Thursday, 8 December 2016

The Perforation of the UK's PASt Piece by Piece


 probably a lot more if the patterns of artefacts often just under the surface have not been decimated by repeated and unsystematic metal detecting by hobbyist collectors walking off with random bits of the evidence. No amount of ten-figure NGR recording of a selection of the things removed from the ground with the PAS can fill in the information holes. This is simply knowledge theft. A commercial rally was held on a site just like this at Lenborough. Not only did the archaeological establishment not protest the choice, part of it (the PAS) went along to help hoik out the artefacts willy nilly. Shame on the lot of you.

Flimflam from the Coineys and the Responsible Art Trade

US import restrictions on icons and other Byzantine ecclesiastical material from Greece remain in force. It is not clear if lobbyists from the trade in such items are kicking up such a fuss as the jerks that sell dugup antiquities. Any Baltimore illegal import stunts and flimflam over "first found in -ooops-I've-lost-the-documentation-again" on the horizon from these dealers? Or do they just get the paperwork together?

More on the 'Financing of ISIL'

I include this as an example of the genre rather than anything else. Some of this is clearly warped logic and recycling of discredited information (e.g., the 36 million): Martin Berger, 'How ISIS is Repaying its Masters' New Eastern Outlook 7th Dec 2016.

Vignette: Relevance to article unclear, but eyecatching

Lessons from the “Torlonia Peplophoros”

Fifteen Roman statues were stolen from the Villa Torlonia mansion in Italy on Nov. 13, 1983. The thief was never caught. The statues seem to have been lying in 'distancing' storage for more than a decade ('Evidence of How the "Legitimate" Antiquities Market Operates and Deals with any Possible Paper Trail'). After this, at least one of them was smuggled into the Unites States in the late 1990s.There it again lay low a while before being purchased for $81,000 by a private art collector in 2001. Sadly, he lost his money because he'd not demanded documented proof that it was indeed of legal origins:
When the collector learned the piece had been pilfered while trying to auction it off in 2015, he turned it over to the FBI in New York, the feds said. The FBI briefly put the statue on display at the New York Historical Society Library on Central Park West and West 76th Street on Wednesday afternoon before shipping it back to its home.
This shows the importance of not buying artefacts which have no proper documentation to support the dealer's word-of-mouth assurances that the item is kosher. The Torlonia Peplophoros proved to be an expensive lesson for one collector. Let's hope the dealer is still in business and the collector sues him for a return of his money.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

"Saving Heritage" or Greedy Grabbing from an Archaeological Resource?

Artefact hunting for free? They
are taking away our heritage
The subeditor who wrote the headline has been listening to the tekkies, the reporter however gets it right, these people are not searching to 'save heritage' (the objects have been safe in the mud centuries), or even record information, most are doing it to get things to collect. When you look at how much the duplicate objects (the ones not needed for collection) fetch on eBay, you ask why the collector should expect to obtain them from the Crown Estate for free:
The Port of London Authority, which owns the river bank along with the Crown Estate, has ordered a clampdown as treasure hunting has soared in popularity. Previously anyone could look for fragments of the past, ranging from Roman coins to Delftware pottery, provided they did not scrape or dig the surface to retrieve them. Under the clampdown, any form of searching for objects washed up by the tides is prohibited unless the mudlarks hold a permit, which costs £32 for a day or £75 for three years. PLA spokesman Martin Garside said there was “worry within the archaeological community” that amateur treasure seekers were failing to report significant finds. “If you’re going down there with the intention of looking for something you need to have a permit,” he said. 
Susie Mesure, 'Mudlarks on Thames told to get £32 permits to save heritage' Evening Standard · Monday 5 December 2016 ·

Fortunately Rescue stepped in where PAS feared to tread:
Rescue_News ‏@rescue_news 6 godz.6 godzin temu
"Saving" heritage involves investigating it properly in controlled works by qualified practitioners. Not charging amateurs cash to dig it up
PAS are you going to step in and do some real archaeological outreach about this kind of thing? Maybe this decade (your third)?

US Dealers Moaning about Market Hygiene

'Ptolemaic empire' (wikimedia Eubulides)
US coin fondlers, instead of being happy that steps are being taken to clean up the Wild West US dugup market (already full chockablock with antiquities imported in huge quantities from all over the ancient world) are claiming they are being treated unfairly. This is despite the fact that throughout its existence the treatment by the dugup antiquities market of the citizens' rights of inhabitants of the source countries (mostly 'brown-skinned folk' which in their endemic manifest destiny orientalism, the dealers look down upon)  has been anything but fair. Here is one of their paid lobbyists slimeballing his way through the facts:
This is significant because such restrictions ignore evidence that demonstrates that Egyptian mint coins are regularly discovered outside of Egypt.  [...]  Hoard evidence confirms Ptolemaic coins from Egyptian mints circulated throughout the Ptolemaic Empire which stretched well beyond the confines of modern-day Egypt [...] They also ignored finds reported under the UK's PAS that show Roman Egyptian Tetradrachms circulated as far away as Roman Britain. 
This is really dodgy argumentation.  Firstly those hoard coins from elsewhere in the Ptolemaic Empire cannot be reaching the market legally, since in all the countries concerned, the reporting and surrender of any discovered hoard to the authorities is mandatory (as it is in the UK too). Any dealer handling material which has been dug up and not reported is dealing in illicit and stolen goods. Any dealer handling such material who insists that despite these constraints the material in his stockroom has been obtained in a means entirely in accord with all applicable laws is story-telling unless he has documentation which demonstrates that which can be passed on to the responsible purchaser. If there is no such documentation, the dealer concerned should not pretend to the title 'responsible dealer', because he has not bought in any way responsibly. 

