Monday 31 December 2012

Looking back over 2012

Source: MiBAC
January 2012 started with some extraordinary events: the numismatic raid in New York city (the dealer later submitted a guilty plea), the announcement that Princeton University Art Museum would return antiquities to Italy, and the return of  pottery fragments once owned by Dietrich von Bothmer, as well as a bronze from a New York dealer. The Princeton returns appear to have made Maxwell Anderson scrutinise earlier acquisitions by Dallas, and several items were returned later in the year. Other museums linked to the same dealer have also come to light. Other material that were auctioned in New York were also returned to Italy. In spite of this former Medici material continued to appear in New York. The Toledo Museum of Art joined other major North American museums in sending material back to Italy. The Getty returned material once handled by Robin Symes.

At the same time the Cleveland Museum of Art is attempting to undermine the AAMD guidelines over recent acquisitions of antiquities.

Turkey has started to suggest that various museums return antiquities. These include New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. A dealer in North America has submitted a guilty plea in a case relating to Egyptian antiquities. A mosaic has been returned from Dallas.

In July a seizure of Indian antiquities in New York opened up a global search for objects linked with a specific dealer. This has had implications for museums in Australia. There have also been revelations about Cambodian antiquities.

The appearance of a dodgy papyrus from Egypt alos caused great concern.

There have been thefts from major archaeological collections, such as Olympia in Greece. Arrests were made later in the year.

In Britain the Portable Antiquities Scheme were involved in an unfortunate programme about "Secret Treasures". Yet there continues to be an issue with Heritage Crime in England.

Robert Hecht, a figure associated with recently surfaced antiquities, died during the year.

What will 2013 hold?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Saturday 29 December 2012

Flooded archaeological landscapes

© David Gill
Britain has been the subject of one of the wettest years since records began. Parts of the country have sustained very heavy rainfall including the archaeologically rich landscapes in Wiltshire.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Friday 28 December 2012

"Getting the message across"

Panel in Lincoln © David Gill
Roman Lincoln has played a significant part in my career. I can remember visiting the old City Museum as a child. The rows of finds inspired me to find out more (and I also came across Current Archaeology for the first time and have been a subscriber ever since!).

I was back in Lincoln for a conference this summer (to give a paper on the Aegean archaeologist Dr Winifred Lamb) and popped over to see the new museum ("The Collection"). At the heart of the displays were some panels explaining how material comes out of the ground.

I think that the caption (see in the displays) gets the message across.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Monday 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas!

The Monastery at Koziba © David Gill
I would like to wish all readers of LM a very Happy Christmas!

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Saturday 22 December 2012

Looted cemetery provides life sentence

Looting in a cemetery in northern Greece has provided two Greek men with a life sentence ("2 Greeks Jailed for Life Over Illegal Antiquities", AFP December 21, 2012). Some 70 objects were $15.85 million were involved. The gold masks, iron swords, and other objects are reminiscent of the 6th century BC finds from Sindos.

Two other individuals were also given extended sentences.

This story reminds us that the Greek authorities are taking a firm position over looting.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Friday 21 December 2012

Cambodian statues in New York

Kneeling Attendant
New York MMA 1987.410 / 1992.390.1
I have made a point of not commenting on the discussions about the Cambodian sculptures and the claims on them. However there is clearly a parallel with my main research interests in the classical world. We are seeing objects that are being reconstructed from separate donations over several years, a pattern seen for material returned to Italy. There are more detail discussions elsewhere, such as Chasing Aphrodite, and the New York Times.

