Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Mass Destruction or Mass Deception?

Anti-trade academic Neil Brodie apparently thinks ISIS must be selling coins to fund itself based on the appearance of 23 "new" Syrian Tetradrachms on the market per year since the start of the Syrian civil war.  According to the study Brodie cites, this is an increase in the average of 17 "new" coins per year that appeared previously.

However, even assuming the increase can possibly be attributed to ISIS as opposed to the Assad regime, the "Free Syrian Army," destitute Syrian refugees selling off their own collections, or some new find outside Syria, the amounts of money sales of such coins could possibly generate won't do much to help fund a terrorist army. 

So, the appearance of so few "new" coins on the market, if anything, underscores the fact that the amounts ISIS must really be making from antiquities sales is probably quite minimal in reality, despite the best efforts of the archaeological lobby to justify the millions of dollars it has received from the State Department and other sources to "study" the issue and lobby for further crack-downs on collecting.

20 comments:

John H said...

Hi Peter:

I note as will many others, that Brodie pads out his copy with the words 'suggests' and 'ideas' to shore-up his threadbare theories. To the casual observer his argument might well appear to be factually academic, but to hard-nosed cynics they are little more than cod science of the type that gives even bull***t a bad name.

He goes on at tedious length to promote his cv effectively saying - oh what a smart arse I am - presumably to lend some additional credence to his 'ideas; but when one boils it all down, it's the same old, same old scatology posing as fact.

Once again he provides proof, if proof were needed, that archaeology is about as accurate as Dead Reckoning navigation. Ha, ha, ha! Oh, dearie me.

Can the heritage really be left in the care of people who spout such utter nonsense?

Best

John Howland
UK Treasure Hunter & Collector

Dave Welsh said...

Peter,

I believe it is appropriate to observe that while Dr. Brodie is a practicing archaeologist who regularly participates in fieldwork, it tends to be a relatively minor component of his overall activities. In 2013 for example, he spent two weeks during the summer doing survey work on Kos. It seems reasonable to regard this as "summer vacation" activity and there's nothing wrong with that!

What is not so healthy from my perspective is Dr. Brodie's institutional focus on looting and trafficking in "illicit" antiquities. He has in fact become an "academic archaeologist" whose "research" primarily involves studying and writing about "the illicit trade in cultural objects."

According to this web page about Dr Brodie, http://traffickingculture.org/person/neil-brodie/ , his current research interests are:
Cultural, criminal and economic aspects of the illicit trade in cultural objects.
The failure of international public policy to suppress the illicit trade in cultural objects.
Novel regulatory solutions to the illicit trade in cultural objects.
The legal and ethical contexts of scholarly engagement with illicitly traded cultural objects.

I am not an admirer of "academic archaeologists" whose professional identity has become the documenting and criticism of the illicit trade in cultural objects. The reason is that their professional commitment to this subject takes on a life of its own, and their voluminous journal publications upon this subject add relatively little to what archaeology contributes to mankind's knowledge of the past.

Focusing (as Dr. Brodie does) so exclusively upon the illicit trade in cultural objects strikes me as special pleading whose purpose is to defend the professional interests of archaeologists. The attainment of "eminence" in the field of archaeology ought, in my personal opinion, to depend upon contributing to mankind's knowledge of the past, rather than study and criticism of the illicit trade in cultural objects.

It's quite unclear to me what all the academic study and journal article publications devoted to this subject are actually accomplishing in the way of genuine practical results, tending to reduce the incidence of looting in source states and tending to suppress trafficking in illicit objects.

It is however quite clear that these activities are doing very serious damage to the interests of antiquities collectors and collectors of ancient coins, by encouraging legislation whose purpose is to restrict and discourage the international trade in antiquities and ancient coins. The recently adopted German cultural law is a good example.

Regards,

Dave Welsh

Cultural Property Observer said...

And again, Brodie's Trafficking Culture was also funded by EU bureaucracy and in the EU the same research (which in my view has sometimes been biased) is used by EU bureaucracies to justify clamp downs on legitimate collecting.

Dave Welsh said...

