Monday, 16 January 2017

To an Antiquities Seller who thinks I "have to" change my Style

A Danish collector objects to my tone when I provided him with copies of my correspondence with about a former 'owner' of an artefact he'd carelessly bought:

> I do not appreciate your sarcastic way of communicating to me. If we shall have some kind of communication you have to change your style. <
Since the 1970 Convention, it has been very clear to everyone [Denmark since March 2003] what is and what is not a licit artefact both to sell and to buy, and that relies on documentation. Any collector who chooses to ignore that and replace that with other arguments really should not be surprised to receive criticism.  I provided you with information you clearly had not bothered to obtain yourself. I do not feel that it is I who should be criticised here. I haqve not allowed myself to become the current owner of this controversial item.

You indicate that your “due diligence” in buying it (and the others) went no further than your “feelings” ( You wrote:
“I can hardly believe that an intelligent person like Geoffrey Metz has obtained anything illegally in his collection bearing in mind he is an egyptologist, and that he sells his collection it in a public auction”. 

You can “believe” what you like, but that is a subjective judgement, not objective documentation. I know nothing about the man’s “intelligence”, we know he bought that shabti from Portabello Road (a London street market - ) and the Museum he worked briefly for now refuses to vouch for him, and since they have been made aware of his involvement in this sale has now removed his name from their website.

Nobody MADE you buy this object, you yourself took the risk of buying an artefact taken from the Valley of Kings which can only be traced (and that, by hearsay) to a London street market in 1992 (well after Egypt’s antiquities laws of 1983). The best you can do to support your belief that you did not buy a looted and smuggled artefact is to say it was “bought from an Egyptologist”. It could have been bought from the chief of Egyptian tourist police and still be an illicit artefact. 

And you propose selling it on to somebody else and can offer them no other assurance or documentation other than that – passing the problem onto them. But as collectors become more responsible and the standards they set more rigorous, at some stage somebody is going to be left with an unsaleable paperless artefact on their hands. Pray that it is not you.

Paul Barford

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Quote of the Week?

Per Article 7 (b) (ii) of the Convention, States Parties undertake,
at the request of the State Party "of origin", to take appropriate steps
to recover and return any such cultural property imported after the entry
into force of this Convention in both States concerned [...] Article 13 of the
Convention also provides provisions on restitution and cooperation.

We are asked to believe that there is a link between cultural heritage preservation and human rights abuse:
Peter Tompa ‏@Aurelius161180 2 temuPeter Tompa podał/a dalej Turkish Minute
There is a correlation between nationalistic govt's that demand repatriation of cultural artifacts abroad with human rights abuses at home.
Are the dealers getting good value for their money employing such an 'observer' to do their dirty work? There are 131 Member States of UNESCO that are states party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. I refuse to believe that all of them have a human rights record that is inferior to that of the lobbyist's own country. There is instead at least a partial link between human rights abuse and the trade in illicit and undocumented antiquities.

Collector Surprised: One Born every Minute

A collector was tempted by the offer recently made by ZZCoins to sell some bulk lots of 'unsorted coins from Israel'. Yeah, right, one born every minute. This, from a coiney forum, is what he found: (Re: ZZ Antiquities, ZZ Imports, ZZ Metals, ZZ Expensive... Sat Jan 14, 2017 3:50 pm (PST) . Posted by: swfeingoldsays):
I recently bought 1 kilo of uncleared coins from the dealer. There were very disappointing. About [one third] were small 8 mm coins with nothing to identify them whatsoever. Even though they were from Israel and advertised as including Judaeans, city coins and Seleucid most were late Roman or Byzantine and of the I only found 10 Nabatean 20 Judaeans no city coins and only 3 of any real interest
So, five hundred dollars down the drain. And how much archaeological destruction does the accumulation of that kilogramme of artefact dug-up-and-sold-like-potatoes represent? Because we do not believe the spiel that what is being sold in bulk lots is 'unsorted'. These are the bits of a much larger assemblage which are 'more difficult to sort' and are left behind when somebody else further up the supply chain cherry-picked what was saleable individually before amalgamating individual lots in a bulk mass to be sold by weight. The text 'the saga of the uncleaned coin' was disappeared by the dealers from the Internet about five years ago, but you can still read it on this blog, it is quite revealing. I used to do a lot about uncleraned coins, but thought I'd covered it, but it seems that some people are slow learners. Coineys, eh?

