Saturday, 21 October 2017

Blocking Out Difficulties

The dealers and their lobbyists continue to withdraw from and alienate themselves from the heritage debate. AnthroPaulicy now reports:
Katie A. Paul‏ @AnthroPaulicy
W odpowiedzi do @ChasingAphrodit @cwjones89
I “liked” these tweets so @ArtTradeSol blocked me. Haha I didn’t even participate in the conversation (although happy to)
This is part of a pattern:

(see here: james-mcandrew-has-no-solutions-lacks )

and so on. I guess if you are a representative of a group of people who like retards think they can continue to do what they do in the same manner as they always did things in the nineteenth century, ignoring views different to your own may appeal as a possible way to make the problems go away. In the world of the grown ups however, the perception of how to deal with challenges will differ. 

2017 Hadrian Award: Deborah Lehr

Deborah Lehr is the recipient of the 2017 Hadrian Award, presented at World Monuments Fund’s 2017 Hadrian Gala in New York City on October 16, 2017.
Lehr employs her vast professional expertise to safeguard and preserve antiquities under threat from conflict, extremism and looting in the Middle East and North Africa, most notably through the Antiquities Coalition, an organization she founded and leads as Chairman. Her leadership in U.S./China partnerships is also helping to advance sustainable urbanization and green economic development.

Antiquities Coalition

Friday, 20 October 2017

Book on Bible Museum Collection Reviewed

Hamilton Cain reviews the book 'Bible Nation; by Candida R. Moss and Joel S. Baden *(Publisher: Princeton University Press, 223 pages, $29.95.) for the Star Tribune. The book is 'a deep dive into the mission of the hyper-evangelical Green family of Oklahoma City, whose arts-and-crafts retail chain, Hobby Lobby, has yielded billions of dollars to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ'.  The book discusses the Green family’s acquisition of ancient papyri and artefacts forming one of the world’s largest private collections of biblical antiquities, and then the creation of a private Bible Museum to showcase these trophies and act as an evangelical tool:
Moss and Baden deftly highlight the cognitive dissonance at the heart of the evangelicalism, how and why the faithful cherry-pick Scriptures that buttress their own beliefs while dismissing contradictions among the texts themselves, [...] Moss and Baden draw on extensive research and interviews with a revolving-door cast of so-called experts and hangers-on, leaving no proverbial stone unturned in their quest to determine the value and validity of the Green collection, the Bible Museum’s underlying purpose. “Bible Nation” peels away the bark on one of the largest branches of the American family tree, using an academic story to tell a broader one: the evangelicals’ unshakable conviction in their own fantasies and the demonization of anything, or anyone, that dares to challenge them.
* Candida R. Moss, is a professor of the New Testament at the University of Notre Dame, and Joel S. Baden, a professor of the Hebrew Bible at the Yale Divinity School 

Found: A Mosaic From Caligula’s Ceremonial Ship, Turned Into a Coffee Table

Sarak Laskon outlines the sort of 'respect' collectors pay to artefacts while 'preserving and displaying' them in their homes. ('Found: A Mosaic From Caligula’s Ceremonial Ship, Turned Into a Coffee Table It’s now being sent back to Italy', Atlas Obscura Oct 20, 2017). Antiques dealer Helen Fioratti acquired a mosaic '45 years ago', it turns out that they has bought an item stolen from the excavations of an elaborately decorated ceremonial ship from the reign of Caligula in the first century A.D. that had been excavated in the 1920s. The mosaic should have been housed in the Ships of Nemi Museum since 1936 but from which it was provbably taken in World War II. The item was bought in the 19660s 'from a family of aristocrats' (anonymous in the articles about this case):
The mosaic, they told her, had been found in Lake Nemi, nearby the family’s home, in the 19th century. She spent thousands of dollars to buy it from them, shipped it to New York, and had it turned into a coffee table, which sat in her Upper East Side apartment for years. In the past months, though, the Italian military police’s Art Recovery Unit and New York’s district attorney office have been working to repatriate stolen Italian art, and the mosaic caught their attention. (It’s not clear exactly how.) 
Now wait a moment. You are an 'antiques dealer', though trading in over-the-top Donald Trump -Rococo  but the name 'Lake Nemi' means nothing to you? Really? and 'found IN Lake Nemi' also? Really? I guess that may be taken to imply that you do not really have to have much of a grounding in art history to become an art dealer in the USA.

The artefact was recovered when the owners bragged about their stuff (Claudio Lavanga, Saphora Smith, 'Artifact From Caligula’s Ship Found to Be a Coffee Table in New York Apartment ' NBC news Oct 20th 2017):
While the art dealer said she didn’t know how the Italian police became aware of the artifact she wondered if they had seen it in a magazine shoot of their apartment. “We had our apartment featured a long time ago in Architectural Digest and I’m sure there was a photograph of the table in front of the sofa,” she said.[...] But the widow said she was saddened to lose the piece. “I don’t know if anyone is going to see it as much as they did in my place. I had people who were interested in antiquities admiring it in my home all the time. Now it will be in a museum with a lot of other things,” she said.
Which is where the plebs like you or I will see it, and not in some elitist private apartment in New York.

Col Bogdanos reminded us that we know very little about Trafficking

Thursday, 19 October 2017

There are customers for everything from Syria and Iraq

Sam Hardy in a post ( There are customers for everything [Für alles gebe es Kunden]’ from Syria and Iraq  Conflict antiquities October 19, 2017I) discusses an upcoming German documentary:
Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR)/Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (ARD) will explain ‘how looted Syrian antiquities are sold in Germany [Wie syrische Raubkunst in Deutschland verkauft wird]’.
He outlines the kep points ist will discuss from the diggers and middlemen traffickers (through Turkey, then to Greece, Macedonia, Austria and… Germanyor through Lebanon), the role of Internet traders and finishing with
 The greedy and ignorant market: ‘There are customers for everything [Für alles gebe es Kunden]’, an illicit dealer tells (Syrian) journalists in Idlib province, who are working with the journalists in Dresden. Those customers include ignorant profiteers who form a market for fakes and forgeries.
It is the greedy and ignorant who are buying the stuff, and the fact that they will buy 'anything' that are the real problem.

