June 14, 2020

On the run high-flying art dealer Inigo Philbrick apprehended

Image Right: "Humidity", 1982 by Jean-Michel Basquiat
acrylic, oilstick, and Xerox collage
In a reality that seems like a scene snatched from the Spanish crime series La casa de Papel, the once-vanished, serial swindler Inigo Philbrick was arrested on Thursday on the Republic of Vanuatu, an archipelago of about 83 islands in the southwest Pacific. The high-wheeling art dealer once operated an HNW fine art business, which included a gallery in Mayfair London, and, beginning in 2018, one in Miami, Florida.
Rudolf Stingel Painting of Picasso, 2012
involved in Inigo Philbrick Lawsuit

According to the unsealed complaint issued by the Southern District of New York, from 2016 to 2019 Philbrick, a U.S. citizen, repeatedly sold multiple high-value artworks to different collectors and investors, sometimes using the same works of art as collateral for loans with financial lenders while intentionally hiding others’ ownership interests.

One of those artworks was a $10 million painting by the contemporary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat titled “Humidity” painted in 1982.  The Basquiat accusation came after Philbrick was already facing allegations that he had sold other artworks, by artists Yayoi Kusama and Rudolf Stingel, to multiple clients. 

By October 2019, Philbrick stopped returning concerned investors' phone calls, and by November 2019 the dealer had no-showed for a hearing in Florida and two scheduled London court appearances, one related to a hearing brought by Singapore-based LLG PTE Ltd., and others by German art investment partnership, Fine Art Partners (FAP GmbH).  Philbrick had been buying and selling paintings for FAP since 2015.

With both of his galleries shuttered and emptied, the Miami branch in such a rush that there was still food left in the refrigerator, the judge in the UK issued a temporary order freezing Philbrick's worldwide assets.  A short while later, Philbrick's own attorney, Robert Landon, filed a motion on November 12 seeking to withdraw from representing his client, but it was too late, the dealer had vanished. 

FAP was already involved in a civil lawsuit with Philbrick in Miami, Florida seeking to recover 14 million dollars worth of art from what has been deemed an elaborate transatlantic Ponzi scheme.  In that instance, the German firm had purchased, among other things, one of Kusama's "infinity mirror" rooms entitled “All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins” from Philbrick, only to later find out that the artwork had also been sold by the dealer, in 2019, to the Saudi Collection of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula (MVCA).  

With his house of cards rapidly collapsing around him, it first seemed that the pump and dump dealer on the run had decided to lay low in Australia.  Later it was discovered that he had been living on the remote and tiny necklace of 80-odd islands between Australia and Fiji known as Vanuatu, possibly helped by funds he may have stashed in Vanuatu’s offshore banks. 

The Republic of Vanuatu, once known as the New Hebrides, gained its place as an offshore financial center in the early 1970s before the island-state achieved its political independence from Great Britain and France on July 30,1980.   In 2015 it gained unwanted notoriety as an offshore tax haven thanks to the leaked Panama Papers which unmasked many offshore corporate clients’ who hid their wealth via thousands of shell corporations set up in tax lenient locations around the world.

As a result of its AML/CFT deficiencies, Vanuatu has been listed on the FATF's grey list of countries, alongside countries like Syria and Yemen, as well as on the list of uncooperative tax havens that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) re-activated in July 2016 at the request of G20 nations.  Purportedly the country is now working on repairing its reputation as a financial pariah. 

Philbrick has been formally charged with Wire Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft.  Arrested by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on June 11th, the art broker has now been flown some 4000 kilometers from his hide-away to Guam.  Tomorrow evening he will make his virtual initial appearance in the Southern District of New York where it is expected he will plead not guilty.

Remembering Paolo Giorgio Ferri

Image Credit: Jason Felch
It is with profound sadness that ARCA shares the news of today's passing of Paolo Giorgio Ferri, Italy's famed Sostituto Procuratore della Repubblica a Roma due to health complications. He was 72 years old. 

Dr. Ferri's first investigative case into Italy's stolen heritage began in 1994 and involved a statue stolen from Rome's Villa Torlonia that was then sold at auction by Sotheby's.   But it was the invaluable role he played in doggedly pursuing corrupt antiquities dealers who laundered antiquities into some of the world's most prestigious museums that made his name famous among those who follow art and heritage crimes. 

Forty-eight when his investigation began into the activities of Giacomo Medici, Gianfranco Becchina, Robin Symes and others, Paolo was integral in truly exposing the ugly underbelly of the ancient art trade and the insidious phenomenon of laundering cultural goods. 

Image Credit: ARCA
In February 2000 Judge Ferri received a commendation and a formal expression of esteem from General Roberto Conforti (then Commanding Officer of the Carabinieri Department for the Protection of the Italian Cultural Heritage) for the suggestions he made in relation to a project initiative to change the Italian law on cultural goods.   In 2011 ARCA honored Dr. Ferri with an art crime protection award for his role in the 2005 case against Emanuel Robert Hecht and Marion True, the former curator of the J Paul Getty Museum.  This case, and his work on it, marked a dramatic change, in years to come, in the policy of acquisitions by museums around the world, as well as set the stage for numerous restitutions of stolen artifacts to their countries of origin.

Following his career as a prosecutor, Ferri continued to fight for Italy's heritage and served on a special commission with Italy's Ministry of Culture, created for the restitution of national cultural heritage stolen abroad.  There he served as a legal advisor on cultural diplomacy negotiations.  Ferri also provided legal opinions regarding criminal matters, served as an advisor to ICCROM,  was part of a commission for the criminal reform of the Code of Cultural Heritage, and participated in Vienna in the drafting of Guidelines to the United Nations Convention against transnational organized crime, which was signed in Palermo in 2000.

