• Operation Ghelas: Some Implications for Coin Collectors

    There is news that there will be the first hearing for those on trial in connection with a Sicilian group allegedly exporting antiquities. Perhaps the detail that is worrying for collectors of coins is the mention that, during police raids in January 2007, evidence was found that the group were not only “smuggling genuine artefacts” but “they also made false ones to sell” (“Italian archaeology smugglers uncovered”, ANSA, January 31, 2007). Apparently,

    Equipment was discovered which was clearly used to make ‘ancient’ coins and vases.

    Details of three galleries have now appeared. The Art Newspaper reported yesterday (“Italy awaits biggest ever trial of tomb robbers“, The Art Newspaper, no. 187, January 28, 2008):

    Alessandro Sutera Sardo, the public prosecutor, … said the “four-celled” network of international collaborators distributed stolen antiquities through intermediaries in Switzerland, Germany, Spain, the UK, and the US, including Munich’s Gorny & Mosch auction house.

    In 2004 this Munich auction house returned a sculpture stolen from the Amphiaraeion Museum, Greece back in 1991 (“Stolen artefact returns to Greece after resurfacing in Germany”, AFP, May 28, 2004).

    The artefact unexpectedly resurfaced in May, when German archaeologist Matthias Roecke of the Justus Leibig University in Giessen alerted Greek colleagues that it was on a June sales list of Munich auction house Gorny and Mosch.

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  • Link Between the White-Levy and Fleischman Collections

    One of the pieces handed over to Italy by Shelby White last week was a fragment from a Roman wall-painting. Two other fragments from the same room were once owned by Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman; one was returned to Italy from the Getty in 2007 and the other remains in Malibu. For the complete story see Looting Matters.

    The arrangement of the fragments has been created by David Gill and is intended to give an impression of the original design. It is not an accurate reconstruction though the fragments are at the same approximate scale.

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  • Shelby White to Return Antiquities

    It has been reported today that Shelby White is in the process of returning 10 antiquities to Italy. But remember that the Italian Government were seeking the return of 20 pieces. It will be interesting to see the final list for the returns; and to note which pieces have been retained.

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  • Protecting Portable Antiquities in the UK: A Financial Threat

    The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) operating in the UK is seen as a model for recording portable finds. As Neil Faulkner in Current Archaeology noted,

    Metal-detectorists, for long treated as pariahs, have been brought into the fold, contributing their expertise and discoveries to national heritage by recording find-spots and bringing artefacts to local FLOs [Finds Liaison Officers] for identification and databasing. Not just detectorists: of 6,216 individuals offering finds for recording in 2006, more than a third were not detectorists but other members of the public.

    However PAS funding has been frozen. Lord Renfrew, writing in a comment piece (“Lost or found?“) for the Guardian (December 17, 2007), laid out the case for the continuation of the scheme,

    At the moment its 50 dedicated staff do not know whether they will still have a job after next March. If ever there was a frontline service such as this spending review was supposed to protect, this is it. It is ironic that this threat to its future should come just when the scheme is beginning to produce dividends in terms of research and has built up the trust of over 6,000 finders. All this could so easily be lost without adequate funding.

    Metal-detectorists also feel outraged. One commented on Renfrew’s piece,

    I could not agree more with Lord Renfrew. As a dedicated metal detectorist and amateur archaeologist, I have recorded all my finds with the PAS since I took up the hobby. The dedication and professionalism of the organisation’s staff has been an inspiration.

    If you would like to express your opinion follow the link here where you can vote in a straw poll, and, if you are a UK citizen, add your name to a Downing Street petition.

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  • Sotheby’s Auctions Rare Antiquities

    Last month, two major sales of antiquities took place at Sotheby’s, New York. The sales were remarkable not only in the prices fetched at auction, but also in the fact that both went to private collectors.

    As reported in Time Magazine (12/12/07), a Mesopotamian miniature sculpture of the goddess Inanna as a lioness, the so-called Guennol Lioness, was sold to an anonymous English bidder on 12/5/07 for a staggering $57.2 million. According to one observer, “The transaction set a world record for any antiquity and sculpture sold by an auction house”). The sculpture, which dates to c. 3000-2800 BC, is considered to be an exceedingly rare representation of the goddess, known also ...

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