Vignette: Corruption and the antiquities market

Fragmented Thinking on US Withdrawal from UNESCO

Statement from the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), American Alliance of Museums (AAM), American Anthropological Association (AAA), American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), Society for Classical Studies (SCS), U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield (USCBS), and U.S. National Committee of ICOMOS (US/ICOMOS) Regarding the United States of America’s Intention to Withdraw from UNESCO
Interestingly, and disturbingly, we see the same kind of isolationism and blinkered thinking here as we do in the Philistine government's decision to 'go it alone' embodied in the Trump regime's decision. This statement talks a lot about protecting our own heritage and that of others, forgetting that this is only a fraction of what UNESCO does and stands for.It is precisely such fragmented thinking by opinion formers in the US which is responsible in civil society today about what the wider effects of any single action actually are. We all need to practice joined up thinking before we do any more damage.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

How Assad’s Enemies Gave Up on the Syrian Opposition

Aron Lund ('How Assad’s Enemies Gave Up on the Syrian Opposition' The Century Foundation October 17th 2017) presents an account of how the attempts by so-called 'friends of Syria' from 2011 onwards to interfere in Syria to topple assad led to the outbreak of the current civil war there and the humanitariabn problems that this crated. In its heyday the US support for anti-Assad rebels, arms program 'Timber Sycamore' quickly grew into one of the most expensive covert programs in CIA history, spending about a billion dollars per year by 2015. Not surprisingly:
Official U.S. strategy was now to weaken Assad so much that he would agree to give up power, yet not so much that civilian or military institutions broke down or large cities were overrun by jihadis. But Syria was no computer game. The CIA and its on-the-ground implementers, an unwieldy cohort of rival regional intelligence bosses and rebel fixers, could not fine-tune insurgent activity to achieve predictable effects, nor could they rewrite the social and ideological landscape of rebel-held Syria by remote control. [...] Using a chaotic, hundred-headed Sunni guerrilla force to tweak the Syrian president’s personal cost-benefit analysis of a political transition was like trying to perform heart surgery with a chainsaw, and blood soon spurted all over the map.
Then, disgracefully, the 'friends' abandoned Syria to the bloodbath they had themselves instigated by their own naive political miscalculations. A thought-provoking read.

Vignette: Dirty trees, the American Sycamore

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

MoB Galatians Fragment Shelved

At DC presser, Museum of Bible's David Trobisch says it won't display disputed Galatians fragment until it can resolve provenance questions.
see my: 'Green Collection Objects "Yet to find a questionable piece"...'. PACHI Saturday, 5 September 2015
 and PACHI Saturday, 10 May 2014, 'Green Collection, well, there are collecting histories, and collecting histories'.

As for why there are problems, see here:
 PACHI Friday, 16 January 2015:
'Sappho and the Peripatetic Papyri (1) Introduction',
'Sappho and the Peripatetic Papyri (2) Pap.Robs',
Sappho and the Peripatetic Papyri (3) 2011 AnonStash at Christie's',
'Sappho and the Peripatetic Papyri (4) "The Trusted Mister X"',
I see I never managed to complete the fifth in the series.

PACHI Friday, 23 January 2015
'Sappho Pap. Obbink: Further Painting into Corners'.

Then PACHI Thursday, 27 November 2014,
'Mixantik and his 'Connections' with Christies'

 Vignette: Mixantik papyrus fragment, ended up in Green Collection

The Dirt on the Dubious Dead Sea Scrolls

Alex Macdonald, Researcher at Macquarie University (Oct 16 2017) summarises 'The Dirt on the Dubious Dead Sea Scrolls: curiosities to consider as more information emerges'.
everyone thought that all the manuscripts and fragments from Qumran had been excavated and sold; the dominant dealer (known as Kando) suggested that the days of buying and selling DSS material were past. Nonetheless, since 2002 when an American dealer was offered an opportunity to buy more DSS, we have seen some 76 fragments come through the market for huge prices — hundreds of thousands of dollars, up to tens of millions. They seem to have come largely via one of Kando’s sons. Many of these are now in the collection of Martin Schøyen, and others are owned by various American evangelical institutions including the SouthWestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the new almost-open Museum of the Bible backed by the Hobby Lobby family (the Greens). All these fragments were bought on the premise that they were authentic antiquities, and volumes publishing the Schøyen fragments and the Museum of the Bible fragments have been published this year — but some of those papyri have been proven to be fake! In numerous instances this is through papyrological/ palaeographical methods, but in some cases (i.e. six fragments from the Schøyen collection) scientific testing has been conducted and confirmed the verdict of the scholars. This raises all sorts of questions including questions about how documents with no legitimate provenance information came into such collections.
This is followed up by the author presenting 'a few things that I think are worth noting', and indeed they are. Including this one:

There’s another enigma, a group with a cluster of related entities: “Ancient Discovery Investment Group”, “The American Judeo-Christian Heritage Foundation”, the “Artifact Research and Translation Foundation.” They want to bring a “priceless” collection of Dead Sea Scrolls — that is, the rest of William Kando’s scrolls — to America and thus “prove that mankind once enjoyed a relationship with deity.” The price is upward of THREE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS! Despite the lack of overt reference to the fact, they seem to be a group of Mormons.
Vignette: Authenticity as doubtful as this 'Jesus toast'.

Can the Museum of the Bible overcome the sins of the past?