Paolo Giorgio Ferri
Image Credit:  Daniela Rizzo/Maurizio Pelligrini, friends and colleagues.  Maurizio Pelligrini relates that this photo was taken 28 September 2004, when Paolo was in New York and still did not know if Italy would be able to convince the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philippe de Montebello to destitute the famous Euphronios crater.
Dr. Ferri will be remembered by his colleagues and friends as one who never backed off in the fight against illicit trafficking and as someone always willing to share his knowledge and legal expertise freely and openly.  Journalist Fabio Isman, who broke the news to some of us, recalled that when Dr. Ferri wrote his first Letters Rogatory, it took three weeks to draft the document.   At the height of his investigations Ferri would go on to write three Letters Rogatory a week, asking the world for judicial assistance in the restitution of Italy's stolen works of art. 

ARCA wishes to offer its support and condolences to everyone close to this wonderful man, but most importantly to Paolo's family, particularly his wife Mariarita, his daughter Sofia and his grandchildren. 

June 11, 2020

Banksy's "the Sorrowful Girl", stolen from Bataclan Concert Hall has been recovered.

When insult, (the theft of a Banksy artwork) was added to injury, (the tragic deaths at Bataclan Concert Hall) no one would have guessed the artwork would be recovered in the countryside of far off Abruzzo in Italy. 

Banksy's memorial artwork, "the Sorrowful Girl", was painted on one of the Paris theatre's emergency exit doors, and soulfully depicts an unusually dressed woman with a slightly bowed head. The single colored artwork had been placed at the concert hall by the British street artist in remembrance of the lives lost during the 13 November 2015 terrorist attack during an Eagles of Death Metal concert.  On that night, 90 concert-goers died.  Others, luckier perhaps, but equally scarred, fled terrified and frightened, some through the very door the artwork had once been painted on. 

On 26 January 2019 last year, Banksy's commemorative artwork was stolen, hacked off from the door using an angle grinder power tool before being loaded onto a truckbed.

The artwork was recovered in Italy by the Alba Adriatica (Teramo) unit of the Italian Carabinieri who carried out a search warrant as part of a joint Italian-French judicial cooperation investigation involving the L'Aquila District Prosecutor, the Italian Carabinieri and French police.

On hand for the press conference held today at the Palace of Justice in L'Aquila, Italy were: Major Christophe Cengig, the liaison officer for organized crime at the French Embassy in Italy; the L'Aquila District Prosecutor Michele Renzo; L'Aquila Public Prosecutor David Mancini;  Lieutenant Colonel Carmelo Grasso, commander of the Carabinieri of the Cultural Heritage Protection Unit of Ancona; Colonel Emanuele Pipola, the provincial commander of the Carabinieri of Teramo, and Lieutenant Colonel Emanuele Mazzotta, commander of the Carabinieri company of Alba Adriatica.

Very little was disclosed during today's tight-lipped public announcement given that the investigation involves a crime that took place in France where an investigation into the theft is ongoing.  No mention was made of who might be involved in the removal of the artwork from France or when and how the Bansky piece ultimately ended up in Abruzzo. 

All that was released was that this operation began in March and that the artwork had been apparently been moved on more than one occasion, before being located in an upstairs storage room of a cottage in the countryside, in the province of Teramo.  At the time the search warrant was executed, the tenants living in the property where the artwork had been stored seem to have been completely unaware of what was being stored inside the closed area where the artwork was found. 

In a moving speech, Public prosecutor Renzo stated:

"Europe is not just a word, it is a common feeling with respect for a complex group of rights that underpin our idea of freedom, which no terrorist act can ever erase. For this reason, I am happy for this operation that gives us back this work that symbolizes mourning for those victims of the terrorist attack in Paris."

No word yet on who, if anyone will be charged in Italy, though the authorities stressed that there does to appear to be any link to terrorism and that the motives for the theft appear to have been purely economic in nature. 

June 10, 2020

A Greek Horse in the US Courts

Image Credit: ARCA
Screenshot taken 02 May 2018

A little more than two years ago, on 01 May 2018 ARCA was informed by Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis, a forensic archaeologist at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies in Denmark that a suspect bronze Greek figure of a horse was on consignment as part of an upcoming Sotheby's auction scheduled for 14 May 2018 titled "The Shape of the Beauty: Sculpture from the Collection of Howard and Saretta Barnet." The illicit trafficking researcher had matched the 8th century BCE statuette to three photos found in the confiscated Robin Symes archive. 

Three, (3) photos from the Symes -Michaelides archive
provided by Christos Tsirogiannis
This was the second of two objects in the Barnet collection which have been discovered to have passed through the hands of dealers known for having worked with looters and middlemen.  The first, according to antiquities scholar Professor David Gill, was a 550 BCE Black-Figure Kylix attributed to the Hunt Painter to the Metropolitan Museum of Art which the Barnet family donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1999 and which was relinquished by the museum via a transfer in title in a negotiation completed with the Italian Ministry of Culture on February 21, 2006.

Given the multijurisdictional nature of the identification, Tsirogiannis had already sent his findings to INTERPOL given that the source country could be Italy or Greece and the object was presently up for sale in a New York auction house.  

After receiving a letter of concern from the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Hellenic Republic on 11 May 2018, who asserted that a circa-8th century BCE bronze horse was the property of Greece, Sotheby’s withdrew the Lot from auction in order to allow the interested parties time to discuss their findings.  Unable to find a mutually satisfactory solution, the estate of Howard and Saretta Barnet and Sotheby’s together filed a lawsuit, Barnet et al v. Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Hellenic Republic, in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on 5 June 2018 seeking a declaratory judgment that the bronze horse had been "acquired lawfully and in good faith" by Howard and Saretta Barnet who purchased the Bronze Horse on or about 16 November 1973, for £15,000 and was, therefore, the family's property to dispose of.  The lawsuit, the first of its kind involving an auction house, aimed in some part, to hold the country of Greece responsible for the financial losses Sotheby’s and the family incurred as a result of what the litigating parties believe was an unjustified claim by the Ministry.

On 5 November 2018 Greece filed a motion to dismiss, asserting immunity from litigation, and moved to dismiss Barnet et al's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) arguing that the U.S. District Court didn't have the jurisdiction to hear a case involving a foreign nation, per the terms of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a 1976 US law codified at Title 28, §§ 1330, 1332, 1391(f), 1441(d), and 1602–1611 of the United States Code, that establishes the limitations as to whether a foreign sovereign nation (or its political subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities) may be sued in U.S. courts.

