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Adding to the history of an Attic black-figured amphora

The post-excavation histories of objects are important as we map the that cultural property passes through collections and the markets. This is clear for an Attic black-figured amphora, attributed to Group E, that is due to be auctioned at Christie's New York on October 31, 2018 (lot 31). It shows Herakles and the Nemean lion, and Theseus and the Minotaur.

The auction catalogue claims that it surfaced in the hands of John Hewett in London in 1970 (or earlier), then to a private collection in Europe, followed by a series of auctions:
A European private collection; Antiquities  Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1988, lot 130thence to a private collection, New YorkAntiquities Christie's, New York, 15 December 1992, lot 81Antiquities Sotheby's, New York, 17 December 1996, lot 50Antiquities, Sotheby's, New York, 4 June 1998, lot 102 The amphora appears in the Beazley Archive (BAPD 350425). This provides the history sequence as follows (though in the list of auction catalogues s…
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Metal-detecting at Corbridge

The scheduled Roman site of Corbridge in Northumberland has been the target of illegal metal-detecting. Historic England has noted that English Heritage, the organisation that is responsible for part of the excavated site, has had to mount a security operation to protect the site. 

It is known that parts of Hadrian's Wall (just to the north of Corbridge), itself designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been targeted by such illegal activity.

Roman archaeological sites are found across this frontier zone. What actions are being taken to protect the finite archaeological record across the region? What information is being lost through illegal metal-detecting? What are the intellectual implications for Roman frontier studies? Where are the responses from the archaeological community?

This would be described as looting if this was taking place at a classical site in the Mediterranean. Does the language of describing such illegal activity in England need to change?
Thanks to @E…

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.



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.

"Beating sites to death"

Policy decisions for protecting archaeological sites need to be informed by carefully argued positions based on data. Dr Sam Hardy has produced an important study, “Metal detecting for cultural objects until ‘there is nothing left’: The potential and limits of digital data, netnographic data and market data for analysis”. Arts 7, 3 (2018) [online]. This builds on Hardy's earlier research.

Readers should note Hardy's conclusion about his findings: "they corroborate the detecting community’s own perception that they are ‘beat[ing these sites] to death’".

Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Natasha Ferguson, Stijn Heeren, Michael Lewis, and Suzie Thomas may wish to reflect on whether or not their own position is endangering the finite archaeological record. 

Abstract
This methodological study assesses the potential for automatically generated data, netnographic data and market data on metal-detecting to advance cultural property criminology. The method comprises the analysi…

Beierwaltes take legal action

The Beierwaltes are taking legal action after Swiss authorities seized objects during a raid on a warehouse in Switzerland (Amanda Pampuro, "Colorado Couple Seek to Reclaim Artifacts From Swiss", Court House News 8 August 2018).  The Beierwaltes had consigned their pieces for sale by Phoenix Ancient Art in Geneva. 

The Beierwaltes are seeking $24 million in damages for the seizure of the 18 objects valued at $8 million.

It appears that the Beierwaltes were purchasing objects from Robin Symes. Do any of the 18 objects consigned to Geneva appear in the Schinousa archive? Will the Beierwaltes release the full histories of the objects?

The story mentions that the Beierwaltes
assert they vetted all of their items and “purchased each object in reliance on express or implied representations from reputable dealers and auction houses in the absence of any thefts reported to publicly available databases of stolen art, such as the Art Loss Register.” This statement fails to note that o…

Schinousa outcome and reaction to expert witness

In November 2006 four members of a shipping family were charged. It was reported at the time in the Greek press that '152 artifacts were found at the villa on Schinoussa and at the family's Athenian home in Psychico, northern Athens' ("Four charged over artifact stash", 23 November 2006).

The verdict on the Schinousa case was reached on Thursday 26 July 2018. A translation of the verdict has been circulated by the State lawyer: ‘The Court by majority found guilty Despina and Dimitri Papadimitriou for the act of misappropriation of monuments and convicted each one of them to suspended imprisonment of 4 years. It also ratified the seizure and ordered the confiscation of the seized items’.

The day after the verdict, 27 July 2018, Dr Christos Tsirogannis, who had served as an expert witness in the case, received a letter from the London law firm acting for their Greek clients.

Dr Sam Hardy has written extended comments on this latest development, and ARCA provides a…