Barford has picked up on this discussion in his blog:
http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2016/07/neil-brody-on-looting-patterns-in-syria.html

He argues:
"... Dr Brodie is being criticised for studying the trade in illicit objects - the very trade that folk like Dealer Dave declaratively says he too deplores and would like to see stopped. In order to STOP it, as Brodie stresses, we need to find out how it operates."

Well, well. Just what does Mr. Barford really mean when he says"STOP it?" Does he mean organizing and implementing interference with the actual illicit transactions themselves "on the ground" in source nations? That might indeed have beneficial effects.

Or does he instead mean unimaginatively continuing to promote and advocate the unproven and unproveable hypothesis that looting is caused by antiquities collecting, and that the suppression of antiquities collecting is necessary and justifiable to prevent looting?

Regards,

Dave Welsh

John H said...

Hi Dave:

Barford has no political clout with anyone, anywhere. He poses as an archaeologist (and I use that term in the very loosest sense), when in fact he's a language teacher with an interest in archaeology. Not quite the same thing.

He's an archaeological 'leper' out on a limb and friendless apart from a few others of a similar ilk influenced by his rabid evangelism. What's got right up his nose is that you are greatly qualified, hugely respected by your peers in your specialist subject, as is Peter Tompa. He craves that kind of peer respect.

The more cerebral archeo-politicians use Barford to fire their bullets and I strongly suspect that his psyche/ego prevents him from recognising this fact; apart from his myopia in this respect, it's clarion to everyone else. He is no threat to anyone; more deserving of our pity.


Best

John Howland
UK Treasure Hunter

Paul Barford said...

Mr Barford is of the opinion that if we are discussing illicit TRADE (ie people selling and buying illicit antiquities), then it is the people selling and buying them (UNESCO 1970 Art 3) no-questions-asked who need to be dealt with.

Cultural Property Observer said...

The problem of course is that Mr. Barford and friends claim that any undocumented artifact is presumptively illicit-- when that is demonstrably untrue for lots of common artifacts in particular. The other problem is that on Twitter he claims that raising questions about Dr. Brodie's methodology, biases and funding is somehow a personal attack. To see what real personal attacks look like, go no further than Mr. Barford's blog. In any case, I'll allow Mr. Barford one comment to address Mr. Howland's and Dave Welch's comments, but that's it. As mentioned previously, Mr. Barford is not welcome generally to comment on this blog given the tenor of some of his previous comments as well as much of what appears on his own blog.

Dave Welsh said...

John,

Thanks for the kind words:

"What's got right up [Barford's] nose is that you are greatly qualified, hugely respected by your peers in your specialist subject, as is Peter Tompa. He craves that kind of peer respect."

That's certainly true where Peter Tompa is concerned. A lot of people evidently tend to think my opinions also deserve some respect, but I personally don't go so far as to think of myself as being in Peter Tompa's league regarding qualifications and peer respect.

As for Mr. Barford, the subject of his qualifications [or lack thereof] largely remains a murky mystery, due to his continued obstinate refusal to publish a curriculum vitae. That is being widely interpreted as an indication that there is something in his background that can't stand the light of day - which in my opinion isn't necessarily true. Instead, the reason may simply be that Mr. Barford himself doesn't regard his actual qualifications as being very impressive or creditable.

Finally there is the key issue of peer respect. Who are Mr. Barford's "peers," are they practicing archaeologists? Which practicing archaeologists have indicated that they respect him, or have a favorable view of his blog? Archaeologists tend to avoid (like the plague) publicly criticizing those who identify as being "archaeologists," however in private discussions between ACCG luminaries and respected archaeologists, much has been said indicating that the true feelings of real, practicing archaeologists [in the USA and UK] who have actually noticed Mr. Barford, regarding his pretensions and his blog, tend to fall somewhere between pity and loathing.

Regards,

Dave Welsh

stoutstandards said...

Paul Barford's is an obsessed and driven individual. His latest entry http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2016/07/dealers-lobbyists-and-their-coin-elves.html is a prime example. It's speculative, deceptive and filled with hypothetical assumptions meant to look like fact.

His anger, hate and bitterness knows no bounds. Sad to watch....

