Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Italian Consul Involved in Antiquities Smuggling?

ARCA blog is reporting: 'Egyptian prosecutor requests that former honorary consul of Italy be placed on INTERPOL’s red notice list' in connection with his alleged involvement in smuggling over 20 000 artefacts from the port of Alexandria. The objects were discovered inside a diplomatic shipping container, of the type used to transport household goods, sent through the port of Salerno in May 2017. The ancient objects in the container consisted mainly of ancient coins, but also nearly 200 artefacts dated from the Predynastic to the Ptolemaic, as well as the Islamic era (including funerary masks decorated in gold, a sarcophagus, a "Boat of the Dead" with 40 oarsmen, amphorae, pectoral paintings, wooden sculptures, bronzes, and ushabti statuettes).  They were probably from illegal excavations of archaeological sites, possibly from the area near Minya in Upper Egypt. 

Have Permission, Spade, Got me Some Barrows....

Over on Andy Fudge's Facebook page, we can see some so-called "responsible detecting" and crowd-sourcing "citizen archaeology" going on. Or we might consider to what use a super-fine toothcomb can be put in malign hands:  
Neil Green to Metal detecting 11 hrs
ust doing a DTM Lidar on my local woods and noticed two mounds and then a road leading to some rough fields. Would these be barrow/Tumulus? [emoticon] [emoticon]
I would say there is a bit more than that going on there, but the artefact hunters seem focused on the possibilities of a bit of antiquarian barrow-digging, like Stephen Whitehead, who writes:
If the mounds are at the tip of the hill, then go for it 
Actually, that's not where barrows tend to be, but anyhow, who's going to reason with a metal detectorist? So Mr Green is heartened by the responses:
 Neil Green Cheers guys, will crack on with these woods soon! - Yep I have permission
Does he now? My problem with this is about whether those earthworks, not just the mounds are known to the local  archaeological services. If they are, then they should be scheduled (note, not a single "responsible detectorist" on that FB page raised that issue).

If however in the dense woodland they have not been noted - so therefore are not scheduled, then surely the proper response of anyone (actually, not notionally) "passionate about history" and "preserving the past" would not be to go over there where he has "permission" for detector and spade use, but with a camera, tape measure and surveying pins and make a proper non-invasive earthwork survey (plenty of books on the subject for amateur archaeologists) and take that to his local archaeology service and ask them to take the newly-discovered site under protection.  Isn't that what proper "opportunities for active public involvement in archaeology" (PAS aim three) is actually all about?

Bangor Attack! Sam Hardy Gets it Again

"Give the people what they want"
Professor Raimund Karl has another nasty go at Sam Hardy. Nothing new there, the Welsh academic seems to be on a vendetta. This text is more of the same old thing he's been churning out for a while now (Raimund Karl 2019, "The,(sic) artefact erosion estimation'-fallacy. Another response to papers by Samuel A. Hardy', Archäologische Denkmalpflege 2, 2019, 73-143). Note that "Archäologische Denkmalpflege" is just a self-published internet webpage, but he gives it a doi: 10.13140/RG.2.2.29959.24484.

The text is a turgid teutonic 71-pager, really unrewarding to plough through. To give a taster, the abstract starts like this:
In this article, I again discuss the attempts by Samuel A. Hardy to 'estimate' the 'cultural harm' caused by non-professional metal detecting. I [have] already discussed the serious methodological (and arithmetic) flaws in his original paper in an earlier contribution (Karl 2018a), highlighting why the results of his study were unreliable and thus anything but useful. In this contribution, I focus on the even more fundamental conceptual flaws underpinning his research, which lead to his fundamentally flawed methodology. Particularly crucial in this context is that not only do the assumptions he makes for conducting his study directly determine its outcomes, but that most of these assumptions are fundamentally flawed themselves [...].
and so on....  Pure Bolko von Richthofen... Is this primitivism what British "academic" writing has come to in the wake of Brexit? Karl (and his university) should be ashamed of such behaviour. Now, what is "non-professional metal detecting", please? Is that the same as collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological resource? Why scare quotes for estimate and cultural harm?  How in the world of Bangor are the results of any research (astrophysics included) unaffected by the underlying assumptions made in the framing of the research question?

This includes his own, for Karl (along with his metal detecting pals) assumes that, since Karl himself clearly has a fixation on this, Hardy's only focus is on whether restrictive (permit-led) artefact hunting is a better protector of archaeological values than unrestricted collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record. Karl's been rather boringly going at Hardy from this angle now or a couple of years (see past post in this PACHI blog). This is despite the fact that - as I have pointed out in earlier posts - is not what actually reading Hardy's texts as a whole (rather than selecting soundbites) say is their topic.

