Saturday, November 12, 2011


Case Summary
Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. State Department Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. U.S. Department of State, 641 F.3D 504 (D.C. Cir. 2011), reversing and remanding, Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. U.S. Department of State, 673 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 2009).

On numerous occasions between 2004 and 2007, the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) requested, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), that the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (housed in the U.S. State Department) release documents related to the Committee’s deliberations that led to restrictions on the importation into the United States of certain types of ancient coins from Cyprus, China, and Italy. After the State Department refused to release many of the requested documents, the ACCG brought suit to compel their release.

The Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC), appointed by the President and housed in the State Department, reviews requests by foreign governments to the U.S. to restrict the importation of cultural objects at risk of pillage. If the Committee’s recommendation is approved by the State Department, the U.S. will sign a bilateral agreement known as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the requesting country indicating what types of objects will be restricted from importation.

Between 2004 and 2007, the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild submitted eight requests to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee seeking the release of documents related to the Committee’s deliberations in the lead up to the U.S. signing MOUs with Cyprus (July 2007), China (January 2009), and Italy (January 2011). Each MOU included coins from these countries as a category of items prohibited from importation into the United States. The State Department responded by releasing 70 documents in full and an additional 39 that were partially redacted; but 19 relevant documents were withheld entirely.

Court History
In November 2007, the ACCG filed suit in federal district court in Washington, DC against the State Department as parent agency of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, seeking to compel the release of any relevant documents in the Committee’s possession. The ACCG sought the documents in the hopes that they would support its allegation that coins were not included in the MOUs at the behest of the foreign governments, nor even at the recommendation of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, but rather solely through the interference of certain State Department employees, acting of their own accord. The ACCG’s allegation was bolstered by the signed affidavit of Jay Kislak, Chairman of the Committee from 2003 to 2008 (during the deliberations on Cyprus and China), asserting that the Committee had never recommended that coins be included in the MOUs. In fact, he resigned his position in protest after the signing of the U.S.-Cyprus agreement.

In its response, the State Department held that its withholding of the requested documents was permissible under several exceptions to FOIA, including national security/ foreign policy, confidentiality, invasion of privacy, and attorney-client privilege. The State Department further held that some of the relevant files, particularly the e-mails of certain State Department employees, had been deleted or could not be found.

In November 2009, after both parties received several extensions to their filing deadlines, the District Court granted summary judgment for the State Department, ruling that all of the documents at issue were legitimately withheld under one (or more) of the FOIA exceptions.

The ACCG appealed the ruling to the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. In April 2011, the Appeals Court reversed and remanded two aspects of the lower court’s ruling. The Appeals Court held that in order to withhold documents purported to be lost or deleted, the State Department was required to inform the ACCG of the steps the Department had taken to search for these documents. Specifically, the State Department would be required to either conduct a thorough search of the relevant employees’ computers and archived e-mails or explain why it would be unable to perform these searches.

Among the documents the State Department had refused to release were six specific e-mails between a State Department employee and an archaeologist in the lead up to the United States’ MOU with Cyprus, on the grounds that they were confidential communications. The Court ruled, however, that in order to withhold the e-mails on this ground, the State Department must present evidence, on remand, demonstrating that the e-mails were intended to be confidential.

Final Outcome
As of October 2011, the case is still pending. For a related case involving MOU restrictions on the importation of coins into the United States, see: Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection.


Here is an objective and very well written summary of the status of this litigation and the issues involved. Although it does not in any way endorse the point of view of the ACCG and allied pro-collecting organizations, I nevertheless believe that it still presents a very fair, evenhanded and overall perhaps as good an objective summary of the case and the issues involved as could reasonably be expected today.

We shall learn more about the archaeocentric interpretation of the meaning of terms such as fairness and objectivity, when archaeobloggers have been heard from. To the extent than I can individually be regarded as speaking for the pro-collecting perspective, I would observe that a fair and objective approach is all we have ever asked for.