On 21 June 2019 U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla rejected Greece’s motion to dismiss citing a small technicality in the current legal framework ruling that the formal inquiry letter from the Greek Ministry of Culture to Sotheby's, requesting that the auction house withdraw the lot until its provenance and exit from Greece could be researched, fell under the commercial activity exception, something which, if affirmed on appeal, might have ended the Greek's claim right then and there. 

By mid-July 2019 the Greek Ministry through their attorney, Leila Amineddoleh, had filed a Notice of Interlocutory Appeal and a Motion to stay litigation in the case, which Judge Failla quickly granted pending appeal. 

Yesterday the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the District Court's ruling stating in their opinion that Greece's act of sending its letter to the auction house was not in connection with a commercial activity outside of the United States and was the country's enactment and enforcement of patrimony laws which are by their very nature, archetypal sovereign activities.  The Appeals Court concluded that the District Court had erred in concluding that it had jurisdiction and the case was remanded with instructions to dismiss the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

There are many challenges posed by how the courts, and judges, interpret the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and its "commercial" and "expropriation" exceptions.  This case though had a happy ending for Greece. 

June 9, 2020

Tuesday, June 09, 2020 - 1 comment

Iconoclasm in the eyes of the beholder

Illustration of the Beeldenstorm
F. De Witt Huberts
The siege of Haarlem.
Op/Ed - By Lynda Albertson

History tells us that our predecessors had a word for iconoclasm, εἰκονοκλασία. In Ancient Greek it gets its roots from two words:

εἰκών - figure, image, likeness, portrait

κλάω - to break, to break off, to break into pieces, to be broken or deflected; to break, to weaken, to frustrate.

The Romans referred to it as Damnatio Memoriae; condemnation of memory.  In a world with no photography, and with what little remains of writing from that period, anything that was erased during these periods was likely lost from public memory.

The OED, the definitive record of the modern English language, defines an iconoclast as an individual who challenges "cherished beliefs or venerated institutions on the grounds that they are erroneous or pernicious".

During war, much has been written about protecting the history of our vanquished enemies.  Article 56 of the regulations respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV) speaks to the property of municipalities and calls for penalties for the prohibitive seizure, destruction or damaging of cultural property protected by international law.  Likewise, the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunal regarded the pillage and destruction of foreign property, including cultural objects, as a war crime.

But things get blurry when civil conflicts are the cause of iconoclasm, especially when the incidences are internal to a country's borders, politics, or religion. Or at least so thinks the iconoclasts involved, who see their actions as wholly reasonable, and in some cases downright righteous.   

A little more than 500 years ago, Augustinian friar Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses against the Church's indulgences to Albrecht, the Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg.  This event is believed by some to have fuelled the start of the Bildersturm, the "picture storm" of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and the Netherlands.  Later and for many of the same reasons, the wave of Puritan religious fervor carried over to England, sometimes using state-approved civic channels to remove objects that no longer sat well with the majority, as was the case with the removal of the Cheapside Cross, voted on and approved for demolition by London’s Common Council on 27 April 1643.

Crowds tear down the Cheapside Cross, 2 May1643
Other incidences were religiously-sanctioned, handed down to churches in the reign of Edward VI, like the defacing of the 14th Century devotional statue of St Margaret and thousands of others ecclesiastic artworks which once highlighted English churches in the late medieval period.  Destroyed with the formal approval of Anglican reformers, Edward VI’s 1547 instructions ordered the devout to "to take away, utterly extinct and destroy all shrines, coverings of shrines, all tables, candlesticks, trindles or rolls of wax, pictures, paintings and all other monuments of feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry, and superstition so that there remain no memory of the same within their churches or houses. And they shall exhort their parishioners to do the like within their houses."   After this purge, so little religious art was left, that it would be easy to assume that there was no native painting and very little sculpture in pre-Reformation Britain. 

Watching their past pulled down and in some cases white-limed, those in disagreement, sometimes, tried to save what they had been mandated to destroy. Church monuments were hidden away haphazardly from the angry iconoclasts when and how they could.  Sometimes, they even buried them in the ground, perhaps as one last defiant act of solemn funerary respect, or perhaps hoping the artworks could be retrieved once the anger-fueled storm had passed.  

In the wet soil of England, moisture, as well as time, wreaked havoc on these once venerated objects, stripping them of their finishes and leaching away much of their vibrant color.  Time erased what artists had worked so hard to create, as the statues and icons were never meant to be subject to the dampness of English weather. 

Saint Margaret at St Andrew Church, Fingringhoe, Essex
Some, like St. Margaret, depicted above, were found years later on church grounds, then painstakingly restored, as best as was possible, to sit once again inside the church they once decorated.  Others, less fortunate, eventually traveled miles from their sacred homes, turning up on the art market at European art fairs like BRAFA or TEFAF.  These traveling masterpieces were snapped up by specialized galleries, like Fluminalis and Galerie Brimo de Laroussilhe, who long have known that selling Art médiéval, touched by iconoclasm, can earn a dealer a princely sum for the pains and remains of the past. 

And while these Christian Reformations are now a distant memory, we watched in digital horror recently, as history repeated itself in new and even more disturbingly theatrical ways, at the hands of the Islamic State.  The group's own brand of religious politics, like others before them, believed that rending asunder a past incongruent with the caliphate's beliefs was righteous; so much so that they digitally curated their destructive handiwork at well known cultural heritage sites like Palmyra in Syria, the Mosul Cultural Museum, Nineveh, and Nimrud in Iraq rather than retain them for posterity.

Da'esh militant taking a pneumatic drill to the last fully preserved colossal Lamassu.
Nergal Gate, Nineveh
And while it is easy to see the wrongness of denominational iconoclasm throughout history, a portion of the public, and even some academics, have recently shown that they view ideological iconoclasm through differing filters, picking and choosing what is worth retaining and what is worth destroying, based in part upon the stresses and tears an object creates in the social fabric of society in a given place or time. 