So just for interest I note:
a. Kneeling male figure, Cambodia, Angkor Period. New York, MMA 1987.410 (head), gift of Spink & Son Ltd. and Douglas Latchford, in honor of Martin Lerner; 1992.390.1 (body), gift of Douglas Latchford, in honor of Martin Lerner. Bibl. Annual Report of the Trustees of the MMA 118 (1987/88) 19 ['A.N. Gardner and D. Latchford, in honor of Martin Lerner']; 'Curatorial Reports and Departmental Acquisitions', Annual Report of the Trustees of the MMA 123 (1992/93) 18 (list); Martin Lerner, 'Recent acquisitions: a selection 1992-1993', MMA Bulletin ns 51, 2 (1993) 93 (ill.); Martin Lerner, 'Introduction', MMA Bulletin ns 51, 4 (1994) 14 (ill.). [The Arts of South and Southeast Asia]
"The most significant gift to the South and Southeast Asia collections in 1992 was undoubtedly  rare pair of large Cambodian kneeling male figures dating to the first half of the tenth century ... It is particularly gratifying that the monumental bodies join up with heads already in the collection."
b. Kneeling male figure, Cambodia, Angkor Period. New York, MMA 1989.100 (head), gift of Raymond G. and Milla Louise Handley [and reportedly purchased from Spink]; 1992.390.2 (body), gift of Douglas Latchford, in honor of Martin Lerner. Bibl. Annual Report of the Trustees of the MMA 119 (1988/89) 19 (list).; 'Curatorial Reports and Departmental Acquisitions', Annual Report of the Trustees of the MMA 123 (1992/93) 18 (list).

c. Head of Buddha, Cambodian, Khmer period, stone. New York MMA 1983.551. Gift of Douglas Latchford. Bibl. Annual Report of the Trustees of the MMA 114 (1983/84) 33 (list)

For other Latchford gifts in New York:
d. Seated Bodhistattva, Nepali. New York MMA 1989.237.1. Gift of Spink & Son Ltd. and Douglas A.J. Latchford. Annual Report of the Trustees of the MMA 120 (1989/90) 15.
e. Standing Bodhistavva Maitreya, Thai. New York MMA 1989.237.2. Gift of Spink & Son Ltd. and Douglas A.J. Latchford. Annual Report of the Trustees of the MMA 120 (1989/90) 15.
f. Plaque with a figure standing in a portal, Gandhara. New York MMA 1989.237.3. Gift of Spink & Son Ltd. and Douglas A.J. Latchford. Annual Report of the Trustees of the MMA 120 (1989/90) 15.

Image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Thursday 20 December 2012

Dallas: don't mention the auction-house ...

Source: DMA
The details surrounding the returning Campanian calyx-krater from the Dallas Museum of Art to Italy are not without interest. It was acquired from Ward & Co., but was returned to Italy due to "Evidence including photographs confiscated by the Carabinieri from Becchina’s warehouses in Basel, Switzerland". Its collecting history was said to have been a Swiss private collection.

Like another returning Apulian krater it was linked to Gianfranco Becchina. Both kraters now have a statement that includes this detail: "In April 2012 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized two works that were associated with the investigation of Becchina." It looks as if the original statement has now been edited.

I wonder if the statement remains slightly inaccurate. Is it because objects were returned to Italy in April 2012 after being seized at an earlier point by ICE? There is a more detailed discussion of the seizure here.

But why did DMA originally name the New York auction-house? And why have they now removed its name? Is it because these two ex-Dallas kraters have a similarly "clear provenance" as the antiquities in New York?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Tuesday 18 December 2012

The Encyclopedic Museum

Metropolitan Museum of Art © David Gill
The topic for the UCS Heritage Group in January 2013 will be the Encyclopedic Museum. All welcome.

If readers of LM would like to participate via videolink please let me know.

UPDATE: There will be a link via GoToMeeting. Please contact me in early January for connection details.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Monday 17 December 2012

Heritage Crime matters in Suffolk

I have noticed that there continues to be much discussion about the removal of archaeological objects from previously unknown sites (or even scheduled ones) in England and Wales. I note that this is of particular concern in Suffolk where Councillor Guy MacGregor is quoted:
"Theft and vandalism of Suffolk’s rich and irreplaceable heritage is on the increase. Heritage crime blights communities and must be stopped, which is why I am delighted to commit Suffolk County Council to this new initiative to work alongside local communities, farmers, landowners, the police and English Heritage to tackle it and protect Suffolk's heritage." 
Suffolk now has now signed up to a Heritage Crime initiative. And how is heritage crime defined for Suffolk?
Heritage crimes in Suffolk have included metal detecting during night time raids on the Roman town in Icklingham and on Anglo-Saxon cemeteries, as well as the theft of lead from church roofs and ancient oak chests from inside them. 
Other heritage crimes include damaging ancient monuments, metal detecting and unlawful excavations on archaeological sites spraying graffiti, arson, vandalism, and the alteration or demolition of listed buildings without consent.
So in 2012 there continue to be concerns for the much discussed site of Icklingham, source of the Roman bronzes currently owned by a well-known New York collector of antiquities.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Dallas, Almagià and the anonymous English collection

Apulian krater returned to Italy
Source: DMA
In January this year I noted that the Apulian krater attributed to the Underworld painter was linked to Edoardo Almagià. It was disclosed that the krater had first surfaced in 1989, and that it had formed part of an anonymous English collection.

