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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Greek Coins (Moderators: Dino, Meepzorp)  |  Topic: Alexander Dekadrachms for the Picking - Offshore Gaza Hoard 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Alexander Dekadrachms for the Picking - Offshore Gaza Hoard  (Read 479 times)
n.igma
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« on: January 06, 2021, 09:50:39 pm »

Interesting BBC video ....  hit the CC (closed caption) button for subtitles as the primary narration is Arabic

https://youtu.be/JlPzGTDlU-8
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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2021, 03:56:40 am »

This video demonstrates the despicable actions of certain individuals and one which I suspect is only the tip of the iceberg.

Thanks for sharing n.igma.
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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2021, 07:11:36 am »

A great shame that any archeological context has been lost.

I find it hard to totally blame the individuals who found the coins though... it's human nature to want to profit if you find a treasure, and if the government wants to protect the archeological value of the country's heritage they need to be realistic and take this into account.

The UK really has by far the best approach to this.

Ben
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2021, 08:30:40 am »

The most interesting new information about the history of mankind derived from archeology is now coming from DNA sequencing from ancient human bones (and comparing with modern) and organic matter that gives evidence of their diet. Our new understanding of mass migrations is incredible, still evolving, and dramatically different than what we thought not long ago. For example, very little DNA of modern Brits is shared with the people who built Stonehenge. Another recent find, most Europeans and all Native Americans can trace their ancestry to a previously unknown group that lived in Siberia.

If these coins had been identified to authorities and excavated by archeologists, what knowledge would have been gained? I suspect not much. I would be interested to hear what others think we might have learned.
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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2021, 09:08:28 am »

I thought the video was interesting--fun to see our friends Salem and Richard in the spotlight. 

Like Ben, I'm also sympathetic for the finders.  The global community needs to adopt the UK system.  It isn't perfect, but it is as close as we'll get and a win-win as far as I'm concerned: scholars get their information, finders make money, and the government can buy the truly remarkable artifacts.
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« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2021, 10:12:16 am »

... The global community needs to adopt the UK system.  It isn't perfect, but it is as close as we'll get and a win-win as far as I'm concerned ...
This really works very successful in the UK, but I doubt that you can export it to many other countries. People are different, their interest in the own history is different, the relationship between citizen and state is different, the confidence in local authorities is different ...  Undecided

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Altamura

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« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2021, 10:20:48 am »

... The global community needs to adopt the UK system.  It isn't perfect, but it is as close as we'll get and a win-win as far as I'm concerned ...
This really works very successful in the UK, but I doubt that you can export it to many other countries. People are different, their interest in the own history is different, the relationship between citizen and state is different, the confidence in local authorities is different ...  Undecided

Regards

Altamura



You are probably right but one can hope.  I know they started paying good money (but not market value) to farmers in Turkey for turning in early electrum pieces found while farming.  It is a start.
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« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2021, 11:10:28 am »


If these coins had been identified to authorities and excavated by archeologists, what knowledge would have been gained? I suspect not much. I would be interested to hear what others think we might have learned.

That was a fascinating video. I also have no ill will towards the finders. They are fighting for survival. The dealers that ripped them off I have no sympathy for.
I am a cultural anthropologist and, in the US, to be an anthropologist one has to demonstrate proficiency in the four branches while specializing in one of them (in grad school). One of those branches is Archaeology.

In Europe, Archaeology is usually a separate and stand alone discipline. In both Classics are something else and very cross disciplinary. Really, anthropology is very cross disciplinary, as well.

So, what can we learn from a coin find? I would argue a lot. However, I agree with Joe that coins as artifacts are not particularly important over the long term and they generally do not need to be studied in depth. Or, in most cases, they don't need to be kept in a box at a university for future study. I guess the exception might be if a new coin type is discovered. So, I am fine with such coins going into the market and the finders benefiting from their find. Most arrowheads fall into this category, as well, and many other common objects.

