Syria and Iraq, the broad and serious worldwide problem of illicit trade in antiquities being used not only to fund other illicit and illegal activity but to act as a focus for the creation of (and incentive/means for the maintenance of) organized criminal groups involved in the trafficking.

I think that in fact the title that Professor Press (or his editors) is inadequate. It reads 'How Antiquities Have Been Weaponized in the Struggle to Preserve Culture', when in fact what seems to be emerging from his text, if only between the lines, is that the manipulations and superficial knee-jerk arguments are not here being used by those perpetuating them 'in the Struggle to Preserve Culture', but instead in an effort to put forward completely different political aims. Bombing hell out of anyone, 'ISIL' or not, is hardly any means as far as I am concerned to 'Preserve Culture', it is sinking to barbarism. In this context, Professor Press ends with a very important point which requires thinking about and debate (not that in certain circles, archaeologists actually like debating portable antiquities heritage issues):
Those of us who work on cultural heritage must stop and ask ourselves how we want to interact with this system, one that uses cultural heritage as a weapon while ignoring most threats to it by design. Whatever we decide, we cannot be naive about our role. Nor can we be naive about the role of news media in failing to inform us all about what is happening in Syria.

Or misinforming. 

Rescuers Criticise Metal Detecting

Rescue Facebook page:
Amanda Kenwrick I come across detectorists all the time, and none of them record their finds properly 😤 All claim not to be treasure hunters, but what else can you call them? I have known one or two who work with archaeologists and do invaluable work, but are all too few in number.
and then
Gary Crabbe I have no detectorists amongst my friends, only met a few. None of them have ever recorded the context, only one contacted the FLO, and not for everything. [...] Wczoraj o 10:27 ·
In reply to a metal detectorist justifying collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record in the inimitable way most metal detectorists do:
Angie Fogarty Wickenden . You are being rude again because you don't like people criticising your hobby! And they are valid criticism! Tough! It is what it is. PAS enables the destruction of fragile archaeology. And you metal detectorists denude it of its finds. Wczoraj o 13:01
Metal detectorists gonna do what metal detectorists gonna do...
Pam Braddock Can we please stop with the language and the personal abuse? It only goes to support what Paul Barford is saying. I think if most archaeologists were being honest they would agree with him 21 godz.
[No, Pam, if they were being *honest*, they'd say so - instead of leaving somebody else to say openly what professional ethics and care for the archaeological heritage requires that they they should all be saying openly, and then take the flak.]

and here is why most archaeologists stay clear of talking about anything other than "what yer got?" with metal detectorists:
Andy Holbrook what a load of crap Wczoraj o 10:11

Andy Holbrook why do you post crap up by this prat? [H]e hasn't got a clue what's going on over here as he lives in Poland! [H]e's hated by 90% of archaeologists and detectorists[. A]ll he goes on about is what a bad thing we do, when he doesn't even know a bloody thing about detecting and if people actually believe the crap he writes then they are bigger Muppets than he is Wczoraj o 10:14
Hmm, the fact there are haters is supposed to mean, I guess I am wrong... I leave it up to my readers to decide if after several decades of looking into the issues I know a 'bloody thing' about what collectors do and to consider for themselves to what degree  what I say  here or elsewhere is in any way worthy of credence.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Metal Detecting : "a chance they may hit it big" (comment from Guardian article)

Dirt Pirates

It's a mugs game. Even if you find anything valuable you're legally obliged to report it to the coroner, wait to see if anyone claims it, then even if they don't you're forced to auction it to a museum because you're not allowed to keep it and then whoever owns the land gets half the cash. You basically end up with half its worth and feeling shafted and you did all the work.
Mugs game? 30,000 people enjoying a hobby that takes them outside into countryside, fresh air, exercise, learning about and discovering the history of this country and their local area, all this and a chance they may hit it big. Yes what absolute mugs!

