Saturday, 10 April 2021

UK Metal Detectorists Gang of Five Trash Protected Sites

According to the Facebook page of the 'Services Archaeology and Heritage Association', Five men appeared at Chester Magistrates Court on April 9th, and admitted heritage crimes at Cheshire's Beeston Castle and Roche Abbey in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. They each pleaded guilty to removing, without written consent, objects of archaeological/historical interest found by a metal detector in a protected place. The men were named as Francis James Ward (32), Curtis Barlow (32), Daniel James Lloyd (33), John Andrew Lorne (29), all from Droylsden, and Gary Flanagan (33) from Audenshaw. The charges concerned coins and an axehead taken from the two sites.

The Prosecuting said police were tipped off about a series of artefacts trying to be sold to an antiques dealer, who became suspicious. Police searched Ward's address and found a phone containing a Whatsapp metal detecting group, show targeting of schedule sites. Mr Stanley said the prosecution wanted to impose a Criminal Behaviour Order which would prevent the men from possessing metal detectors in a public place.
The point is of course that this is not about "ownership" of the objects, but the destruction of archaeological knowledge.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Irresponsible UK Artefact Hunters Deliberately Destroy Archaeological Record to go 'Pay-to-Dig' Hoiking

Over in Shropshire:

We Dig Heritage @WDHUK1 · 3 g.
Very concerning a Commercial Metal Detecting Rallies Business is running a 50+ persons Rally in Shropshire this weekend.

This is reportedly "Nobal [sic] Detecting", run by Cai Anthony, and it seems that in order to create optimal conditions for rtefact hunting on a field that's already been 'done over' before, the landowner is going the extra mile for them (probably reflected in ticket money and attendance).

What has happened here is that members feel that 'the best Roman field we've ever done' at Frodesley, Shropshire, has had most of the finds already in the ploughsoil taken away by other artefact hunters, leaving it depleted, so in order to give paying searchers something more to find the farmer hasd deep ploughed into deeper layers to bring stuff up tho the surface, and then rolled it so that the nice flat surface will be easier to search deeper. This is just irresponsible and reprehensible commercially-incentivised archaeological destruction. Nothing else. 

And from that commercial exploitation in the past, the PAS database has just eight records from the years 2010-20COIN (5)BROOCH (2)STRAP END (1)... and from that 'Best Ever Roman Field' and every other field in the parish, just THREE Roman finds have been reported. Let us therefore again add the adjective  'irresponsible' on that account too to what has been going on here. 


Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Targeting Known Site Under Permanent Pasture

    Traces in the landscape, easily destroyed
More heritage vandalism from the artefact hunters, this time on a WW2 airfield in Gloucestershire that's never been ploughed but...
Post by ivortripod » Tue Mar 23, 2021 8:33 pm
Detected in corner of building on this WW2 site, field used only for sheep grazing. V. Good signal depth app 9 ins, Non ferrous, no rust, no damage, perfectly circular width app 9ins. Sitting completely level, best described as spiderlike equi-distant arms with small circular  space  dead centre, so opposing strands don't meet. Didn't attempt removal as unsure considering possible ordnance issue. Of course I should have taken a pic but had no device available. Certainly not a drain, this was far too well made: any ideas would be very welcome
So he was detecting on grass (in full breach of the Code of Best Practice for responsible metal detecting in England and Wales), located the site of an actual building and then dug down right into it, despite having irresponsibly gone out without any equipment at all to record it properly, or any real idea how to interpret what he found.
Here's a rundown of the RAF airfields in Gloucestershire for those who want to learn about them without trying to trash the remains and selfishly nick bits for themselves as trophies lost airfields of Gloucestershire. Or there is this guide 'Gloucestershire Airfields in the Second World War' (British Military Aviation History) by David Berryman. A trail here, and the BBC wrote about it. So there is quite a lot to see and experience, to study and learn, without putting a spade in the ground. Some of these sites are protected from the likes of Ivortripod - for example being on NT land, but others are under threat from looting of this kind and the only thing that protects them is decency. 

UK Metal Detecting "Responsibility"

Over in Shropshire:

We Dig Heritage @WDHUK1 · 3 g.
Very concerning a Commercial Metal Detecting Rallies Business is running a 50+ persons Rally in Shropshire this weekend.

This is "Nobal [sic] Detecting", run by Cai Anthony. Those plans made me think of this:  

The artist is Clay Jonathan. He makes comics about depression and related stuff. The full version of this comic is here: and his patreon here:

Meanwhile the artefact hunters are out there just taking.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Egyptian Schoolkids Will 'Learn Hieroglyphics'


 Egypt will introduce the Egyptian hieroglyphs into the curricula starting from primary grade 4 to high school, according to a statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Education on Monday (Egypt Today, 'Egypt to introduce hieroglyphs into educational curricula next year' Mon, 05 Apr 2021). The new subject will be introduced next academic year scheduled to start in September 2021, according to the statement.

