Friday, 29 December 2017

Looting Matters: looking back on 2017

Detail of Paestan krater
Source: Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
My predictions for 2017 make a good introduction: further seizures as a result of the photographic archives, heritage crime at archaeological sites in the UK, and moves in Westminster to address the protection of cultural property in time of war. I have not covered the latter on LM as some of the discussions are sensitive.

Seizures
The year started with the news of several thousand seizures in a Europe wide Operation Pandora. A major set of seizures were made on the collection formed by the Hobby Lobby.

Smaller seizures included sculptures from Eshmun in the Lebanon, and a fragment of a Persepolis relief.

A head of Drusus Minor was returned to Italy from the Cleveland Museum of Art after it was realised that it had come from a known excavation and had been removed from the archaeological store.

A series of objects were seized from an unnamed Manhattan gallery (Sardinian warrior, Paestan lekythos, Apulian kantharos from the 'J.M.E. collection'). Another seizure included an Attic red-figured lenythos that had formed part of the Kluge collection. An Attic red-figured amphora was seized from a Manhattan gallery after it was recognised from the Becchina archive. A sarcophagus was seized from a Manhattan gallery.

Fragments of a Roman sarcophagus from outside Rome were seized on Sardinia.

Hungary has purchased further part of the Sevso Treasure.

Surfacings
There have been several sightings of objects identified from the photographic archives. They include:

A Paestan krater was returned by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a marble Zeus sold by the Fleischmans to the J. Paul Getty Museum was handed over.

Metal-detecting
The police are acknowledging that there is an issue relating to illegal metal-detecting in East Anglia. An example of such activity was noted for Weeting Castle. The number of Treasure Finds in the UK has increased. The revised code of practice for metal-detecting has been issued.

Reviewing old cases
Although looting continues to be a problem, it is important to look back at historic cases that have yet to be resolved. They include the series of Roman imperial portraits looted from Bubon in Turkey and now in North American and European collections.

The process of how looted antiquities were acquired by museums and private collectors continues to be researched.  One of the key figures in the acquisition of objects by the J. Paul Getty Museum was was Fritz Bürki. Until the full histories of the objects are disclosed a question mark must remain over the objects.

The Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University has yet to resolve the case of three disputed items that have been identified in the Greek press.

Forgeries
Forgeries continue to corrupt the market and provide false information about 'ancient art'. The problem of forging Anatolian sculptures has been discussed.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Monday, 18 December 2017

Responsible metal-detecting: a revised code of practice

© David Gill
The annual heritage day at the RSA earlier this month provided an opportunity to discuss the new Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales (2017) on an informal basis.

The endorsements of the revised code are notable by the absence of certain organisations:
  • Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales / PAS Cymru, 
  • Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers, 
  • British Museum / Portable Antiquities Scheme, 
  • Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, 
  • Council for British Archaeology, 
  • Country Land & Business Association, 
  • Institute for Archaeology (University College London), 
  • Historic England, 
  • National Farmers Union, 
  • Royal Commission on the Historical & Ancient Monuments of Wales, 
  • Society of Museum Archaeologists.
The endorsement by UCL's Institute of Archaeology is interesting given the forum piece on metal-detecting that appeared in the Papers of the Institute of Archaeology (and that is largely uncited by members of PAS although is noted by archaeologists working in Spain).

We are reminded that "being responsible" means:
Working on ground that has already been disturbed (such as ploughed land or that which has formerly been ploughed), and only within the depth of ploughing. If detecting takes place on pasture, be careful to ensure that no damage is done to the archaeological value of the land, including earthworks. Avoid damaging stratified archaeological deposits (that is to say, finds that seem to be in the place where they were deposited in antiquity) and minimise any ground disturbance through the use of suitable tools and by reinstating any ground and turf as neatly as possible.
This is a timely reminder as we approach the third anniversary of the removal of the "Lenborough Hoard". Members of PAS could, perhaps, address the five points highlighted by the Lenborough case.


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

An athlete, Robin Symes and the Paris market

Source: Schinoussa archive
Courtesy: Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has identified a Roman marble athlete from the Robin Symes archive. The statue is due to be auctioned in Paris this Friday, 8 December 2017 (Drouot lot 292).

The history of the statue is provided:
  • Royal Athena Galleries, New York:  Art of the Ancient World 4 (1995), p.75-76, lot n°236.
This does not explain why the statue appeared in the confiscated Symes archive. 

Tsirogiannis has also spotted that the statue surfaced at Sotheby's in London Sotheby's on 5th of July 1982. lot 397. Who consigned the statue to that sale? Why does the Paris description fail to mention the Sotheby's information? Would it raise questions about how it surfaced?

Where was the statue between 1982 and 1995?

I understand that the French authorities have been informed about the sale.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

An inscription from Kos

In 1983 the J. Paul Getty received the anonymous donation of a Greek inscription from Antimachia on Kos (J. Walsh, "Acquisitions/1983...