What I would like to see is all finds documented before being released. Off the top of my head, I would record multiple data and integrate that data into the appropriate records:
--Where geographically were they found
--How deep
--How stored, if they were stored (pottery, disintegrated bag, loose, etc)
--What else do we know about the area/site of the find in the archaeological/historical record
--What are the coins, particularly era/rulers/mints. This may be the most important information to put them into a wider context
--For a hoard, how broad is the range of coins, this gives a lot of useful info, such as was this a quick hiding due to some immediate threat or was it someone's bank account built up over years
--record soil conditions of the site. Take some samples from the various layers and some samples taken off the coins themselves. This could be used for future testing, including DNA..
--more that I can't think of right now

Technically, every archaeological find should be documented, even a single arrowhead, because it adds to what we know, however minimal the information is. This kind of information can become very important in aggregate, such as mapping trade routes and migrations. Many laws, including in the US particularly with Native American artifacts, make reporting finds a problem for anyone who wants to keep or sell their finds. So, the laws themselves encourage breaking the law. There needs to be a happy medium.
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« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2021, 09:48:58 pm »

If these coins had been identified to authorities and excavated by archeologists, what knowledge would have been gained? I suspect not much. I would be interested to hear what others think we might have learned.

This kind of information can become very important in aggregate, such as mapping trade routes and migrations.

I agree. Potentially, there is much to be gleaned from this hoard, even as it might be reconstructed in commerce, unfortunately absent its context.

The Alexander dekadrachms were only the tip of the iceberg as far as content was concerned. The hoard contained hundreds of Alexander tetradrachms in addition to the few tens of dekadrachms.

Certainly, it included the largest number of dekadrachms yet found, which in itself suggests that something unique was going on in the region of ancient Anthedon, much of which has been lost to the sea due to coastal retreat associated with sea level rise in the last two millennia along this stretch of the Gaza coast. That coastal retreat is of itself of historical interest when it comes to reconstructing the movements of Alexander's army and that of his successors in the period of conflict down to 300 BC.

Certainly, the presence of a large number of Alexander dekadrachms minted in Babylon speaks of a connection to that distant city in c. 325/4- 324/3 BC. What was the nature of that connection? Could we be seeing evidence of some of Alexander's army previously at Babylon garrisoned at Anthedon? Could it be associated with the movement of the royal Macedonian army under Perdikkas to invade Egypt and retrieve Alexander's body abducted by Ptolemy, or the army's transit to Triparadeisos from Egypt following the failure of this campaign?  Perhaps it relates to one of the conflicts between Ptolemy and Antigonos as the theatre of war moved through Gaza  and Phoenicia in the decade following Alexander's death?  The possibilities are many and resolving the matter would potentially provide an additional historical data point to constrain interpretations of the various conflicts.

Based on coins in commerce, all of which exhibit a distinctive patina and corrosion indicative of hundreds of years of immersion in sea-water, the hoard consisted exclusively of Alexander types minted before 310 BC. The latest dated coin that I have identified is Year 13 of Sidon = 321/0 BC in the name of Alexander. I have not attempted to do a complete search of numismatic sales, but in so far as I have scanned numismatic sales no Philip III issues were contained in the hoard, only those in the name of Alexander, even though the content includes a large percentage minted after his death, during the reign of Philip III. Perhaps this tells us something of the loyalty of the hoarder(s) in the heavily contested period in which armies of various loyalties campaigned through Gaza? Alternatively, it may be telling us something of the way the hoard was constructed e.g a savings hoard over a decade or more, versus a crisis circulation hoard,  versus a small treasury held by a garrison etc.? Comprehensive evaluation of content and/or archeological context would shed light on these possibilities and in so doing provide a glimpse of events and monetary circulation in Anthedon/Gaza in the period around 320 BC.

Many of the coins were moved into the market NGC slabbed (a small sample attached) perhaps to add an aura of legitimacy, or to mask the provenance following the release of the BBC story. This included a number of previously unknown varieties which in and of itself is of numismatic typological interest. An example of a previously unknown variety from Byblos (Berytos of Price) minted in 321/0 BC is attached and illustrates the surface characteristics indicative of lengthy seawater immersion of the tetradrachms from the hoard slabbed by NGC.

Presently, there are more questions than answers arising from the hoard content, poorly known and undocumented as it is. A comprehensive compilation and analysis of the coins in commerce that originated from this source has considerable potential to add to both the Alexander typology as well as to shed light on events in Gaza the troubled decade following the death of Alexander the Great.

