Monday, August 31, 2009
So coins are "pouring out of the ground" (for which understand being found in large numbers by metal-deectorists), and "buckets and Tupperware boxes that amateur archaeologists and metal detectorists fill with battered, corroded, base-metal coins and other finds".
The same report tells us that there are 180,000 metal-detectorists in Britain and that there are 50,000 new recorded finds every year. So if each metal-detectorist is gaining a full "grot pot" (say) once a month, we must must be talking in terms of hundereds of thousands of unrecorded finds every year. The report coincides with the recording of the 400,000th find. In other words this represents some 3 finds for each metal-detectorist for the life of PAS.
The PAS perhaps needs to speak about the scale of what is not being recorded and the information that is being lost.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
The PNG defines itself as follows:
The Professional Numismatists Guild, Inc. is the only numismatic organization in the United States that restricts its membership to dealers who possess and demonstrate three essential qualifications: Knowledge, Integrity and Responsibility.
Robert Brueggeman, the Executive Director of PNG (and of Positive Protection Inc. [as stated on the PNG website]), is quoted:
The PNG Board of Directors unanimously agreed to contribute the funds to assist IAPN in its lobbying efforts to combat unfair import restrictions. We are concerned that overzealous Customs Bureau agents may unfairly misconstrue even well-meaning regulations by mistakenly claiming that any undocumented ancient coin is a stolen cultural property artifact of another country.Paul Montgomery, the new President of PNG (and President of Paul Montgomery and Associates of Houston, Texas) says:
This is a frustrating and ironic situation ... The U.S. already has agreements with Cyprus and China that hinder the importation of coins that may have widely circulated centuries ago and, in fact, are now easily available for purchase by the public in those countries. Yet, Customs officials are seemingly doing nothing to stop the egregious importation into the U.S. of counterfeit coins from China and elsewhere.The PNG is now offering to support "the work" (i.e. "to oppose irrational bans on the importation of coins into the United States") with $12,000.
The Belgium-based International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) has yet, as far as I can see, to make a formal statement on its own website; however, a press release was posted on the ACCG website in December 2007.
The PNG goes further in its press statement.
PNG and IAPN officials are concerned about efforts by the Archaeological Institute of America to train Customs inspectors to detect and seize coins suspected of being imported in violation of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.What this means is that officers of the PNG and the European-based IAPN hold the view that US Customs inspectors cannot receive specialist training to detect potentially "stolen" archaeological material. Why? Are there commercial concerns?
The issue is explained by "attorney Peter K. Tompa of the Washington, D.C. law firm of Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC." (I note that Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC appears to be "retained" by the IAPN and the PNG.)
The use of trainers from the archaeological community with ‘an axe to grind’ against professional numismatists and collectors carries with it the danger that unfair enforcement will actually result ... Historical coins have been traded for at least 500 years as collectibles and traditionally have no provenance track record, other than relatively recent sales receipts. It is unreasonable to assume that a coin is ‘stolen’ or illegally imported merely because the holder can not establish a chain of custody beyond receipt from a reputable source.It is worth reflecting on the archaeological material that had (to use Tompa's phrase) "no provenance track record" which has been returned to Italy and Greece (see the names of North American institutions listed in the Nostoi exhibition). Why?
And how many of those archaeological items now returned to Rome and Athens had been acquired from so-called "reputable sources"?
- Italy seeking to claim antiquities held as assets
- Dispersal of assets begins
- Rutelli and cultural diplomacy
- Nostoi list
- The Berlin Hatshepsut
- Cleveland Museum of Art
- Malibu, The J. Paul Getty Museum
- Malibu, The J. Paul Getty Museum list
- Minneapolis Institute of Art
- New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
- New York - figure in memory of Christo Michailidis
- University of Virginia Art Museum in Charlottesville
- Bronze figure
- Shelby White and Leon Levy
- Shelby White returns antiquities to Italy
- Bronze kouros
- Stanford Place collection
- Tempelsman collection
- Bronze sold at auction
- Reaction to disrupted sale
- Apulian krater withdrawn from sale
- Krater in sale
- Press reaction to Symes material at sale
- Library for sale
- Bonhams respond to Rutelli
- Bonhams urged to halt sale
- Rutelli on Symes
- Appearance of krater in forthcoming sale
Detail of Apulian krater once in the 'Robin Symes collection'
Friday, August 21, 2009
Looting Matters: Where are the Sculptures Stolen from Albania?
