French Court Allows Auction of American Indian Artifacts
A French judge ruled on Friday that a major auction of ancient Native American masks and other artifacts could proceed despite a request by the American ambassador that the sale be delayed until the legal status of the items could be determined. The ruling came just hours before the sale was to begin.
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“This is a very unfortunate outcome, as these objects will now be sold and dispersed, and the likelihood that they will eventually return to their true home amongst the Hopi is severely reduced,” Pierre Servan-Schreiber, a lawyer representing the tribe, said in a statement after the judge’s ruling. “It also probably means that French institutions are still not fully aware of the devastating consequences that such mercantile fate for truly sacred objects may have on tribes who have already suffered so much.”
Fairly predictable outcome and probably sensible since determining provenance would probably be well nigh impossible.
Someone tell Mr. Redford that he could probably have used some of his vast fortune to buy the damn things and donate them back to the Hopi.
The River Thames, A Not-So-Secret Treasure Trove
In the United Kingdom, British archaeologists have made a number of significant discoveries as of late, from the battered remains of King Richard III — found — to, more recently, a for plague victims in London.
British soil is, in fact, full of traces of the past. And in London, one has to look no farther than the banks of the Thames, the river that runs through the heart of the British capital.
Some criticism of the Portable Antiquities Act from an archaeologist in there. I’m not sure the context along the river would be any good anyway, since, as the article notes, people have been scavenging it for centuries.
Hopis Try to Stop Paris Sale of Artifacts
In a rare case of a cultural heritage claim arising from the sale of American artifacts abroad, the Hopi Indians of Arizona have asked federal officials to help stop a high-price auction of 70 sacred masks in Paris next week.
The tribe is receiving advice from the State and Interior Departments, but each agency says its ability to intervene is limited.
In many ways, the Hopi case illustrates a paradox in the way artifacts are repatriated around the world.
While foreign nations routinely rely on international accords to secure American help in retrieving antiquities from the United States, Washington has no reciprocal agreements governing American artifacts abroad.
Hard to see how the French could lose, since the provenance of most(?) of the objects is either legally established or before such laws were enacted and observed. Unless they can be ’shamed’ into halting the sale, I’m guessing it will go forward. I’d never actually considered whether the US has reciprocal agreements on antiquities though.
Letter: Citizen Archaeology Permit program
At one time, the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research operated an “Isolated Finds Program” that allowed individuals diving in Florida’s rivers to collect and keep isolated artifacts they found on the river bottoms — provided they reported their finds to the Bureau following established procedures.
After a number of years, the program was discontinued due to wide-spread non-compliance in reporting by the vast majority of diving collectors. Recently, a citizen group has expressed interest in what they are calling a “Citizen Archaeology Permit,” which is essentially a revival of the failed Isolated Finds Program.
As much as I’m usually supportive of ‘Army of David’ archaeology, I can’t say this is a good idea: it’s publicly-owned land and therefore grabbing stuff is stealing. Leave it there. Report it if you like, but it’s not yours.
Archaeologists, Your New Jewelers
Anyone buying jewelry for the first time (or the second, or the third), is bound to experience sticker shock. Walk into any major jeweler and even the most nondescript silver bauble can cost thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, astronomical prices don’t always mean exclusivity–there’s a chance you’ll see the necklace you bought on two other people before you’ve left the store.
Those odds become a lot longer when your necklace is 3,000 years old. Sometimes the best jewelry store isn’t a store but an auction house.
I vaguely recall meeting a woman once who had some sort of actual Roman jewelry on, like ear rings or something. Maybe a ring. There’s certainly quite a lot of it from different periods and places, as the small slideshow attests, though it’s difficult to ensure you’re getting the real deal, and even some of the actual stuff can look pretty, well, cruddy, after a couple thousand years. I’ve always wondered if there isn’t a decent sized market for really authentic-looking Roman jewelry for example.
UK archaeologist helps unearth artifacts from infamous Hatfield and McCoy feud
A discovery of artifacts associated with patriarch Randall McCoy’s home and site of an infamous 1888 attack were confirmed by Kim McBride, a historic archaeologist with the Kentucky Archaeological Survey, a joint partnership with the University of Kentucky Department of Anthropology and the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office.
McBride’s work is central to the story of the site, and what the Hatfield and McCoy artifacts and the context of recovery can contribute to our understanding of the events that transpired, which will be featured on an upcoming episode of the National Geographic television series “Diggers,” airing at 10 p.m. tonight.
Yes, that ‘Diggers’. Apparently they’ve revamped the show’s operations and, at least in this instance, worked well with local archaeologists. I didn’t have too much beef with it originally because, well, archaeologists aren’t in too much of a position to be bragging on their conservation record. But enlisting amateurs can and does work elsewhere.
Staffordshire Hoard grows as 81 further pieces declared treasure trove
Anglo-Saxon gold and silver found in a field in the West Midlands has been declared treasure trove and part of the Staffordshire Hoard.
The 81 items, which date to the seventh century, will be handed to the British Museum’s valuation committee to assess their worth, South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh told an inquest in Stafford on Friday. It will then be up to Staffordshire county council and neighbouring councils to raise the money to buy the new items for the nation. The original hoard, with 3,900 items, was bought for £3.3m after being found in a field near Lichfield in 2009 by metal detectorist Terry Herbert. He split the money with Fred Johnson, the farmer who owned the land. Though a team from Archaeology Warwickshire discovered the second haul last year, proceeds from the sale will once again go to Herbert and Johnson. The most interesting finds included an eagle mount, whose use is not known, and a cheek piece from a helmet.
Same material as from the original discovery, it was determined. Hence, the original discoverers get the proceeds from this sale as well AND it stays in the public domain.
Brick ‘recycling’ threatens Bangladesh ancient city
In Bangladesh’s Mahasthangarh village, a worker demolishes a house made with the same bricks that once laid the foundations of one of the world’s oldest cities.
“I just shovelled into the ground, got these bricks and used them in my new house,” Sattar, 38, said. “All three rooms of the house were made of the old bricks we found here within the village boundary.”
Mahasthangarh sits on what was once the ancient city of Pundranagar, built 2,500 years ago and, at its height, a renowned seat of learning whose monasteries attracted monks from China and Tibet and trained them to spread Buddhist teachings across south and east Asia.
I’d never heard of the place either, but not only is there rampant looting going on, but they’ve also re-used the old bricks to make modern dwellings. I can’t say I blame the locals much, except perhaps in some cosmic sense.
An attempt to smuggle 11 Graeco-Roman artefacts out of Cairo International Airport was foiled on Thursday when the Tourism and Antiquities Police arrested an Egyptian man at the customs section. The man claimed to be carrying replicas from Khan El-Khalili bazars. The pieces he was carried were reportedly stolen from an as yet unidentified archaeological site in Egypt.
Little slideshow thingie with photos of some of the objects at the link.
BLM investigates looting of Wyoming archaeological site
The looting of an archaeological site in the Shoshone Canyon west of here has law enforcement officials with the Bureau of Land Management offering a reward for the capture and conviction of those responsible.
Special Agent Mike Ramirez with the BLM in Billings, Mont., said that while the case remains under investigation, it is clear the looting was not the random act of casual collectors.
“This wasn’t something somebody stumbled upon,” Ramirez said. “It’s quite evident that the people who dug this site did it on purpose. They actively pursued it and obliterated it, along with any hopes of recovering things.”