This would make a great study! Any takers for a KOINON article on the hoard?




* Previously unknown Byblos (Berytos of Price) ex-Offshore Gaza 2017 Hoard.jpg (166.5 KB, 800x378 - viewed 9 times.)

* Alexander Hoard in Commerce 2019 = Gaza 2017 Hoard found offshore of Blakhiyah in the Gaza Strip .png (1212.84 KB, 1454x1720 - viewed 9 times.)
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« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2021, 10:31:42 pm »



I agree. Potentially, there is much to be gleaned from this hoard, even as it might be reconstructed in commerce, unfortunately absent its context.


Thanks for that very informative comment and the work you did. I think every find is important, But this one has to be one of the most important coin finds ever or pretty close. It is a shame that there are no resources in Gaza to support research to the degree it is needed. How these coins got there is an important area of investigation and you could easily get a few dissertations out of it. That was a lot of money. Army payroll? Treasury of a leader, city, or group? As you point out, the questions are endless. If it weren't such a volatile place, there could still be useful research done. But, I am willing to bet others have stripped that area of most coins by now. And other artefacts and I am sure a lot of the identifiable evidence has been destroyed. One of the biggest issues with the initial excavation of Troy was that Heinrich Schliemann was the worst archaeologist ever. He only cared about Troy and destroyed multiple layers of habitation over centuries in his search for Homer's Troy. This I am sure is a similar situation.
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« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2021, 06:20:41 am »


This would make a great study! Any takers for a KOINON article on the hoard?


Agreed!  I hope someone will!
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« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2021, 12:36:34 pm »

i.nigma,

Your comment got me thinking about this in more detail. I haven't thought in scientific mode on a question like this in some time. I offer two scenarios that could apply with this specific find. There are many more. The first can never be done because of how the coins were collected. The second could be done if the scholar in Gaza photographed and/or catalogued all the coins. It was unclear if he did this with all of them.

1) When I watched the video, I was thinking shipwreck. But, your comment reminded me that coastlines change all the time. That was when I truly realized how much was lost in this case with how the coins were collected. I would have loved to have seen a dispersal pattern based on GPS technology by individual coins. Were there groups? How many groups versus single coins? Was there a difference between contents of groups? With this data, one could study how the coastline changed over time and how the coins got to the places they were found. This could be mapped out. It could also point to what else might be hidden on the shore or in the sea. The possibilities are endless and cross many branches of science, such as geography, geology, history, anthropology, and many more. There could also have been multiple caches, we are assuming it was one. There could be some truly fascinating research done here.

2) This one is what you discussed in your comment, so I will not repeat it. What was the value of these coins? To my inexperienced eye, it seems like a huge find in terms of buying power in ancient times, but I am not really sure. The ultimate question is how did these coins get here and who owned them. It is probably still possible to get at these answers without specific coin data.

Bottom line is that a lot of valuable information was lost with these particular coins, much more than with a find of a single or small hoard on the ground where you can go back and point to where they were found.

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« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2021, 06:36:04 pm »

Unfortunately, a multidisciplinary analysis and study of the type you describe in your first point is now impossible. This marine site is totally despoiled, the data contained in that context and its relevance to our understanding of history is irrevocably lost to humanity. A tragic missed opportunity. I make no moral or ethical judgements in this; it is simply a statement of fact. It simply serves to highlight the failure and bankruptcy of current thinking on the preservation of cultural heritage. Various cultural heritage laws (national and international) do not address the underlying issue which has its origins in desperate poverty, underfunded (or even non-existent) cultural heritage institutional infrastructure and the corruption that contributes to these two factors.

The second point you raise can be addressed, albeit with considerable associated uncertainty, via salvage numismatics, attempting the reconstruct the find from coins dispersed in commerce. This was a frequent occurrence in the past; witness the various Coin Hoards volumes (vols. 1-10) published every 5-10 years, but now longer forthcoming. Now, the situation is fraught with problems and issues for anyone attempting salvage numismatics of a hoard in commerce. Perversely, this arises from modern cultural heritage law and approaches that seeks mitigate looting in all its forms by "closing the gate long after the looters have bolted."  