As I say, if those hoard coins are reaching the market illegally, then there is no justification for them being imported into the US. They should be stopped at the border and the consigner identified and the authorities in the country where he or she does business should be alerted.  

And if a coin dealer has acquired a Ptolemaic or Alexandrine coin found, say, in Southern Turkey, and legally entering the market - and thus not falling under the CCPIA import restrictions (as the lobbyist argues), then presenting the documentation of that fact is enough to get it through US borders. It's when he cannot document that fact that any 'problems' begin. But then by buying coins with no documentation that demonstrate full legality, he is courting trouble and has himself to blame if he has problems shifting them. 

Secondly, I would be interested to see where the numismatic (sic) lobbyist gets the information that Alexandrian dekas 'circulated' in Roman Britain. Were they used for tesaurisation and occur as deliberate deposits in hoards? Are they site losses in market areas in small towns? Were they placed in graves? In fact, as I pointed out two years ago ('Alexandrian Tetras and US Coiney Dishonesty ') many of the records in the database of the PAS make it clear that these out-of-place finds were in fact most likely modern losses (another possibility is that some are 'plants' by the metal detectorist 'finder' or a rally organizer seeding a field with bulk-bought junk artefacts). 

How 'regularly' they are found where is of course totally unknown, as most coins instead of being reported and catalogued when found, end up illegally on the antiquities market, where the first act is to 'launder' it, making the findspot totally unrecoverable, so the dealers can pretend the object is from 'an old collection' and nobody can touch any of them for being party to the deception.  This has to stop, so much information is being sacrificed to coin fondling and base commercial interests.

Lerning Abowt Th' Past: Metal Detector Style

Another one on EBay with
a clearly-recognizable portrait
of HRH Prince Albert (1819-1861)
People who cannot read books often pick up a metal detector to help them envisage a past, but its often their own personal version of history which they imagine while holding a 'piece of the past" in their grabby hands. Take John Winter for example, he's been 'learning about the past' through his hobby for a long time. Here he is narrativising in Searcher magazine (the one the PAS use) a decontextualised Victorian embossed tin a fellow tekkie found. Take an artefact from its context and you can basically tell any story you like about it. Those that wish to treat information from artefact hunters as archaeological data need to take into account that the collector is not concerned to use the information from the context of deposition and discovery as a source of information, but what Polish theoretician of historical sources Jerzy Topolski termed 'extra source information' as the basis for their imaginative narrativiation:
Some of you may know that Prince Albert was one of the most famous suspects in the Jack the Ripper case. Some commentators have said that he had problems with mental stability. When the mutilated body of prostitute Elizabeth Stride was found, she was holding a tin of Prince Albert cachous in her left hand. Flimsy evidence you may think.
Not half as flimsy as the detector user's grasp on history, as anybody who can use a book to check facts can soon discover, the Whitechapel murders took place in the 1880s, by which time the Prince Albert portrayed on the tin had been dead two decades.* Mr Winter's response to that being pointed out? Predictably vacant and unconcerned about letting facts get in the way of a good story:
Lighten up Paul. Happy Christmas. Now, show me that you have a sense of humour. You’re a bloody laugh a minute.
The point is however that if we are to use information coming from collectors as some form or ersatz archaeological information, one has to have confidence that the 'observed facts' have been properly observed and conveyed to the secondary source (the PAS) in a form which bears some relationship to the actual facts in the ground. The inability of many UK artefact hunters to make head or tail of simple facts or to convey the conclusions they have reached about them in an articulate manner means that we have to treat information from them with some considerable reserve. In fact, how much of it is at all reliable? And if some of it is unreliable, and we have no means of verifying what is and what is not, then the whole body of 'data' has to be disqualified. Artefact hunting is not archaeology and artefact hunters cannot produce from it anything that can be regarded as 'archaeological data', no matter what the blokes in Bloomsbury say.

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy". 

Albert Victor (1864 - 1892)
of the conspiracy theory
* Mr Winter is of course fluff-headedly confusing the Prince Consort (HRH Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) with his grandson, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, who in any case cannot have been the murderer.

Another metal detecting half-brain comes to Mr Winter's 'aid' with the usual post-truth nonsense and head-clutter that shows well how these people (fail to) think:
Hello John: You’ve got the right Albert. Spot on. [...] Some distinguished authors (not known to be detectorists) have […]
..have not identified the killer of Elizabeth Stride with the man shown on the box of lozenges which is the subject of Mr Winter's pseudo-historical text. But you try explaining that to a metal detectorist.

... to a metal detectorist who is not only able to grasp a simple point but never even learnt to join up the linguistic dots at school enough to learn how to write grammatical English, and whether joking about the brutal demise of a woman at the hands of a throat-slashing maniac is at all appropriate:
poor Albert ,he was in another place at the time of the murders and certainly is totally blameless, interesting read, they may of stopped the poor women’s bad breath but did her throat no good at all.
'May of', 'mr tilt'?

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of pig ignorant barely literate people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  
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