Cultural Property Observer said...

Yes, probably best to let him do his own thing on his own blog and in any other venue that will have him. I'd really prefer not to allow this blog to be dominated by him which is why I have tried to avoid mentioning him or his views and hope people who comment here thing twice before doing so as that means I will need to give him a chance to comment here as well as a matter of fairness.

And of course, he twists what I say. I never said there is no fresh finds on the market, just that you can't assume that a large part of the market consists of recent finds.

Even if finds are post-1970, you can't assume they are illicit either. Archaeologists pleading the case of countries like Bulgaria may claim recent finds from there are "illicit," but what does that really mean in practice if Bulgarian authorities still allow small items like coins to be sold openly in markets throughout the country.

Dave Welsh said...

Peter,

In your comment "Archaeologists pleading the case of countries like Bulgaria may claim recent finds from there are "illicit," but what does that really mean in practice if Bulgarian authorities still allow small items like coins to be sold openly in markets throughout the country" you have raised a key issue which, to my mind, is central to the entire discussion of looting and smuggling of looted objects.

Please note that I do NOT subscribe to using the term "illicit" in this discussion.

Referring to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/illicit , the primary definition of "illicit" is 'not allowed by law : unlawful or illegal.' A secondary definition is 'involving activities that are not considered morally acceptable.'

The manner in which archaeologists use the word "illicit" trades upon that secondary definition in a manner which in my opinion amounts to doublespeak: "language that can be understood in more than one way and that is used to trick or deceive people."

I contend that the manner in which archaeologists use the word "illicit" and many other similarly deceptive words in their writings is definitely, and intentionally, "doublespeak." I do not believe that those who defend collectors' rights should ever accept, or contribute to, the propagation of such "doublespeak," but instead should point out that in using such deceptive terminology in an attempt to prejudge the discussion of looted and smuggled artifacts through framing it in "loaded language," and by deliberately and intentionally engaging in "doublespeak" to pursue their vendetta against collectors, archaeologists who use such terminology violate OUR standards of ethics, which I believe are also those which prevail among the general population.

We should seek appropriate ways of highlighting that ethics violation, and pointing out that archaeologists, who so loudly and frequently complain about the "unethical" behavior of those who collect and trade in antiquities including ancient coins, are in a broader sense (as the general public understands ethics) presenting their case against collecting in an unethical and deliberately deceptive manner.

Regards,

Dave Welsh

kyri said...

hi Peter ,although countrys like Bulgaria and Greece "allow small items" to be sold these are not for export.in Athens there are many small shops in the side streets of Plaka selling not only coins excavated locally but also some very nice attic cups, plates and vases but you have to produce a greek passport to make a purchase and the ownership of the piece is registered with the antiquities authority.these pieces are strictly not for export.there was one shop selling antiquities with export certificates,i bought some myself and have 4 greek export certificates [they are as rare as hens teeth].this shop had its antiquities license revoked by the antiquites ministry last march and to my knowledge there are no shops selling pieces with export certificates now.
Dave again says that the demand for antiquities has absolutely nothing to do with the looting,if the demand is not driving the looting than what is.
kyri

Cultural Property Observer said...

Thanks Kyri. I'm aware of the Greek situation. They should open things up. Good for the Greek economy at a minimum. I'm confused about Bulgaria. There are plenty of collectors there. There is contradictory information about export licenses. Mr. Barford claims to have seen them at a show in Warsaw. If so, good news. I wrote the Bulgarian Government to ask about the situation. I got a note indicating that the issue had been referred to the proper authorities, but heard no more.

My point really is that what is licit or not seems to be fairly unclear or discriminatory against foreign collectors in some countries.

Paul Barford said...

>> discussions between ACCG luminaries and respected archaeologists[...] fall somewhere between pity and loathing.<<
That is their problem,not mine.

I think there is some shape-shifting here: "what is licit or not seems to be fairly unclear or discriminatory against foreign collectors in some countries" but what is licit in terms of the international convention(s) is perfectly clear - Art 3 of the 1970 Convention for example [[despite what some US dealers assert for the reasons I give on my blog the term illicit is being used correctly here]].