Twenty years ago, many dealers would alert academic numismatists to the existence of a hoard in commerce and assist in its documentation. This is no longer the case. Draconian penalty and vilification are now risks in this approach. In certain academic circles cancel culture runs deep for any numismatist who undertakes salvage numismatics. Many journals refuse to consider such work, arguing that the analysis of unprovenanced material (i.e. that outside established museum collections or controlled excavation) is illegitimate and worthy of the ultimate academic sanction. To quote the AJN's guidelines on the matter as an example, (some journals are even more restrictive):

Quote
Publication of Previously Unpublished Material
The AJN supports laws designed to discourage fraudulent collectibles and the illicit trade in antiquities. Objects originating before ca. 1500 whose history cannot be traced before the adoption of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illegal Import, Export, and Transfer of Cultural Property of November 14, 1970, are subject to certain limitations for publication in AJN, if they have not previously been published in a scholarly (non- commercial) publication. If the object is in an institutional collection, has been reported to an official finds recording system (e.g., the Portable Antiquities Scheme), or has entered the marketplace legally (e.g., after review under the Treasure Act in the United Kingdom), there are no restrictions. Otherwise, if the information has a verifiable source such as a prior publication, a published sale catalogue, or a named owner, it may be used in publication as part of a larger discussion (e.g., a die study, a typological study, etc.) but not as the sole focus of the article. If no such source can be cited, the object is not suitable for publication. AJN reserves the option to reject any contribution that appears to publish recently looted or stolen material, especially from recent conflict zones, even if it otherwise meets these conditions.
Unquote

Thus, with regard your second point, the possibility exists, but few if any scholars would be prepared take up the daunting challenge in the face of the risk of academic sanction in studying any material that originates outside of a museum collection or controlled excavation.

These are some of the reasons I found the BBC story on the Offshore Gaza Hoard so interesting and offered it for consideration on the Forum Discussion Board.

I offer no judgement or solutions, other than to suggest that the BBC story on the Offshore Gaza Hoard serves as a great case study to illustrate the bankruptcy of current academic and legal thinking on the subject of cultural heritage preservation. In this there may be a better article for KOINON?
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« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2021, 12:25:58 am »

This is a fascinating discussion and it has made me think a lot. I keep running over the possibilities and what was lost in terms of knowledge with this particular find. I also do not pass judgement. I remember travelling in Turkey when I was much younger and realizing that people had taken the stone from ruins to build their houses in Bergama. People lived in the walls of Istanbul. They sold what they found like these fisherman in Gaza for a low price to feed their families. On the other hand, when I saw the ruins of Pergamum, I also know that the magnificent altar to Zeus had been pillaged and was in a museum in Berlin. Similar significant objects of art were essentially stolen by museums in every major western city, New York, London, etc. I would much rather have seen the altar at Pergamum than in Berlin. Everyone is a fault and maybe no one is at fault.

I have some experience with the US Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990, which was passed just before I went to grad school. It was very well intentioned, but truly a nightmare. Archaeologists all hated it, but they can't say that publicly because it is politically incorrect. There has always been, I suppose, a tension between finders (treasure hunters), dealers, academics, and collectors. Academics tend to think everything ever found should be turned over to them for free. And they have a sense of elitism over the lowly finders, dealers, and collectors who, in their minds, want to profit or selfishly hide away artefacts in a private collection. I think all these groups have a place and legitimate concerns. The laws make things far more difficult because they cause three out of four of these groups to hide what they do in some cases. People selling these Gaza coins I am sure know exactly what they have and are being deceptive when they sell them. That just compounds the issues.

I have no answers. I have an academic background, yet I am also a collector. I would be a finder or even a dealer if I had the expertise. But, I have never bought a metal detector because you have to use it furtively everywhere but your own land. I just don't like hiding what I am doing. If you do it legally, in many places you give up what you find with no compensation or even getting to keep a couple objects. I wish there was a good solution that would make everyone happy, I just don't know what it is. Meanwhile I will continue to buy coins for my collection from reputable dealers.
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« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2021, 09:56:33 am »

I’ve wanted to discuss the subject in a Koinon article but just haven’t had the time.  Perhaps a collaborative article?
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« Reply #15 on: January 09, 2021, 10:28:24 pm »

I've given some serious thought to the matter, but the problems in preparing a scholarly article are threefold:

1) verification of the details as far as we know them, which come exclusively from the BBC report;
2) the compilation of a representative corpus of the find with all the inherent subjectivity attached to that when the effort is based solely on auction listings and images;
3) the fact that many aspects of the the preceding are problematic in the absence of dealer verification and cooperation, which is unlikely because of the many and varied (spurious?) provenances attached to what appear to be components of the find.

