Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Creating a False Past Through Bad Collecting Practice

A multimillion-dollar trade in fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls fuelled by a surge in interest from wealthy evangelicals in the US includes a significant number of suspected forgeries, two prominent experts have said ( Peter Beaumont and Oliver Laughland, 'Trade in Dead Sea Scrolls awash with suspected forgeries, experts warn', Guardian 21 November 2017).

Monday, 20 November 2017

Illegal Antiquities Trade Robbing Indonesia of History

The head 'just happened to come off',
and such heads 'just happen'
to be very collectable...
The illegal antiquities trade is robbing Indonesia of its history and millions of dollars ( Adi Renaldi, Indonesia Can't Stop Its Illegal Treasure Hunters', Vice Nov 21 2017) In the Central Java district of Sukoharjo looters are willing to pay local farmers as much as Rp 3 million ($222 USD) a day for the right to dig for buried treasures on the site of a protected ancient Buddhist temple there under the cover of darkness.
The money is a vital windfall for the village's rice farmers, who would typically make nothing off their paddies during the dry season. But it's also proven to be a difficult crime to prosecute. And with little risk of being caught there are few reasons for farmers in Joho village to not offer their fields up to cashed-up treasure hunters. "I know nothing about the heritage," one farmer, a man named Mariman, told the Jakarta Post. "Someone says they want to rent my field... I just allow them."
These looters are of course by no means 'subsistence diggers' but professional culture thieves, corrupting landowners by offering money for loot, no-questions-asked. Dealers and their lobbyists insist that offering landowners subsidies of some kind so they can have what they call 'a living wage' fail to explain how such a system would actually work in practice. A farmer can claim a subsidy by day, and still close his eyes to what happens in his fields at night and get payment for that too. The antiquities vanish into a murky black market with very little chance that they can be successfully  recovered by authorities. The article details other sites where material has been removed, and museum thefts.
Rosinta Hutauruk, the spokesperson for UNESCO's Indonesia office, told VICE. "The illicit trade in cultural objects continues to increase because there's stable demand," she said. [...] These antiquities typically pass through multiple sellers, crossing international borders before then end up in the hands of wealthy private collectors and museums. The Archeological Institute of America estimates that as much as 90 percent of the artifacts sold on the legal market don't have any paperwork listing where, and how, they were discovered. Add in the fact that the black market for stolen antiquities is also full of forgeries and it's easy to see how difficult it is to track down missing artifacts like those that vanished from rice paddies in Joho village. [...] once Indonesia's historical artifacts go missing, they may be lost forever.
What is needed, it is obvious to everyone (including one suspects the dealers and their lobbyists who are opposed to it), is increased transparency of the international antiquities market, and greater accountability on where items are coming from and going.  Only in this way will the gaping jaws of this voracious commerce be closed to the peddlers of illicit and freshly-surfaced (from underground) items.

Egypt retrieves ancient artefacts from Cyprus

ncient Egyptian items due to
return home from Cyprus soon. 
Image Credit: Ministry of Antiquities
Ramadan Al Sherbini, 'Egypt retrieves ancient artifacts from Cyprus' Gulf News November 20, 2017
Ancient Egyptian artifacts, smuggled out of the country more than three decades ago, will soon return home from Cyprus, an official at the Ministry of Antiquities said on Monday. “The ministry has succeeded through diplomatic and legal efforts to prove that these pieces left Egypt illegally and reached Cyprus in 1986,” Shaaban Abdul Jawad, the director of the retrieved antiquities department, added in a press statement. [...] They include an alabaster vase carrying the name of the 19th dynasty Pharaoh Ramses II and 13 amulets of different shapes and sizes including those of sacred emblems and statutes, Abdul Jawad added. “Recovery of these pieces comes as hard evidence that the Ministry of Antiquities spares no efforts in order to restore Egypt’s stolen and smuggled antiquities and protect its cultural possessions,” said Abdul Jawad.
I don't know about that alabaster but that crude ceramic shabti with a large winged scarab on its breast does not look much like the real thing to me. What is the point of gathering all this bazaar archaeology in Egyptian stores? What can be done with it?

UPDATE 21.11.17
The question will not go away (Ahram)

Come on, get serious guys...

Incestual Relations: CCP Welcomes Global Heritage Alliance

American Committee for Cultural Policy welcomes Global Heritage Alliance, a new cultural policy advocacy organization,

but, but... they are basically the same old guys... there's nothing much 'new' in what they are saying and doing. Same old story.

