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Showing posts from October, 2017

Greece issues statement over marble funerary markers

The Greek authorities (The Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport) have issued a statement over the two marble funerary markers that were on sale in London by Jean-David Cahn [press release, 26 October 2017].

The statement makes it plain that the Greek authorities are seeking the return of the objects to Greece (Οι εν λόγω ελληνικές αρχαιότητες διεκδικούνται ήδη από το Υπουργείο Πολιτισμού και Αθλητισμού, το οποίο θα συνεχίσει τις προσπάθειες επαναπατρισμού τους αξιοποιώντας κάθε πρόσφορο μέσο).

We can only presume that the Swiss authorities will want to avoid any damaging legal process that will explore the sale of this material.

Can we also presume that the Greek authorities will be reopening the investigation into the three objects in the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University?

See also ARCA

"The Greeks are the rightful owner"

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has been interviewed by The Times over the marble lekythos and the marble loutrophoros that were being offered for sale in London by Jean-David Cahn (Jack Malvern, "Expert attacks sale of 'stolen' Greek vases", The Times 24 October 2017).

On the left (no. 237), the history of the lekythos is given as "Formerly Swiss art market, October 1977". I understand from Dr Tsirogiannis that the lekythos was listed by Gianfranco Becchina on 5 September 1977. Was this information known to Cahn? The lekythos is listed as co-owned by Becchina and George Ortiz.

On the right (no. 239), the history of the loutrophoros is given as "Formerly Swiss art market, October 1977".

These two funerary markers are almost certainly from a cemetery in Attica, and Tsirogiannis is right to suggest that "the Greeks are the rightful owner", especially if there is no documentation relating to their movement from Greece to Switzerland.

More troublin…

What does "mint provenance" mean?

The identification of a marble lekythos and a marble loutrophoros that had formed part of the stock of Gianfranco Becchina raises concerns about how the history of the objects was recorded.

The dealer, Jean-David Cahn, states:
In the past few years, the gallery has been rethinking its acquisition policy, pinpointing quality as well as provenance even more. Our profile is then to provide/show quality pieces with a strong expertise and mint provenance. Were these two pieces offered with the information that they were linked to Becchina? What sort of due diligence process had been conducted by the gallery? Had the gallery contacted the Greek authorities to check that the objects had not been removed from the country illegally?

A "mint provenance" would provide the full, documented and authenticated history of the object from when it left the ground to the point of its present sale.

Michael C. Carlos Museum under renewed scrutiny

Objects in the Michael C. Carlos Museum are under renewed scrutiny after the latest Becchina appearances of archaeological material from Greece in London. The museum has let the case go unresolved for 9 years; the story was broken in the Greek press more than 10 years ago.

There are three items: a Minoan larnax, a pithos, and a statue of Terpsichore.

It is about time that the curatorial team at the Michael C. Carlos Museum offered to return the items to Greece.

Becchina and the Funerary Markers from Greece

Cambridge-based academic, Dr Christos Tsirogiannis, has identified two Attic funerary markers that have surfaced on the Swiss market (Howard Swains, "Looted antiquities allegedly on sale at London Frieze Masters art fair", The Guardian October 22, 2017). The items feature in the Becchina archive.

The marble lekythos and loutrophoros were displayed by Swiss-based dealer Jean-David Cahn at the Frieze Masters art fair in Regent's Park in London.

It appears that the items are being offered on behalf of the Swiss canton of Basel-Stadt. They had apparently formed part of the stock seized from Becchina's warehouse in Switzerland. (For more on this see here.)

Strangely the Swiss authorities are claiming that the Italian authorities have given permission for the material to be sold. But these two items are objects that were created in Attica for display in Attic cemeteries. They are from Greek, not Italian, soil.

The key question is this: did the Swiss authorities as well as …

Looting of archaeological sites in East Anglia

BBC Look East has covered the problem of looting on archaeological sites in East Anglia (October 17, 2017). The report covers the problem of illegal metal-detecting on the site of Great Chesterford, the response from the police (including PC Andy Long of Essex Constabulary) and landowners, as well as from metal-detectorists. Police will be installing cameras at key sites, as well as deploying drones to identify criminal activity.

The message that needs to get through is that archaeological contexts are being lost, and key pieces are not being reported.

The programme is available here for 24 hours.

Further statue from temple of Eshmun, Lebanon seized in New York City

ARCA (and other sources) has commented on the seizure of a second statue from the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon that had formed part of a New York private collection. The figure is holding an animal: a calf, sheep or goat. The collector is reported in the legal papers as Michael Steinhardt.

The marble bull's head that was also seized in New York is due to be returned to the Lebanon in the next two weeks.

Christos Tsirogiannis has established that the Beierwaltes, through whose hands the bull passed, were clients of Robin Symes. Is this the source for the bull?

And if so, did Symes handle the other statue?

And what other material removed from Lebanon could have passed through this route?

Colin Moyniham, "Couple Drops Lawsuit Over Disputed Antiquity", New York Times, October 13, 2017: "The calf bearer sculpture passed though some of the same hands as the bull's head, according to the letter. It too had been excavated at Eshmun and was stolen from the Leban…

Stonehenge and the National Trust

Stonehenge is part of one of the most important prehistoric (and historic) landscapes in England. A members' resolution has been presented to the National Trust AGM on Saturday (21 October 2017) that aims to protect and preserve the integrity of the UNESCO World Heritage site in the face of the proposed tunnel construction.

Members of the National Trust can vote on the resolution on-line here. Details of the resolution can be downloaded here.

The Heritage Journal lays out some of the concerns here.

Details of the story from the BBCRescue on the Resolution

Public Archaeology and Looting Antiquities

A new volume, Key Concepts in Public Archaeology, edited by Gabriel Moschenska of UCL has been published (UCL Press) [open access pdf].

Readers of LM will find some of the chapters of interest.

Paul Burtenshaw ("Economics in public archaeology", pp. 31–42) touches on how to reduce looting and preserve sites by showing the economic benefits of heritage through tourism.

Don Henson ("Archaeology and education", pp. 43–59) shows how education can be used to reduce the risk of looting.

Roger Bland, Michael Lewis, Daniel Pett, Ian Richardson, Katherine Robbins, and Rob Webley write on "The Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales" (pp. 107–121). They have a section on the Staffordshire Hoard with the subtitle, "archaeology captures the public imagination". The authors respond to criticisms (without citing any studies; see the Forum discussion in Papers from the Institute of Archaeologyapparently unknown to the authors) that th…