In the absence of a co-operative approach, a study of the Offshore Gaze Find of 2017 could (I dare say would) be challenged from both the academic quarter and the the numismatic trade.

Participants in the latter might potentially seek recourse via legal action for presenting details contrary to the stated provenances in their catalogues and listings and the imputed reputational damage that could result.

Cooperation, honesty, and transparency are the prerequisites for a comprehensive and credible analysis. Yet I cannot see how any of the these prerequisites will be met.

Perversely, this all arises from the current laws that seek to safeguard cultural heritage and make salvage numismatic studies a high risk and very problematic exercise.

The BBC report has already attracted the ire of some in the ant-collecting blogosphere who see any exposure of the subject as worthy of condemnation. Some even dispute the existence of the find: "The general idea of the film seems to be that they  [the recent flood of dekadrachms] can be linked with the '2017 Gaza Fishermen's Hoard'. Except they can't. The ones seized by Israel probably can. The film however shows  that five of them came from 'The Tareq Hani collection' (but Hani is a dealer tareq.numismatics based in Dubai). They are all corroded and pitted in the same way - like they were under water. " Denial it seems runs deep when it comes to admitting the failure of the current academic and legal approach to the preservation of cultural heritage.

I'm too old to engage in culture wars and destructive "debate" (i.e. digital yelling matches). But I was hoping someone else might be young enough (and sufficiently naive) to rise to the occasion!
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« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2021, 06:05:04 pm »



In the absence of a co-operative approach, a study of the Offshore Gaze Find of 2017 could (I dare say would) be challenged from both the academic quarter and the the numismatic trade.




I agree with your entire post. It is very sad, but that is reality. You really couldn't do such an article without going to Gaza and talking with people there. After that, you need honesty from everyone else involved and you will never get that. As an aside, I have been wondering what the Israelis did with their seized coins. Besides making the person attempting to cross the blockade with them into a villain. Their refusal to comment speaks volumes. Gaza has to be one of the worst places in the world to try to work. This entire story makes literally everyone look bad, from the fishermen to the dealers to those buying the coins. Pretty sad.
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« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2021, 03:15:35 pm »

I wasn't sure whether to make a new topic or post here. Since it is applicable to this discussion of value lost by how these coins were found and collected, I am putting it here. I asked a friend who has access to send me a copy of The Attic Weight Drachms of Ephesus: A Preliminary Study in the Light of Recent Hoards by Phillip Kinns. I found out also that you can read online 100 articles a month for free. JSTORS is an online repository of academic journals. I even looked up a title that is in the Forvm's online book section that has unreadable plates and the JSTORS version had plates that you can read.

Anyway, I read the entire Kinns article. What is relevant here is how important the knowledge of a hoard can be and how much becomes lost when that information is not known. He does not focus on this issue, but it is simply a fact he has to mention throughout the article.  A couple of the hoards he analyzed were found as part of sanctioned archaeological excavations. As you may imagine, these hoards provided much more specific information, especially as to dating the years of burial and the specific locations told us much about things going on at the time that were not known with the unofficial found hoards. I originally got this article because I am trying to identify a specific coin, but reading it was fascinating, not just for the coins he discusses and lists of magistrates, but also for the process of his analysis.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/42668493?read-now=1&seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
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« Reply #18 on: Yesterday at 06:18:20 pm »

Bumping this thread rather than starting a new one. Thanks to n.igma, I discovered the ANS Youtube channel. This is an interesting lecture (you can skip the introductory remarks to get to Roger Bland's lecture). It is about coin hoards in Britain and, if this doesn't convince you how important knowing as much as possible about hoard finds, nothing will. It also is a great "advertisement" for Britain's Treasure Hunting laws.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYwqUGFrz-Q

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