The statement now issued by the Dallas Museum of Art confirms that the krater first surfaced in 1989 when it was published by K. von Schauenburg ('Herakles Bei Atlas', Archäologischer Anzeiger [1989], p. 24, figs. 1–2). Dallas also confirms that it had been in an English collection. Which one? Was it a private collection or a body of antiquities held by a dealer?

The return of further Apulian figure-decorated pots reminds us of the extensive damage sustained to the funerary record of southern Italy. It also vindicates the research of Ric Elia, whose careful and methodical research was attacked in a conveniently lost memorandum submitted by a senior British museum curator.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Dallas and Almagià: don't mention the other museum

Source: DMA
I am grateful to a New York reader of LM who has pointed out that the Dallas Museum of Art statement about the links with Edoardo Almagià has been edited. The name of a curator and the name of a major university museum have been removed (see here).

Does this mean the other institution will be offering a detailed statement about its associations with Almagià? Will it be providing a detailed list of all objects derived (by purchase, gift or loan) from this source?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Saturday 8 December 2012

Potts: "we must stop the looting"

Timothy Potts, now at the J. Paul Getty Museum, has given an extensive interview for the LA Times (December 8, 2012). The interview suggests that he has shifted his position from his earlier one:
At the Kimbell, Potts became known for his unpopular stance in the heated debates over cultural patrimony. In 2004 he worked with Cuno on a committee of the Assn. of Art Museum Directors to draw up guidelines for museum acquisitions of antiquities — guidelines many felt were too lax considering the volume of potentially illicit material pursued by museums. At the time, he was one of the youngest voices joining old-guard museum leaders like Metropolitan Museum head Philippe de Montebello in arguing for museums' rights (and responsibilities) to collect.
For some discussion of his position at the Kimbell see here. Potts' contribution to Cuno's edited volume Whose Culture did not appear (see here).

Whereas now Potts seems to be speaking out against the looting of antiquities and appears to have embraced the importance of archaeological contexts:
But today Potts sounds more moderate in keeping with the changing museum climate and the Getty's stricter guidelines. "It's important to strike a balance between preventing acquisitions of works [that] would encourage further looting of ancient sites and providing an appropriate home for these objects," he said. 
"It's tough. Today we are losing a lot of information on objects that are artistically and historically important but not finding their way into collections, not being preserved. But we must stop the looting."
The Getty will no doubt continue its policy of transparency and allow research into the collecting histoires behind the objects in its collections.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Ptolemaic Sphinx Recovered in Lazio

The Italian Guardia di Finanza di Roma have recovered an Egyptian sphinx from an agricultural polytunnel in North Lazio [press release, Italian]. The raid followed the search of a commercial vehicle that hinted at recent exploration of archaeological sites. The suggestion is that the alleged illicit acitvity was taking place at Monterosi near Lake Bracciano.

Source: Guardia di Finanza
It is not clear how or where the Ptolemaic sphinx was displayed. When did it arrive in Italy? In the wake of the annexation of Egypt by Rome in the 1st century BC? Or was it the result of a recent movement? Did it come from an ancient domestic or funerary context? Clearly there are intellectual consequences for the loss of context for this find.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Vaizey: "saved for the nation"

DCMS Minister Ed Vaizey commented this week on the DCMS blog: "the scheme [sc. PAS] ensures that important and world famous finds like the Staffordshire Hoard are immediately handled properly and scrupulously, and so saved for the nation".

This weekend sees the end of the "Bronze" exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. Among the objects was the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet. That important and world (in)famous find was not "saved for the nation" and its tidying up for the sale (I am advised not to use the word "conserved") probably could not be described as being "handled properly and scrupulously".