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
a. Portrait of Livia (BAM inv 9). Stolen from Butrint in 1991; said to have been in Greece and then Switzerland; by 1995 said to be in the possession of Robert Hecht and appeared in From a North American Collection of Ancient Art; allegedly offered to the Glypothek in Munich; portrait returned by dealer in 2000.Some archaeological material is still missing, e.g. the Mercury leaning on a Herm. So it is important for us to understand the routes by which these seven pieces passed into the market. Some appear to have moved through Greece. At least one passed through Switzerland; who handled it? And who consigned the Asklepios to the London market? (Apparently the papers detailing the transaction were passed to authorities in Italy.)
b-d. Three heads: Agrippa (BAM inv. 583); young woman (BAM inv. 50); head from Herculaneum type figure (BAM inv. 584). Stolen from Butrint in 1991; seized at Koropi, Attica (Greece). Heads returned in 2003.
e. A female figure possibly of Artemis. Stolen from Butrint in 1991; seized at Koropi, Attica (Greece); returned in 2008.
f. A fragmentary statue of Apollo (1.2 m) (BAM inv. 4). Stolen from Butrint in 1991; seized at Koropi, Attica (Greece); returned in 2008.
g. Head of Asklepios (BAM inv. 60). Stolen 1991; sold at Christie's in London at an auction on July 6, 1996, lot 430; seized from Massimo Rossi collection in Italy in 2005; returned in 2009. [earlier comment]
Two Greek nationals are reported to have been jailed in 2004 for their part in the business.
Norman Hammond, "Two heads of Livia are better than one", The Times (London) April 3, 2001.
Oliver Gilkes, "How the Goddess lost her head: the myth and reality of the looting of Butrint", Culture Without Context 10 (2002).
"Greece returns stolen statues to Albania: ministry", Agence France Presse, February 7, 2008.
For more recent coverage:
Besar Likmeta, "Stolen Antiquities Face Difficult Journey Home", June 12, 2009. [Available here]
I cannot say more about the episode as it would spoil it. Readers of 'Looting Matters' will see why it is of interest.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Ancient coins are among the most abundant finds from Greek and Roman period excavations. As objects of daily life, they're an essential part of the archaeological and historical record. At the same time, huge demand for fresh sources of ancient coins makes such finds susceptible to illicit sale. The looting of coins and other portable antiquities to meet market demand vandalizes archaeological sites and forever erases knowledge that could otherwise have been preserved.
SAFE is therefore pleased to announce the launch of the Coin Matters resource page listing resources relating to the trade in ancient coins, including links or citations to peer-reviewed articles, books, and lectures. There are also several media reports on the subject from affected countries, notably from Bulgaria.
We seek papers that posit or contest African ownership of its cultural patrimony in the dual contexts of the relationship between African artworks in their contemporary locations (Western museums, Western private collections, the art historical construction of meanings), and the history of their origins as part of communities of objects, whose use in religious, ritual, secular, and social space formed part of knowledge systems and cultural heritage of particular African peoples. We particularly encourage submissions that interrogate the commodification of African cultural patrimony and cultural identities in the context of global capital, and examine the representational, legal, political, and cultural positions that support or deny African claims to ownership of historical art objects as relevant aspects of contemporary African cultural patrimony.Details here.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
This meticulously researched and convincingly argued book is a damning indictment against the US (and British) cultural policy in Iraq during the 2003 invasion. Having interviewed 28 key players, Rothfield leaves no stone unturned in his unearthing of the shenanigans that went on behind the scenes in the run-up to the invasion. ...
The Rape of Mesopotamia is an important book and one that should be read by anyone interested in the Iraq War, US foreign policy or modern history, as well as by members of the cultural heritage community. ...
Monday, August 10, 2009
Hitchens argues for the reunification of the sculptures that were intended to be seen as a unity. These would be displayed in the Acropolis Museum adjacent to the acropolis.
Cuno suggests that the sculptures could be 'reunified anywhere', and that London was just as good as Athens. (Hitchens can be heard saying, 'What about Glasgow?'). Cuno observes that the Parthenon sculptures in London are displayed in the context of world cultures. He also argues for the changing role of the Parthenon through time as Greece became part of the Roman Empire and then the building itself was converted in a church and then a mosque. He talks about the Pericleian temple as a 'fantasy of a building' and at times speaks as if it was the Parthenon itself that was to be restored.
Hitchens responded with a reminder that the Parthenon sculptures are a 'narrative in stone' that at the moment are displayed at 'opposite ends of the European Union'.