Lizzie Wade, ' Can the Museum of the Bible overcome the sins of the past?' Science Magazine Oct. 16, 2017
In the forthcoming book Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby, Joel Baden, a Hebrew Bible scholar at Yale Divinity School, and Candida Moss, an expert on the New Testament at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, take the Green collection to task for having commissioned inexperienced scholars to analyze ancient texts. The duo also complains that the museum has not published a complete catalog of its objects, making it impossible for scholars to know whether it owns artifacts worthy of study, or how many may have problematic provenance. The Museum of the Bible is trying to allay scholars’ fears and establish itself as a legitimate academic enterprise.
No truly legitimate academic enterprise would base any of its work on recently purchased artefacts of 'problematic' (ie lacking) provenance. How many of the latter are in the institution's research collection and exhibits?

Sunday, 15 October 2017

ISIL territory Shrinking in Syria and Iraq

Thomas van Linge‏  Syria and iraq map updates: the situation as of 15/10/2017,
bigger file

Tallying Knowledge Theft by UK Artefact Hunters

How can this be in any way considered as acceptable? Today the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter indicates that in the twenty years since the PAS was created to deal with the information loss through the lack of mandatory reporting of finds made in the course of activities such as artefact hunting there have been
six million artefacts pocketed by metal detectorists alone.

Meanwhile, the Portable Antiquities Scheme Database rather pathetically celebrates:

According to these figures only one out of every six recordable items found during Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Resource is ever seen by archaeologists.

Five out of six are disappearing without trace.  

Why can’t we ID these people?

Heritage Action, with what seems a perfectly valid question: 'Why can’t we ID these people?'15/10/2017. Here's one metal detectorist pictured at Great Chesterford:

And, as HA point out, this is just one percent of the 24000 active detectorists postulated by Dr Sam Hardy's  latest calculations*:

In other words the serried ranks would look a bit like this in overview:

One, a hundred, twenty-four thousand. How much information is being lost weekly, monthly, annually as artefacts by the million disappear into their pockets? Why is there so little discussion of this?

*The Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter has at the basis of its algorithm a figure well below half of that, the PAS suggest its 'around 9,600 metal detector users across England and Wales', while until I saw Dr Hardy's figures I was using my own more recent revised value of 16k. What's yours?

Artefact Hunters and Collectors Know 'How Archaeology Shuld be being Done - innit'

PAS-partners on a metal detecting forum near you (oldartefact » Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:22 pm):
To be honest I always thought Archies were on our side, and that is certainly the case with a great many... but there are some who are quite happy to stand up at the Treasure Conference and throw unfounded dispersions around the place [...] Sadly there is an element that want to close us down, and are more than happy to use smear tactics at a public conference to do it. Archies present themselves very well, they are learned academics after all, and there is nothing wrong with that... but when is the last time you heard an Archaeologist stand up and question the effectiveness of their own search techniques? These guys and girls get paid to do a good job out in the field, and then they insist on using archaic recovery techniques which leaves part of the story in the ground, and other parts of the story dug but not seen, thus leaving the narrative of the site only partly told. It seems that our hobby is always on the back foot, trying to defend itself, but given that we are collectively the experts in artefact recovery, maybe its about time we taught the Archaeologists a lesson or two in how they can do their job more effectively.

Lenborough grabfest

Greg's Hole (now expunged from Internet)

'Somewhere in Dorset'
 and many many more examples, though they are mainly commented on only on this blog, you'll not find them discussed anywhere else, really. PAS-partner archaeologists are not so keen to follow 'examples' like this.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

ISIL held Zone of Raqqa Restricted

The situation in Raqqa 20th September 2017 (ISIL - grey)

SDF forces have seized full control of the Nahda district in Raqqa as the battle for the city is slowly nearing it end. Meanwhile the coalition announced a deal has been reached by the region's tribal elders to evacuate civilians from the besieged districts. As the battle enters its final phase, the situation is still grim.

UPDATE 18th October 2017

Inside Raqqa after IS pushed out The BBC's Feras Kilani was with Syrian Democratic Forces as they took control of the centre of Raqqa, Syria. The city has been the strong-hold of so-called Islamic State since 2014.

No, IS has not been defeated  US-backed forces may be celebrating after taking back another city, but fighting will not end soon. 18 October 2017

Metropolitan Museum of Art Issues Statement Against U.S. Decision to Pull Out of UNESCO

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s president and CEO, Daniel H. Weiss, has issued a statement opposing the U.S. Decision to Pull Out of UNESCO (Alex Greenberg, 'Metropolitan Museum of Art Issues Statement Against U.S. Decision to Pull Out of UNESCO' New York Times 10/12/17):
One of our most important responsibilities as museum leaders is to protect cultural heritage and promote international education. For more than half a century The Met and countless other museums have successfully partnered with UNESCO, an organization that has earned the respect of nations and communities worldwide for bringing together curators, conservators, and a range of other scholars to educate, preserve, protect, and support the intellectual and artistic traditions of our shared cultural heritage. President Trump’s decision to withdraw from UNESCO undermines the historic role of the United States as a leader in this effort and weakens our position as a strong advocate for cultural preservation. Although UNESCO may be an imperfect organization, it has been an important leader and steadfast partner in this crucial work. The Met remains deeply committed to productive engagement with UNESCO and our colleagues around the world who share this important objective.
Vignette: Daniel Weiss

Detectorists Selling Finds not Approved

Our Portable Past:
English Heritage will support the general principle that archaeological material should not be sold for profit (in exceptional cases such sales might be acceptable as part of a properly formulated and agreed disposal policy);

Friday, 13 October 2017

Audrey Azoulay selected as Director-General UNESCO

Audrey Azoulay nominated by UNESCO Executive Board for the post of Director-GeneralUNESCO·13 October 2017 The 58 members of UNESCO’s Executive Board on 13 October nominated Audrey Azoulay of France for the position of Director-General of the Organization, replacing outgoing Director-General Irina Bokova.
 Born in 1972, Audrey Azoulay served as France’s Minister of Culture from February 2016 to May 2017. She began her career in the offices in charge of supporting public broadcasting in France and went on to serve as rapporteur for the French public audit authority, Cour des Comptes, and legal expert for the European Commission in the fields of culture and communication. She successively held the positions of Deputy Director for Multimedia Affairs, Chief Financial and Legal Officer and Deputy Director-General of the French National Centre of Cinematography (CNC). Ms Azoulay is a graduate of France’s school of public administration, the Ecole nationale d’administration, and holds an MA in Business Administration from the University of Lancaster (UK) and a degree in political science from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques (France).
She won against Qatar's Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari.  After the U.S. and Israel pulled out of UNESCO citing anti-Israel bias, it elected its first-ever Jewish director.