Two years ago there was a call to review the Treasure Act by Lord Renfrew in the wake of the Crosby Garrett case. What has happened?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Robin Symes and Dallas

Etruscan antefix
Source: DMA
The name of Robin Symes has been linked to the return of several objects from public and  private collections, as well as disrupted sales of antiquities. Among the objects linked to Symes were two terracotta antefixes that appeared on the New York market last year.

One of the objects that has been returned to Italy by the Dallas Museum of Art was an Etruscan antefix acquired from Symes. It was supplied with the collecting history of Henri Jacques in Geneva. The antefix also appears in the polaroid archive of Giacomo Medici.

This antefix is a reminder to any buying material on the market, not least because ex-Symes material continues to appear both openly, but also, more worryingly for buyers, without that part of the collecting history revealed. How many purchasers of antiquities in sales in the last few weeks could face returning objects when the full collecting histories are revealed?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Friday 7 December 2012

Bedale Viking Hoard on Display

Viking Silver Hoard, Bedale
© David Gill
I was able to pop in and see the Bedale Viking Hoard on display in Room 2 of the British Museum (next to the relocated Sutton Hoo material). The hoard was found in May 2012 on farmland in North Yorkshire. The label in Room 2 tells us that the finders were 'walking' across an open field when they 'found' the hoard. The impression given by the label suggests a chance find made during a ramble through the lush countryside of the Yorkshire dales.

The Northern Echo ("Viking treasure unearthed in North Yorkshire", December 4, 2012) gives a significantly different version: "A pair of metal detectorists stumbled across a fabulous hoard of Viking treasure as they scanned a field in North Yorkshire."

The PAS database confirms this: "The hoard was found while searching with a metal-detector on open pasture land".

Why does the British Museum and PAS fail to mention metal-detecting on the public label for the display? Is there a growing unease about the growing number of hoards that are being removed from the ground in England and Wales?

For an academic forum piece on this issue ("The Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act: Protecting the Archaeology of England and Wales?"), and published by the Institute of Archaeology at UCL, see here.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Thursday 6 December 2012

Minister on hoards

The Hon. Ed Vaizey
addressing the Heritage Alliance
© David Gill
The Hon. Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, addressed the Heritage Alliance this afternoon. At one point he quipped that England has more hoards than any other country.

A senior figure from an English heritage organisation sitting next to me added softly, "because there are so many metal-detectorists".

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Dallas and the Orpheus mosaic

Orpheus mosaic
source: DMA
The decision by the Dallas Museum of Art to return the Orpheus mosaic, purchased at Christie's in 1999 (December 9, 1999, lot 388), raises some important issues. It appears that the mosaic was photographed in situ by those removing it from a site near Urfa in Turkey. This recalls an ancient art consultant telling me, c. 1990, of mosaics from exactly this region being documented exactly in this way prior to being shipped to the US where they could be inspected. The photographs in the case of Orpheus were printed in Sanliurfa (Urfa).

John Healey, who published the inscriptions on the mosaic in 2006, was convinced that the Orpheus mosaic came from the series known from Edessa (Urfa). He noted that the inscription provides a date of April 194 BC.

It should be noted that the frieze of the mosaic was not retained with the mosaic and was presumably detached by the looters. This again reminds us of the deliberate damaging and defacing of ancient art in the cause of supplying new material for the market.

Orpheus mosaic photographed in situ
The decision to return the mosaic as part of a collaborative programme with Turkey is likely to set a precedent for that country's claims on cultural property in North American museums. It will undoubtedly put pressure on the Cleveland Museum of Art and Shelby White to return their bronzes apparently removed from Bubon, as well as holders of Byzantine silver plate.

Healey, J. F. 2006. "A new Syriac mosaic inscription." Journal of Semitic Studies 51: 313-27 [DOI].

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Dallas and Almagià

Two Etruscan bronze shields
Source: DMA
The Dallas Museum of Art has divulged information into the enquiry into the activities of Edoardo Almagià. Among the objects that are to be returned to Italy are two Etruscan bronze shields acquired from Almagià in 1998.

