Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Nostell Priory and Context Matters

Later this week I will be exploring the collecting history of an Attic black-glossed bolsal that formed part of the Nostell Priory collection inYorkshire. It probably formed part of an early 19th century collection in Italy. A study of the piece, with a companion in the British Museum, has reminded me of the importance of archaeological context. Where the was bolsal found? What were the associated objects? I doubt we shall ever know. It is possible to say something about the piece thanks to excavated examples from Athens.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Lee Rizzuto and the Getty

Among the objects to be appearing in the forthcoming exhibition exploring ancient Sicily at the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art is a terracotta given by Lee Rizzuto in 1979 (no. 119; inv. 79.AD.37).

In the same year Rizzuto gave a silver and gold bracelet that apparently came from Turkey (inv. 79.AM.36), a steatite goblet apparently from Turkey (inv. 79.AJ.51), an Anatolian pot with Geometric decoration (inv. 79.AJ.53), pots with Geometric decoration (inv. 79.AJ.49, 79.AJ.50), a silver beaker possibly from Iran (inv. 79.AJ.47), a Syro-hittite bronze statuette (inv. 79.AJ.44), a basalt half-figure (inv. 79.AJ.43), two steatite lamps apparently from Syria (inv. 79.AJ.45, 79.AJ.46), a bronze warrior possibly from Argos, Greece (inv. 79.AB.38), a Byzantine censer (inv. 79.AC.48),  and a series of Roman fresco fragments, some with a sphinx (inv. 79.AG.39, 79.AG.40, 79.AG.41.1, 79.AG.41.2, 79.AG.41.3, 79.AG.41.4, 79.AG.41.5, 79.AG.42).

What are the full collecting histories of these pieces? How were they acquired by Rizzuto?

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Max Gerchik and Sicily


The image chosen to publicise the upcoming exhibition, "Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome", at the Cleveland Museum of Art from September 2013 is a Sicilian terracotta head given to the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1976. The Getty has issued a checklist of the exhibits that includes items returned from North American collections to Italy.

We know that Dr Max Gerchik was the donor of at least one item that was returned to Italy. We also know that he was the donor of several inscribed lead plaques that were allegedly found at Selinus on Sicily.

Both the Cleveland Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum have had to return objects to Italy. Both museums will want to avoid any further controversial decisions.

So when did Gerchik acquire this "Head of a Goddess"? Did he acquire it on the Beverly Hills market? For how long did it reside in his collection? Was the head from an "old Swiss collection"? What is the full collecting history of this piece?

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

The ex-Steinhardt phiale from Sicily

Earlier this week I noted the forthcoming exhibition of antiquities from Sicily that will open at the J. Paul Getty Museum this summer. Part of the Morgantina silver hoard will be on display (after its return from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art). I am grateful to Fabio Isman for drawing my eye to another important piece in the exhibition: the gold phiale apparently found near Caltavuturo (no. 89).

The story of the phiale is well documented (and see images). It was seized from Michael Steinhardt and returned to Italy.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Paul Barford on East Anglia

Questions at UCS © David Gill
The UCS Heritage seminar welcomed Paul Barford to give a paper today. It was a good opportunity for me, and for those attending, to hear Paul articulate his views on the unrestricted hunt for portable archaeological objects. There appeared to be a mix of attendees from the archaeological service, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, museums, and the metal-detecting community.

My colleague Dr Ian Baxter and I were tweeting some of the key points. Here are some of them:

  • lack of clear conservation policy for the archaeological record
  • critical debate on artefact hunting missing from the archaeological community
  • the forum paper for the Papers of the Institute of Archaeology
  • under-reporting may be as high as 80% (though Norfolk may be as low as 25%)
  • the development and methodology of the Heritage Action counter
  • the disturbance of deep stratigraphy due to metal-detecting
  • the increasing use of metal-detectors that detect deeper and in a range of conditions
  • the intellectual consequences of loss of context
There was an extended time of questions, discussion and debate.
  • What could be done to improve the situation?
  • There seemed to be widespread dislike of the term 'treasure'. We were reminded that the focus is often on the metal rather than the archaeological importance.
  • Is legislative change important? Should reporting be compulsory?
  • Comparison was made with Greece where there are stricter controls and recording of finds. (This perspective was provided by Cambridge researcher Christos Tsirogiannis.)
  • Is the legal framework now outdated where once it was world leading?
  • 10% of archaeological sites in Suffolk known from metal-detecting.
  • The importance of the 30 year relationship that had been developed between the archaeological and metal-detecting communities in East Anglia.
  • The impact of potato crops on archaeological sites.
  • Should PAS-style reporting be introduced for countries like Iraq?
  • English Heritage advice on metal-detecting.
  • Representative collections to be held by museums; acceptance of private collections.
  • Where should financial resources be directed in the present financial climate?
  • Positive media coverage of PAS.
  • ITV's 'Britain's Secret Treasures'should be seen as 'entertainment' rather than a factual programme.
  • The Crosby Garrett helmet and the failure to close loopholes in the present system.
  • The amount of money paid for treasure finds (and apparent lack of transparency).
  • The scheduling of archaeological sites (and areas around 'hoard' findspots). This led to a short discussion of the area where the Staffordshire Hoard was found.
These points should give a flavour of the paper as well as the subsequent discussion. They do not necessarily cover all of Paul's points or all of the questions.

