October 16, 2017

antiquities trafficking and espionage in the Cold War and the New Cold War

State financing and assassination in the Cold War

As I noted on my doctoral research blog on Cultural Heritage in Conflict (and as Peter Campbell found elsewhere), there is secure evidence of conflict antiquities trafficking by Communist Bulgaria (the People’s Republic of Bulgaria) during the Cold War. There is also secure evidence of connections between state criminals who trafficked arms from Bulgaria and deep state criminals who trafficked drugs (heroin) from Turkey, at a time when drug traffickers from Turkey also trafficked antiquities.
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October 4, 2017

textbook public archaeology is open-access public archaeology

I’m delighted to say that I was able to make a small contribution to Key Concepts in Public Archaeology (PDF DOI), which explores ‘practice and scholarship where archaeology meets the world’. Realising an ideal of public archaeology, it’s published by UCL Press, under a Creative Commons 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0) for open access. It’s ‘dedicated to Tim Schadla-Hall who has… inspired and supported a generation of public archaeologists’, including me.
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August 23, 2017

impossible numbers for metal detectorists online in Ukraine and possible explanations

One of the reasons that I have been so quiet is that I have been trying to fathom the depths of some bewildering material (in relation to the subject of this post and other cases).

As part of my ongoing analysis of metal detecting (an open-source analysis of quantitative data), I have gathered evidence of more than 100,000 treasure-hunters in the Central-Eastern European region of Belarus, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. However, I have also found evidence of impossible numbers in communities for Ukraine, which cannot easily be explained.
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August 10, 2017

a note on a visit to Ukraine

When I ended up in Turkey during the coup (or, as locals insistently say, coup attempt), some friends implored me to leave. Yet Istanbul has such a place in the European imagination that people could understand why I stayed. In fact, the -phobias and -isms that really drive me away from Turkey existed before the coup and the friendships and experiences that draw me back to Istanbul (which are not part of the international social imagination of the city) persisted after the coup.

It has not been the same with Ukraine. Kyiv lacks the cultural cachet of even Warsaw, let alone Budapest or Prague or Berlin or Paris. Sadly, despite the mountains, steppes and Black Sea, Transcarpathian cuisine, café culture and drinking culture, as well as a more traditional artistic cultural renaissance that has been achieved amidst crisis and conflict, friends and colleagues have repeatedly asked why I am here.
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April 27, 2017

The Guennol Stargazer – an iconic work of art from the 3rd millennium BC… and from Turkey

‘With its sleek, abstract form and its eyes tilted slightly towards the heavens, this rare complete idol from Anatolia is set to be a highlight of Classic Week in New York.’ But will it be a highlight for the right reasons? Investigative journalist Özgen Acar gave a slightly less star-struck introduction: ‘The “Kilia Idol,” a 23-centimeter statuette that has been smuggled from Turkey, will be auctioned on April 28 at New York Christies at an estimated price of $3 million.’
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March 13, 2017

Preconceived notions detract from the scholarly value of analysis

My quantitative analysis of open-source data on metal detecting for cultural property does not consider a single example of illicit excavation or other illicit handling of ancient coins. Yet the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) has reacted: “Preconceived notions and value judgments detract from any scholarly value of this article.”

Is it difficult to argue that permissive regulation enables metal detectorists and private collectors to “preserve history”, when an estimation of the scale and intensity of metal detecting and the quantity of metal-detected cultural goods suggests that millions of cultural objects are unscientifically extracted then not reported in Europe and North America every year?

March 13, 2017

How many people are metal-detecting and how many cultural objects are they finding?

On Friday, (open-access) Cogent Social Sciences published my estimation of how many people are metal-detecting, how many hours they’re doing it and how many cultural objects they’re finding, whether they’re supplying their own private collections or whether they’re selling into the antiquities trade, supplying the licit/illicit market. Since it’s 21,084 words, excluding the bibliography, I thought it might help to post some notes and some extracts, with the data on the number of detectorists and the number of finds.
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March 10, 2017

quantitative analysis of open-source data on metal detecting for cultural property: estimation of the scale and intensity of metal detecting and the quantity of metal-detected cultural goods

With an urgency that is highlighted by UNESCO’s consideration of “treasure hunters” and cultural trafficking –
regulation on metal detectors and underground monitoring systems
and the imprisonment of (no-longer-police constable) David Cockle for illicit metal detecting, (open-access) Cogent Social Sciences have published my quantitative analysis of open-source data on metal detecting for cultural property: estimation of the scale and intensity of metal detecting and the quantity of metal-detected cultural goods.
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March 8, 2017

fake Christian manuscript, possibly from Syria, in Turkey, seized from Syrian and Turkish traffickers

Hürriyet Daily News reported an ancient book, stolen in Syria, seized in Turkey, by Gendarmerie in Bursa, where a Syrian-and-Turkish team of traffickers intended to sell it over the internet.
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February 28, 2017

Exploitation of refugees from Syria or exploitation of plausible deniability by antiquities traffickers in Turkey?

On the 22nd of February, police stopped and searched a ‘suspicious’ vehicle on Alparslan Türkeş Avenue in the Çukurova municipality of Adana city (as opposed to the Çukurova district of Adana province), southern Turkey, then found and seized an 18th-century Christian icon, an “embroidery” of one of the Twelve Apostles on a piece of gazelle skin (178 centimetres by 75 centimetres), which had been ‘hidden’ in the boot of the car. (I heard the news through the Museum Security Network.)
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