Detectorist Stealing Lost Property in Foreign Lands

Comments under the atrocious Guardian article are equally dumbdown and concentrate on the BBC comedy programme 'detectorists'. This one mentions something else:
2 3
I never had much interest in modern finds, but the little beach detecting I did was aimed at jewellry (sic) losses, in fact I set my machine to ignore the smaller coins. Friends spent the summer on the med three years running (as an alternative to signing on) and averaged over a kilo of gold between them each summer. Even though the bulk of that was 9 carat it shows you how much is lost.
and they just bagged up this kilogramme of lost property gold and flogged it off?

The Problem Misstated

Global (sic) Heritage Alliance's tweet misses the point:
  W odpowiedzi do to   i jeszcze "Terrorism" again being used to justify [curbing illicit imports to US]? 
Is not the problem here the loose use in North America of the word "terrorism" to mean a variety of things? Surely dealers and their associates can accept that  illicit trade in art does not exist in a vacuum and can be used to finance other illicit activity and that's what we need to STOP.

Note how all these folk engaged in the antiquities trade writhe about trying to avoid calling a spade a spade. It is almost as if they are afraid that if we call something by its proper name, it will become crystal clear what they are up to.

Vignette: and this is what failure to use terms (and brains) properly leads to.

Supercilious US Collectors and their Neo-Colonialist 'Coon Caricatures'

"Don't you believe that the Lord made them of one blood with us?" said Miss Ophelia, shortly. "No, indeed not I! A pretty story, truly! They are a degraded race." "Don't you think they've got immortal souls?" said Miss Ophelia, with increasing indignation. "O, well," said Marie, yawning, "that, of course – nobody doubts that. But as to putting them on any sort of equality with us, you know, as if we could be compared, why, it's impossible! (Uncle Tom's Cabin)
One would have thought that such sentiments would be found in today's USA only in rather specific social circles. It seems that related ideas however are still alive in Tumbleweed Town Arizona where the American Committee of Cultural Policy has its office. Take a look at this nonsense, penned by Kate Fitz Gibbon ('Bearing False Witness: The Media, ISIS and Antiquities') where she dismisses the hard evidence of looting of archaeological sites in several regions of the Middle East:
Pockmarked satellite images of cultural heritage sites in Syria and Iraq incontrovertibly show a pandemic of destruction. What these images do not show us is whether any antiquities were found in these holes in the ground, if what was found had monetary value, or where these objects are going. 
Fitz Gibbon has exactly the same orientalist approach to the allegedly 'Stupid Ayrabs' as some of the protagonists of Uncle Tom's Cabin have to 'those people' who because they have darker skin somehow are expected to think and experience life differently. 

I really do not know if Ms FitzGibbon has used a spade much in her life in her Tumbleweed Town backyard, for example to dig a hole for an oil tank, or erect a 600-metre long row of fence posts. My charitable guess is that she has not done very much physical labour of this sort in a warm country. If she had she would hardly be likely to entertain the notion that, however childlike and retarded she stereotypically thinks a group of people are, they'd dig and dig and dig, time and time again, deep wide holes all over a rubble-strewn site, oblivious to the fact that there is nothing there to reward all that hard work. Hard work Ms Fitz Gibbon, show some respect for it. It's easy sitting in a lawyer's office in an air-conditioned office in New Mexico disparaging the brown skinned folk half way round the world and ascribe to them all sorts of totally illogical concepts. If those holes appeared all over a Native American cemetery in New Mexico, would she be so dismissive of the idea that they are pot-diggers holes? Or are US pot diggers in some mysterious way inherently 'different' from the 'Ayrabs'?  I'd draw her attention to the fact that the holes in places like Apamea and Dura Europos are not dug with 'ignorance', you can see the pattern of the digging reflects where artefacts will be found, and keep away from those where they will not (street grid, on top of city walls, beyond the edges of the cemeteries). Those photographs show very clearly (especially to those of us who have some training and experience in aerial photograph interpretation) what is going on.

That, it seems, does not include the spokesperson for an American 'committee' that has pretensions to make 'informed' comment on cultural property policies. Texts like this do not inspire much confidence in their ability to analyse information. The dismissive tone of the ACCP's Ms FitzGibbon should be assigned to the dustbin of misguided online chatterers such as Peter Tompa who thought the holes in Apamea were military 'foxholes'.