It pains me to observe that a fair and objective approach is absolutely the last thing any knowledgeable observer would expect from the present Cultural Heritage Center bureaucracy. That gang of rabidly anticollecting ideologues, led for three decades by "Stealth Fighter" Maria Papageorge Kouroupas, must go before anything resembling fairness and objectivity in US State Department proceedings can be restored.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Six Trade Organizations Submit Briefs to Appellate Court Over Illegal Coin Imports
by Paul Barford

Dugup ancient antiquity dealer Wayne Sayles, 'Organizations submit Amici Briefs to Appellate Court', fellow dugup dealer Dave Welsh ('Baltimore Test Case Amicus Brief Texts') and the coin dealers' lobbyist, lawyer Peter Tompa ('ACCG Gains Support for Appeal') report in unison that "Six prestigious organizations support ACCG appeal with formal legal briefs". Reportedly, here is the announcement as presented on the ACCG website, sourced to Washington legal firm Bailey and Ehrenberg PLLC:

Several leading international numismatic organizations have petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for leave to file an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief supporting ACCG's appeal of the Cyprus/China import restriction challenge. That case was recently dismissed in Circuit Court at Baltimore and is currently under appeal. Ironically, a concerted international response of this sort is mandated by the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) before import restrictions may be imposed. It has never materialized in that regard and is one of the very points challenged by ACCG in the suit being appealed. As a technical matter, the motion for leave is submitted along with the brief itself. Below are the organizations involved and copies of the motions and briefs filed on their behalf:

American Committee for Cultural Policy (ACCP) / International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) Motion -- Brief

International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN)/ American Numismatic Association (ANA) / Ancient Coins for Education (ACE) Motion -- Brief

Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) Motion -- Brief

We learn from Tompa that the motions and briefs were submitted by Richard Rogers, Esq. (ACCP/ IADAA); Michael McCullough, Esq. (IAPN /ANA/ ACE) and those of the PNG by Armen Vartian, Esq. and that "each brief focuses on the failure of the District Court to apply the plain meaning of the CPIA's limitation on import restrictions to coins "first discovered within, and [ ] subject to the export control by" either Cyprus or China", when it seems to me that this was not the basis of the original court's ruling on the wide range of disparate topics raised by the case the ACCG's lawyers tried to bring.

Well (at least), two interesting things here. The first is surprise to see the ACCP raise its head again so long after we all had got the impression that it was dead. The secondly is surprise at the description of the coiney show-and-tell stunt which goes under the name "Ancient Coins for education" as a "prestigious" organization.

New York-based firm "Grebkesh and Runn, Purvoyors of Fine looted Coins to the Trade and Avid Collectors" have contacts with two family-run supply firms in the Balkans, the Moronovs and the Sleazyovs. the Moronovs, as their name suggests are a bit simple. they know the US has laws against importing looted stuff, but count on the border authorities being asleep most of the time, they've shipped packages of coins and dugup antiquities direct from Sofia through to their US contacts for years. Tonnes of it. So they carry on putting them in unmarked parcels and sending them through. The Sleazyovs are a little more canny, they 'launder' their goods by getting them smuggled in a lorry in hollowed-out pumpkins across the Turkish border and ship them to the US from there. While Turkey has no MOU with the US, the packages will not be checked, and even if they are, the coins come "from Turkey", not any country with which the US has any MOU.

It seems to me that, despite codes of ethics/practice/ professional standards, the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art, International Association of Professional Numismatists, American Numismatic Association, and Professional Numismatists Guild not to mention the ACCP and ACE are saying that as far as the US market is concerned, trading in looted coins with the Sleazyovs is and should be legal - even though the US has been "implementing" the 1970 UNESCO Convention on Illicit Antiquities since 1983. Would the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art, International Association of Professional Numismatists, American Numismatic Association, and Professional Numismatists Guild expel any of their members for handling artefacts that have been 'laundered' by escaping legal consequences by illegally moving them to another country (have they done so recently), or is that par for the course in the international antiquities trade these days?

So how is the US to police illicit exports coming into the US market if the dealers associations are all holding out for a system which tolerates 'laundering' of goods like this?



Confronted by this rabid blast of violently anticollecting sentiment, I am somewhat perplexed as to how to attempt to rationally characterize and discuss that which to me seems to be inherently irrational. First and foremost in such a perilous endeavor, it seems essential to begin with repeating an earlier and very pertinent observation that everyone who reads Mr. Barford's blog should give very serious thought to:

" It is extremely difficult in reading his [Mr. Barford's] blog to distinguish between what is actually the law, what Mr. Barford wishes the law to be, and what he is fantasizing about at the moment. Everything is blurred together in a manner that tends to be very confusing and unclear."