Take for example the reliefs of victory and torture illustrating the futile cycle of the rise and fall of empires of long ago, etched onto the walls of Neo-Assyrian king Ashurbanipal's grand royal residence in the citadel of Nineveh.  One depicts the Assyrian battle at Memphis in 667 BCE.  

Parts of this extraordinary relief are mesmerizingly graphic, as well as tragically poignant.  The panels vividly document the Assyrian aesthetic of memorializing its violent and gruesome deeds in furtherance of their rule.   This panel explicitly illustrates the fate that awaited the defeated soldiers of King Taharka.  Five of the captured Nubians can been seen being marched off single-file, handcuffed, humiliated, and bare-footed. At the rear of the line, two Assyrian soldiers triumphantly hold the decapitated heads of two of their vanquished opponents. 

"Panel 17, Room M" of the North Palace at Nineveh
On display at the British Museum 
Another relief, from King Sennacherib's Palace Without Rival at Nineveh. illustrates the conquest and destruction of Lachish after the siege of 701 BCE.  Likewise, it is meticulously carved in grisly detail, with parts of the relief depicting the unfortunate members of Lachish's ruling government being tortured to death.  Nearby, what remains of the city's townspeople, are seen as they are led away into a life of slavery, dominated by their conquerors.  Yet today these images are seen as a record of histories long past.  

The defeated citizens of Lachish led away as prisoners by the Assyrians.
On display at the British Museum 

Neither of these artworks evoke a visceral horror as they would, had the events occurred in the more recent past. Seen with eyes unmoved by emotions, they are considered, simply, historical representations of war, or even art.  As ancient artifacts they are admired for their violent realism, and take pride-of-place in some of the world's prestigious museums.

Perhaps these reliefs are treasured because the footprints of the citizens of Memphis and Lachish who fought in these battles, and the cemeteries where their corpses lie, are not our own forefathers.  The blood of these historic fighters has long since soaked into the ground where other civilizations took root, grew and now walk.

But in the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic killing, some pains are fresher, and instead of suggesting unifying ways to reconcile ourselves with our own distasteful pasts and presents, some professors and curators have seen fit to encourage their own iconoclastic storms.  One, in a series of tweets, even provided a "hypothetically" detailed instructions on how to destroy public monuments as a public service announcement.

Others don't even hide behind carefully-worded innuendo. Instead, they go straight for enhancing the public spectacle of destruction even using the skills they were taught in conservation and historic preservation, but now turned towards demolition.

But as proper historians know deep down in their entrails, ridding ourselves completely of unwanted history is farcical.  And while the new vanguard of undoing a wrong, by removing monuments to oppression might come from a good place, and might make us feel like we are contributing to something good, the act itself will not bring absolution.  Nor does it pay sufficient penance for the years we stood idly by, remaining silent, while others were mistreated, abused, and killed.

Citizens standing over a toppled statue of Joseph Stalin
23 October 1956
History is littered with the broken statues of distasteful oppressors, toppled time and time again, in justifiable anger-filled rage and resentment.  Some are bashed to bits by angry mobs, others are discreetly removed, sometimes under the cloak of darkness, to be tucked into less offensive spaces in deference to those injured by what the statue represents.   But even if we could deface, pull down or blow up every morally reprehensible visual representation of the world's tyrants and bullies, we won't ever be washed free of their sins, or our own complacency in idly letting their atrocities take root and happen.

Tweeting out instructions for taking down statues seen as images of slave oppression will not erase the shattering consequences of that era in America's history.  Nor will it stop tomorrow's injustices when it comes to race, or tomorrow's killing of another black man at the hands of police brutality, or when George Floyd's name joins the list of the only vaguely remembered black men who have been abused or killed, while little else changes.

Erasing the history of the confederacy and the South's poor choices in these monuments won't erase the racial hatred which historically allowed these monuments to be erected. And time would be better spent wrestling with the present and asking why, in 2020, we still have an environment that allows racial and ethnic hatred which kills.

Having said all that, let me be clear, I am in no way advocating for the preservation of these morally repugnant monuments. If I had my druthers, they would be procedurally and physically dealt with in a way that addresses the painfulness of the argument listening to the voices of the voiceless.

What I am against are these kinds of performative acts which are often more about political capital than the hard-grinding work of enacting real social change.  We need change much more than simply sweeping old bronzes under unresolved rugs, where the undercurrents of racism still creep and grow, like bigger and bigger dust bunnies, threatening to choke us all.

The end of a statue is not the same as the end of the bitterness and in the end toppling them does little to heal anyone.

We need to do better.  We need to be better.  We need to do better.  Every single one of us, needs to do better. 

June 6, 2020

Auction Alert (and Withdrawal): Tunisian treasures up for auction are withdrawn from Coutau-Bégarie auction house in Paris

On June 1st, the Institut National du Patrimoine (INP) in Tunisia posted their concerns on their Facebook page about an upcoming auction at Coutau-Bégarie auction house in Paris, scheduled for the 11th of June.  Up for sale was a grouping of Tunisian personal effects, made up mostly of Qur’ans, manuscripts, books of poetry, tunisian djebba, (the country's traditional attire for men), and personal correspondence dating from the reign of the Beys.  The items up for sale were modestly priced, starting at €120 and going upwards to €1500.

The objects were once the personal property of an influential Tunisian dignitary Mohamed Habib Djellouli, (arabic: محمد الحبيب الجلولي).  Born into a patrician family belonging to the Tunisian aristocracy, Djellouli had served as the Caïd-Gouverneur of Kairouan, Nabeul and Béja and later as the Minister of the Pen and Minister of Justice of Bey.   The Beys he ruled Tunisia from 1613 until 1957, when the modern Tunisian Republic was formed. Djellouli's personal effects, accumulated over years, were passed down to his heirs after his death in 1957, the same year that the monarchy was abolished and the beylical office terminated. 

The objects from his private collection drew concerns from the INP as there was no record of the pieces having left the territory of the Republic of Tunisia, and it appears that the transfer was done without the knowledge of the country's Ministry of Cultural Affairs.  It is their job to determine if movable properties fall within the parameters of the cultural heritage code, which explicitly prohibits the export of movable cultural property of national or international historic value. 