Spot the Difference

Metal detectorist in the UK:

UK detectorist (Rotary International in GB and I)

Collector in Perth:
Joan Howard (The West Australian)
Spot the difference. Both seek publicity and social approval, one wears a pink shirt, the other a turquoise dress, but both are making personal collections of material removed from archaeological sites and contexts, damaging the archaeological record.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Networking with Cultural Criminals

News from China:
Chinese police have caught 91 suspected tomb raiders and antique smugglers, and retrieved more than 1,100 cultural relics, the Ministry of Public Security announced Friday. The investigation lasted over a year, with arrests made in Shaanxi, Shanxi, Gansu, and Henan province, said the police. The operation started July 2016 after police in Chunhua county, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, were alerted that the tomb of Lady Gouyi, a concubine of Emperor Wu (141 B.C.- 87 B.C.) and the mother of Emperor Zhao (87 B.C.- 74 B.C.) of the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-A.D.220 ), had been raided.
There is a gallery of photos of the antiquities seized, mostly the sort of stuff that comes onto the international market from Chinese sources.

This case is a reminder that rarely do antiquities 'surface' on the market (from 'underground') due to the activities of a single individual (the nominal starving father digging to 'feed his children' beloved of dealer folklore), but is the product of an organized network of people  having the means to sidestep the checks and regulations that are supposed to stop criminal activity such as antiquities trafficking.

Dealers and collectors of antiquities which are bought in a non-transparent and no-questions-asked manner seem to regard these 'systemic leaks' that escaped the notice of the authorities of the source countries to be fair game, the results of a game of luck, but by putting money into the pockets of those at one end of the established supply chain and counting on doing further business with these suppliers, they are providing the motor for the continued functioning of that chain, they are investing in fact in organized crime. They become part of the network. 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

House Fire in Sicily

It seemed yesterday that Sicilian firefighters had not completely extinguished a fire that broke out earlier this week at the home of an antiquities dealer (Palazzo Pignatelli in Castelvetrano on the western tip of the island), and it is reported to have flared up again. In fact, that seems not to be true. True or not, bad luck never strikes three times in the same place it seems, so any documents providing details of transactions carried out by Sicilian antiquities dealer Gianfranco Becchina that survived the fire will presumably be secured and available to investigators looking into collecting histories of items bought from him in the past. I'm off this morning to see if I can get a bottle of his olive oil as a souvenir.

Artefact Hunting in USA: 'Over 90% Sites Destroyed or Degraded by Looters'

Over in Donald Trump's USA, it is a constant mantra of antiquities dealers and their lobbyists and supporters to insist that instead of their own industry functioning through a clean and transparent market, the way to cut down on antiquities trafficking is for the authorities of all source countries for the antiquities that surface (from underground) on the US market to guard all the exploitable sites. One might therefore be forgiven for asking how well that solution works in their own country. An article in the Pacific Standard (Kathleen Sharp, 'The Theft of the Gods: On the trail of looters and crooks who traffic in Hopi ceremonial objects', 16th November 2017) supplies a disturbingly pot-calling-kettle-black answer:
America's ancient heritage is disappearing at an alarming rate. Some archaeologists estimate that more than half of America's historic sites have been vandalized or looted. According to the non-profit Saving Antiquities for Everyone, over 90 percent of known American Indian archaeological sites have been destroyed or degraded by looters. As the cultural legacy of Native American tribes has vanished, the demand for genuine U.S. antiquities has exploded.
The problem is, this is not the American Way of doing things:
"We have a huge problem in the U.S. because we don't protect our country's artifacts," says Martin McAllister, a forensic archaeologist. Art collectors from Dubai and Beijing can purchase an exceptional Native American item at auction in London, Brussels, and Paris—and the tribe from which it came will probably never see it again. "It's not just the legacy of Native Americans that we're losing," says Marietta Eaton, director of the Anasazi Heritage Center. "It's all of ours."
I suggest the US first set up systems to guard their own heritage before attempting to dictate to foreign sovereign nations hosw they should run their country. In the meanwhile, let us clean up that dodgy international market and make it transparent, so we can all see where those artefacts are 'surfacing' from.

Sick and Disgusting

All-American kids enjoying themselves abroad

16th November, 2017 Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service confirmed that the American government has reversed a ban on trophies from elephants killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Two Palmyra Busts in ISIL Hideout [UPDATED]

Two stolen statues found in Daesh hideout near Palmyra 15th November، 2017
The authorities on Wednesday found two stolen statues in a hideout of Daesh (ISIS) terrorists on the southern outskirt of ancient Palmyra city in the eastern countryside of Homs. SANA reporter in the central province said that two stolen statues were found in one of Daesh hideouts in al-Sawwana area to the south of Palmyra city, adding that the statues were handed to Homs Antiquities Department.  

Dorothy King adds: 'if they're real: hard to tell from photo'. Certainly the photo on the webpage is taken from a bad angle, and is formatted weirdly. The surfaces of the object do look smoother (the bloke's cheeks for example, the edges of that broken nose) and I was wondering too about these ones. Could one or both be plaster casts? Even if the latter were the case and some ISIL guy rummaging around abandoned buildings found them and took them to hiding elsewhere, from one point of view (what ISIL was up to) it is not important if he'd found real ones or was misled by fake ones, he/they still saw some value in hiding them for later use - though whether that was for sale or another smashing-antiquities-propaganda film, we will never know.