We get into Ixelles-Six land when Karl says what (a priori "fundamentally flawed") assumptions of Hardy he is challenging. He reckons that he thinks he knows better what Hardy should think, so - sticking to his abstract's summary of the points he so laboriously makes - Hardy should not be looking at "the number of artefacts extracted ex situ" because:

Monday, 16 September 2019

Winterbourne Gunner Deposit Excavated by Archaeologists

Worn antoninianus of Valerian
A hoard of 1820 Roman base silver coins was found during a metal detecting rally on arable land in Bourne Valley near Salisbury, despite the fact that it was found at a discrete place, it has officially been called the "Bourne Valley Hoard" (William Rimell, 'Coin hoard, more than 1,700 years old, which was found near Salisbury, is treasure, says coroner'. Salisbury Journal 16th September)
Found perfectly preserved by metal detectorists on arable land in Winterbourne Gunner, the coins have been dated back to as early as 253 AD, when Valerian I and Gallienus ruled the empire. But, as soon as the detectorists – Tony and Paul Hunt – realised the significance of the find on August 19 last year, they called the British Museum to carry out the excavation. The next day a crack team of archaeologists had descended on the site. The excavation revealed a 15cm-tall grey jar, buried upright within a pit that had been cut into the natural chalk. A spokesperson for the museum said: "The finders acted very properly in not digging up the hoard themselves, but rather enabling a professional excavation. They should be acknowledged for this, as too often it does not happen, and we lose important information." [...] The find was judged to be "treasure" by Salisbury senior coroner David Ridley at a special treasure inquest on September 11. This means, under law, that "the Crown" is formally regarded as the owner of the items, and not those that discovered it. However, under discretion of the museum, compensation may be paid to those who found it, as well as the landowner.
It is good to see a newspaper (a) making special note of the fact that the artefact hunters did not hoik the stuff out themselves (as at Wem and the "Chew Valley" fiasco being discussed recently) and even summarising the archaeological information that was thus obtained, (b) that the Treasure ransom, paid to ensure obedience of the clear stipulates of the law, is discretionary ("may be paid") and (c) does not mention "how much" that payment might eventually be, (d) discretely avoids highlighting that the discovery was during a commercial metal detecting rally in August 2018.

. This "perfectly preserved" though in an arable field means that this (isolated?) find was made well below plough level, in the undisturbed archaeological deposits under the ploughsoil ('Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales' anyone?) . Now this "crack team" of archies, what kind of an excavation did they do at such short notice, and what is the site and landscape context of this deposit? Why was the pit dug precisely where it was, and why was it filled burying a pot containing a load of mid-third century coins in it?

Church of Scotland Get Banned from Metal Detecting Facebook Page?

It seems the Church of Scotland were trying to contact someone in the metal detecting community through Andy Fudge's 'metal detecting' page, perhaps to discuss something important. To no avail. This is what "responsible detecting" looks like close-to. In my country we called this censorship, and opposed it. In Boris-land it seems to be thriving in certain circles:
Stephen Llewellyn to Metal detecting     2 hrs ago 
Sorry guys , I've deleted the Scotland church posts. Dont really know Derek or his wife sharon as I've never met them. Dont know the ins and outs of it or reasons behind it. When the matter as (sic) been to court then discuss it. I'm sure it's on every group on facebook Just do what you all do best , post your finds and give advice. 15 comments
I think the advice might be that if the landowner asks you for a share of the money you made by selling off something from THEIR property, the responsible, ethical, and lawful thing to do would be to give it to them, and not run away. The second piece of advice would be to get a proper agreement drawn up before even setting foot on a landowner's property. The third you'll not see on a metal detecting FB page, don't trust artefact hunters coming onto YOUR land an inch. 


Our Clubs are Dying

Stephen Llewellyn Beverly Moses I understand what your saying , I'm sure everything will come out in court. This [Facebook] group isn't about this stuff , it's about a community helping and sharing. Facebook as highlighted the good and bad in the hobby , facebook (h)as destroyed the hobby in a lot of ways not just this. Clubs are dying because online clubs have taken off and people prefer these. Digital isnt always best but just my opinion.

Which is a blow for PAS and their Code of Best Practice as clubs are central to their 'strategy' (I use that term loosely). So if the clubs are on the way out (because club digs are being replaced by commercial rallies) and these virtual chatrooms are "not about this stuff [ethics and responsible behaviour]", then where is they discussed?