Cuno returned to his well used them of the Encyclopedic Museum and the theme of nationalism. He talks about the clearing - he uses the word 'cleansing' - of the Athenian acropolis in the early decades of the Greek state as an example of 'nationalist ambitions of a modern nation state'. He even suggests that such tidying up of the acropolis was 'desecration'. At times Cuno seemed to be speaking as if he he was a spokesperson for the British Museum.
In my view Hitchens was the more convincing speaker especially with his case for the reunification of the sculptures.
Friday, August 7, 2009
The programme has been made in collaboration with Volodya Velkov who is in charge of a team tasked with addressing the trade in cultural property. Velkov claims "Between 30000 and 33000 people are involved in treasure hunting in Bulgaria".
Protection for archaeological material is now provided by the Cultural Heritage Act (April 2009).
A detailed survey of the issue is provided by Ivan Dikov, who provided material for O'Shea ("Bulgaria: an Archaeology and Treasure Hunting Paradise. Or Hell", novinite.com July 31, 2009).
The story of Bulgaria's treasure hunting issue is simultaneously simple and complex, and hard to tell. But here is a start: thousands of people with pickaxes, shovels, metal detectors, and bulldozers (!!!) have been destroying the global cultural heritage located on Bulgarian territory for the last twenty years, indiscriminately, at a breakneck speed, searching for coins, necklaces, rings, statues, vessels; gold, silver, bronze; weapons, books, artifacts...There is a description of recent looting at the Roman city Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria.
... about 11 am, broad daylight, when we saw a group of 4-5 treasure hunters digging amidst the hills and craters at the southern part of Ratiaria, and rushed to catch up with them in order to try to talk to them, fearing that they might escape as they become aware of our presence.The discussion highlights the way that the site of the Roman settlement has not been seen as a potential attraction for tourists:
It turned out that they had not seen us, and that our archaeologist friend and I surprised them on the spot. We were just as surprised, however, when it turned out that they had dug holes that were some 2-3 meters deep, that and about twice as many people climbed out of the holes as their accomplices on the surface raised alarm.
I counted at least 12 people, including one woman, clearly local people from the village, and clearly aware of what they were doing. We managed to calm them down for a minute as we quickly said we were not the police, and that we wanted to make no trouble.
The scale of the theft and the destruction, and the loss of Bulgaria's cultural heritage, and the potential loss of what could be millions of dollars of tourist revenue that's really striking...Dikov also has an interview with O'Shea ("Australian Journalist David O'Shea: Treasure Hunting Is National Tragedy for Bulgaria", novinite.com July 31, 2009). O'Shea comments:
The real tragedy in a place like Ratiaria is that the people searching for treasure are looking for a couple of bucks here and there, where what they could be doing is sitting in a thriving tourist center. There could be hotels, and bars, and restaurants, and tourists everywhere just like there are in Rome, or Athens. That's the real tragedy. Instead, those people are sitting around, complaining that they've got no money, and that they are forced to go hunting for treasure, and the state appears to be doing very little about it, and the police are clearly not serious about it. It is a tragedy.Such a programme is timely. Some numismatists have drawn attention to the problems of destruction at Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria and trade in coins from Bulgaria. Nathan Elkins commented:
In 1999, Frankfurt customs officials intercepted a shipment of 60kg of ancient coins from Bulgaria, bound for a New York airport and ultimately to a New Jersey address, which had been falsely declared. Scholarly numismatists were called in to examine the shipment which contained about 20,000 coins. Some of the coins had been partially cleaned already and had been divided up according to their relative market value, with smaller and more common coins left dirtier. Research by these numismatists indicated that only a small fraction of this particular shipment would have sold for over €100,000 in the auction market. Investigation by Frankfurt customs officials showed that in the previous weeks and months the individual in question shipped approximately one metric ton (literally) of material through Frankfurt airport to the United States before this parcel was inspected. The individual in question is a known supplier and dealer of ancient coins in the United States.Let us hope that the Dateline programme can encourage the greater protection of Bulgaria's rich archaeological heritage.
One metric ton would be about 350,000 ancient coins. To put this in perspective the largest scholarly archive of ancient coin finds, Fundmünzen der römischen Zeit in Deutschland, only inventories around 300,000 to 350,000 coins. These inventories have been published regularly since 1960 and represents the full time work of several scholars who inventory finds from old and new excavations, casual finds, hoards, and local collections. Essentially the individual in question smuggled as much in a very short amount of time as nearly 50 years of full time work cataloguing hundreds of archaeological and historically significant sites in Germany. But of course, gangs of metal detectorists move much more quickly than archaeologists. Even the largest public collections of ancient coins in the world (e.g. the British Museum and the American Numismatic Society) contain around c. 350,000 coins. The level of destruction represented by this one wholesaler is ghastly.