UPDATE UPDATE 20th Nov 2017
This video seems to show the same artefacts (Chris Tomson, 'VIDEO: Syrian Army recovers ancient artifacts stolen by ISIS in Palmyra'  al masdar news  15/11/2017 )    :
In a secret hideout in eastern Homs, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has discovered a large amount of artifacts that were removed from Palmyra Museum as ISIS overran the city back in 2015 Footage released by Syrian state television shows the SAA retaking the lost artifacts after they were discovered earlier this week. In addition, ISIS also captured a large batch of weaponry which was abandoned by ISIS before it fled from the sparsely populated area in 2017

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Iraq: Death Sentence for Museum Destruction?

As much as I loathe what he is convicted (I hope fairly) of doing, and rejoice that he has been found, I cannot condone this if this is all they've got on him: Nehal Mostafa, 'Islamic State militant sentenced to death for smashing monuments in Mosul', Iraqi News Nov 13, 2017).
The Central Criminal Court in Baghdad has sentenced an Islamic State member to death over taking part in several crimes including smashing and stealing of monuments in Mosul. Abdul Sattar Bir Qadar, spokesperson for the High Judicial Council, said in a statement that the court sentenced the suspect to death “Over conviction for taking part in terrorist crimes including the smashing of monuments in Mosul .” He added that the suspect admitted to affiliation to the group’s State of the North. “He took part in smashing and stealing of monuments from Mosul museum.” “The court found enough evidence and decreed the death sentence against the suspect in accordance with the fourth article of countering terrorism law,” he said. The group, which considered sculptures as symbols of infidelity, posted footage showing its members axing down priceless Assyrian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Persian and Roman artifacts, many of them two millennia old or older, drawing international condemnation. Reports later showed that some antiquities were sold out in online auctions.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Iraq investigating 'stolen artifacts' at the Louvre Abu Dhabi

The Iraqi government is investigating reports claiming stolen Iraqi antiquities are on display at the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, a high-level official in Baghdad said on Monday (' Iraq investigating 'stolen artifacts' at the Louvre Abu Dhabi' The New Arab 13 November, 2017)
The alleged stolen artefacts date back to various historical periods in Iraq and were reportedly looted in the chaos that followed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. "Parliament will file a motion with the government to form a committee to investigate how they reached the UAE and take legal action to repatriate them to Iraq," MP Sadeq Rassoul of the ruling National Alliance told The New Arab.An official at the office of Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, however, said Baghdad cannot be sure whether the Iraqi antiquities in Abu Dhabi were looted during the invasion or were replicas. "A committee has been formed to follow up the subject, and verify the reports claiming Babylonian, Assyrian, Akkadian and Ottoman-era artefacts are being shown at the museum," he said. The reports first circulated on social media, showing snaps of what were claimed to be stolen Iraqi historical artefacts. The International Campaign to Boycott UAE, a newly formed group, claimed on Sunday the Louvre Abu Dhabi was displaying stolen Iraqi, Syrian, and Egyptian artefacts, obtained via criminal gangs linked to terrorists.

The Bible Museum and its Problems

Steve Green’s collection, once headed for the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is tainted by allegations of smuggling (Kelly Crow, ' Hobby Lobby Scion Spent Millions on Biblical Relics—Then Came a Reckoning', Wall Street Journal Nov. 13, 2017). Mr. Green and his family have amassed a $205 million collection of roughly 40,000 artifacts over the past eight years,
The collection was planned for inclusion in the 430,000 square-foot Museum of the Bible. That’s as big as the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture. Yet for the past three years, staff members at the museum have been sifting and rejecting potential donations from the Green collection that carried lingering questions of provenance, its director David Trobisch said. Most of the Greens’ antiquities remain with Hobby Lobby, the family owned arts-and-crafts chain. [...] Bible scholars Candida Moss at the University of Birmingham and Joel Baden of Yale have just published a book, “Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby,” that said Mr. Green acquired objects with a “naiveté that begins to look willful.” Roberta Mazza, a papyrologist at the University of Manchester, has criticized Mr. Green’s collecting methods in lectures at scholarly conferences on art crime and biblical literature. She said she noticed an ancient Coptic fragment from the New Testament book of Galatians, displayed at an exhibit of the Green collection three years ago, which she believed she had earlier seen for sale on eBay . It offered no ownership history, she said. “I don’t care if a billionaire wants to open a museum so long as it’s ethical,” Ms. Mazza said.
When the museum opens, its permanent collection will consist of just 2,840 vetted objects, Mr. Trobisch said, a fraction of what the Greens own. The museum has had to distance itself from controversy over the collection.