No one who ventures to read what Mr. Barford has to say in any forum should accept any of it without independently verifying that it is both reasonable and, where appropriate, factual. From my personal perspective (and I think I have come to know Mr. Barford much better than most of his adversaries, and perhaps better than many of his supporters) Paul Barford is an intensely frustrated, though sincere and well-meaning idealist on the subject of preserving the archaeological record, which he views as being threatened by misguided individuals who loot interred artifacts in the "source countries" where such objects are commonly found. I should add that "commonly" in such countries implies an extent of artifact profusion that those who are not residents of "source countries" cannot begin to imagine. In an attempt to convey some sense of the practical realities involved, I will cite two examples:

1) The Rome neighborhood named after the veritable mountain of discarded amphoras called Monte Testaccio. This is a mass of the broken fragments of ancient pottery vessels called amphoras, thought to have mostly been used to bring olive oil to Rome from Spain, whose surviving extent is 580,000 cubic metres (760,000 cubic yards). It seems reasonable to presume that the original extent of this enormous dump of commercially manufactured pottery fragments would have been on the order of a million cubic yards, or following the commonly accepted rule of thumb that everything buried has the same average density as soil, a million tons.

2) In Turkey there are actually roads paved with ancient pottery shards, one example of which is cited here:

Following Lord Renfrew, Mr. Barford blames all the evils of the disturbance of archaeological sites by looters upon the activities of individuals whom he believes to be motivated by the prospect of selling their ill-gotten gains into the Western antiquities market. In pursuing this oversimplistic line of argument Mr. Barford has (and still continues to) as I have previously observed, ignored a mountain of factual evidence rivaling the extent of the Monte Testaccio, whose clear and incontrovertible import is that the destructive activities of looters can be traced back to the days of the Pharaohs, and that no evidence that looting is caused by collecting has ever been published.

In short, there is no scientifically validated evidence supporting the contentions of Mr. Barford and other "radical archaeologists" who seek to persuade the credulous public that "collecting equals looting." There is however a great deal of very well established and incontrovertible evidence indicating that looting of ancient monuments, tombs and other archaeological sites has been a pervasive and utterly insoluble problem since the dawn of recorded history. It is worth mentioning that in those byegone days, individuals found to be involved in such looting were dealt with in a manner that would be regarded as being indescribably horrific and barbaric by present day standards. That did not deter such behavior then, and it seems reasonable to conclude that no feasible punitive measures can possibly deter looting now. If burning at the stake, the death of a thousand slices and drastic measures comparable to these cannot get the job done, what can? I have never believed that anything other than a firm conviction in the minds and hearts of those who do such things that looting is evil and an offense against humanity can possibly prevail. To me it seems self-evident that the whole concept that looting can ever be controlled by repressive measures is an intellectually bankrupt and utterly illogical policy. The only way to win this battle is to somehow convince the looters that looting is morally evil.

I would be willing to believe that a conviction that looting is morally evil could perhaps be developed in the minds and hearts of those who presently do such reprehensible things, if they did not have extremely well established grounds to believe that their national and/or local government officials are utterly corrupt and that their national laws prohibiting the private ownership of, and trading in, antiquities are motivated by the prospect of extorting bribes from those who discover and desire to sell antiquities.

Thus in the end we must, by any logical and analytical approach to the problem, inevitably return to the conclusion that the looting of archaeological sites has nothing whatsoever to do with the activities of modern-day Western collectors of antiquities, but instead has everything to do with the perceptions of "the locals," as elitist archaeologists are wont to sneeringly describe those who inhabit "source countries."

I have a very definite perspective on this subject. "The locals" are people for whom I have a great deal of instinctive sympathy and a sincere desire to do something to improve their lives. The archaeologists who so clearly despise them are in my view, for the most part (there are some praiseworthy exceptions) conversely academic elitists who so far as I can tell, care nothing whatsoever for the lives and essential human worth of "the locals," and whose perspective and activities I consider to be socially destructive. If I had to sum up my point of view it would be:

"They are a far better man than you, Gunga Din and his like."

If such an imperialistic white supremacist as Rudyard Kipling could reach such a conclusion as I believe that he sincerely did, it really puzzles me that such clearly lesser intellects as Paul Barford and his radical archaeologist fellows cannot see the glaringly obvious and inescapable corollary conclusion -- that the whole argument that Western collectors are somehow responsible for looting of antiquities in developing nations is nothing more than a despicable and intellectually bankrupt cop-out. This illogical and indefensible perspective inherently involves the premise that "Gunga Din" and his fellows will never be able to manage their affairs in an archaeologically responsible manner.