I felt that the seminar brought together a range of positions in the debate. Paul offered a voice that is so often marginalised, overlooked or silenced. I very much hope that he will turn his notes into a published version.


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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Unsustainable digging around?

Questions at UCS. © David Gill
It was good to discuss Paul Barford's forthcoming UCS Heritage Seminar with him yesterday. [All welcome at the seminar tomorrow, but please book in the normal way.] One of the topics is going to be the unsustainable damage to largely unrecorded archaeological sites. What knowledge is being lost?

One of the more unexpected lines of thought was the way that finds of recently surfaced portable antiquities are merely showing up as a scatter on maps. How far is this a useful way to think about context?

We also reflected on "public archaeology" and the media. How far do programmes that present archaeology as a hunt for "Secret Treasures" do our discipline harm?

There will be time for discussion, questions and answers at the end of Paul's presentation. It would be good to see readers of LM present in the audience.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Sicily at the Getty

Head of Hades, about 400 - 300 B.C.
Source: J. Paul Getty Museum inv. 85.AD.105
The Getty has issued a list of the objects due to appear in its exhibition on Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome. [details]

The pieces from the Getty are (with some additional information supplied by me):

23. Incense Burner Supported by Nike. 86.AD.681. [no. 5] 'Restored from a number of fragments'. 'European Art Market'. [Which dealer?]

92. Head of Hades. From Morgantina. 85.AD.105. Formerly Robin Symes; Maurice Temepelsman. The head will be returning to Italy.

93. Head of goddess. 76.AD.34. Gift of Max Gerchik.

96. Footed dinos attributed to the Syleus Painter. 89.AE.73. [no. 5]. Attribution by J.R. Guy. 'Reconstructed from fragments'. 'European Art Market'. [Which dealer?]

98. Disk with a Head of Medusa (Oscillum). 71.AD.255.

106. Statuette of a woman with child. 71.AD.347

109. Statuette of a pig. 78.AD.346. Gift of David Collins.

117. Apulian Krater fragment attributed to the Black Fury Group. 86.AE.417. [no. 7] 'Walter and Molly Bareiss Collection'. [Bareiss no. 44, checklist no. 221] Attribution by A.D. Trendall.
 
119. Statuette of Odysseus under a ram. 79.AD.37. Gift of Lee Rizzuto.

121. Mixing Vessel with Odysseus under a ram. 96.AE.303. Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. [Fleischman no. 289.]

135. Comic Mask of a Satyr. 96.AD.305. Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. [Fleischman no. 291.]

142. Statuette of a Dancer Playing the Lyre. 73.AD.151

144. Sicilian Calyx krater attributed to the Group of Louvre K240. 96.AE.30. Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. [Fleischman no. 64.]

It is significant that the Head of Hades (no. 92) is included. But what collecting histories will be provided for nos. 23 and 96? And what about the sources for nos 121, 135, and 144? Or no. 93?

The exhibition appears to be including the Morgantina silver hoard now in Aidone.


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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Coin Dealer Indicted

The FBI have issued a press release about the indictment of a North American coin dealer on tax charges ("Coin Dealer Formerly from Hackensack Indicted on Federal Tax Charges", April 2, 2013).
[Gantcho] Zagorski owned and operated a business that sold ancient coins to domestic and international customers, primarily on eBay, from his residence in Hackensack. Zagorski, along with his wife and, at times, his daughter, operated the coin-selling business under the names Diana Coins, Paganecoins, and Diana Coins LLC. For calendar years 2006, 2007, and 2008, Zagorski provided his tax preparer with false and fraudulent information by understating the amount of gross receipts and sales earned by his business. Zagorski then caused to be filed with the IRS those federal income tax returns for 2006, 2007, and 2008 containing that false and fraudulent information.
It will be interesting to see what else emerges from this case.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Portable Antiquities of East Anglia

Paul Barford will be leading a session for the UCS Heritage Seminar in April. Members of the seminar can look forward to a lively debate.

All welcome but attendees should contact Julie Barber (details on poster).




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