Saturday, 14 January 2017

What is there for US Collectors not to Understand?

As a reaction to the Associated Press story: 'Europe Wants More Protection Against Antiquities Trafficking' (Jan 13th 2017) a blinkered lobbyist for the antiquities trade smugly snipes:
Peter Tompa ‏@Aurelius161180 10 godzin temu@DrDonnaYates @nytimes
"Human rights" organization wants to "repatriate" to repressive Assad regime that has killed, looted and destroyed? 
First of all, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg is concerned with what is happening to the portable heritage of foreign citizens from a wider area than just Syria....

Secondly, it really is frustrating that US dealers, collectors and lobbyists predominantly represent the issue of illicit antiquities trafficking as merely the issue of 'repatriation'. The CoE is urging measure to curb illicit trafficking to and within the EU, not for filling foreign museums with grey and black market decontextualised artefacts. That seems pretty simple to grasp, doesn't it?
Paul Barford ‏@PortantIssues 7 godzin temu @Aurelius161180 @DrDonnaYates @nytimes
Stopping the trade means stopping the trade (not 'allowing the trade and then sending stuff back').
and also:
Paul Barford ‏@PortantIssues @Aurelius161180 @DrDonnaYates @nytimes
What is there not to understand? Why many Americans see antiquities matters ONLY as "repatriation"?
I believe my cat understands that, but those of more limited intellectual horizons may be struggling with the concepts behind the words. Mr Tompa for example completely misses the point and responds:
Peter Tompa ‏@Aurelius161180 4 godziny temu@PortantIssues @DrDonnaYates @nytimes
Concern items repatriated to Assad just because they look Syrian. US Sen. Understood. You don't.
Well if unconcerned dealers and their 'business partners' are throwing away the documentation indicating origins, other forms of evidence have to be employed if authorities don't want to hang on to illegal items in store for ever. Perhaps Mr Tompa thinks the US government should employ waterboarding and kidnapping of family members to deal with silent dealers? As I say, my cat understands, Peter Tompa suggests that it is I who do not grasp what the CoE has in mind when it talks of curbing the trade in illicit antiquities. Perhaps a clearer analogy will help:
Paul Barford ‏@PortantIssues 1 godzinę temu@Aurelius161180 @DrDonnaYates @nytimes
Really? There is more to 'stopping child rape' than 'making sure victims get home safely afterwards'.
and again:
Paul Barford ‏@PortantIssues 1 godzinę temu@Aurelius161180 @DrDonnaYates @nytimes
Why do so many Americans represent illicit antiquities matters ONLY as "repatriation"?

beats me.  My cat is also puzzled.

Vignette: Fortunately, unlike dullard antiquitists, not everybody has a problem understanding what the words 'putting a brake on trafficking' mean. But action not words is what is needed.


UK Treasure Hunters go Against the Trend

According to Hyperallergic , in the museum world in general, the acquisition of artefacts is now mainly through donations. Only a minority of items are purchased.

In the United Kingdom, the trend is quite the opposite in the case of obtaining the items found by greedy metal detector wielding Treasure hunters. When we take away the number donated by the landowners (the actual owners of items coming from their land), 92% of them have to be bought through the payment of a Treasure Ransom from the public purse. The British public is being forced by heritage hoikers and heritage pocketers to buy back their own heritage. Something is very wrong with this. 