Provenance an Issue: The 'Schleusingen collection' and Untermassfeld

A bizarre tale of theft and suspicious packages casts doubt on claims for an early-human occupation in northern Europe (Ewen Callaway, 'Archaeologists say human-evolution study used stolen bone', Nature 13 November 2017). The Untermassfeld site in Germany yielded more than 14,000 large animal fossils dating from between 900,000 and 1.2 million years ago, but serious concerns have arisen about the interpretations of material from this site claiming evidence for one of the earliest human occupations of Europe. In an extraordinary letter posted to the bioRxiv.org preprint server last month, archaeologists allege that three papers, published in 2013, 2016 and 2017, included material of questionable provenance and researchers express concern that appropriate questions regarding the provenance of the material appear not to have been asked.
In their papers, Landeck and Garcia Garriga attributed the material, along with hundreds of rock fragments of limestone and chert, to “the Schleusingen collection”, which they stated was recovered by a biology teacher in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Kahlke says he is personally unaware of a Schleusingen collection and questions whether the material was collected at this time. Rocks like those described in the papers can be found in the vicinity of the site, but he says that animal fossils are concentrated in a small area that has been under excavation since 1978. No other research teams had permission to excavate the site during that time, Kahlke says. But he says that material was routinely stolen from the site — which he reported to the police, most recently in 2012 — until the site and fossil bed were better secured. There is no suggestion that Landeck and Garcia Garriga were involved in these thefts.
but it seems they were involved in handling material from private collections, and then using it in their research. One of the bones mentioned in their work seems to have been stolen by artefact hunters from the excavation in may/June 2009.

Getting Dirty with Sam Hardy

Antiquities Coalition interview Dr 'Conflict Antiquities':
Getting Dirty with Sam Hardy, a Conversation on Antiquities

Not an 'Impossible Situation' at all

"An impossible situation for museums [and collectors], 'to be blamed...for owning objects with provenance issues, while simultaneously denied the ability to confirm whether those objects passed through the hands of these dealers.'” (
Is there really an issue here? I disagree:
  7 min7 minut temu
W odpowiedzi do
Surely the onus on them in a market infested with looted items and fakes () is to determine which dealers' hands they did pass through and if that is impossible, walk away from a potentially dodgy deal, no?
This really is not rocket science, if you want a surgeon to operate on your kid's tonsils, you go to one who's got the papers, and not check which illegally-operating pseudosurgeons are in police records. No?

Where did your antiquities come from?

Antiquities Coalition raise an issue the no-questions-asked market will not like addressing...

Coffin Collection and Tomb Raid: Egyptian Police Seize Over 450 Historical Artefacts in Fayoum

objects laid out on the floor

Egypt Today, '464 historical artifacts seized by police in Fayoum', Nov. 9, 2017:
The Egyptian Tourism and Antiquities Police managed to seize 464 artifacts from illegal antiquities merchants in Fayoum. According to police reports, two certain cars visited Fayoum city regularly and sold a number of antiquities with the aim to smuggle them abroad. The police found 266 Ushabtis made from rare blue ceramic, eight wooden faces for a person, 12 statues made from blue ceramic, pottery statues, three pottery pots, 66 fragments from ancient coffins decorated with hieroglyphic inscriptions and a number of plates used in mummifications. A further 122 Ushabtis were found with the criminals, yet the statement has not clarified the materials they were made of.
Apparently 'Fayoum Antiquities checked the seized artefacts and verified their historical importance; confirming that the seized artefacts are antiquities. ', but it looks to me as if at least one of those ushebtis in the (admittedly) blurred photo is not a form known from authentic site finds. Anyway, that photo shows something much more telling. Look at what is on the floor. Most of it comes from tombs with only a few items that are most likely surface finds of settlements (some sherds for example) Is it a typical assemblage of finds that would be found in a freshly-opened tomb or cache of funerary equipment? Nope.

Note that most of the bits are small enough to put in a suitcase, and note the preponderance of straight edges on them. Over on the left are twelve mummy case fragments. The longest is the clumsily-painted white one in the middle looks to be about a metre and half of the front board, sawn off at knee level. The others (mummy case bits and what is possible a sarcophagus side) have been sawn up by the looters (or middlemen) into shorter portable and displayable fragments. The rest of the object from which these portableised 'antiquites' have been separated has been discarded and destroyed. Goodness knows what disrespect was done to the human remains from those coffins (see below). On the right we see eight faces pried off the front board of another eight coffins. Here we see the facile fascination of collectors with heads and faces, rather than, for example, nuances of the phrasing of the funerary inscriptions on the body of the coffin. These facial segments would only have been pegged on and the jagged gesso edges from the wrenched join needed tidying up with a knife. This is not ancient damage (as for where this sort of thing is sold, Randall Hixenbaugh, for example, has several). Again the rest of the coffin is discarded. On  the floor at the extreme left are some black shrivelled things, difficult to make out, but a fair guess might be that these are bits of mummy (human bodies) being sold as trophy curios - we've seen this kind of ghoulish behaviour among Egyptian artefact collectors a number of times.