For further information about the protection of Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria see here.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I am grateful to Washington attorney Peter Tompa for pointing out that my usage, as previously outlined, was overly restrictive and does not accord with the legal definition of “stolen” established in the U.S. courts. Nor does it accord with the U.K. law. My personal position, as a British citizen, is informed by UK legislation and in particular The Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003. (Note: the Act does not cover Scotland.)
The guidance notes to the Act make it clear that the legislation was created to make
"a criminal offence of trading in cultural property in designated categories from designated countries which had been stolen, illegally excavated or illegally exported from those countries" (3).So let me take a hypothetical example. Imagine a fourth century BCE cemetery in Italy ripped apart by mechanical diggers in order to obtain some Apulian pots. (I am not sure "illegally excavated" quite describes the process.) The Apulian pots are then illegally transported across the Italian border to Switzerland. In the next stage the pots are offered for sale in, say, London.
My understanding is that anyone knowingly dealing in such objects would be committing an offence under The Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003. The pots had been removed in an illicit way from their archaeological context and then been removed from their country of origin.
Tompa points to the Archaeological Institute of America's comment,
many countries that are rich in archaeological resources have enacted national ownership laws. This means that any antiquity in the ground at the time the ownership law was enacted is the property of the nation. If such an artifact is dug up and removed from the country without permission it is stolen property, and remains so even after it is brought to the United States. Those objects should be dealt with in the same way as one would treat any other stolen property.These principles are derived from the decision, United States v. Schultz.
The issue is helpfully explained by Patty Gerstenblith, "The McClain/Schultz doctrine: another step against trade in stolen antiquities", Culture Without Context 13 (Autumn 2003). She drew attention to the importance of United States v. McClain, a case relating to antiquities from Mexico. The more significant case was United States v. Schultz linked specifically to archaeological material from Egypt. The issue, as Gerstenblith has presented it ("Recent developments in the legal protection of cultural heritage", in Neil Brodie, Morag M. Kersel, Christina Luke and Kathryn Walker-Tubb (eds.), Archaeology, Cultural Heritage, and the Antiquities Trade (University Press of Florida, 2006) 71), can be summarised as follows:
After two lengthy hearings on these questions, the court issued its opinion in January 2002, holding that property taken in violation of a national ownership law is still stolen property, even after entering the United States.There were implications for those who dealt with recently surfaced archaeological material. The court made a statement (333 F.3d, at 410 quoted in Gerstenblith, "Recent developments", 72-73):
Although we recognize the concerns raised by Schultz and the amici about the risks that this holding poses to dealers in foreign antiquities, we cannot imagine that it "creates an insurmountable barrier to the lawful importation of cultural property into the United States." Our holding does assuredly create a barrier to the importation of cultural property owned by a foreign government. We see no reason that property stolen from a foreign sovereign should be treated any differently from property stolen from a foreign museum or private home. The mens rea requirement of the NSPA will protect innocent art dealers who unwittingly receive stolen goods, while our appropriately broad reading of the NSPA will protect the property of sovereign nations.I respect the US court decision in the way that it interprets the word "stolen".
Where do we move from here? The debate needs to revolve around how to safeguard our cosmopolitan past.
Let me close with a further quote from Gerstenblith ("Recent developments", 74):
The clear message that [the Schultz] decision sends to the art market community should decrease the desire to trade in undocumented antiquities and thereby reduce the incentives for the initial looting of sites.I share that desire.
Monday, August 3, 2009
The AAMD needed to react to the bad publicity generated by five of its members having to return antiquities to Italy (and in one case Greece):
- Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
- The Cleveland Museum of Art
- Malibu, The J. Paul Getty Museum
- New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Princeton University Art Museum
AAMD members are understandably sensitive. They do not want to be facing similar bad publicity.
But now collectors are concerned. How can they sell, donate or bequeath their collections of antiquities to North American institutions? And remember that some major North American collectors have been associated with the returns to Italy.
The issue has been raised by a research project ("issue") of the Cultural Property Research Institute. The CPRI seeks to determine "the number of artistically and academically significant, privately-owned objects in the United States that are currently excluded from acquisition by US museums". The issue is explained:
Even as the number of “orphan objects” – those that cannot by self-rule be acquired or accepted as loans by US museums – continues to grow, so does the need for accurate data on the nature and volume of such material in private collections and on the US market. The CPRI will seek to develop a methodology that can help determine the number of significant orphan objects in a particular cultural/historical area, with a view toward establishing credible order-of-magnitude figures, over time, for all cultural/historical areas. Initial conclusions will be published on the CPRI website by the end of 2009. Comments will be invited.Here is my comment.