I have a very much different perspective. I believe that if Gunga Din and his 'local" fellows, regardless of the pervasive elitist Western prejudices regarding their education, coloration of their skins and their religious and cultural tenets, were put in charge of resolving the present situation, and if every Western archaeologist (and his or her elitist pretensions and academic/career interests) were scrupulously ignored for a few years, a sensible and rational solution to the present destructive standoff between the interests of archaeologists and collectors would very soon be found.

If you want to know, Paul Barford, who is the real enemy of archaeology and the real cause of looting -- just take a look in a mirror.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Baltimore Test Case Amicus Brief Texts

Organizations submit Amici Briefs to Appellate Court
by Wayne Sayles

Several leading international numismatic organizations have petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for leave to file an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief supporting ACCG's appeal of the Cyprus/China import restriction challenge. That case was recently dismissed in Circuit Court at Baltimore and is currently under appeal. Ironically, a concerted international response of this sort is mandated by the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) before import restrictions may be imposed. It has never materialized in that regard and is one of the very points challenged by ACCG in the suit being appealed. As a technical matter, the motion for leave is submitted along with the brief itself. Below are the organizations involved and copies of the motions and briefs filed on their behalf:

American Committee for Cultural Policy (ACCP) / International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA)



International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) / American Numismatic Association (ANA) / Ancient Coins for Education (ACE)



Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG)



Baltimore Test Case Update: ACCG allies join the appeal

ACCG Gains Support for Appeal
by Peter Tompa

Six different collector, educational and trade groups have requested leave from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to file three separate amicus briefs in support of the ACCG's efforts to overturn the dismissal of its case to test import regulations on ancient coins. See

Each brief focuses on the failure of the District Court to apply the plain meaning of the CPIA's limitation on import restrictions to coins "first discovered within, and [] subject to the export control by" either Cyprus or China.

The organizations filing jointly or separately are:

American Committee for Cultural Policy (ACCP) / International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) by Richard Rogers, Esq.;

International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) / American Numismatic Association (ANA) / Ancient Coins for Education (ACE) by Michael McCullough, Esq.; and

Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) by Armen Vartian, Esq.


The ACCG's leadership in contesting US import restrictions on ancient artifacts (including but not limited to ancient coins) has now been recognized by these six collector, educational and trade groups who have decided that they also have something important at stake in this legal contest.

This lawsuit, like all other ACCG activities on behalf of US collectors of ancient artifacts including coins, is about much more than the right to import and collect historical coins freely. It is also about the right to lawfully import and collect all ancient artifacts freely, to privately study and perform research upon these artifacts and to contribute to the published literature on the subject, to teach others who have an interest in the subject, and to pursue an interest in ancient history and classical studies through these socially beneficial activities.

The manner in which the 1983 CCPIA, which is the legal foundation for implementing US accession to the 1970 UNESCO Convention, is being administered by the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center is the central issue in this legal dispute. The process established by the CCPIA requires that before import restrictions may be imposed, an investigation by a panel of experts, chosen so as to fairly represent the interests of all concerned citizens, shall be conducted to determine whether the requested restrictions are both necessary and justified.

Over the years, antiquities experts and legal experts have observed that the manner in which the bureaucracy of the Cultural Heritage Center has administered the CPAC process (which Congress had intended would make a fair, objective assessment of these issues) has become a ritualistic sham, leading to results that are predetermined in secret collusive discussions with archaeologists and the requesting nation. Only then does the publicly visible process begin, with submission of a formal request.

In this case the ACCG seeks to force disclosures that, if subjected to the full glare of open public scrutiny, would conclusively prove these disturbing truths:

1) The State Department's Cultural Heritage Center has become a political resource for US archaeologists to pursue their goals in managing professional relations with foreign nations;

2) Foreign nations manipulate US archaeologists by conditioning permission to excavate upon obtaining US agreement to embargo importation of antiquities;

3) Details of MOUs are worked out in advance of the formal submission of requests from foreign nations desiring these agreements, in behind-the-scenes negotiations between the nations involved, US archaeologists and the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center;

4) The CPAC process - including public hearings, recommendations to the President's delegated designee at the Department of State, and verification that specific statutory criteria are met - is a dishonest and dishonorable sham. No facts are actually being found. No verification of specific statutory criteria is actually being carried out. The CPAC process produces recommendations predetermined by arrangements secretly made before the process even begins. It has evolved into a "show trial" whose purpose is to deceive Congress and the American people into believing that the Cultural Heritage Center bureaucracy is managing US compliance with the 1970 UNESCO Convention in a manner that safeguards the public interest.

The State Department has fought disclosure of what is actually taking place to the limit of its ability. Their grounds for refusing to disclose what actually happens behind the scenes is that these details must be kept secret to protect US national interests. In reality, they must be kept secret to protect the interests and careers of those bureaucrats involved, whose ideologically motivated collusion with the narrow interests of US archaeologists and foreign cultural officials cannot stand the light of day. The ACCG and its allies seek nothing more than an open and fair process, as originally intended by Congress, in which the American people can see for themselves what is happening and can believe that everyone's interests are being fairly and equitably considered.

Davy Jones' Locker

An Open Letter to LCCHP and the Organizers of "Keeping the Lid on Davy Jones' Locker"
by Tom King

It would be nice to see someone put on a useful conference about the treatment of deep-water shipwrecks, but I have to be skeptical as to whether Keeping the Lid on Davy Jones' Locker: The Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage from Titanic to Today will be it. I fear it will feature only the usual breast beating about how shipwrecks should be left alone and salvagers are inherently evil --- accompanied by the legal community's pondering on how to accomplish the former and castigate the latter.

Here are some facts that are unlikely to be discussed at the session:

1. Shipwrecks are deteriorating, both from natural causes and particularly as a result of modern methods of fishing, which plow up the bottom as effectively as agricultural land-levelers have torn up the Mississippi Valley.

2. Academic institutions and museums lack the financial resources to excavate everything that's being destroyed, or even a small percentage of it.

3. There are commercial salvagers who conduct very high quality archaeological excavations, and who have technological and financial resources that the academic community can’t touch (See, for example, the two recent publications by Odyssey Marine Exploration here and here --- which are substantial archaeological survey and site reports, some of which also document my point #1 above).

4. The only difference between such “salvage” and the work of academic underwater archaeologists (other than that, in my experience, Odyssey at least does better work) is that a percentage of the recovered material gets sold after it is described and analyzed.

5. Odyssey at least has rather strict protocols governing what can and can't be sold; what gets sold comprises mostly manufactured items of limited research interest;

6. We archaeologists used to claim that we were interested in the data from sites, not the goodies. The violent and near-mindless standard archaeological reaction to responsible shipwreck salvage proves that we've been dissembling all these years, or simply don't understand our own motivations.


This is just about the most sensible and forthcoming comment I have ever seen from an archaeologist regarding private exploration of "archaeological artifacts."

Those artifacts presently underwater are not the only ones that are rapidly deteriorating. A great many artifacts which are discovered on agricultural land are in the "disturbed zone" of tilled soil, which is how they have come to light since time immemorial: first from being turned up by farmers' ploughs, more recently from blips registered when their fields are walked by metal detectorists (whose electronic equipment actually does not penetrate to a depth very much greater that the depth of soil turned by a plough).

Artifacts buried in tilled soil are subjected to a variety of hazards ranging from illicit excavations of nighthawkers, which every responsible collector and antiquities dealer deplores and condemns, to the widespread use of corrosive chemicals in agriculture that creates a low pH soil or acidic environment. The latter includes the introduction of sodium and potassium chloride, whose pervasive presence in irrigation water has contaminated and poisoned agricultural land since the days of ancient Sumeria, creating saline deserts in many places including ancient Mesopotamia. Such acidic soils are not only poisonous to agricultural plants, they also pervade buried copper-alloy objects with chloride and other halide ions which may result in rapid deterioration after their excavation, a conservation hazard in many ways equivalent to what happens when metal artifacts are removed from a salt water environment.

Not nearly enough attention is being paid to the demonstrated fact that ancient artifacts are by no means securely preserved in their resting places. They are in fact always in danger there and that does not only refer to the possibility of illicit excavation. There seems to be a sort of myth in the minds of the credible to the effect that the archaeological environment is like the fossil record, that what is buried is safely preserved for all eternity until it becomes exposed to weathering or until it is disturbed by illicit excavation.

In reality the geological and chemical processes of fossilization do not preserve the original specimen. They instead replace it with a replica resulting from the pervasion of biological materials by water containing chemical substances such as carbonates and nitrates, to corrosion of metallic materials by the effects of acidic substances, to oxidation or reduction of carbon-based plant materials such as that which has resulted in the deposition of coal and peat deposits such as those which were laid down during the Carboniferous era.

The more recent equivalent to such gradual pervasion by aqueous solutions in groundwater and marine environments is corrosion of ancient metal artifacts and their replacement by the resulting corrosion products. This may involve the slow creation of a virtually exact replica which can tell its discoverers a great deal about the original, or more typically may result in a mere suggestion or trace of the original artifact that only indicates the overall shape and dimensions it once had.

The reality is that not only shipwrecks, but all submerged and interred ancient artifacts made from metallic or biological substances are slowly and inevitably deteriorating, and if not brought to light by exploration and subsequent conservation will, in time, disappear.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Italian Collapse Feared

Selloff speeds up; Dow down more than 400 points

Worries that the European debt crisis was becoming more contagious slammed Wall Street Wednesday, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 400 points in afternoon trading.


U.S. stocks had been under selling pressure from the first clang of the opening bell after Italy's borrowing costs soared above 7 percent. Investors also wanted more action than just Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi's promise that he would step down. They took their money and ran amid rising worries that Italy, Europe's third-largest economy, would not be able to deliver on promises to get its fiscal house in order.

Italy has replaced Greece at the center of the eurozone debt crisis and is teetering on the cusp of requiring a bailout that many say Europe cannot afford to give.

"You are dealing with a pretty substantial economy, you are not dealing with a Greek economy, you are dealing with something that is far more significant," said Barry Ritholtz, chief market strategist at Fusion IQ in New York.

"I don't think Italy can just walk away, they can't simply default whereas Greece can, because if they do that is the end of the euro."

The yield on the benchmark Italian government bond spiked above 7 percent, evidence that investors are losing faith in the country's ability to repay its debt. Greece, Portugal and Ireland required bailouts when their bond yields rose above the same mark. Unlike those countries, Italy's $2.6 trillion in debt is too large for other European countries to rescue.

In Greece, power-sharing talks fell apart between the country's two main political parties, raising doubt about whether the country will be able to receive the next installment of emergency loans it needs to avoid default.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi promised late Tuesday to step aside after a new budget is passed, but there are concerns that the transition to a new government will be difficult. Markets see Berlusconi as an impediment to the kind of far-reaching economic reforms Italy needs to remain solvent.

"The market loves a quick solution and we're obviously not getting one," said Mark Lehmann, director of equities of JMP Securities. "We've had a strong rally off the bottom and any piece of bad news is going to be responded to negatively."

Markets fear that a chaotic default by either Greece or Italy would lead to huge losses for European banks. That, in turn, could cause a global lending freeze that might escalate into another credit crisis similar to the one in 2008 after Lehman Brothers fell.

Some analysts fear that the euro itself could fall, which would lead to inflation and a breakdown in free trade agreements in the European Union.

European markets also fell sharply. Italy's benchmark index plunged 3.8 percent. Germany's DAX and France's CAC-40 each lost 2.2 percent.



Unless Italy can restore confidence in its credit, it seems likely that a very dangerous economic situation may develop. The Italian debt is as oppressive as that of Greece and the political climate in Italy is as volatile. But the Italian economy is much larger, and the economic impact of an Italian default would be very much greater. As the costs of financing these ruinous deficit spending consequences become unbearable, fears are developing to the effect that the EEU itself is endangered.

Barford attacks Wayne Sayles

Wagsant on "Antiquities control"
by Paul Barford

In the comments under the recent Forbes article about antiquities collecting there are currently two comments, one by Larry Rothfield about establishing a registration system to identify material already on the established market (making it possible to spot freshly-surfaced looted items). The idea is a no-brainer [as are the REAL reasons why antiquities dealers oppose it so vehemently]. The other comment - apparently from just such a dealer - is telling. It is obvious that behind the screen name "wgsant" is the pen of Wayne Gerald Sayles, veteran antiquities dealer from Missouri. Commenting on the Forbes article titled "There's Big Money And The Need For Reform In The Antiquities Trade" he concentrates on the first aspect and clumsily skips the second. [Sayles] writes:

"Big $ values always stimulate interest and commentary about cultural property and its control. The resulting laws and mindset unfortunately extend down-chain to the most common of utilitarian objects like clay pots and coins that survive in huge quantities. As a result, many collectors of relatively insignificant objects are characterized as supporters of looting and pillaging. They are not, and the failure to make this distinction is a travesty in itself."


Is the trade in these so-called "minor artefacts" like "clay pots and coins" really so "insignificant"? Today on just ONE internet portal selling precisely one of these categories of so-called "minor" artefacts in just ONE country where they are sold, we finds there are "159 Ancient [dugup antiquities] Dealers" offering 107,679 Items with a total value of $23,418,999. Twenty-three point four million dollars is not an "insignificant" sum (enough to buy a combat-ready Chinook helicopter, or - to put the scale of this in a more proper context - keep the PAS running for 12 years at current costs). More to the point, 107 000 holes in the archaeological record just to put this week's coins on offer in one venue in one country is not "insignificant damage" when it is an ongoing erosive process. This one portal selling coins of undocumented provenance represents very major damage to the archaeological record. V-coins was set up in 2008, but ebay through which hundreds of thousands of similarly undocumented antiquities pass annually has been going since 1995. The scale of items passing undocumented from the (finite and fragile) archaeological record onto the global antiquities market (and the history-gobbling US one in particular) is incontrovertibly MASSIVE. Holes are being dug all over the place to keep the market which Mr Sayles represents supplied with fresh commodities, of major saleability and minor 'potboiler' status.


Yes Mr Sayles (who claims to have done an archaeology 101 course at a Wisconsin university), the "resulting laws and mindset" do indeed apply to all "portable antiquities" which are looted from archaeological sites to supply the collectors market. For the "most common of utilitarian objects like clay pots and coins that survive in huge quantities" are archaeological evidence while they are in the archaeological record (ground) and cease to be the moment they are hoiked out to join many thousands others of undocumented and freshly-surfaced dugups in a dealer's stockroom. Like that of Sayles and Lavender - where DID all that stuff come from, really? It is the "most common of utilitarian objects like clay pots and coins that survive in huge quantities" which keep the market ticking over, keep dealers like Mr Sayles in business. It is the affordability in the era of large scale commercial looting of archaeological sites of the "most common of utilitarian objects like clay pots and coins that survive in huge quantities" which allows the market to expand, persuading more and more individuals that they too an afford a "piece of history" in their homes and emulate and get the kudos in a small way of being collectors like Levy and White. What Sayles is arguing is that the vast bulk of the transactions on the no-questions-asked market should remain unregulatable, should remain no-questions-asked. That is precisely what he set up the ACCG to fight for.

Sayles bemoans the situation that [as a result of the fact that archaeological evidence and the objects of conservationists' efforts are not defined by the commercial value of the elements traded]: "many collectors of relatively insignificant objects are characterized as supporters of looting and pillaging". Note the sleight of hand. Sayles likes to pretend (note the name of the dealers' lobbying group he set up in 2004) that it is just collectors who are allegedly "victimised" thus. The DEALERS are as guilty as collectors, if not more so; who buys the stuff with undocumented provenances on a dodgy market? Who will not declare their sources, or reveal what process was used to ascertain (and verify) kosher provenance? Who actively discourages any discussion of these issues (even on the closed coiney forums)? Dealers, dealers, dealers.

There is absolutely no doubt, given the current state of the no-questions-asked antiquities market, collectors who buy freshly surfaced material without ascertaining and verifying it has a clean collecting history are indeed guilty of supporting the looting, pillaging and smuggling and trading of looted and pillaged artefacts. That is irrespective of whether the items concerned are the "most common of utilitarian objects like clay pots and coins" that are looted "in huge quantities" or whether it is a one-off pot like the Euphranios krater (pulled from the same tomb by a robber as many other more "utilitarian" vessels which also end up on the clandestine market). Or an Athenian deka that might (arguably) be found in a Turkish hoard with many thousand other more "mundane" issues. It is not the coin that matters, it is the context; once separated from the rest and smuggled into the US its just a chunk of metal (which is not to say that those handling it all down the chain of illegal activity should not be punished - they all should end up in jail, I'd like to see a few US coin dealers in a Turkish or Bulgarian jail for knowingly handling stolen property).



It's hardly surprising to learn that Mr. Barford would "like to see a few US coin dealers in a Turkish or Bulgarian jail for knowingly handling stolen property)." Those who have read what he has to say over the years can hardly have any illusions regarding how he views anyone who deals in antiquities. From Mr. Barford's one-sided anticollecting perspective, dealing in or collecting unprovenanced portable antiquities such as ancient coins is a crime, and such objects are by definition "stolen property."

The most misleading and unreasonable aspect of this particular rant is the manner in which it presents Mr. Barford's point of view as though it were fact. It is extremely difficult in reading his blog to distinguish between what is actually the law, what Mr. Barford wishes the law to be, and what he is fantasizing about at the moment. Everything is blurred together in a manner that tends to be very confusing and unclear.