The country's Ministry of Cultural Affairs was established in Tunisia in 1961 to implement cultural policy on behalf of the country.  The Institut National du Patrimoine (INP) operates alongside the ministry and oversees twenty archaeological and ethnological museums throughout the Republic.  It was the INP who first sounded the alarm to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in Tunisia regarding their concerns about the sale in Paris.  

Tunisia's current law for the archaeological, historical and traditional arts patrimony was enacted in 1994 and amended in 2011.  Known as Decree-law n° 2011-43 and dated 25 May 2011, this updated law increases the penalties for infractions related to moveable heritage.  Under the current national law, article 57, the export of movable property is prohibited though temporary export of movable cultural property is possible, subject to authorization from the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.  

Yesterday Ghazi Gherardi, the ambassador and permanent representative of Tunisia to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation  - UNESCO announced that all 114 objects related to the "Collection of a Dignitary of the Beylical Court" had been withdrawn from the sale with the auction house sending a communiqué containing a pledge to cease the sale procedures until the competent arbitral authority considers the matter.

And while that withdrawal is a small victory for Tunis, one has to question, for the umpteenth time, what type of due diligence, if any, was performed by Coutau-Bégarie before agreeing to accept these items for the auction, what if any checks occurred at the EU border when these objects arrived on Europe's shore, and what documentation was provided, if any at all, to Coutau-Bégarie by the individuals selling the family property. 

Stands to reason that if an auction house has time to develop length object descriptions for one hundred and fourteen items, photograph them, and then design a sales catalog to highlight them, uploading the PDF to their website, they might also have the time to ring up the authorities in Tunisia to ask about the legitimacy of the objects being consigned.  

June 5, 2020

Virtual restitutions in the age of Coronavirus and Australian bush fires

On 27 November 2019 the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison formally announced that as a result of criminal law proceedings underway in India and the United States against New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor, Australia would be voluntarily returning three culturally significant sculptures to India.  Five days later, on 2 December 2019 the Australian Government's Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications - Office for the Arts announced that the three artworks would be formally given back to the Indian authorities during the Prime Minister's visit to India, in January 2020.

Prime Minister Morrison was scheduled to travel to India on 13 January 2020 for bilateral meetings between Australia and India, at the invitation of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.  The pair planned to hand over the artworks and discuss the global economy before Morrison headed on to other meetings in Japan.  Those plans, however, fell by the wayside as Australia battled for control over the country's raging bush fires which continued unabated until mid-February, a result of the country's prolonged drought.

The next hiccup to the scheduled meeting and handover was the world-encompassing epidemic, the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Months later, opting for safety and security over politics, as coronavirus cases in India saw a record single-day jump of 9,304, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi held their first-ever “Bilateral Virtual Summit” on the 4th of June 2020.  This occasion, focused on comprehensive strategic partnerships between India and Australia, and was the occasion to allow Morrison to virtually hand over the pair of 15th century, Vijayanagar dynasty door guardians (Darapala) from Tamil Nadu, and a 6-8th century sandstone statue of the serpent king (Nagaraja) from Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, in India.

Speaking with S. Vijay Kumar of the India Pride Project, a volunteer organization involved in documenting and tracking stolen Indian artifacts, Mr. Kumar had this to say about the current restitutions:

"The return of the two door guardians, bought by the NGA for USD 495,000 in August 2005 and stolen from Tamil Nadu and the Nagaraja purchased for USD 337,500 in April 2006 from Madhya Pradesh will bring closure to an eight year struggle with the National Gallery of Australia which started with us, along with Mr. Jason Felch exposing the robber photos, showing the objects freshly looted against a vesti and lungi background. We also proved the fake provenance of the certificates issued by Art of Past for these purchases way back in 2015. 

The returns are important as they provide much-needed impetus to the sagging criminal trial of Subhash Kapoor by exposing the nexus between him and his associates. The Nagaraja was smuggled out of India sometime in 1999 by the mastermind of the illicit trafficking network in India who went by the codename "SHANTOO" who we now know is Ranjit Kanwar (but whom has yet to be arrested/traced by Indian law enforcement) but more importantly of the Prakash brothers who ran IndoNepal - who smuggled the two door guardians out of India sometime before 2002.  

These individuals have been named in the case filing on Kapoor in NYC Aug 2019 by US authorities, providing graphic details of how these stolen artefacts  are cleaned by intermediaries - in this case Solomon who has been since charged with abetting this crime for cleaning and removing any trace of dirt, etc from the Nagaraja and also how Subhash Kapoor used an old typewriter and some old stationery to fool the largest public museum in Australia.

The two Dwarapalas will be sent to India's Idol wing of Tamil Nadu which has registered a theft case related to the pair.  The Serpent King will initially go to the Red Fort Archaeological Museum located in the Mumtaz Mahal of the Red Fort in Delhi.

Kumar, Felch, and arts reporter Michaela Boland have long pushed for the examination and return of suspect Kapoor pieces, imploring the NGA to look closely at the provenance of all works in the museum's collection which were purchased by this dealer or his affiliates.  Extradited to India in July 2012, Kapoor remains incarcerated at Tiruchirappalli Central Prison awaiting the conclusion of his trial in India.  Afterward, the 70-year-old would likely be extradited to the United States to face 86 felony counts for allegedly looting $145 million in antiquities over the last 50 years.

By:  Lynda Albertson

June 4, 2020

Revisiting the UK's Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act of 2003

The Torbryan rood screen
This Friday ARCA reviews one of the few successful cases of prosecution using the UK's Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act of 2003.

Christopher Cooper was an unemployed, amateur antique dealer in the United Kingdom, who is known to have targeted unsecured places of worship, stealing a range of ecclesiastic objects, including bibles, crucifixes, Anglo Saxon carvings and even the top and bottom of a stone coffin from St Mary’s Church in Foy in Herefordshire - a heavy relic he pilfered over the course of two separate raids, as the first went unnoticed.  

In addition to stealing from vulnerable religious institutions, Cooper was discovered to have manufactured his own "antiques," passing them off to his customers as genuine, often defaced as historic relics.  Some of the objects he was charged with selling included historic religious statues, stained glass, stone coffins, crosses, baptismal font plugs, and rare bibles. 