If the number of "orphaned objects" continues to grow, it can only mean that private collectors are continuing to buy recently surfaced objects that have no documented and authenticated collecting history that can be traced back to 1970.
And these private collectors continue to augment their collection either because they are unaware of the ethical issues or because they have been advised by third parties to continue buying.
I have done quantified research in this area with Christopher Chippindale. What is interesting is that two of the North American private collections highlighted by our study published in the American Journal of Archaeology proved to contain items that have been returned to Italy. So there does appear to be an issue for objects with no documented histories.
Of course some objects sitting in attics will have been "known" well before 1970. But we also need to accept that newly surfaced can sometimes mean recently looted.
So why does the CPRI want to undertake this research? What are the aims of the project?
The CPRI intends to publish initial conclusions by the end of 2009 (less than five months away). My experience of working with such data makes me think that this is an ambitious target.
How are these private collectors to be identified? Will there be photographs and images on the CPRI website? Will the collecting histories of the objects be provided?
But what are private collectors to do? Would they consider making gifts to the countries where the objects are likely to have been found? Perhaps they could add a donation towards display and conservation.
There are some helpful shots showing the scale of looting. Michael Müller-Karpe discusses some of the issues.
In December 2008 I presented a chart showing the median value of lots of Egyptian antiquities sold at Sotheby's New York. I have updated it in the light of the June 2009 sale. The trend seems to be firmly downwards.
66.7% of the Egyptian lots sold since 1998 were first known after 1973.
But isn't the "Mother of All" such "factoids" in the cultural property debate the insinuation by members of the archaeological community like Prof. Gill that undocumented artifacts "must be stolen?"I would have hoped that Tompa as a trained lawyer would be precise in his use of language. My use of the word "stolen" is normally applied to:
- objects stolen from a museum (e.g. Corinth, Baghdad, museums in Italy)
- objects stolen from archaeological stores or similar holding areas (e.g. Egypt, Italy, Libya)
- objects stolen from a private collection
- objects stolen from a monument at a recorded archaeological site (e.g. the eye of Amenhotep III, part of an Egyptian tomb decoration)
For me "stolen" implies "obtained by theft" (OED).
Tompa also draws attention to "undocumented artifacts". But let us be more precise. I often use the phrase "recently surfaced antiquities" (or something similar) to indicate objects that have appeared in a museum, private collection, auction or some other sale that do not have authenticated documentation that allows the collecting history to be traced back to 1970 (see "The 1970 rule"). (Christopher Chippindale and I had been using 1973 as our benchmark but for these purposes let us use 1970 as the date now adopted by the AAMD.) Objects that surfaced prior to 1970 deserve to be treated in a different way to those that have surfaced post 1970.
At the same time 1970 should not be used to ignore national laws that have earlier dates or indeed claims on significant cultural property. This category could contain the Benin bronzes, the Rosetta stone, the Parthenon sculptures, or bronzes removed from China. However it should be noted that such objects normally have some documentation or collecting history. For example, we know that the Parthenon sculptures were displayed on a marble temple constructed on the Athenian acropolis during the 440s and 430 BCE.
In our 2000 paper, "Material consequences of contemporary classical collecting", published in the American Journal of Archaeology, Chippindale and I drew attention to the lack of collecting histories in a range of private European and North American private collections. Our research was indeed significant as objects from two of the collections discussed by us have now been returned to Italy; items from one of these two collections have been returned to Greece.
And why have these objects been returned to Italy and Greece? Is it because they have undocumented histories?
Tompa knows this is not the answer.
It is because there is documentary evidence and, in some (perhaps all) cases, photographs of the pieces. Some of this information was seized in raids in the Geneva Freeport.
Tompa, as an attorney, knows that museums and private individuals would not hand over objects to foreign governments unless there was some kind of evidence. He will also have observed that these cases did not come to court. Amicable agreements were made with the institutions and individuals.
But back to Tompa's "mother of all factoids". Are members of the archaeological community, including myself, insinuating that undocumented artifacts "must be stolen"?
I can only speak for myself. But the answer has to be "no".
Is Tompa presenting the views of the archaeological community in an accurate way?
Archaeologists are raising concerns about the looting of archaeological sites.
Red figure loutrophoros (ceramic), attributed to the Darius Painter. South Italian, Apulian, ca. 335-325 B.C. One of four objects to be transferred in title to the Italian government but to remain on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum.