Mickey Mouse Copyright Laws. Based on a photo (cc) Liber
One of the advantages of being slow in writing is that you can look at what everyone else is saying about something. Often people will have thought about the same problem and already anticipated problems in your own line of thought, so you can avoid making a fool of yourself. Other times it’s a surprise, and this is one of those times. News from the BBC is that Egypt is ‘to copyright antiquities’.
Egypt’s MPs are expected to pass a law requiring royalties be paid whenever copies are made of museum pieces or ancient monuments such as the pyramids and this law will apply around the world.
To a greater or lesser extent other bloggers think they can’t do this and they can’t enforce it. In contrast I think they can and they can. This isn’t just my very basic understanding of law. It’s also the fact that museums in the West have been doing this, more or less, for years. Below is where I make a fool of myself.
Reuters is now allowing embedding of video clips. In this one bodies exhumed from a Mapungubwe archaeological site in northern South Africa are being returned for reburial. It’s a staggeringly good idea.
I didn’t think it would be. As far as I understand it Mapungubwe was one of the most complex Iron Age societies in Africa. It had extensive trading links with other societies. At the same time you have to look at the context of the excavation. The bones were taken in 1933. It might have been archaeology, but it was also about gaining control of the land for the Whites. At the same time re-burying the bones would, I thought, mean losing information about a major feature of African history and the local communities would be victims again. Actually this is not the case because the reburial is rather clever.
The remains are being buried in sealed containers in sealed vaults. This satisfies the local people that the bones are being reburied. At the same time it will hopefully leave them safe should they wish to investigate their past — but the next time it should be with their consent.
Archaeoporn has an entry illustrating one of the problems with buying illicit antiquities. It turns out that not all criminals are trustworthy people. Take for instance the Seal of Yzbl, it’s a seal of Queen Jezebel as mentioned in the Bible™. At least it is if you don’t look at it too closely. If you do, then all sorts of oddities appear — that’s not a problem it was found at… umm… oh dear.
Archaeoporn also mentions the Guennol Lion, which I haven’t because I know nothing about it. David Gill in contrast knows as much about its find spot as anyone else.
David Gill has also talked about the Bolton Princess recently. If you don’t know this story, Bolton Council had the opportunity to buy a statue of the Amarna Princess, a 3000+ year old statue from Egypt. There was no check on the provenance and the sellers wish to remain anonymous. This is par for the course in antiquities sales so far. Nothing more would have been heard were it not for the fact that the same sellers tried to sell some wall reliefs to the British Museum and some spelling mistakes were spotted. An investigation followed and a search revealed three more Amarna Princesses which had been knocked up over a few weeks by a bloke in a shed.
It’s possible the Bolton Armana Princess is a fake.
David Gill has a sensible and grown-up reaction to the news. Me, I’m reminded of the K Foundation and want to applaud. The case suggests that the sting was about art rather than money. The perpetrators were described as living in “abject poverty.” If there were a scheme to ensure the provenance of artefacts for sale then maybe this wouldn’t happen. I’m surprised that reputable collectors and auction houses aren’t clamouring for such a scheme.
— and an update before this post goes live —
I write quite a few posts in advance, and this is one of them, so I can include another Greenhalgh forgery thanks to the Cranky Professor. The Art Institute of Chicago has a Greenhalgh Gaugin. These things could become collectible. If you can fake provenances, then how many unprovenanced antiquities on display are fake?
Oscillococcinum is a remarkable substance. It’s a homeopathic remedy which fights the Oscillococcus bacterium. Now some sceptics will balk at that and ask how a homeopathic medicine can fight anything. That’s not a problem in this case as Oscillococcus probably doesn’t exist. That’s a distraction. What’s interesting is Oscillococcinum itself.
Oscillococcinum is made from the extract of heart and liver of a Muscovy duck. This is diluted to 200CK. The K refers to the method of dilution. You fill a glass with a solution and then empty it. Then you refill the still damp glass with 100ml of fresh pure water. This method assumes you’ve just diluted your solution by one part in a hundred. The C is the bit that tells you it’s one part in a hundred. So in this case 1ml of heart and liver extract is diluted in 10 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 litres of water. If you took a drop of heart and liver extract and mixed it with all the water in all the oceans on the Earth, it still wouldn’t be anywhere near as diluted as Oscillococcinum.
Once I saw that one question lodged in my mind: “Is it suitable for vegetarians?“
It’s on Bad Science. On the plus side the SoH have got in contact and asked about the claimed cancer curing chemical conman. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
In the meantime there’s LOLHomeopathicRemedies and the world’s unluckiest LOLcat.
Hurrah! I can close the weekend on an upbeat note. Shpalman has had a look at his area and did not find homeopaths who claim to cure cancer, malaria, AIDS or scrofula. It would seem that at in at least some areas homeopaths do all stick to their Code of Ethics. It’s nicer to think of them as people who may be a bit incompetent rather than evil. How incompetent? Well Shpalman did find this quote from Oakleigh Homeopathy.
Homeopathic Remedies are possibly the safest form of medicine I have come across, an aspect very important to me then, in the care of my small children, and now in the care of my patients. If the remedies are not carefully matched they simply won’t work, a point born out accidentally by my children who during a lapse of attention managed to eat whole bottles full of the remedies and had no ill effects whatsoever!
Yes, someone who believes the pills could have a major effect on a person’s health discovered they were safe after she let her children eat bottles of the stuff.
It’s back to archaeology and ancient history tomorrow.
I’m guessing scrofula. So far I haven’t found a homeopath who will claim to cure scrofula. The Queen has nothing to fear. In fact she’s quids in if she catches AIDS because, you’ve guessed it, homeopathy can treat AIDS according to one member of the Society of Homeopaths.
I had five minutes so I thought I’d check my home county. It would at least be a comforting to know that unethical homepaths weren’t on the prowl locally. So I checked the SoH website for Derbyshire [Google Cache] [PDF Print]. The second website on the list was Helen Coles [Google Cache] [PDF Print]. I think she’s convinced me I was far too lenient in my previous post as she says:
People suffering from all kinds of illnesses, from depression to arthritis, migraine to ulcers and the more ‘modern’ illnesses including AIDS and ME, can be helped by homeopathy to regain their health.
Now as last time I could argue ‘regain health’ means alleviate symptoms rather than cure, so she’s not actually saying she can cure AIDS. I may feel a revulsion to the claim but, by itself, it doesn’t break the Society’s Code of Ethics. The next sentence reads:
Good homeopathy will not just drive away the symptoms but help the patient deal with the cause of the illness and regain good health.
Good homeopathy would deal with the cause of AIDS? Now again I could argue that she’s not claiming herself to be a good homeopath. She’s not said “I can cure AIDS and ME” in so many words. She just put the cure concept snugly up against AIDS and ME. On the other hand if you see someone in black clothes, with sinister organ music on their iPod and sharp pointy teeth from a joke shop, you have to accept they want to be seen as a bloodsucker.
I think the Society of Homeopaths is at a crossroads. It’s clear that some members are flouting the Code of Ethics. In each of the four counties sampled there has been at least one problem with the members who have websites. How much faith should we have the Society of Homeopaths stands for high quality healthcare? According to their disclaimer:
The Society of Homeopaths makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about:
(a) any of the content of this web site (including, without limitation, the quality, accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose of such content), or
(b) any content of any other web site referred to or accessed by hypertext link through this web site (‘third party site’).
You should consult a suitably qualified person on any specific problem or matter, which is covered by any information on this site before taking any further action.
Does that mean none at all?
A homeopathic photo of Homeopaths. (Note to the Society of Homeopaths legal friends: The pixels containing photos of homeopaths have been been diluted and re-diluted into another photo, so that no detectable pixels from the original photo remains. Thus this is a much more potent photo of homeopaths than orthodox photography. You believe that right?) Undiluted photo Ducking Hell
(cc) Gaetan Lee
I read an interesting article on Respectful Insolence yesterday. It was actually from the Quackometer, but you can't see it on there at the moment. It’s a really good demonstration of one of the reasons why I don’t often blog on medicine.
If you don’t know about this story, here’s the condensed version. Put yourself in the place of an honest homeopathic consultant. You know that your patients are likely to be very vulnerable. They’re ill and they’re probably don’t feel that conventional treatment will help them. Maybe they’re beyond the help of scientific medicine. This makes your patients perfect targets for all sorts of con-artists and snake-oil merchants. This you feel, as a honest homeopathic consultant, is a danger. Therefore you’re likely to welcome a code of ethics which states what you cannot do or claim, to ensure the patient is treated with respect.
The Society of Homeopaths has such a Code of Ethics which you can download. Le Canard Noir (which I think is a pseudonym) at the Quackometer did this and found two interesting clauses:
48: Advertisements, stationery and name plates maintain a high standard of propriety and integrity to enhance the reputation of homeopathy.
• Advertising shall not contain claims of superiority.
• No advertising may be used which expressly or implicitly claims to cure named diseases.
• Advertising shall not be false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, extravagant or sensational.
72: [Homeopaths are required] To avoid making claims (whether explicit or implied; orally or in writing) implying cure of any named disease.
His article he said that he just checked a random homeopath and found someone breaking both clauses, including claims of treating malaria, which explains why the article title was The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing. LCN suggested that the Society was not taking its own Code of Ethics seriously.
Up went the article. Presumably someone at the Society read it, because the hosting company for the Quackometer received a complaint from the Society’s legal representatives. The article had to be pulled because the UK’s libel laws are strict and the hosting company wanted no part of a legal battle.
Others are talking about the ethics of bullying critics through legal intimidation rather than questioning the facts. In contrast I thought I’d check the story. Is it really that easy to go from the Society of Homeopaths website to a site of someone breaking their code of ethics?
A channel I’m watching more and more of is Al Jazeera. Not so much for news from Iraq, but news elsewhere. When the fires were raging in Greece the UK channels were reporting on the threat to sites. Al Jazeera had a Greek journalist speaking about the danger to people and possible reasons why people would want to start the fires. It’s interesting to see another point of view.
The video above is fascinating. It’s about the recent archaeological work on the victims of the Spanish Civil War. The war was, among other things, training for the German soldiers. Spain was the country the allies didn’t get round to liberating at the end of the war. This has left a long tradition of people collaborating to survive. Unlike Eastern Europe, the return to democracy wasn’t accompanied by openness but an agreement to move on from the past in silence. However some questions will not go away and people are looking to see if they can find what happened to their relatives. Unfortunately the lack of discussion hasn’t healed the wounds and old divisions are reopening. This Al Jazeera documentary puts the work of the archaeologists in context with rumblings from the current generals that the unity of Spain will be defended.
You can see the second half on Al Jazeera’s YouTube Channel.
Pothunters destroying a site, or a problematic
excavation? Photo (cc) gbaku
David Gill has put up an interesting blog post showing how the kind of questions you ask lead you to certain kinds of answer. It’s really interesting to see how the assumptions are skillfully built into questions. The session he picks apart is Tainted Objects, which tackles artefacts of problematic provenance. (If you’re wondering what problematic means: The evidence against OJ Simpson was problematic.) The problem starts with the title, he argues. How does being smuggled, or exported with a nod and a wink, taint the artefact? The taint as he rightly says isn’t anywhere in the artefact, it’s with the people who are happy to handle them. And that’s just the start.
He’s also linked to an interview with Jack Davis in Athens News. Davis is the new head of the American School in Athens and the interview is startling from the opening:
At the University of Cincinnati we passed a resolution in our department, which is strongly focused on archaeology, that we would not accept the donation of any antiquities from private sources into our department, and that we would not accept funding for archaeological projects from collectors.
As I recall, and North American readers are welcome to correct me if I’m wrong, Cinncinnati is a major university which could well expect to receive this kind of donation. I know it’s easy to say that you shouldn’t fuel the market by accepting donations from dodgy ‘philanthropists’ and validate their purchases. However when one collector, who is said to have bought artefacts with dirt still on them, offered another university up to $200 million for a new institute, they took it. Saying no to donations when others are accepting them does require huge amounts of integrity. (Note to the relevant lawyers. I accept that being offered an artefact caked in dirt does not mean there’s any reason to assume it had been recently looted. In much the same way I’d like to reassure OJ’s lawyers that I have no doubt that their client was found innocent. I get email.)
The photo is titled “Pothunters” destroying an archaeological site on the Columbia River (Oregon, USA) and it’s one of the many put up on Flickr by gbaku. He’s been putting up some great images of archaeological excavation in action recently and, even better, they’re available under a Creative Commons licence.