Next time you hear a collect coming out with the usual self-serving crap about 'preserving' (or 'saving') the past remember the destruction wrought to the relics of the past by those that supply the no-questions-asked market with ever increasing numbers of unpapered objects which this typical assemblage of portable antiquities shows. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

'Qurna in the sky'

Qurna, as it was
This is wonderful, 'Qurna in the skya great new website of photos, map, and descriptions of the now-vanished Qurnawi houses on the Theban west bank. Very evocative for those of us who lived there.
Qurna is the name of an area on the west bank at Luxor, Egypt, in the world cultural heritage site of the Theban Necropolis. Along a stretch of hillside running about 3 kilometres from south to north there was a collection of hamlets mainly arranged in family groups. The houses were built along the lower slopes of the Theban hills, where there are tombs of many periods. The authorities saw the residents and their houses as a danger to the tombs and monuments, and for decades there were plans to relocate the people. From 2006 to 2009 nearly all the houses on the hillside were demolished – even though some of them were over 100 years old and thus covered by laws to preserve them. No programme of recording was done before the bulldozers moved in. The built heritage of the Qurnawi meant nothing to the authorities.
I really must go back... 

Culture Wars: Ethnic History and Ethnic Divisions in the Heart of Europe

Yesterday's march in Warsaw on the anniversary of Poland's 11th November 1918 independence raised a lot of comment in the international media due to the tenor of a lot of the material written on banners and chanted by the marchers. Here is AlJazeera:

Minister Glinski
In relation to my earlier comment here on the absence of cultural professionals and representatives of the social sciences in the debate on identity, Piotr Glinski Poland's current minister of Culture and National Heritage for the PiS (Right-wing populist 'Law and Order') government made some remarks yesterday referring to the xenophobic and racial excesses of yesterday's 'Independence' march: 'Gliński: Nie ma zgody na myślenie o wspólnocie narodowej w sensie etnicznym. Na to wsparcia polskiego rządu nie ma [Glinski, there is no tolerance for thinking of a national unity in ethnic terms. the government does not support this]. He says (I can't be bothered to translate burble, stick it through Google or Babel Fish):
Dziwię się, że wczoraj, faktycznie gdzieś w przestrzeni publicznej, na pięknym marszu narodowym, pojawił się transparent, który mógłby sugerować, że ktoś myśli o narodzie w kategoriach etnicznych czy w kategoriach rasistowskich – stwierdził Piotr Gliński w trakcie I Kongresu Inicjatyw Pozarządowych. – Na to wsparcia polskiego rządu nie ma. Chciałbym wyraźnie powiedzieć, że nie popieramy tego rodzaju haseł – dodał wicepremier. „Chciałbym wyraźnie powiedzieć: popieramy myślenie narodowe w sensie narodu kulturowego. [...] to jest oczywiście potrzebne i ważne. Taka wspólnota jest wspólnotą pożyteczną. Wspólnota narodowa rozumiana w sensie etnicznym jest wspólnotą wykluczającą, wspólnotą, dla której zgody polskiego rządu w Polsce nie ma” 
Somebody should help the Minister with a reading list from social anthropology about the actual meaning of the words he uses. Ethnicity is not the same as 'race', and the interactions between culture and ethnicity are very much more complex than the Minister apparently imagines. Glinski's is the backward-looking government which is felling Białowieźa forest and destroying democracy in revenge for Communist 'wrongs' thirty years ago....

What the young men marching on the streets yesterday were demanding was indeed cultural exclusion, between the 'real Poles' and others - that is exactly what the Party which Glinski belongs to supports. Their leader infamously refers to those opposed to PiS policies a 'worse sort' of Poles, while his own supporters flatter themselves accordingly that they are  'the best sort'. This is the division proudly celebrated in the emblems carried and worn by yesterday's marchers.

Mr Glinski's own cultural policies are in no way inclusive, it is he who is apparently behind the recasting of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk to somehow lessen the emphasis on the Germans (!) and increase the coverage of Polish heroism... The Ministry is not opposing the removal of monuments to the young men who died in fighting in the parts of the German occupied land which later became Poland because they were wearing uniforms with the label 'made in USSR' (dead young men are a tragedy, no matter who sent them into the field to fight and die). This is indeed a totally 'ethnic' approach to modern history - and such reprehensible divisiveness has the full support of the present divisive government of Poland's 'Law and Justice' party.

UPDATE: I am reminded by a colleague that Minister Glinski is a sociologist, so there's even more reason for him to know the difference between race, and ethnicity/culture. 

As Foreign ISIL Fighters Return Home... the Antiquities Market Must be Policed

Writing for the Middle East Institute, Amr Al Azm and Katie A. Paul ask an important question: with ISIL collapsing, what happens when its foreign fighters return home? Will cultural racketeering and  terrorism follow them?
authorities must act now to coordinate with their regional and international counterparts in order to keep up with the looming wave of ISIS fighters returning home and seeking new sources of funding. Likewise, Europe and the United States should be prepared to take action as their markets feed a trade that contributes to the ongoing cycle of instability in the MENA region. Unlike years past, today we have knowledge of the capabilities of groups like ISIS, which offers an important opportunity to proactively address these crimes rather than reacting to the losses after they have happened.

Not Just Metal Detectors: Flints on Sale

Phil Riris‏ @philriris .3 godziny temu
Looted Neolithic antiquities from Egypt and Britain, selling for 100s of £ in English antique shop. God knows when they were pinched.