Friday, 13 January 2017

Where the "Roman Large" Came from

Grammar was never the strong point of collectors and dealers, so we are not surprised by the lapse in the order of adjectives in the title of one sale by a prominent antiquities dealer:

Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 01.16.17
This is the sale of an object via Royal-Athena Galleries, a New York City-based gallery (run by Jerome Eisenberg). Look at what is offered as a collecting history. That's no collecting history at all: 'Ex Swiss art market April 1991' then a gap, then somehow Royal Athena got it and sold it to a 'Dr H.' somewhere in Germany in 'April 2000', and then a gap and now it is being sold again (was bought back?) by Royal Athena and in 1992 and 2000 it featured in the antiquities world vanity press (Jerome Eisenberg's 'Art of the Ancient World' magazines). Thanks to Christos Tsirogiannis we now know that 'Swiss art market' could be a euphemism for Gianfranco Becchina's cubby hole in the Free Port of Basel, and documentary evidence (Auction Alert and Antiquities Seizure: Royal-Athena Galleries, New York ARCA blog, Saturday, January 14, 2017 ) seems to indicate that the object was received from a Greek trafficker Giorgos Zene[...] (a 'trafficker, now deceased, well-known to the Greek police art squad') and that Becchina had paid 60.000 Swiss Francs on 25 May 1988 for it. Becchina had bought a number of lots (over thirty) from 'Zene' between November 1986 and October 1988. After purchase, Becchina had the piece cleaned by the Basle restorer  André Lorenceau (see the Cahn Gallery newsletter here and here for a short bio). While the Becchina documentation is undated, Lorencau's conservation report will provide the details of what was done to the object and when. Lorencau seems to have been responsible for the mounting of the piece that seems (from the polaroids) to have come to him dirty and unmounted. This would presumably have been some time between May 1988 and April 1991 (when reportedly it was 'on the Swiss art market') and 1992 when Mr Eisenberg reportedly featured it in one of his 'Art of the Ancient World' magazines (I've not seen this). Seeing as the object had only arrived in Switzerland less than three years before, and would have been obviously on a fresh mount after recent cleaning (the object description makes no mention of traces of any earlier mounting), any lack of documentation would have been immediately suspicious. The same goes for its resale just (and interestingly, exactly) nine years after that. So who was handling such freshly-surfaced material in the early stages of its collecting history? Becchina (Palladion Antique Kunst)? At what stage did 'Royal Athena' become involved?

Monday, 9 January 2017

Bulgarian, Turkish Man Sentenced in Shumen for Trafficking Roman Artifacts from Middle East

The Shumen antiquities bust case has had its culmination in a Bulgarian court (Ivan Dikov, 'Bulgarian, Turkish Man Sentenced in Shumen for Trafficking Roman Artifacts from Middle East' Archaeology in Bulgaria Jan 8th 2017):
A Bulgarian and a Turkish citizen have confessed their guilt in the smuggling of dozens of Ancient Roman artifacts [....] after their arrest in a police operation almost two years ago generated international interest. A total of 19 impressive artifacts originating in Asia Minor / the Middle East were confiscated from treasure hunters and antique traffickers in Shumen, Novi Pazar, and Ivanovo, Northeast Bulgaria, back in March 2015. Most of them were found in a garage owned by a local man, Petar Danchev, 60. A Turkish man, Veysel Sanli (52) was also arrested in the treasure hunting and antiques trafficking case. [...]  Even though the initial police reports spoke of more suspects, Denchev and Sanli have been the only two people to be charged over the bust which became known as “the garage Louvre" case in Bulgarian media. [...] Both are getting away with suspended sentences, with their testimonies providing no additional information regarding the origin of the trafficked artifacts or their destination. [...] Turkish citizen Veysel Sanli [...] has been identified as the owner of the smuggled Ancient Roman artifacts [...] , Sanli claimed that all seized artifacts were “heavy stones, modern-day replicas".
Previous PACHI texts on the seizure:

Sunday, 29 March 2015 Bulgarian Artefact Bust - Shumen
Sunday, 16 August 2015 'Bulgarian Antiquities Bust in news Again - Not ISIL Loot'.
Interestingly, a Veysel Sanli has a video channel, in which we see a lot of metal detectors in use.  Is this the same guy? If so, it shows once again the direct link (denied by supporters of collecting in the UK) between "metal detecting" and the broader issue of the commercial exploitation of archaeological artefacts. Here on one of his videos we see the digging up of a Greek silver coin with a metal detector and mattock (where?):

Digging, posted by Veysel Sanli

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