Over the course of his three-year crime spree, it was reported that Cooper pocketed from up to £150,000 from the proceeds of his criminal activity, brokering the sale of stolen objects via at least two purportedly unsuspecting individuals, whom he never met face-to-face, as he used a third party for the delivery of the pieces to maintain some semblance of distance from their apparent sale. 

Partial Chronology of events in this case:

September 2011 - September 2014
Posing as an ordinary visitor, Cooper targeted quiet churches throughout England and Wales where his activity would remain largely unnoticed, in some cases even until after his arrest. 

Entering Coombes Parish Church, in Lancing, Cooper stole a 13th-century Lancing corpus of Jesus Christ which had been fixed to a crucifix 12 feet above the ground. The 10 cm gilded copper figure of Christ, thought to have been crafted in Limoges, France, was first recovered in the churchyard at Coombes Parish Church in 1877, likely the victim of the cultural upheaval that at one point splintered Catholic Europe and spurred a revival of iconoclasm. 

Cooper hacked a pair of 15th-century decorative oak panels out of the Torbryan rood screen which divides the nave from the altar area of the church at the Holy Trinity church at Torbryan in Devon. These historic panels were one of only a few of the 40 panels which once stretched the width of the church. Like the Lancing corpus, these decorative panels also had survived the iconoclasm of the reformation in the 16th century and were painted with the images of St Victor of Marseilles and St Margaret of Antioch.

1535 Myles Coverdale Bible:
The First Bible Printed in the English
This same year, Cooper also offered a rare Coverdale bible to an unnamed collector for £18,000, apparently before he had time to steal the object, or perhaps never intending to send anything at all. Concerned that the object purchased and paid for had not been sent, the buyer informed the Metropolitan Police and filed a report with the art and antiques unit.     

Around this same period, the Metropolitan Police received information from HM Revenue and Customs relating to the illegal importation of a stuffed gorilla's head by an individual in South London, an object subject to CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. As a result of their subsequent search of that individual's property, a number of ecclesiastic objects were recovered, including the two oak church panels which had been stolen from Holy Trinity Church in Devon, as well as a heart stone from another religious institution. 

When questioned by the police, the buyer of the gorilla head and religious panels admitted that he had bought ecclesiastic items online from a man from Herefordshire.  Based on these accumulative leads, a nationwide police initiative, into the organised theft and black market trade of religious and church artifacts in England and Wales, code-named "Icarus," began.

January 2015
Eighteen months later, the investigation "Icarus" which brought in the West Mercia Police, is headed up by Detective Inspector Martyn Barnes, with the support of the Met's Art and Antiques unit in London. 

The West Mercia Police arrest Cooper under suspicion of a series of church thefts carried out in a number of areas including: in Warwickshire, Herefordshire, Ross on Wye, Ledbury, Monmouth, Abergavenny, Brecon, south and north Wales, Warwick, Cirencester, Kent, Suffolk, and Oxfordshire Sussex, Essex, and Swindon. While not originally cooperative, police recovered a number of stolen objects found in Cooper's possession, including historic stonework, friezes, statues, paintings, brasses, misericords, stained glass, and first edition King James Bibles which Cooper had stolen from churches across Wales, replacing them with modern editions. 

While conducting a search of his property, police also recovered a notebook that was found to contain a list of churches and coding used in documentation of his crime spree. Perhaps realising he had been undone, Cooper eventually cooperated with law enforcement, and drew a sketch of the 13th-century Lancing corpus, pinpointing Coombes Church on a road map as the site where he stole the cross ornament. 

Shortly thereafter Cooper was initially charged with theft under the Theft Act 1968, as well as fraud, for selling fakes and stolen property online. Later he was charged via the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003 which is reserved for the acquisition of cultural property and makes it an offense to acquire, dispose of, import or export 'tainted' cultural objects, or agree or arrange to do so; and for connected purposes. 

Given his initial cooperation in identifying sites where he had stolen objects, Cooper was released on bail on his own recognizance until September 2015. 

6 May 2016 
Cooper pled guilty to seven charges of theft, two charges of fraud and one charge of dealing in tainted cultural items at Hereford Crown Court. In total, he admitted to 37 thefts from churches throughout England and Wales, 30 of which he asked the Court to be taken into consideration (TIC). 

Cooper was sentenced to three years in prison for dealing in tainted antiquities, for each of seven charges of theft, set to run concurrently. Cooper was also given an additional eight months imprisonment for the two charges of fraud.   In total, he was scheduled to spend just three years and seven months in prison. 

As part of his sentencing, Cooper was also issued with a POCA (Proceeds of Crime Act) order, which means he has to repay the amount of money owed to his duped clients when he is able to do so.

Christopher Cooper's sentencing made West Mercia Police the first UK police force in the country to secure a conviction using the very carefully worded Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003.  Yet he was the only individual charged for his involvement in this criminal activity.  None of the purchasers, who willingly purchased material from him without concern for the object's origins, were ever publically revealed.

On the books, it has been difficult to convict art thieves and their collaborators in the UK of dealing in tainted cultural objects under the special-focused 2003 act. Culprits directly involved in a theft are more often charged using the broader charge of theft. 

Art crime offenses such as handling stolen good, in both cases require proof of dishonestly, a technicality that does not encourage suspect resellers and colluding buyers to ask probing questions as part of their due diligence process when acquiring cultural objects that likely have an illicit pedigree.  This need for plausible deniability serves to disincentivise buyers from probing too deeply, when seeking to establish the legitimacy of a purchase, as accumulating too much evidence, which could be used to establish dishonesty or collusion in a crime and earmark them as known handlers of stolen goods, could hold these individuals accountable, while a simpler "I didn't know" often makes it more difficult for law enforcement to prove coinvolvement, and to make charges stick.

By Lynda Albertson

Sources used for this article.

Cahal Milmo. 2016. ‘How a Gorilla Skull Helped Snare Britain’s Most Prolific Church Thief’. News. INews - JPIMedia Publications Ltd. 13 May 2016. https://inews.co.uk/news/prolific-church-thief-generation-finally-jailed-538372.