I suppose the question is, while In Egypt many citizens wiould be disturbed by this sale, in Bonkers Britain, who gives a tinkers?

The issue is of course that without the documentation showing how they entered the market who can prove that these item,s are not 'looted' or 'pinched'?

Tantrum Theatre and Marcus Milligan's Mapping

Milligan wants no discussion of this
Marcus Milligan considers himself a 'victim' of an 'attack' by me on Facebook. In a tantrum, he has  just blocked me from replying to his complaint about me raising there an important issue about a piece of current work of his [sorry no link because I cannot now access it]. He considers that by using archaeological documentation to compile an interactive online map of 'every Roman settlement' in Britain, and superimposing their detailed street plans on a map, he is not in any way contributing to the threat that such a resource can be used by those whose sole (main) interest in the archaeological record is to hoik things out for their personal collections. From what he said, he seems to think that by making this information more available in different formats is somehow making it more difficult to use those data for purposes of detecting and pocketing artefacts from potential 'productive' nodes pinpointed for artefact hunters by such resources.

It is a shame that Dr Milligan blocked me before I could ask about the logic of such a position. I am therefore left curious to know where he considers me wrong asserting that in fact making the information more available, he is increasing, not decreasing its accessibility. No? It is difficult not to assume that he blocked me from asking because quite simply he is unwilling to admit that he has no answer to that.

It is a shame that Dr Milligan joins the ranks of the heritage professionals in the UK who simply do not want to discuss the implications  for their own research practices and the future usability for public (rather than private) benefit of the archaeological record of the country as a whole of current policies on collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record.

Before he cut me off, Dr Milligan said that in his opinion I should stop my 'crusading' (his word for attempting to get engagement in online discussion of something) and that I should 'focus my efforts' on getting legislative change and leave researchers like him alone to get on with whatever it is they want to do. Like a true British academic asked to explain his position on collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record by hobbyists, he too has now neatly skipped out of the discussion before his position can be challenged.  In doing so, he has avoided explaining how he thinks any individual could do that in the absence of a concerted effort to discuss the issue widely within archaeology, between archaeology and the lawmakers and without a large scale public awareness-raising campaign run by the archaeological community about the effects of current modes of collection driven exploitation of the archaeological record on its structure.

Perhaps one day British archaeology as a whole might start addressing the responsibilities of all those engaged in it to the sustainable conservation of what is left of the archaeological record with more seriousness than the current incredibly pathetic clownish posturing and issue-dodging we see today. Shame on the lot of you.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

The Reawakening of Old Ghosts

'Pure Blood and Sober Minds' Straight Edge and a nihilistic 'Europe will be White or Depopulated'
'One road, strike, strike' the sig-rune and 'nationalism in capitalism'
As government and Church 'authorities' look on passively, fascists and racists march through my city on the anniversary of Krystallnacht (Nazi Germany, 9–10 November Free City of Danzig, 12–13 November) expressing their resistance to potential cultural change in coming years through immigration and ethnic cleansing as a remedy for all social ills, I wonder where are the anthropologists and cultural heritage professionals and why are they not initiating and participating in a (very) public debate countering such ideas? What is culture and how does it change? As an archaeologist, I see the question still has no very clear answers, but cultural change is certainly not the black-and-white issue which is represented by the views of the masked men in the street and the populist politicians who stand behind them. They are totally unaware of the debate that has been conducted on this for at least half a century. Why? Is that our fault, or theirs? Is this not where cultural heritage, identity and related issues has a direct interconnect with modern lives? Why then are the nuances not being highlighted. It seems to me that identity is increasingly a major political issue and social motor - yet those whose work and research address the issue (and that goes for my own 'official' research area) are strangely loathe to wade into the fray - but perhaps this is not a time for diffidence.

Why Archaeologists Need to Learn Storytelling

A very good argument from Neil Silberman for why archaeologists need to learn  storytelling

Perth Tomb-Raider Joan Howard Flogged off Part of Collection

In all the discussion of Indiana Joan and her digging and collecting activities, memntion was only made of her 'donating' objects to museums/ Yet there aretraces of something else going on too. Take a look at the Ancient Jewellery auction at Christies Sale 2770 5 December 2012, New York
A WESTERN ASIATIC BANDED AGATE AND GOLD BEAD NECKLACE CIRCA 1ST MILLENNIUM B.C. Price realised USD 4,375 Estimate USD 3,000 - USD 5,000 Composed of barrel-shaped and spherical banded agate beads interspersed with gold flat winged disk beads, supporting three pendants each with a spherical banded agate with a conical gold cap, one with a punched beaded border, each pendant between small modern gold beads; strung with a modern hook-and-loop closure 16½ in. (42 cm.) long [...] Provenance Mrs. Joan Howard, Lebanon and brought to Australia, late 1960s. Pre-Lot Text PROPERTY FROM AN AUSTRALIAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
How did this piece leave Lebanon?  Where is it now?

