Thursday, 25 March 2021

P. Sapph. Obbink: A Publisher's Retraction


Brill has published a statement indicating a retraction on their published study of P. Sapph. Obbink [statement]. They cite Michael Sampson's work that has challenged the collecting history (the so-called 'provenance') of the papyrus. Have publishers realised, rather late in the day, that there are ethical and intellectual issues relating to the publication of material that has limited information about its origins?

Where does this leave the publication (by a major university press) of texts allegedly derived from "clandestine operations" at Selinous on Sicily? Incidentally, will the museum currently holding these texts be returning the rest of the dossier to Italy? (One text has already been returned.)

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Saturday, 13 March 2021

Parthenon marbles: British Prime Minister makes his position clear

Parthenon frieze in the British Museum © David Gill
The architectural sculptures from the Parthenon, part of the World Heritage Site of the Athenian Acropolis, have been part of an exchange instigated by the British Prime Minister. 

In an interview on Friday 12 March 2021, Boris Johnson stated ("Greek culture minister challenges British PM’s claims on Parthenon sculptures", ekatherimini.com 12 March 2021):
“the UK government has a firm longstanding position on the sculptures which is that they were legally acquired by Lord Elgin under the appropriate laws of the time and have been legally owned by the British Museum’s Trustees since their acquisition.”
The central issue is about whether these stunning sculptures should be displayed in Bloomsbury, or be placed within line of site of the building on which they were once an integral part of the sculptural scheme. The intention of the original sculptors was to integrate them within the decorative programme of a single building.


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Friday, 26 February 2021

EES Papyri: update


The EES has issued a statement about the missing papyri from its collection ("Museum of the Bible and missing EES papyri", 26 February 2021). 34 fragments acquired by the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) have now been returned or are in the process of being returned. These pieces had been removed from the EES collection by "a number of third parties". Who are these people who had access to the EES collection in Oxford? It appears that the police investigation continues. 

For previous press release from 14 October 2019.

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Saturday, 20 February 2021

Theft in Greece: surfacing in Athens, New York and Basel


Greek archaeologist Angelos Zardakas had identified a head looted from the Liopesi collection in 1967 (Marianna Kakaounaki, "The mystery of two looted heads", ekathermini.com, 18 February 2021).  It was identified in the Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Museum in Athens.

A companion piece, stolen from the same collection (also in 1967), had been identified in the 1990s from the Shelby White and Leon Levy collection; it has subsequently been returned to Greece and placed in storage in the National Archaeological Museum. 

A third piece from the same raid, "the top part of the funerary stele of Euthesion of Pallene that is currently on show at the Archaeological Museum of Basel in Switzerland", has yet to be returned to Greece even though it was identified back in 1971.

Who handled these pieces of sculpture? Which networks were used? When does Basel intend to return the stele?

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Saturday, 23 January 2021

The Medici Dossier and the Allard Pierson Museum



Image of Siana cup fragments
from Medici Dossier. Source: nrc.nl
Christos Tsirogiannis, Associate Professor at the University of Aarhus, has identified a Siana cup currently in the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam with images from the Medici Dossier (BAPD 16323). The cup, attributed to the Ainipylos painter, shows Aineas conversing. It surfaced at Sotheby's in London in an auction on 18 July 1985, lot 513. The sales in 1985 have yield other examples of toxic antiquities

The cup was placed on loan in the museum (inv. B 11.999). What is more interesting is that an additional fragment was supplied by Herbert Cahn (inv. 13.247; formerly HC 1468). The Medici polaroids show the cup in fragments as well as in a restored form. How did Cahn acquire his fragment?

The Allard Pierson Museum will no doubt be arranging the return of this cup to Italy.

Theo Toebosch, "Illegale vaas in collectie van Allard Pierson museum", nrc.nl 22 January 2021.

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Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Fragments attributed to the Berlin painter


What questions should we be considering when we study the fragments of Athenian red-figured pottery that are dispersed between different collections and museums? This short study takes the example of some five pieces attributed to the Berlin painter (BN3, BN9, BN12, BN29, BN38); two have been returned to Italy. When were these fragments moved to different collections? Who was involved? In the case of two of the pieces, the initial fragments were presented to the museum only to be followed by purchases from a different source. Such a pattern of acquisition is not confined to the Berlin painter.

This paper questions the position taken by James Cuno that scholars should not seek the clarify the "provenance" (I prefer "history") of such fragments. 

The fragments are a reminder of the information that has been lost by the unscientific removal of Athenian pottery from funerary and other archaeological contexts.

Gill, D. W. J. 2020. "Fragmented Athenian Pots and the Berlin Painter: Recent Breaks?" Academia Letters, Letter 40: 1–5. [DOI]


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Monday, 21 December 2020

Portable Finds and Roman Britain


My review of 50 Roman Finds from the Portable Antiquities Scheme (2020) has appeared in the latest number of the Journal of Art Crime. Several issues are explored including the accuracy of the find-spots.






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P. Sapph. Obbink: A Publisher's Retraction

Brill has published a statement indicating a retraction on their published study of P. Sapph. Obbink [ statement ]. They cite Michael Sampso...