Clarke, Paul J. 2016. ‘Minutes Annual Meeting 17th May 2016 – Peterchurch Parish Council’. https://peterchurchparishcouncil.org.uk/minutes-annual-meeting-17th-may-2016/.

Connell, James. 2016. ‘CRIME FILES: Prolific Church Raider Ends up behind Bars’. Malvern Gazette, 10 May 2016. https://www.malverngazette.co.uk/news/18438621.crime-files-prolific-church-raider-ends-behind-bars/.

Herman, Alexander. 2016. ‘Conviction at Last under 2003 Act’. Blog. Institute of Art and Law (blog). 11 May 2016. https://ial.uk.com/1448-2/.

Morris, Steven. 2016. ‘Antique Dealer Who Plundered Churches for Profit Jailed | UK News | The Guardian’. 10 May 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/may/10/antique-dealer-plundered-churches-for-profit-jailed-christopher-cooper.
West Mercia Police. 2015. ‘West Mercia Police - Images Releases of Church Items Recovered in Operation Icarus’. June 2015. https://www.westmercia.police.uk/OperationIcarus.

Morris, Steven, and Maev Kennedy. 2015. ‘Stolen 15th-Century Torbryan Church Icons Recovered by Police’. The Guardian, 19 May 2015, sec. Art and design. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/19/stolen-15th-century-torbryan-church-icons-recovered-by-police.

Oldham, Jeanette.. 2016. ‘Church Raider Jailed after Stealing Priceless Relics, Including Ancient COFFIN - Birmingham Live’. 6 May 2016. https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/church-raider-jailed-after-stealing-11295721.

Oldham, Jeanette. 2016. ‘Crooked Antiques Dealer Jailed for Three Years for Stealing Priceless Relics from Churches’. Coventry Telegraph, 9 May 2016. https://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/crooked-antiques-dealer-jailed-three-11305398.

May 19, 2020

Prosecutors file a civil forfeiture complaint for the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet which they say was looted from Iraq.

The Gilgamesh dream tablet, Iraq, c. 1600 BCE
while on display at Museum of the Bible

“Strange things have been spoken, why does your heart speak strangely? The dream was marvelous but the terror was great; we must treasure the dream whatever the terror.”  ― The Epic of Gilgamesh, N.K. Sanders translation. 
Authorities in the United States have filed a civil forfeiture complaint for a 1600 BCE cuneiform tablet featuring a dream sequence from the Epic of Gilgamesh. Acting as the Plaintiff in the case, the US authorities brought an action in rem for the tablet pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1595a(c)(1)(A).  Under this section, US law authorizes the forfeiture of any "merchandise" that is "introduced or attempted to be introduced into the United States contrary to law." In this case, that's when it is believed that the property was stolen in a foreign country and imported into the United States illegally.  

In the complaint, Special Agent John Paul Labbat with the United States Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, cited that the object was stolen Iraqi property introduced into the United States contrary to 18 U.S.C. § 2314, the stolen property act.  This act serves as an independent basis for the forfeiture of any stolen property that moves in interstate or foreign commerce and which is utilized whether the object in question was stolen overseas or inside the United States.

The ancient clay object, originally part of a larger six-column tablet, contains seventy-four lines of Middle Babylonian cuneiform text, and is known to be one of only thirty known surviving fragments from the Epic of Gilgamesh created during the old and middle Babylonian periods.  Written almost 4,000 years ago, the Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest known literary works in the world. The earliest parts of the poem were first discovered in the ruins of the library of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal, in Nineveh, Iraq in 1853. 

Based upon the facts as set out in the Verified Complaint in Rem, on July 30, 2014, Hobby Lobby wired $1,674,000 to an unnamed auction house as payment for the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, having purchased the artifact for donation or display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC.  This was the same year that the company's fundamentalist president, Steve Green, persuaded the United States Supreme Court that it deserved a religious exemption from a federal requirement under which employers in the country are made to provide their workers with access to contraceptives.  It is also the same month that the Egyptian Exploration Society gave Dirk Obbink an ultimatum: cut ties with the Green family or lose his editorship of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, several fragments of which are now part of a separate ongoing investigation into another illegal sale in the United Kingdom.

Three months earlier, in April 2014 Manchester-based papyrologist Roberta Mazza had already published a blog post after visiting the Green's exhibition Verbum Domini II in Rome, Italy.  There, Professor Mazza recognized that another ill-advised Green purchase, a papyrus fragment of the Coptic codex of Galatians 2:2-4, 5-6, was one which had earlier been identified by Brice Jones and Dorothy L. King as having passed through the hands of a middleman trafficker on eBay, a gentleman going by the pseudonym Ebuyerrrrr, Yasasgroup, and later Mixantik.  As the investigations into the Green's buying habits progressed, Mazza, would be integral in determining that the Turkish middleman was Yakup Ekşioğlu, a name kept discreetly amongst researchers while investigations were undergoing.

Not long after the payment for the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet was finalized, the firm affiliated with the sale shipped the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet to their New York branch and then arranged for one of their representatives to hand-carry the tablet to Hobby Lobby in Oklahoma City, in order to avoid incurring a New York sales tax. The cuneiform tablet was subsequently transferred to the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC, where it drew concerns with one of the Museum's curators, in the lead up to the museum's grand opening. This unnamed curator queried the parties involved in the object's history post-sale, looking for evidence that would establish the artifact's legitimacy; an act of due diligence that should have been done by the prospective buyer before the tablet was purchased, and not after.  Those involved were anything but helpful.

This likely explains one of the reasons why the cuneiform tablet, once on display on the 4th floor of the DC museum in the History of the Bibles Galleries, was displayed with no provenance information whatsoever.

On 24 September 2019, the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet was seized as part of this civil investigation.  As the complaint released demonstrates, the importance of export documentation, for potential owners and dealers, or the lack thereof is a useful tool for researchers, law enforcement, and customs agents who monitor and prevent the trafficking of cultural property, none of which was remotely in keeping with this particular object.