If antiquities from Syria and Iraq are leaving any of the conflict zone, it is immaterial if Mr Welsh calls them "illicit" or "illegal", I hope we can agree (can't we?) that this should not be happening in any sector of the ancient coins market. That is what Neil Brodie was writing about, and what all the nasty and personal comments you approved for publication on your lobbyist's blog tend to obscure. The satellite photos do indeed show the "mass destruction" of your title - the point about the deception is the failure to address the question seriously why this is happening and what it means for the action of individuals. I draw your attention to the conclusions of Pipkins' IAR text which you criticised on Twitter, but I am sure I am not alone in hoping for a detailed review here on CPO.

In any case, putting the boot on the other foot, let us imagine what would happen if collectors in China, Korea and Russia suddenly gained a huge interest in the colonial coinage and tokens of what is now the USA and were paying increasingly astronomical prices for whatever they could get with the result that in a decade and a half, 87% of the extant material was abroad and out of the reach and pocket of the majority of casual US collectors. In such a scenario, would the US numismatic organizations defend US collectors' rights and interests and urge some form of action should be taken to curb this? Or would they sit idly by shrugging their shoulders muttering "it's a free market"? What would US collectors like to see happening if it was US cultural property being drained out of the country to the pockets of foreigners? Would it be "discrimination" to protect access of US collectors to the early coinage of the territory of the US?

Or is my asking a concrete question an example of the comments, the substantive "tenor" of which you do not like and prefer to keep off this blog in contrast to the reputation-enhancing kind of ad hominem remarks we see above from messers Howland, Stout and Welsh?

Cultural Property Observer said...

On your illicit point I need to disagree. Are you saying that Syrian refugees taking their collections abroad are doing something "illicit?" If so, perhaps we should not let UNESCO-- dominated as it is by authoritarian and nationalistic views-- define what the term "illicit" is for us.

On the colonial coinage issue, if foreign collecctors get interested in our coinage, all the better. Happy to have them get interested in US history.

As for comments by Messrs. Welsh and Howland on this blog, they are mild compared to the daily diet of on your own blog of insults directed against anyone who disagrees with you, but in any case let readers decide. Okay, you've had your comment on this blog. Sorry, but you are back to being banned unless you are specifically mentioned in a blog post-- then as a matter of fairness you can respond.

Dick Stout said...

I'm upset now dammit. I want to be a Messr to!

Cultural Property Observer said...

Dick, you are a Texan. Do they have Messrs?

Dick Stout said...

Of course they do...they also have football, pickup trucks, guns and bibles.

Dave Welsh said...

Mr. Barford uttered the following nonsense in his last comment:

"In any case, putting the boot on the other foot, let us imagine what would happen if collectors in China, Korea and Russia suddenly gained a huge interest in the colonial coinage and tokens of what is now the USA and were paying increasingly astronomical prices for whatever they could get with the result that in a decade and a half, 87% of the extant material was abroad and out of the reach and pocket of the majority of casual US collectors. In such a scenario, would the US numismatic organizations defend US collectors' rights and interests and urge some form of action should be taken to curb this? Or would they sit idly by shrugging their shoulders muttering "it's a free market"?"

In my opinion this silly comment once more makes it very clear that Mr. Barford is appallingly ignorant regarding the avocation of collecting coins, which he unhesitatingly ventures to pontificate upon and criticize, and presumes to instruct those who follow it, thereby making it obvious that he simply does not know what he is talking about.

For the benefit of readers of this blog who are not themselves coin collectors, let me make it clear that in the USA, modern coins (including the colonial coinage and tokens of what is now the USA) are considered to be private personal property, or the property of institutions holding them in collections, in which the USA has no sovereign right of ownership. The USA is not a Socialist or Communist country, and its citizens have rights and freedoms which Mr. Barford evidently does not understand or realize the importance of.

The answer to his question is, of course, that the US Government would have no right to interfere with the action of the free market in trading of these items, and would not attempt to do so.

Dave Welsh

Cultural Property Observer said...

Dave, you are correct of course. Thanks all. I'm going to close comments on this one.