Important Site near Wem Trashed, Artefact Hoikers Praised by FLO for "Helping to Unearth Part of Britain's History"

A fifth-century hacksilver hoard has been dug up near Wem in Shropshire  (Sue Austin, One of rarest Dark Ages finds - the Wem hoard - is declared treasure Sep 4, 2019). The so-called Wem hoard was discovered by three metal detectorists  last October. It was found on commercial ("charity") rally held by the newly formed Cornovii Discoverers Metal Detecting Club. The 200 broken fragments included siliquae coins and a halved, well-worn 1st century denarius, a brooch.There were also pieces of melted down silver ingots.
The organiser of the charity metal detecting rally, Mr John Parry, said the find was the culmination of six years of believing that there was treasure to be found on the land. Steve Lord from north Wales and Steve King who lives near Chester, had been on car park duty at the Whitchurch Lions charity dig on a farmer's fields near Wem, last October and decided to walk half an hour across the the furthest corner of land away from the hundreds of other metal detectorists who were at the rally from across the country. "We had been talking about the one thing neither of us had ever found was a Roman silver coin," Mr King said. "We started detecting and I saw Steve bend down and pick something up and he said 'you will never guess what I have just found'. It was a silver coin." Having taken the frequency of the coin, Mr King then continued and within seconds found the same frequency and other coin. A third enthusiast, Andy Bijskerbosh, from Blackpool joined them. "The beeping and finds brought us closer and closer together until we were standing over a small patch of earth," Mr King said.
At which point, one of them recalled what the Code of Practice for the Treasure Act (p. 20, point 33) says and the Code of Best Practice for Responsible Artefact Hunting (section 2 point 2) says and ... oh. No, nobody paid any attention to those two documents, you see it's apparently affiliated to the NCMD, and therefore "NCMD Code of Conduct [...] rules apply" (shut the gates). A recent rally cost ten quid a head, and there were greasy burgers and toilet tent facilities available in parking area. So, on realising there was a bigger concentration of metal at that point... instead of acting responsibly and leaving it to be dealt with properly, Steve, Steve and Andy decided to carry on. 
 "We put a probe in and the signals went off the scale so we dug down about a foot and a half. [45 cm PMB]. Eventually I put my hand down into the soil - and brought up a huge pile of silver and coins, with the brooch sitting right on the top. It was incredible." Mr Lloyd said: "It was at that point we rang John Parry and said that he had better walk over to us and look at what we had found." The trio, together with Mr Parry then started the process of contacting the finds office and laying out the coins where they had been found.
Mr Parry said  "I am so glad that it was such an important find and that we had responsible metal detectorists who did the right thing and reported the find.". Well, the right and ethical thing would have been to STOP digging, so that the nature of the deposit could have been properly documented. anyhow, it gets even more Bonkers-Britain archaeoridiculous:
So important was the find that archaeologists returned to the area last week and unearthed further silver remnants. The site of the find is being kept secret [...].Once the crop on the field was harvested last month archaeologists returned to the land last week for a dig at the site of the find. More fragments of hacked silver were found and are now being sent to the British Museum.
So, what August 2019 - ten months later? What crop would that be then? What archaeological context was revealed by this 'dig'? What site context and what landscape context? Anyway, the FLO seems quite happy to be able to fondle and display this stuff, irrespective of the lost context:
Speaking at the treasure inquest, the county's finds officer, Mr Peter Reavill, praised the men for helping to unearth part of Britain's history. "This is a hugely important discovery from the Dark Ages," he said. [...] Mr Reavill explained that when the Roman left Britain they took with them their coinage monetary system the people that were left in the UK could no longer use coins and so instead cut or hacked up silver, whether coins, jewellery, cups or rivets from boxes to used as weighed bullion.
When "the Romans left Britain" is Ladybird Book history, isn't it? Did they take their cows, pigs and  chickens with them? Probably Dr Reavill knows that in the first quarter of the fifth century, "the Romans" had not "left" Gaul, but the monetary system there underwent the same changes as the adjacent province of Britain (NOT "the UK!") under the  Valentinians and Theodosians and then reverted to a gold standard with silver - including in the form of hacksilver. Come on PAS, more information for the public, less of the asinine and retro-historical dumbdown. Please, otherwise what is the point of informing the public at all?

And did Dr Reavill the FLO read the riot act to Steve, Steve and Andy, or read out the two Codes of Practice at the inquest, and was that before or after "praising them" for ignoring them both?

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