Friday, 2 December 2016

Evidence of How the "Legitimate" Antiquities Market Operates and Deals with any Possible Paper Trail

Another interesting antiquities case involving a free port, Geneva and some anonymous players on the international antiquities market:
Swiss authorities said on Friday (Dec 2) they had seized cultural relics looted from Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, as well as from Libya and Yemen, which were being stored in Geneva's free ports. [...]  The confiscated objects, from the third and fourth centuries, include a head of Aphrodite and two funereal bas-reliefs. Most of the items reached Switzerland via Qatar and were taken by looters, Geneva's public prosecutor said in a statement. They were deposited at the free ports in 2009 and 2010 and the alarm was first raised in April 2013 during a customs inspection, prosecutors added. It was not immediately clear when they were seized. The customs office contacted the cultural authorities in Bern whose expert confirmed the artefacts were genuine, prompting the start of criminal proceedings in February. Three of the pieces came from Palmyra [...] Five of the confiscated objects were from Yemen [...] The Aphrodite relic was from Libya ('Swiss seize artefacts looted from Syria's Palmyra, stashed at free ports' Straits Times 2/12/16)
No mention w2as made of the arrest and charging of the owner of the store in which these items were found. He may well have waved his claim to the items, to prevent the case being tried.

Of course all these items have come from areas which are conflict zones today, but were in fact smuggled before those conflicts began, showing that those making money from conflict antiquities are most likely cashing in on pre-existing trade connections. .

Here we see how the so-called "legitimate trade' works. Items are smuggled out of the source countries to a 'laundering' location (here Qatar), where they may either be stashed, or got rid of quickly to a third country to lie in store, for (perhaps) a decade or more before releasing them on the market confident of the dispersion meantime of any document trail  (invoices for transactions in the source countries, shipping invoices and customs documentation for the smuggled cargo from the source country to Qatar, invoices for transactions in Qatar,  shipping invoices and customs documentation for the journey from Qatar to Geneva). That way the authorities have a warehouseful of undocumented artefacts ('innocent until proven guilty' shout the dealers' lobbyists knowing full well why the paper trail is cold) masquerading as 'old collection' leftovers which 'just happens to have lost any associated documentation before I bought it".* Forfeiting this is difficult enough, trying to follow back a cold paper trail to get the other people involved in the chain is next to impossible for them when all the paperwork will be buried ten years or more deep in some customs/shipping office's archives (if saved at all). In any case, if after years of work enough documentation is assembled to show how the items travelled across half a continent and who was involved, the statute of limitations will most likely apply. As the so-called "legitimate" dealers know full well.

THIS is why many so-called "legitimate" dealers cannot supply the paperwork to show that the material they handle is in any way licit (apart from that dubious category of 'They-Can't-Touch-You-For-It-legality', which is not at all the same as either legal or licit, and certainly has nothing to do with truly ethical and responsible business methods).

And from the shopfront of a "reputable dealer" in Geneva, the newly-surfaced but paperless antiquities can easily end up in the shop of any one of the dealers in the US, Europe or further afield that is willing to take items like this no-questions-asked, and employ lobbyists to argue for maintaining their 'right' to do that if they so please (and find it profitable). Shame on the lot of them.

Dealers challenge the outside world to show where the artefacts looted from holes all over the MENA region are, claiming again 'innocent until proven guilty'. I would say that as more and more of these 'grandfathered' stashes of antiquities laid-aside to 'mature' come to light, it will become increasingly clear that it is to members of the antiquities dealing world, including some masquerading as responsible (reputable) and 'legitimate' dealers, that this question should be addressed

*So don't buy!

Vignette: Antiquities laundering in progress

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Just 16 US MOUs

Egypt's cultural MOU with the US signed on Nov 30 is one of the just 16 MOUs still current that the US has signed with other countries in the past three decades

but then when one looks at the scale of the problem (like for example depicted on SAFE's 'World's Ancient Cultures in Danger map' - poster available here)....


Self-recorder flogs off part of Collection

It looks like one of the PAS self-recorders is flogging off his finds after legitimating them through the Database...ANTYCZNA RZYMSKA FIBULA Rejestr PAS / UKDFD Anglia
Antyczna rzymska fibula - typ Polden Hill - przedmiot widnieje w brytyjskich rejestrach PAS i UKDFD. Około 80-120 r. n.e / (75-175 r. n.e) Anglia - Gloucestershire - Forest of Dean - Hartpury Dodatkowe informacje znajdą Państwo w rejestrach: PASUKDFD (dostępny po zalogowaniu):  Długość: około 28 mm Waga: 7,15 g W 100% oryginalny antyczny przedmiot..W 100% legalny status na rynku  Bardzo proszę przeczytać stronę O Mnie. Pozdrawiam i zapraszam do licytacji!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Smug Collector Dismisses Rights of the 'Brown Skinned Foreigners'

Smug Washington collector on the recent Egypt MOU on artefact importation into US market:
47 min.47 minut temu 
11th hour Obama Admin gift to Egypt's dictators and archaeological lobby.
91% of comments to CPAC ignored.
 Well, it looks more to me that this is done to benefit to people of the country whose heritage is being taken away by culture thieves to sell to (among others) smug American dealers who make profit out of supplying decontextualised bits of it to smug Washington collectors. As Peter Stone puts it:
Protecting cultural heritage is not only important to specialised academic interests, heritage represents communal memory, and access to it has recently been argued to be a human right by the UN’s special rapporteur for cultural rights.
And of course it is local access to it which is denied by smug people abroad pinching huge swathes of it to fill their trophy rooms and pockets.