Stand with UNESCO

Universality is vital to UNESCO’s mission. World leaders, international institutions and media outlets have been expressing their solidarity with UNESCO following the decision by the United States to withdraw from the organization. Statement by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the Withdrawal by the United States of America from UNESCO
I wish to express profound regret at the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from UNESCO. Universality is critical to UNESCO’s mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity. [...] At the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred, it is deeply regrettable that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations agency leading these issues. At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack. [...] UNESCO will continue to work for the universality of this Organization, for the values we share, for the objectives we hold in common, to strengthen a more effective multilateral order and a more peaceful, more just world. 

Steinhardt Collection Piece Seized

Seizure - archaic marble torso of a calf bearer from the collection of Michael Steinhardt.
In further identifications connected to the recent seizure and pending repatriation of a Lebanese marble bull's head, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos through the New York authorities has issued another warrant on October 10, 2017 requesting the seizure of a second antiquity also believed to have been plundered from Lebanon during its civil war. This object, an archaic marble torso of a calf bearer, was also acquired by William and Lynda Beierwaltes and then sold to New York collector Michael H. Steinhardt, in 2015. Steinhardt's collecting has come under scrutiny in the past.

Paradigm Shift Needed

"It's not about th' munny!" cries the old tekkie mantra, "we only do it out of interest" they say. To see how true that is, just take a look at this thread on a metal detecting forum near you: Very Serious Trouble at ta'Mill - Treasure Act (Post by oldartefact » Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:50 pm). I propose a thought-experiment. Imagine, just for a moment that the topic of the discussion at the Treasure Conference, attended by archaeologists (... us detectorists were outnumbered ... ) was 'how we handle the remains of the past' / 'how society allows remains of the past to be handled' (a not unreasonable suggestion, in the circumstances, I would add). Then look how the tekkie delegates selectively represent what was said, and then look at the subsequent flow of discussion - it is all about the money, money that museums make from 'footfall to see what we've found for them', money detectorists need to prevent them not reporting Treasure finds, suggestions that if a TVC valuation is not acceptable to the finder, they should be auctioned off ...

It is quite clear from this that twenty years of financing liaison officers has not done anything at all to mentally equip artefact hunters to any kind of meaningful dialogue with the heritage community. This thread suggests very strongly that members of this milieu see the issue of 'handling the remains of the past for society's benefit' only through the prism of that social benefit being to the detriment of their own acquisitive interests and nothing much else.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Trump Pulls US Further into Isolation

Trump's worldview for US
On the matter of the US leaving UNESCO, Artfix.Daily reminds us:
In 1945, UNESCO was created in order to respond to the firm belief of its member nations, forged by two world wars in less than a generation, that political and economic agreements are not enough to build a lasting peace. Peace must be established on the basis of humanity’s moral and intellectual solidarity. \
 Irina Bokova made the point:
"The United States is a founding member of UNESCO," Bokova explained to reporters. "The whole idea that you can build peace through education, science, culture and communication is basically an American idea."
American idea or not, it is now for the rest of us to take this idea forward and leave American to reflect on the nature of moral and intellectual solidarity. Or maybe we will see some vehement voices raised by US representatives of the worlds of:
Science and
attempting to pull their nation back from the brink of the gulf of nationalistic phillistinism that Trump and his supporters so eagerly plunge towards.

The Problem with the USA

It seems the problem with the USA is that after sending Ivanka Trump's husband over to the Middle East to attempt to broker a peace deal, the US seems confused about what is where. Apparently Hebron (see map) is for the Trump administration part of Great Israel and thus ties have to be severed with anyone who thinks otherwise. Somehow that reminds me of this:

US Disgracefully Partial Implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention not Affected

The application of the federal CCPIA statute and its implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention is not tied to US membership in UNESCO.

US Anti-Israel Bias, too.

The US is pulling out of UN cultural organisation UNESCO, accusing it of "anti-Israel" bias. Yet Israel is one of the nations with which the US does not have a cultural property MOU under the CCPIA.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