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Detentions in Bergen Museum Heist, Objects Recovered

Viking treasures returned to Norwegian museum
Some of the recovered items Photo:
 Universitetsmuseet i Bergen / NTB scanpix
Four men are now being held by police in connection with the theft of 400 Viking objects from Museum of Bergen. The police have recovered some of the 400 items stolen from the museum in August, and they are being returned to the museum ('Viking treasures returned to Norwegian museum' the Local 10 November 2017). It is reported that two-thirds of the treasures have now been recovered. A photo shows them stored by the thieves in a blue plastic IKEA carrier bag - we have seen metal detectorists also like plastic carrier bags in the UKHowever, some gold artefacts are still missing.

The first detention was made in October, when a man turned himself in at Bergen Police Station and claimed to have taken part in the August 14th robbery. Police interrogation of the man led to the further arrests in the case. The first man is now 'under the care of the health service'. The interrogation of this man led to two further arrests this week, it is beiong reported that they are connected in some way to 'a drugs-connected group in Bergen'.

A fourth man has now been arrested. The man, who is in his fifties, is suspected of handling stolen goods, but had not been involved in the break-in at the museum, the police 'found objects at his home',  some of which were broken. Police are assessing whether potential charges against the suspects could include damaging culturally or historically valuable objects.

Before the theft (Irish Times)

Partially Literate Artefact Hoiker Selfishly Pockets Everybody Elses's Heritage

"I thought you would like to see this its called a charging boar folding knife handle its Roman it has been to the museum they wanted to keep it, I love it to [sic] much to part with it."

UPDATE 11.11.17

Heritage Action have a few thoughts on this:
Dear Metal Detectorist [...] Incidentally, here’s a wild guess. The farmer is unaware the museum wants it and that you’ve refused to donate it to them! Please send us his name and address so we can tell him. Maybe he’ll then demand it back from you saying “I love it too much to part with it” and then HE can give it to the museum. The chances of him being an avaricious anti-social self-seeking little oik are pretty remote, don’t you think?
... and I will leave it up to the reader to decide how 'remote' the chances are of somebody engaging in collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record being an avaricious anti-social self-seeking little oik.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Joan Howard and Her Antiquities Collection

Lara Lamb, President of the Australian Archaeological Association, has written to the local newspaper that published that disturbiong Joan Howard story, you can read it here. It will be intersting to see if it gets a meaningful response. I think the journalist wjho wrote it in the style he did, Joseph Catanzaro, also needs an explanation of how the twentieth century ended.

"Detectorists" is back on UK TV

I did not see it, but Pipeline has a thoughtful review of Episode 1 of Series Three of the BBC 4 comedy series on artefact hunting ('Review: an Archaeological Take on Detectorists Series Three [BBC 6)', Pipeline 78th Nov 2017). They noted details I suspect the more superficial minds on the metal detecting forums will have missed. One bit was a telling and especially worth highlighting here.
Lance and Andy comment that they are afraid of losing the field where they have permission to metal detect because it is becoming more difficult to get new permissions.  It has been a mark of “Detectorists” that Crook does his research and you only have to look at metal detecting forums and Facebook groups to sense the fear expressed by Lance and Andy is a reflection of the current state of metal detecting in Britain.  In many areas a combination of fields stripped of finds, farmers who are more savvy about the finances of metal detecting, and companies buying up the rights to whole farms to hold large scale metal detecting rallies, are perceived to be bringing about a tailing off traditional permissions.  Especially those for the individuals and small local clubs who were the grass roots which built the hobby.
'Fields stripped of finds' is of course a euphemism for archaeological sites totally destroyed by collection-driven exploitation. The ones already damaged but as yet to be quite as destroyed are increasingly being mined for commercial reasons. It is good that landowners are at last becoming aware of the potential scope for being scammed when they just let people take away what they fancy with only a nod to informing what they are doing. Any transfer of ownership and removal of artefacts needs to be documented.
A Box Set of all three series plus the 2016 Christmas Special is scheduled for release in the UK on 18 December 2017.
That's my Christmas present sorted out.  Better than socks.

Antiquities seized in Sharjah, UAE

Global Times, Egypt recovers 354 antiques seized in United Arab Emirates 6 November 2017:
Egypt has recovered 354 archaeological objects that were seized by authorities in the United Arab Emirates, the antiquities ministry in Cairo said. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed al-Qasimi, ruler of the emirate of Sharjah, had ordered the pieces returned to Egypt after police captured them, the ministry said on Saturday. It did not provide any details on where or how the pieces were recovered, or from whom. [...]  The recovered pieces include antiques from the Pharaonic era and some from Islamic times [...] Among them are a pottery container carrying the name of Ramses III [...] and several bronze statues depicting Egyptian gods including Isis and Osiris.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Online Antiquities Sales Profiteers Called out by Business Press