And yes, let us ignore the arguments of that rather disreputable kneejerk crowd 310 copy-and-past mongers (dealers and collectors for the most part) who see nothing wrong with an irresponsible no-questions-asked trade in unpapered artefacts from an area as heavily looted as post-2011 Egypt. You can get all their names here:

The Amazing Cheek of the Treasure Hunter (Alton Hoard)

Nicely timed by 'Ancient Coin News' to coincide with the annual Treasure report hoo-haa in the UK 'Metal Detectorist Challenges Alton Hoard Value'.Everett Millman  of Gainesville Coins (that's not Gainsville as in Old Man Sayles, but the one where Eric Procopi onetime dealer in Mongolian dino bits was based) writes:
In 1996, a Briton who was interested in archaeology and metal detecting as a pastime discovered one of the most significant treasure hoards in the history of the U.K., the Alton Hoard. A full two decades later, the finder--a bricklayer named Peter Beasley--believes that expert appraisers downplayed the historical significance and value of this massive discovery in order to suppress how much money the museum had to pay for the artifacts. Now, Mr. Beasley is looking for answers. “It’s not about the money but the principle,” he emphasized.

He was interested in what? Let us call a spade a spade, this is nothing more nor less than artefact hunting. Mr Beazley says he is now 'not interested in the munny'. That's not what he was saying when this blog began (
Beasley found the ancient relics in a farm field with the help of his friend Peter Murphy. Beasley and Murphy came upon the coins while sifting through Celtic and Roman pottery at a site they had identified as potentially holding clues to Britain’s first-century history. 
Oh, pleeeease...  One can almost hear the plaintive violins. So, two artefact hunters rifling through a known site looking for something valuable. And how much of that 'sifted through' pottery from that site is documented on the PAS database? What have we learnt about the extent, nature and zoning of the site from the material meticulously collected and documented by these two folk seeking "clues" to Britain's first century history? Is there a publication? Citizen archaeology means what, precisely (British Museum)?
Ultimately, the two finders and the landowner split the £103,000 valuation that was offered by experts at the time. However, subsequent sales of comparable relics have far exceeded the Alton examples. According to the Alton Herald, another Caesar ring that was given to King Herod of Israel sold for over £11,000, while the Tincomarus ring netted just £2,900. Moreover, the gold torque garnered only £1,650 when a similar Roman-Egyptian bracelet from the same time period realized £60,000 at auction.
Not only have many of the experts who provided the hoard’s value been discredited, but Beasley’s complaint of the items being “grossly undervalued” holds weight when one considers the newest estimate for the items’ value: £256,000. It remains to be seen whether Mr. Beasley’s informal appeal will produce any results.
Yeah. like discrediting the whole milieu who quite obviously are lying when they say that the money is no account. This guy is still moaning about allegedly being short-changed  in 1996. Perhaps Beasley, Murphy and Millman might like for a minute to think about what would happen to the value of coins of  Commios, Tincomarus, Epillus, and Verica when 250 of them suddenly appear legally on the open market as another hoard is found. And Tincommius is a name which as the same cachet as Herod? Really?Mr Millman, you should know better, and as for the Treasure hunter Mr Beasley...

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

US signs Cultural MOU with Egypt

US signs Cultural MOU with Egypt - restricting imports of Egyptian antiquities and helping combat looting and smuggling.
Under the agreement, the United States will impose import restrictions on archaeological material representing Egypt’s cultural heritage dating from 5200 B.C. through 1517 A.D. Restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for pillage and trafficking and are one of the many ways the United States is fighting the global market in illegal antiquities. The cultural property agreement [was] negotiated by the State Department under U.S. law implementing the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property,
Shockinglt, this is the first MOU between the US with its clunky 1980s selective implementation legislation and a country in the Middle East. Time for legislative change giving wider protection from one of world's largest market countries.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

A Review of the PAS Conference 2016

A Review of the PAS Conference 2016 - Alan Simkins It all looks to have been a bit pointless - a waste of time and public money, especially as there is no 'hard' product.
John Maloney from the NCMD [...] came over as an unpleasantly smug Trump-like bully – someone who is used to getting his own way and seeing no possible reason for that status quo to change. He started his talk by disparaging the efforts of the likes of David Gill and Paul Barford to debate some of the issues behind artefact collecting, and implied that figures used by critics of the hobby (such as those used by the Artefact Erosion Counter) have no substance in fact (as we know, the counter is based upon figures supplied by the NCMD, CBA et al). I suspect he came away from the conference very pleased with the cap-doffing shown to the metal detecting fraternity during the talks throughout the day. Very much a ‘you couldn’t do it without us’ attitude which was not pleasant to see.
I wonder though what a talk in such a tone has to do with 'can detectorists be archaeologists?' Certainly, when spokesmen for the milieu go on the stage at a national conference and persist in their denial of the very real issues that surround artefact collecting in the UK and elsewhere, you will not find much uptake for the idea that they can be archaeologists in any real sense of the word. He may not take the HA figures, the PAS recently has released their own (actually very similar) which indicate that while on average they record 80 000 objects in a year, around 190000 never get shown to the PAS in that same year, nearly three times as many. So about a third of the finders perhaps 'could' become archaeologists, two thirds are simply knowledge thieves and never will. According to this account, Mr Balony came along to the PAS conference apparently to defend the latter against their critics.

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