U.S. to Pull Out of UNESCO, Again to Avoid Paying Six Years' Owed Dues

Colum Lynch reports in Foreign Policy (U.S. to Pull Out of UNESCO, Again Oct 11, 2017) that Trump's Washington,  worried about past dues and what it calls an 'anti-Israel bias', Washington plans to formally withdraw from UNESCO, the U.N.’s Paris-based cultural, scientific and educational organization.
The move, which could be announced as early as next week, marks America’s further estrangement from an organization [...] to widen access to education and ensure the free flow of ideas. The United States will maintain its presence at UNESCO as an observer state. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision several weeks ago, [...] The State Department wanted to delay its departure until after UNESCO selects a new director general this week. The two front runners are the former French culture minister, Audrey Azoulay, and a Qatari diplomat, Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari
The Americans have left UNESCO before of course. In 1984, at the height of the Cold War, the Reagan Administration decided to withdraw citing corruption and what it considered an ideological tilt towards the Soviet Union against the West. The US rejoined unde President George W. Bush in 2002, claiming that the alleged corruption had now gone and the Organiaztion had abandoned its alleged 'anti-Western and anti-Israel biases'. Bush saw it as a tool within which America would again 'participate fully in its mission to advance human rights, tolerance and learning', Fifteen years on, that seems no longer a priority in Trump's internally-focussed America. The problem is that the US owes UNESCO a large amount of money. As reported on this blog, six years ago, the United States cut off more than $80 million a year (which is about 22 percent of its entire budget) for UNESCO, in reprisal for its acceptance of Palestine as a member as the result of a democratic vote of the member states and despite US resistance. The administration claimed this cut was necessary 'because a 1990s-era law prohibits U.S. funding for any U.N. agencies recognizing Palestine as a state'. Despite that, the US was allowed to remain a member of UNESCO, and even had a vote on the executive board, but due to being behind on the payments, lost its voting rights in UNESCO’s General Conference (which is responsible for approving the budget and establishes a range of programs dealing with education, science, and culture around the globe). U.S. arrears have been swelling each year and now surpass $500 million that’s owed to UNESCO.

A fundamental problem the US has in working with the global community represented by UNESCO is the organization's approach to one small state, Isreal.
Last year, Israel recalled its ambassador to UNESCO in protest after Arab governments in the organization secured support for a resolution denouncing Israel’s policies regarding religious sites in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. And in July, UNESCO declared the old city in Hebron, a West Bank town that includes the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a Palestinian World Heritage Site, a move Israel claims negates Judaism’s links to the biblical town.
How dare they? The patriarchs of course being nothing to do with Judaism, eh?

Israel has said it will join the US in pulling out of the UN's cultural organisation Unesco, after US officials cited "anti-Israel bias".

Vignette: America looks after its own

Monday, 9 October 2017

Knowledge Theft in UK on a Previously Unimagined Scale [UPDATED: Is Paul Barford Dead Yet? Detectorist Answered]

PC Andy Long is looking for this man, anybody recognize him? State of the art surveillance this is not...
He says:
#Nighthawking is theft! They steal property & our history. Can you ID this male stealing from the Roman site at #Greatchesterford?
It looks like an artefact hunting metal detectorist to me engaged in collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record. Great Chesterfgforsd is a major Roman urban site now in open countryside, a known site and for the most part scheduled. But far more damaging to our knowledge are the tens of thousands of artefact hunters pocketing hundreds of thousands of historical artefacts from the fields of England which are not being reported even, let alone properly documented at the time of extraction from the archaeological record. That is sheer knowledge theft and we are all the losers.

Selling point

Dealer 'Celeste Jones Mining' (Linda G Hitt, Canyon Lake, Texas) had a good idea how to shift a poor quality example of a Carausius AE-Double Denarius,- probably a metal detecting find on a Roman site in the UK

Source: V-coins

Here's the description from V-coins:
Romano-British Empire, Carausius, AE-Double Denarius, attractive coin, excellent portrait, flan crack, obv. high points weak, old scratch on rev., 4.211g, 24.0mm, 180o, Camulodunum (Colchester, England) mint, 291 - 292 A.D.; obverse IMP C CARAVSIVS P F AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust right; reverse PAX AVG, Pax standing left holding olive-branch and scepter, S - P across fields, blank exergue. Hunter IV 131; Webb 532; RIC V, part 2, 475; Cohen VII 194. NGC XF.
This is followed by an extended narrativisation with Brexit tones and linking the owner of this trophy item to the classical world:
Carausius appears to have appealed to native British dissatisfaction with Roman rule: he issued coins legends such as Restitutor Britanniae (Restorer of Britain) and Genius Britanniae (Spirit of Britain). [...] Some of the silver coins bear the legend Expectate veni, 'Come long-awaited one', recognised to allude to a line in the Aeneid by the Augustan poet Virgil, written more than 300 years previously. He was trying to suggest that not only was he, Carausius, a kind of messianic new ruler, but was also showing his association with Roman culture rather than any kind of remote provincial culture. [...] . No other Roman emperor in history ever made such an explicit reference to famous Roman literature. It was quite extraordinary that in a remote province like Britain to think that a rebel emperor would utilize such a method to appeal to his public [...].
It mentions the Frome Hoard too. What is notable is that the description actually avoids making any mention of how this specific coin with its Pax theme fits that narrative. Also since the exergue is blank, why does the seller go on and on about what other coins have written in theirs? This is just seller-spiel fluff, included to make this object (being sold for 395 dollars) seem in some way more 'relevant'. But this is what the coin looks like now on the dealer's website, looking for all the world as if it has been severely altered by artificial toning:

Source V-coins (edited)

The coin as  we see here typifies the artsy-aesthetic approach to anrchaeological material dug up from an ancient site (thus damaging the information content of both), the silly induced gaudy colours seen in the dealer's photo may be attractive to those who share Donald and Melanie Trump's tastes in interior decoration (and some may imagine this is some kind of status-enhancing accelerated cabinet-toning) but this is just a gimmick. Likewise the sonically-sealerd NGC slab may 'inspire confidence' among US collectors too lazy to learn enough to be able to tell a real coin from a fake but hinders a proper examination of the object. What is totally missing from the US dealer's description is any information (let alone documentation of) where the coin came from, whether it was responsibly reported by its finder, how it entered the market, how it left the source country (export licence?) and any detail of past collecting history. (and who dunked it in what to get those colours on it, and then what they dunked it in to get those chemicals out before it was sealed in that slab). It is presented 'as is'. The missing information would all be necessary for any (really) responsible collector with the ambition to 'preserve a piece of the past'  responsibly. What we have here though is a 'cool' trophy item being sold for cheap thrills to the generally uncritical audience  which make up the bulk of the collectors of ancient coins these days.

Is this any way to treat archaeological evidence? The coin seems not to be in the PAS database.