But where was the Dream Tablet before? 

As background to the case, the US document cites that the tablet was first seen by an unnamed antiquities dealer in 2001 on the floor of a London apartment belonging to antiquities dealer Ghassan Rihani originally from Irbid in northern Jordan.

Prior to Rihani's death as well as after, a substantial portion of his "collection" of Iraqi objects began appearing on the London ancient art market. Many were believed to have been illicitly exported out of Iraq during the Gulf War following the 2003 invasion of Iraq and then recycled as being part of the not well documented Rihani family collection, something his son has denied in an interview with the New York Times.

By March/April 2003 the same dealer returned to London with a cuneiform expert and again viewed the tablet, this time with members of Rihani's family.  It is at this visit, where the dealer agreed to purchase the cuneiform table along with other items for a total of $50,530.  These items were subsequently mailed back to the United States and sold onward to two other dealers in ancient art for $50,000 along with a preliminary translation of the inscription.

By March 2007, false provenance documents had been created which omitted any mention of Rihani or the United Kingdom transaction.  Instead, the would-be provenance documentation proclaimed that the tablet had been purchased at a 1981 Butterfield & Butterfield auction in San Francisco, listed as LOT 1503.  All of which was blatantly untrue, as was the claim that the tablet had been deaccessioned from a small museum.

The cuneiform table would eventually make its way into the hands of Michael Sharpe, who published the object in his Rare & Antiquated Books catalog, where the object's constructed pedigree took a back seat to it's highlighted importance.

Like many cases before it, the multiple transactions surrounding the sales of the stolen Gilgamesh Dream Tablet reflects the inadequacy of the due diligence performed by intermediary dealers, the auction house, and the Green family themselves.  A simple check of the Butterfield & Butterfield auction records would have noted that LOT 1503 does not match the description of a terracotta cuneiform tablet from Iraq.  That alone should have given someone reason to pause.

At best, all of these dealers' behavior, the auction house's behavior and the collector's continued nonchalant attitude towards the object agreed to he purchase should be characterized as negligent. At worst, it shows the complicity of market actors, including those anonymously helping law enforcement post-facto, in prioritizing profits and plausible deniability as a masquerade for stewardship and collecting ethics.

As a result of this case, never shy Hobby Lobby has deflected its own ethical responsibilities towards due diligence by filing suit against Christie's, alleging fraud and breach of warranty in connection with the private treaty sale allegedly after the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet's provenance failed to stack up. This move confirms the auction powerhouse as the intermediary auction house, unnamed in the civil forfeiture complaint. That case has been listed as Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Christie's Inc. (1:20-cv-02239) to be heard in the Eastern District of New York and names Georgie Aitken, Head of the Antiquities Department at Christie's in London from 2009-2016 and Margaret Ford, the Senior Director, International Head of Group, Books and Science at Christie's.

In closing, it is interesting to note that in the past Christie's has voiced a willingness to work closely with law enforcement agencies and ministries of culture to resolve issues when suspect antiquities passing through their organization, but reading the emails detailed in the civil forfeiture complaint for this cuneiform tablet show acting employees of the firm being anything but that. Instead, Christie's appears to have been trying to extract itself from the difficult situation it found itself in, having failed to so their advance homework prior to accepting the object for consignment or at any point up to the final sale.

Yet guarding our past for the future, is also going to be a tough sell for the Oklahoma-based retailer/donor.  In 2017 Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million after federal authorities alleged that the firm bought thousands of historical artifacts that were smuggled out of Iraq.  In 2019 the Museum of the Bible deaccessioned and restituted a number of stolen EES papyrus fragments removed illegally from the Oxyrhynchus Papyri housed at the Sackler Library in Oxford and in 2020 the museum relinquished 11,500 antiquities to the Iraqi and Egyptian governments, which had been acquired with a lack reliable provenance, or ownership histories.

Then there is that Galatians fragment Dr. Mazza has been asking about for years now, as well as many other pieces, have been tied back to Dr. Dirk Obbink and his private antiquities enterprises. 

At the time of the last restitution Mr. Green stated:

“One area where I fell short was not appreciating the importance of the provenance of the items I purchased.” 

One would question just how many legal entanglements it will take before Mr. Green starts to acknowledge that he is a significant contributor to the problem and not merely an innocent victim.  His failure to have engaged in serious due diligence of the artifacts he has purchased has already caused the Museum of the Bible to suffer by their own hands.  Likewise, due diligence of looted antiquities, especially those that could be from conflict-based countries, must be meaningful and not superficially plausible, in the furtherance of a sale's commission.  Partially-documented histories in an object's collection background, do not necessarily always point to fresh looting or illegal export but when an antiquity's background looks murky, as is the case with this important cuneiform tablet, the art market and wealthy donor collectors need to step up their game, by no longer participating in the laundering and by allowing researchers access to past sales details so that wrongs can be righted.

By:  Lynda Albertson

May 6, 2020

INTERPOL, Europol and World Customs Organization joint investigation produce results.

Interpol has issued a preliminary announcement on Operations Athena II and Pandora IV. 

A total of 300 coordinated investigations took place, spanning 103 countries. All of which focused on the dismantlement of international networks of art and antiquities traffickers.  In total some 101 suspects were arrested.

These results were achieved during the global Operation Athena II, led by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and INTERPOL, which was carried out in synchronization with the Europe-focused Operation Pandora IV coordinated by the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) and Europol in the framework of EMPACT(European multidisciplinary platform against criminal threats). 

Europol, INTERPOL and the WCO each played key roles in implementing facilitating information exchange and by providing analytical and operational support.  

The footage coming from the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) is pretty impressive. 

As can be seen by the Roman numerals after these investigations, these are not the first coordinated initiatives designed to target criminal activity related to art.  For several years now, law enforcement and customs has worked together to inspect auction houses, art galleries, museums and private residences, as well as sea ports, airports and border crossing points in search of illicit material.

According to the EUROPOL press release more than 19,000 objects have been recovered in the course of some 300 investigations.  Seizures are reported to include ancient coins, archaeological objects, ceramics, historical weapons, paintings, and fossils as well as metal detectors.