Skip to main content

Looking Ahead: 2016

The continuing looting and destruction of archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq is likely to dominate the news. The academic discussion will focus on how material is moving from the Middle East to the markets in Europe and North America. We are likely to see confirmed material from Syria surfacing on the London market. The bigger question is which groups benefit from the sales?

Dealers, galleries and auction houses have been keen to reassure the press that they would never handle recently surfaced material from Syria or Iraq. (Incidentally, I walked into one London gallery this summer and the object nearest to the attendant's desk had a label naming one of the best known handlers of recently surfaced antiquities.) The observation that one of the major international auction houses continues to offer Italian material identified from the Becchina and Medici archives suggests that the due diligence process needs to be improved.

I suspect that there will continue to be identifications made from the Becchina, Medici and Symes archives. But will the Michael C. Carlos Museum return material to Greece? And will Madrid hand objects back to Italy?

Heritage Crime is a major topic in the UK: damage to archaeological sites, removal of lead from churches, theft of heritage signs. There needs to be a voice through the RSA, the Heritage Alliance, and other heritage organisations to draw attention to the problem. It is unclear how the newly reformed Portable Antiquities Scheme will engage with the debate.

The issue of forgeries in the market need to be explored.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …

The scale of the returns to Italy

I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.