This particular bit of rabidly anticollecting propaganda is especially obnoxious because in this altogether unjustified and perhaps libelous rant, Mr. Barford attacks an extremely ethical, upright man for whom I have always had a great deal of respect, as though Wayne Sayles were some sort of criminal. The "crime" Wayne is allegedly guilty of is standing up for the rights of collectors, as well as those of the dealers who supply them. Whilst both Wayne and I are among the ranks of such dealers, and are firmly in the ranks of those who endeavor to defend the rights of collectors, neither of us is really in this for the money and the picture painted of our motives and of our profession by Mr. Barford is as unfair and misleading as everything else he has to say.

The "silent majority" of archaeologists know very well that coin collectors and the dealers who support them are not any significant threat to archaeology. They instead perceive antiquities collectors and dealers who seek major objects such as statues, fine ceramic art and other very valuable collectibles as being those whose activities tend to support a view that the collecting of such objects creates a market that motivates looting of archaeological sites. Not drawing a line between this rational point of view which (whether or not one entirely agrees with it) does have something to be said in its favor, and the utterly unreasonable perspective of Mr. Barford, tends to discredit the whole argument that "collecting equals looting." In a sense that perspective could be justly compared to characterizing those who may perhaps inadvertently park an automobile in a manner that might violate the law, for example by a parking meter's flag coming up before they return to the vehicle, as being in the same class of lawbreakers as wanton murderers and terrorists.

Whilst I can't speak for Wayne, I am personally grateful to Mr. Barford for his uncontrollable urge to so violently rant in his blog about the perceived iniquities of coin collectors and coin dealers. In doing this, he does not merely present a very false and unjust picture of the collecting community, he also presents a very false and unjust picture of the anti-collecting faction in the archaeological community. Whilst I intensely disagree with the principles and views of that faction and have made no secret of that disagreement, I have always believed that such views are sincerely held and are based upon a philosophy that can rationally be argued for, even if in my opinion it is not in the best interests of society.

So please do keep up the good work, Mr. Barford. Every other word you post in your notorious blog does, in my view, drive yet another nail in the already very securely fastened coffin of the long since exploded myth that "collecting equals looting." The public may perhaps often be uninformed, but is not so foolish as to be unable to distinguish the difference between what you have to say (in your inimitable manner) and objective truth. In your unceasing efforts to "fool all of the people all of the time," you are instead doing a very effective job of discrediting the point of view you profess to espouse, and your rabidly anti-collecting blogging rants have perhaps become the most valuable propaganda resource the pro-collecting advocacy could possibly hope for.

Looming Crisis in Italy

Italy crisis deepens despite Berlusconi quit pledge
reported by Associated Press

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi confirmed he won't run again for office and said Wednesday his hand-picked successor Angelino Alfano will be his party's candidate when Italy holds new elections.

Despite his pledge to leave office, the country's benchmark 10-year borrowing rate jumped above the 7 percent level that is widely considered unsustainable over the longer term.

It was hoped Berlusconi's decision would restore confidence in Italy's economy by allowing the passage of painful austerity measures.


The 7 percent threshold is psychologically important for traders because Greece, Ireland and Portugal asked for bailouts when it became clear the rate wasn't coming back down from that level.


Berlusconi wants new elections with his hand-picked successor as a candidate. Before that can happen, Italy's president must decide an interim government and if it will be led by politicians or technocrats.

Berlusconi said he would step aside once parliament passes economic reforms demanded by the European Union to prevent Italy from being swept up further into Europe's debt crisis.


Once Berlusconi resigns, President Giorgio Napolitano must begin consultations to form a new government — possibly with the conservative leader from Berlusconi's party, or if consensus can't be reached, a technical government may be sought.

Berlusconi is pressing for new elections in early 2012.

"I won't run, actually I feel liberated," Berlusconi was quoted as telling the La Stampa daily. "It's Alfano's turn."

Berlusconi tapped Alfano, his former justice minister, to head his People of Liberties Party a few months ago.

At 41, Alfano represents a new generation of politicians after 17 years of Berlusconi leadership.

Mario Monti, a former EU competition commissioner who now heads Milan's prestigious Bocconi University, has been widely tipped as a candidate to head a technical government.

Berlusconi conceded it was up to Napolitano to decide how to proceed once he steps down.

It's not clear that Napolitano would want to subject Italy to elections any time soon given the need to calm markets. He may try to sound out politicians about the possibility of forming either a government of technocrats or a broad-based government that could hold a majority in parliament.

Posted to the list by:

Dave Welsh
Unidroit-L Listowner Unidroit-L