"History Channel" has a weird Idea About Treasure

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Britain’s most humiliating detecting weekend ever

Heritage Action take note that Britain has banned ivory sales but still encourages erosive artefact hunting ('British ivory trade banned but artefact humiliation remains' 07/10/2017):
Detectorists from 11 European countries have just had two treats in Norfolk (courtesy of the unfragrant “European Council for Metal Detecting”): a huge rally where they helped themselves to Britain’s history and a conference where they discussed how to persuade their own countries to allow the same. So possibly Britain’s most humiliating detecting weekend ever!

Friday, 6 October 2017

Ivory trade to be banned in UK 'to protect elephants'

The sale and export of almost all ivory items would be banned in the UK under plans set out by the government. Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced a consultation to end the trade in ivory of all ages - previous attempts at a ban would have excluded antique ivory produced before 1947. The government says there will be some exemptions, for musical instruments and items of cultural importance. (Matt McGrath, Ivory trade to be banned in UK 'to protect elephants' BBC 6 October 2017)

Vignette: Elephant

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Getty Silver: Attempted (but Failed) Recontextualization: Worth the Effort?

There is a long and involved dissection of what we know of some metal objects in the getty in the latest issue of the International Journal of Cultural Property (Justin Walsh, A Silver Service and a Gold Coin IJCP 2017, 24:253–294) doi:10.1017/S0940739117000169).
Abstract: The published history of a set of silver and gold objects acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1975 contains an unusual reference to a gold coin, supposedly found with the set but not purchased by the museum. The coin, which is both rare and well dated, ostensibly offers a date and location for the ancient deposition of the silver service. Almost five years of research into the stories of the Getty objects and the coin has revealed important information about these particular items, but it also offers a cautionary example for scholars who might hope to reconstruct the find-spot of antiquities that are likely to have been looted.
One of the conclusions:
we have learned how little we can trust the stories put forward by dealers, even when the objects in question are accompanied by legitimate export documents. It also hints at what was previously known about networks of dealers who worked together to try to move objects into collections, now showing that this might have happened irrespective of whether the objects were actually related to each other. This will be an important subject for future researchers to consider further as they examine the trafficking of illicit antiquities and the possible invention of false relationships to create desire among collectors. Finally, this example shows that even the presence of legitimate export documentation is not clear proof of a licit origin. In this sense, a failed recontextualization is valuable mostly for showing what we still have to learn about what we do not know.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Three sentenced to prison for looting Mississippi Indian mound

Seven people have recently been convicted of removing artifacts in 2014 from the Doskie Indian Mound on federal property in northeastern Mississippi, Three of them have been sent to prison  (Three sentenced to prison for looting Mississippi Indian mound The Republic 30th Sept 2017):
Thirty-four-year-old Matthew Glen Arnold, of Booneville, pleaded guilty to six counts of violating an archaeological resource in March and was sentenced Friday to 20 months in prison. Tyler Wilemon, a 22-year-old Booneville resident, pleaded guilty to one count in May and was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison. Sandra Arnold, of Iuka, pleaded guilty to two counts in April and was sentenced Sept. 7 to about a year in prison and one year of probation. The 62-year-old was also ordered to pay nearly $19,000 in restitution. Four others await sentencing.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Metropolitan Police's revived Art and Antiquities squad

The Metropolitan Police's Art and Antiquities squad is to be revived under the leadership of Detective sergeant Rob Upham
As revealed by ATG last month, detective sergeant Rob Upham will take up the post which has been vacant since Claire Hutcheon left in March 2016. The art crime unit temporarily closed in June with its three officers reassigned to other work including the Grenfell Tower investigation.  
Alarmist voices were raised about the threatened 'disappearance' of this dedicated unit, potentially leaving one of the world's largest antiquities markets unpoliced. Here is James Ratcliffe ('Bring back the Met’s art and antiquities squad', Apollo Magazine 19th Sept 2017):
The unit has been doing vital work, coordinating efforts to tackle art crime generally, but also leading in more specific areas such as the fight against the illicit antiquities trade. It goes without saying that any closure, temporary or permanent, must hinder those efforts. Art crime requires specialist policing: that is why the unit was created. [...] They maintained relationships across the globe, acted as the point of contact for international enquiries via Interpol, and used their database to register items reported to them via other UK forces. During their hiatus those international links will be falling away, and matters referred by Interpol from abroad will end up handled by the local force. This would be bad enough, but when you consider that UNESCO has, within the past year, established funds and special measures to prevent terrorist organisations profiting from the trafficking of antiquities, the decision to suspend the activities of the unit looks even more foolhardy. If such concerns are justified, even in part, then surely the unit must be reinstated urgently as one of the few ways to tackle that trade insofar as it affects, or may come to affect, the UK. The vigilance with which the unit has monitored the antiquities trade in London and the South East can only be a deterrent. This is not the first time such a unit has been closed. It already happened once at the Met, in 1984, but following pressure from the market and international authorities it was resurrected by Dick Ellis in 1989. It happened in the Netherlands in 2002, where the department was also reopened a few years later. Any closure must result in the loss of records, expertise, and relationships. That can be costly, and sometimes impossible, to recover [...] , to simply draw to a close the work of an entire unit, specialising in the policing of a complex but valuable part of our national economy, must be wrong. Whether the unit returns to duty or not, this should be a wake-up call. All of those with a link to the sector need to consider what can be done to ensure that one of the foremost art markets in the world is not left without adequate policing.
Fortunately it is back, for the moment, and let us hope that it helps to keep illicit material off the UK antiquities market. That includes artefacts from illegal artefact hunting in the UK.

Vignette:Metropolitan police HQ

Far From Bloomsbury: A PAS Cover-up?