 Vignette: The 'Stupid Ayrab' stereotype

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

'Metal Detecting', The fall of UK Journalism

Heritage-pocketing greedy buggers
depicted by the BBC
The Guardian coverage of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological record in the UK reaches new lows with the article of Stephen Moss ('Rise of the detectorists: how to hunt for treasure' Guardian Tuesday 5 December 2017) It is the usual tired tropes journalists have been fed by artefact hunters and the PAS alike. Guardian readers are told that it’s easy to get involved in exploiting the archaeological record for collectables, but they should not expect to strike it rich, some more six-figure Treasure ransoms are highlighted and that this will be 'shared with the landowner' (who by rights is giving away half his share), of course that endearingly warm 'award-winning BBC sitcom starring Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones' gets a mention, and that its all about 'being outdoors and finding something ancient', but (as in the series) 'mMostly, it’s rusty ring-pulls' (what' aluminium?). Gauardian man gets told that some detectorists 'explore the same fields for years on end', that should read 'exploit'.

The tabloid-worthy pro-collecting drivel continues:
Every enthusiast will tell you that the hobby is about communing with the past, not making a quick buck. “There are treasure hunters out there and there are detectorists,” says Steve Critchley, policy adviser at the National Council for Metal Detecting. Some of the latter will be lucky enough to find treasure, but most are happy to find the odd old coin and get pleasantly damp. [Harry Bain, editor of the Searcher magazine] reckons there are about 30,000 detectorists, some attached to local clubs, but many doing it alone.
There is a bit about 'how to start' (and a sexist comment that 'women can do it too' - "women are often better than the men – they are more meticulous”). So:
- 'To get started, find a place to search', research and find a place where you are bound to find something, a previously known site is ideal for this...('following Roman roads is often particularly productive'). Fish in a barrel.
- 'You need a landowner who is willing to let you dig on their land' and let you take artefacts away for your collection.
- 'buy a decent detector (about £200, although you can pay up to £2,000)'*
- 'You will also need a spade and perhaps an electronic pinpointer', because this is not really about just making the little box on a stick give a signal (detecting metal blind) but in fact about digging the stuff out of the archaeological record.
– 'plus an anorak and a bobble hat, of course'.
So no GPS then? No maps or notebooks, individual finds bags with a label for noting individual findspots to an accuracy of a metre then? No reading the Code of Practice (updated, they say), no establishing contact with the local FLO before you venture out? No learning how to properly document what you find?  No mention of getting individual artefacts signed over to you before you pocket them (in fact no mention of any kind of written agreement at all)?
 - 'In the unlikely event that you find a hoard of Roman coins or Anglo-Saxon burial objects, don’t get a JCB and start digging. You are obliged to contact the local finds liaison officer, who will undertake a professional excavation'. 
Really? And if there are no funds or proper resources available at the drop of a detectorist's bobble hat, he or she will do it out of their own pocket, even bring their own equipment such as orange plastic carrier bag. How unlikely is it when one in eighty finds reported to the PAS this past year were Treasure? Its better odds than the lottery, obviously. 
- 'Sorting out what it’s worth and whether a museum wants to buy it comes later'. 
Note that 'buy it' - no mention of the PR opportunities fer the 'obby you'd get if you donate it. Then you'd get mentioned in dispatches from the Treasure Registrar. He loves that kind of thing, really gives the partners' image a boost.

*'If you get the bug seriously, you can trade up – one enthusiast with 40 years’ experience tells me an £800 detector will give you everything you want'.

Emergency Import Restrictions Imposed on Archaeological and Ethnological Materials From Libya

US: Emergency Import Restrictions Imposed on Archaeological and Ethnological Materials From Libya
 The Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, United States Department of State, has determined that conditions warrant the imposition of emergency import restrictions on categories of archaeological and ethnological materials from Libya, which represent the cultural heritage of Libya.
Of course the slimeball US dealers and their lobbyists are already moaning.

UK Archaeologist Just Can't Put the Thing Down

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.