The museum has made a statement about Almagià:
Edoardo Almagià, a former New York antiquities dealer, is currently named in a criminal case for conspiracy to commit the illegal export and smuggling of cultural property pending before the Public Prosecutor of Rome. Almagià has been under investigation since at least 2006, when U.S. Customs officials raided his New York apartment, confiscating photographs, documents, and archaeological material. He was also the subject of a New York Times story in 2010 that revealed he and Michael Padgett, former antiquities curator at the Princeton University Art Museum, were the focus of an investigation of the illegal export and laundering of Italian archaeological objects. The Italian government named Almagià in the criminal case for having “sold, donated, or lent” nearly two dozen works looted from Italian sites to the Princeton Museum. Roughly twenty other objects are listed in the case as having been obtained illegally by Almagià and sold to other American institutions in the 1980s and 1990s, including this pair of shields.
It appears that the raid on Almagia`s New York apartment provided "compelling evidence, including photographs, that object was looted and/or illegally exported".

Does this mean that there is equally compelling evidence for objects acquired by other museums? What are other museums in North America and beyond even now searching their records to identify potentially toxic acquisitions? And was Almagià selling to private collectors? Who were they?

And why is Princeton being mentioned in such an explicit way in the Dallas statement?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Becchina and Dallas

Apulian krater returned to Italy
Source: DMA
It now appears that the return (in April 2012) to Italy of antiquities that had surfaced via Christies are now being linked explicitly to the return of some of the material handed over from the Dallas Museum of Art. The Dallas statement notes: "In April 2012 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized two works from Christie’s New York auction house that were associated with the investigation of Becchina."

The Apulian volute-krater attributed to the Metope group had surfaced via Sotheby's New York in 1991 (June 18, 1991), and was then purchased via the same auction-house in June 1996 (June 13, lot 87). The original source is said to be Gianfranco Becchina.

This raises a question. To what extent was Becchina consigning material with an origin in Italy to sales in New York? The documentation for what was happening in London is well known. But are we likely to see a similar pattern emerging for the situation on the other side of the Atlantic?

Will we start to see a new wave of returns as the Becchina archive starts to be investigated in more detail?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Dallas Museum of Art returns antiquities

Back in January we noted that Maxwell Anderson was investigating three pieces acquired for the Dallas Museum of Art in 1998: a volute krater, and two Etruscan bronzes. All had been acquired from Edoardo Almagià. I have published a discussion of the implications of acquiring items from this particular individual  Anderson is clearly maintaining his embrace of a higher ethical standard for museum curatorship and others could learn from him.

It now appears that these items have been returned to Italy along with two other ceramic kraters and a terracotta antefix.

In addition Dallas is returning the Orpheus mosaic to Turkey (Randy Kennedy, "Dallas Museum Volunteers to Return Mosaic to Turkey", New York Times Arts Beat, December 3, 2012). The mosaic had been purchased from Christie's in 1999.

Dallas has yet to publish a formal statement.

These returns will step up pressure on other North American museums to settle claims from Turkey and to investigate acquisitions from Almagià.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Saturday 1 December 2012

Test Poll: Parthenon marbles

Readers of LM are invited to comment on whether or not the Parthenon marbles should be retained in London. Have your say!

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Test Egyptology Poll ... but feel free to join

Should the St Louis Art Museum return the contested mummy mask to Egypt?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Looting Egypt: asking questions

© David Gill
Some of the issues that we will be discussing can be found here. I am sure that there will be comment on the St Louis Art Museum mummy mask, and the Khouli case.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Looting in Egypt: join the discussion

I am due to give a video lecture on "Looting in Egypt" on Monday morning (3 December 2012) for Egyptology students in Swansea. We will be having a live twitter feed, @poll dgill [ask your Egyptological question].

UPDATE: Please could non-students wait to tweet until after the lecture starts at 9 am GMT? Thank you.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Cultural Property and the UK

There were some excellent questions after (and even during!) the lecture for the European Forum yesterday. One part of the discussion considered the people "searching" for still unrecovered cultural property. To what extent do finders get market value? What is the finder's price in relation to the final price? (Neil Brodie has written in this area.)

I was mindful that on the journey through rural Suffolk and Norfolk, incidentally passing places like Hoxne as well as the walled Roman town of Caistor St Edmund, figures could be seen walking the fields. What would they find? What would they report?

And I remain concerned that the Romano-British bronzes from Icklingham remain in a private collection in New York. Please could they be returned so that the people of Suffolk can enjoy part of their archaeological heritage?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Another Bubon bronze head likely to be repatriated

It appears that a bronze head acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum from Nicolas Koutoulakis has been removed from display and appears to be...