I received a tip off two days ago that an FLO might be willing to talk about a matter that deeply concerns my informant (names withheld for the moment). He alleges that the incident is being quietly hushed up to protect the reputation of metal detectorists.
 As best I can find out, earlier this year the [...] M[etal] D[etecting] C[lub] held a rally on land near [....]  which included fields of a SAM. Allegedly, the club members organising the rally 'didn't know' of the SAM and neither did the farmer (even though he gets stewardship payment for the monument).  A version of what happened being touted by an attendee ' The farmer wasn't present and left instructions directing the rally to permissible detecting land. There was a mistake in interpreting these instructions'.  Apparently [...the FLO] was asked to leave a subsequent club meeting after raising the issue (No doubt in a very touchie feelie PAS way).  PAS may actually be partly responsible in that the FLO declined an invite to attend  the rally (in which case you'd hope the SAM issue would've come to light). Of course there are many issues. The one that really irritates me is that Stewardship conditions are being ignored on a massive scale. Irrespective of what happened, had the organisers, or indeed the farmer as agreement holder, contacted NEngland as they should, then one would hope that the SAM issue would have come to light. I'm sorry I can't provide more detail but some are being tight lipped. I don't even know which SAM it was but it was described to me as 'having obvious earthworks'.  [....]  some direct questions may well get an interesting response.
What do you reckon folks? Would some direct questions sent to the FLO get any kind of a sensible response? My enquiry sent to the FLO contains the following:
[...] has contacted me, worried that an illegal metal detecting incident is allegedly being hushed up – including, he alleges, by the PAS. This concerns a metal detecting club in your area, I believe, the [....] MDC who allegedly held an illegal artefact hunting rally on land near [....] which included fields of a SAM.  Presumably the presence of such a site made this land attractive for artefact hunters. Is this true? What is the name of the site?
 If this is true, how is this possible? Even if paying guests would not check the legality of such an escapade before getting into their cars, the organizers would have had to. The landowner too – I am told that in the alleged case, he or she gets stewardship payment for the monument which apparently is an obvious earthwork site under pasture – so detecting there would be right against the Code of Practice anyway. If a rally took place on this land, did NEngland vet this? I presume the FLO would not attend such a rally, but if informed about it, would it not have been stopped? Have any of the finds made during such a rally been handed in to you for recording and if so, what action was taken? Did the PAS inform the landowner and organizers? And the police? What about the other illegally obtained artefacts, have they now been retrieved from rally attendees? If this happened, why is this not all over the news? What would the PAS hope to achieve by being quiet and not taking a firm stand against artefact hunters who break the law like this? Why is the PAS consistently failing to react to activities which go against the “best practice” the Scheme was set up to promote? 
Instead of acknowledging receipt, the FLO forwarded the enquiry to their boss, Mike Lewis in Bloomsbury. He replied to my letter on their behalf (!) that the PAS could not give any information because 'a police investigation was under way' and that they could not even inform anyone that something like that had taken place because of that, so as not to prejudice enquiries. But I did not ask about who they'd caught, merely about whether the event happened. My response:
You also mention "the other email" about an alleged incident on a SAM (deliberately sent to the addressee only, to give her a freedom of reply - in confidence if needed, but I see the Ancienne Regime's methods still apply there). I really do not understand why getting some simple information from your employees should be so difficult. We want artefact collectors and dealers to be transparent, but your own organization cannot manage it! I think that whether a rally was held on a specific piece of land or not is immediately determinable immediately after it has finished (footprints, infilled holes, information from participants, and GPS readings associated with the finds they produce for recording). No police investigation is needed to establish that fact with enough certainty for there to be the same week a press release informing the public than another episode of illegal metal detetecting has taken place, and that "police are investigating" ("anyone with any information is asked to contact...."). NOT to do so is indeed precisely the cover-up that I was told about. Can you show me that newspaper report? I believe the FLO knew about the incident (and was told she'd been thrown out of a MD club for raising the issue with members - that is not a police matter, so you can confirm whether or not that is true).
In a subsequent mail reply, Mr Lewis tries to implicate me:
But if you have a tip off from [...] about illegal activity why don't you contact the police? I am certainly happy to pass your name on to them if you are able to help? 
Punctuation Mr Lewis, decide if you are writing a statement or a question! My reply to that says:
I was tipped off that [FLO...] might have something to say about her experiences during a visit to a certain MD club (is THAT a police matter? Was she assauilted, is that it?) I do not know why you think the police have to talk to a guy in Warsaw trying to verify second-hand information when you tell me that the reason you cannot confirm what was alleged is because the POLICE ARE ALREADY ONTO IT. I suggest the police had better talk to [FLO....], and interview those detectorists whose names are on the club dig attendance list, and then raid their homes. But if you’ve got the police involved, it looks like the story is not without substance, which is why I ask again, why is there a cover up?
In previous correspondence with the head of the PAS, apart from his poor grasp of punctuation, I have noted a curious tendency not to be able to focus on the issue being discussed. This happens time and time again. I asked for some information about an incident that an informant alleges is being covered up by the PAS and all I get in the way of a response is a smoke screen of side issues. What Mr Lewis says is akin to saying that if somebody breaks into my house, or steals my car, or assaults my daughter on the bus, or smashes Jewish headstones in the cemetery, the newspapers cannot write about it until the police have finished the investigation and caught the perpetrators. Such a position is laughable. The public has a right to know. I had earlier sent Mr Lewis an example where a case of nighthawking was mentioned in the press just two days ago:
There is a fairly new story about illegal detecting in Corbridge before the police have caught anyone: so I am not at all convinced that your excuse for not making a thing of it in the fight for best practice among finders is a valid one.
His reply?
Thank you for the link to nighthawking at Corbridge, which it sounds like the police and HE are on to, but I will forward on just in case...
I said he should do that if he thought it was useful to the police and suggested he could also send them the link to the same story published in the Daily Mail two days earlier. Pathetic.
Mr Lewis suggests for some reason that I am ignorant and allegedly "do not know how law enforcement works" and then goes off on a tack (remember the question asked was 'was a club dig held on a SAM or not? Did the FLO raise that question at a club meeting, and what happened?')
 I have heard a lot about illegal detecting abroad, believe me...
That is really what he replied. Well, 'I have heard a lot about child sex abuse by celebrities and politicians in Britain, believe me...'. I fail to see the relevance. What is this man's point? This is really just a stupid xenophobic argument (let's get Brexit over with and get these people with their obnoxious superiority complex out of the EU). He then bemoans the fact that archaeobloggers feel that 'it is fine for you to swipe at my efforts?' [I think that too was a statement, not a question]. What I think is that if somebody takes money to do a job as a public servant, and gets a nice WC1 office, he should accept along with it that there would be public scrutiny of and debate on how that job is done. Mr Lewis presumably would be happier functioning within a totalitarian state in which nobody should be allowed to have (and argue) the notion that an organization like the PAS should be doing things differently. He finished with a sweet Hello Kitty mantra:
I do believe there are some detectorists that have a genuine interest in the past.
There are many who are just interested in collecting, trophies, bragging rights etc.. That is not the same thing. But the issue is that this 'belief' seems to be what is behind the continued silence about this incident. I guess the PAS are afraid that if they say 'boo', all the geese will run away. By criticising a metal detecting club involved in irresponsible behaviour, they would be seen by their metal detecting partners as the 'enemy'. But my question is how metal detectorists (some of whom, as we can all see, are by no means the most cerebral of the planet's inhabitants) can learn what is and what is not responsible behavior if nobody tells them? And whose organization gobbles up over a million pounds of heritage money a year to tell the British public that? Not my blog, but precisely those evasive secretive guys in Bloomsbury and their scattered regional offices with their 'liaison' staff. That's who. why are they doing such a bad job of it?