Ill-Informed Aussie Joan Howard Article Discussed

Rae Paoletta, 'A 95-Year-Old "Real Life Tomb Raider" Isn't a Hero, She's a ThiefArchaeologists are appalled', Inverse November 7, 2017
For at least 11 years, Joan Howard pilfered ancient artifacts from sites in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel. Decades later, a new article in The West Australian has now hailed Howard as “Indiana Joan” and the 95-year-old “real-life Tomb Raider.” [...] Howard “used her diplomatic freedom to search for antiquities,” which is one hell of a euphemism for using her many privileges to loot precious artifacts. Many of those artifacts, as evidenced by a video featured in The West Australian, now serve as keepsakes and decorations in Howard’s home. [...] If anything, this tone-deaf celebration of a person who effectively destroyed culture reveals our own deeply unsettling ideas about who gets to be hailed as a hero despite actually being a criminal.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

A Perth Collector's Stash

'Real life tomb raider Joan Howard pictured with a mummy mask
she found at Sakkara the ancient burial ground serving as the
 necropolis for the ancient Egyptian capital Memphis'. Note the
scarabs and ancient beads worn in the photo Picture: Steve Ferrier 
Australia's real life 'tomb raider', 95-yr old Joan Howard "used her diplomatic freedom to search for antiquities" ( Joseph Catanzaro. 'Indiana Joan: Meet WA’s real life tomb raider, 95-year-old Joan Howard' West Australian Saturday, 4 November 2017)
Deep beneath the badlands of Palestine, alone in a darkened tomb, Joan Howard crawled forward on her stomach in search of lost treasures. It was the late 1960s, a turbulent time in the Middle East[...]. Ten metres above her, at the top of a vertical shaft hewn out of the desert bedrock, a colleague began to winch her swaying bucket of artefacts to the surface. Five decades and thousands of kilometres away from that moment, sitting in the tastefully decorated surrounds of her riverside apartment in Perth this week, Mrs Howard smiles and hefts a mummy mask pulled from the sucking sands of Egypt on one of her many expeditions. It is one of many artefacts acquired on her adventures, a collection come [sic] treasure trove the public has never seen. [...] Through her husband’s UN connections, over 11 years she was given carte blanche to travel between Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel. She used her diplomatic freedom to search for antiquities before laws changed and it became legally difficult to do so.
Well, actually, in most of those countries, the law has not changed that much since 1967.  This is horrendous. While a provincial journalist in Australia might not have the words to understand what's going on (he describes what the diplomat's wife was dioing as 'archaeology'), others are able to see it in a context.
Diplomats and their spouses committing cultural crimes under cover of diplomatic immunity a big reason people have probs with UN missions
This woman knows exactly what she did- she destroyed the archaeology for her own self gain. She should be demonised- not cherished.
White lady uses position of power to nick stuff from graves despite knowing better and thinks it's a lark
Dear : the laws *WERE* strict back then, this lady just broke them. These were and are crimes.
Awful. If she started looting in 1967 and continued for 11 years then it was not legal. Seize this collection.
This is just awful.= is trying to make cultural theft sound like a charming trait in a harmless old woman (It's not)
This collection should be seized and repatriated. The article links looting to her passion for archaeology, but looting is not archaeology.
For Rainer Schreg's take on this: 'Australische Diplomatengattin plündert den Vorderen Orient - und ist auch noch stolz darauf', 5th Nov 2017.
Joan Howard nutzte den Diplomatenstatus ihres bei der UN tätigen Mannes aus. Die australischen Strafverfolgungsbehörden sollten hier dringend Ermittlungen aufnehmen. Eine Rückgabe wird die Schäden am historischen Quellenwert nicht wieder gut machen, aber wenigstens die Ungerechtigkeit des Raubs anerkennen. Der bereits lauernde Händler, sollte jedenfalls wissen, dass er es mit unethischer Ware zu tun hat.
This is an intervew with her husband, the tenth part deals with his UN work after 1967.
'We had a little cottage with a back view down over the Sea of Galilee, which was quite nice and the Golan and so on, not far from Capernaum the loaves and the fishes miracle and all that stuff. We had a priestly friend up there on one of the monasteries who was also an amateur archaeologist and took us out to quite a lot of places where some of the things that we’ve got in the cabinet out there came from. So that was a nice vacation. Joan used to go off and the daughter when I was on duty she’d go off and exercise her self in these archaeological digs with local friends. So it was very satisfying and the people coming through the UNMOs from different countries and in particular their families living in the towns had their own social groups of course'.
Keith and Joan Howard
There is also other material on Keith Howard's career, which may be helpful in working out where Joan was taking her stuff from, and the chronology of when it was taken out of the source countries and removed to Australia.

Looking at some of the stuff displayed in the article however, I wonder how many of the items brought back were found by this self-proclaimed 'tomb robber;' with her romanticised self-aggrandising stories, and how much she bought in bazaars (like the SE Asian art on display in the hall at the beginning of the film). Those necklaces for example have modern clasps, did the 'archaeologist' do that, or were these bought? If the latter is applicable, are they all antiquities at all? Some look particularly dubious...

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