Sunday, 1 October 2017

A Sword Missing from the Gloucestershire hoard?

Screen shot selected and captured by PMB from
 CrazyCressy7's You Tube film in public domain,
fair use for comment and criticism
In the video, the finder says he's 'got something big down there, feels like a sword' , leaving aside an excavation technique which means that the excavator goes by touch alone (how can a 'feel' be documented during excavation, except as it is on this video?), why is nothing that would 'feel like a sword' included in the bare list of items that were taken by the finders to the FLO? Was it removed by the landowner, or were its fragments lost in the vegetation when the finds were just unceremoniously dumped on the ground around the hole (the detectorists did not even bother with using what is called a 'drop sheet' to avoid scattering of the spoil) . What about the object found in the hoard and identified by the finders as a pommel? Why is that missing from the list of hoard contents? What else is not included in the material being examined by the FLO and is there any item in that assemblage which has been included in the haul, but which was not actually originally part of the deposit?

Screen shot selected and captured by PMB from
 CrazyCressy7's You Tube film in public domain,
fair use for comment and criticism

Evidence that they are a Separate Breed?

Tony Henderson, 'Raiders using metal detectors to plunder historic items from Roman town' Chronicle  29th Sept 2017
[Knowledge thieves] using metal detectors are stealing objects from the site of what is the only known major Roman town in the North East. Archaeologists from Historic England have found evidence of damage being caused by illegal metal detectorists [...] in the scheduled, protected area around the remains of the visitor-attraction Roman Town of Corbridge which forms part of the Hadrian’s Wall world heritage site in Northumberland. The Roman Town of Corbridge is a scheduled monument, which means that it is protected by law against ground disturbance or unlicensed metal detecting. The illegal operations are taking place at night the [in the] farmland protected area around the English heritage town site. This year – and also the last two years – [metal detector users] have moved in after ploughing has taken place, which can bring objects closer to the surface and within range of metal detectors. The latest holes left by the nighthawkers were discovered by English Heritage staff 50 metres to the south of their site. Mike Collins, inspector of ancient monuments for Hadrian’s Wall at Historic England in the North East, said: “Corbridge Roman town has been targeted repeatedly over the years by [metal detectorists].
Which is odd as it was one of the su=ites where looting was highlighhted back in the mid-1990s in the CBA?EH report (Denison and Dobinson) and recent attemopts have been made to suggest that 'now we have the PAS', uillegal collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record has been drasticallty reduced. not here it seem,s, opne of the sites being robbed out before PAS is still being robbed out after 20 years of PAS 'outreach'. Why?

And what is this word "nighthawks' used by this journalist? Why is it needed? (See Heritage Action's excellent - really excellent - latest Swiftian prose 'Hurrah! A journalist who didn’t get the memo about telling the metal detecting lie! 01/10/2017 ')

Meanwhile the Daily Mail wants these Treasure hunters stopped: 'Nail the nighthawksplea as Treasure hunters target Roman Corbridge' and here another newspaper: 'Nighthawks' put Corbridge Roman Town remains at risk ' .

But there is always one, isn't there?
Head of heritage crime and policing for Historic England, Mark Harrison, said: “ [...] We recognise that the majority of the metal detecting community comply with the rules relating to the discovery and recovery of objects from the land, but there are still a significant number who don't.  
That's like a church dismissing the issue of child abuse by priests by reminding at every opportunity that what is important to remember is that 'we have to recognise that the majority of the ecclesiastical community comply with social norms and the law relating to the touching of children's genitals  even though there are still a significant number who don't', and therefore the problem is not one that anyone should be concerned about and certainly no change in policy needs to be discussed.

What is the evidence these people are a separate breed? If we raided the home of the average detectorist, we'd find some objects for which a release form has been signed by a landowner for an object taken from their land  with their permission. But in the average collection, how many would there be  without that kind of documentation, when that permission cannot be demonstrated? In the case of a collector who has a mass of items which cannot be documented as legally obtained, what is their status?

vignette: no need to worry, they are a separate breed
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