“The notion of introducing hieroglyphic writing symbols and their corresponding meanings in Arabic into the curricula aims to educate students their ancient history to enhance knowledge and raise awareness among the students,” the statement read. The archaeological and touristic awareness comes at the Ministry’s priorities in all educational levels, the statement said, adding that concepts, skills, and values related to tourism and archaeology, besides different forms of heritage will be also addressed in the curricula.
The problem here to me seems to be the mixing of the idea of cultivating awareness of the nation's pre-Islamic heritage with how to service the tourism industry. Watching the 'parade of the pharaoahs' from the one museum to another two days ago, I was looking at the names of the kings displayed on the catafalque written in English. Yet those mummies came from the Deir El-Bahari cache in upper Egypt where having the royal names in the script of the colonial power spoke volumes about what that heritage is useful 'for' in the eyes of the state.
. I wonder who, in all those Egyptian schools, will the teachers actually be. Also what language they will be read in, for it is the Coptic language (not spoken today in the country although used as a liturgical language by some of Egypt's Christians) that is closest to the original diction, not Egyptian Arabic.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Steinhardt Stargazer Case in Court Today

         Stone figure of unclear origins        

The legal battle between the Republic of Turkey and Christie’s about the so-called “Guennol Stargazer”, postponed from last year, is scheduled to go to trial today. This concerns one of the finest and largest preserved Chalcolithic Anatolian marble female idols of Kiliya type (dated to between 3000 and 2200 BC). Apart from the examples recently sold by Timelines Auctions in Harwich, UK, and ones that from time to time appear on eBay, there are around 15 nearly complete ones known. Few of them have any provenance to speak of. The origins of the 'Guenol' one are equally obscure. It seems to have been illegally excavated and then smuggled out of Turkey in the early 1960s. According to Antiquities Coalition (Latest AC Story Map Chronicles History of the Guennol Stargazer as its Case, Republic of Turkey v. Christie’s Inc. et al, Goes to Trial April 5, 2021 - see also the text by Sam Hardy 'The antiquity of the Guennol Stargazer – legal, looted, fake?' Conflict Antiquities 9th March 2018):

In 1961, Alastair Bradley Martin and his wife Edith purchased the antiquity from the John J. Klejman Gallery and added it to their Guennol Collection, a group of masterpieces widely renowned in the art community, having been loaned to a number of esteemed institutions and featuring works that have gone on to sell for millions. In 1993, the figure, referred to today as the Guennol Stargazer, was purchased by Michael Steinhardt [search] [...] Steinhardt later consigned the Guennol Stargazer to Christie’s, which scheduled its “Exceptional Sale” for April 28, 2017. Shortly before the auction, the Consul General of Turkey submitted a letter to Christie’s, claiming the figure as state property. The two parties could not reach an agreement, so Christie’s refused to halt the sale, and an anonymous bidder announced their intent to pay $14.5 million at the auction. One day before the sale was scheduled to take place, the government of Turkey filed a formal complaint in the Southern District of New York to halt the sale, reveal the identity of the anonymous bidder, and return the figure to Turkey, asserting that the figure’s removal from the country had been in violation of Turkey’s 1909 patrimony law. The original bidder pulled out of the sale in an attempt to maintain anonymity, but the Stargazer was nonetheless purchased for $12.7 million. 
I have earlier mused whether this object is actually an authenic antiquity at all ('Don't eat the Road-kill: Star-Gazer Kosher?' PACHI Saturday, 10 March 2018)

Christie’s claimed that the Turkish government acted unreasonably because they "should have" known of the figure’s location long before the auction advertisement because it had been exhibited a number of times prior to that. In a landmark judgement earlier a legal precedent was established in this case to the effect that prominently and publicly displaying a work of art for great lengths of time does not bar claims for recovery (David Jenkins, 'Case Review: Republic of Turkey v. Christie’s' ItsArtLaw April 30th 2020).  

What is in dispute is whether the sellers have in their possession any documentation of legal excavation and export that would give them title to sell. AC quote the collector who has in the past been involved in handling objects with a deficit of legitimating paperwork and is now trying to shift this piece of patinated stone as having once described his hobby collecting antiquities to Forbes by stating, “It’s a little bit dangerous, but that’s what makes it exciting… But life is filled with risks, isn’t it?”. Whether or not his lawyers will triumphantly produce and wave the right papers in court today cannot hide the fact that what the production of this collectable for US lawyers to quibble over is the destruction of an important archaeological context at the findspot in a foreign land.  

Saturday, 3 April 2021

A Lancashire Detectorist's View of Archaeologists

    Thomas Hall, Preston UK (Facebook)  

In the comments to a previous blog post we see a whistle-blowing detectorist's account of what archaeology looks like in Lancashire in the UK. If true, that would explain why many British archaeologists see nothing wrong with collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record (if they are simply pocketing it themselves). Where are the archaeological 'professional bodies' on cases like this? Mind boggles.  

Thomas Hall (20 March 2021 at 04:21   25 March 2021 at 14:41   26 March 2021 at 11:08   26 March 2021 at 11:47 ) said:      
I knew an archaeologist who had the most delightful fireplace made entirely from Roman stone. He showed it me himself and was quite proud of it, I will not name names only tell you that he worked on site at Ribchester. [...] The stone was taken from the remains of a house wall which was as is a common archaeological practice, bulldozed during excavations. [Give me my little trowel any day.] If you are not sure of what I am accusing this person then stealing from a scheduled site would seem to fit the bill. Also I never even mentioned his coins which, after placing his finger down the side of his nose in a 'keep this to yourself' manner he showed me. Need I go on??? [...] do you even think that I would be such a cad as to name one of your fellow 'grave robbers' nay, give me at least a little credit. I am but a humble detectorist who, whenever I needed to gain permission on a particularly difficult site would call upon the assistance of a Field Archaeologist with whom I was acquainted who, flashing his credentials would request that the landowner give us permission to conduct an 'Electronic Sweep' of his grounds, it worked every time. [...] The coins were secreted into his pockets, I have observed the 'digs' as they call them, my friend the planet Academia upon which you and thankfully a dwindling number of your fellow bigots reside, is facing destruction by what is known as 'Artifact Blitzkreig' that is the preference of the general public to view treasures uncovered by metal detectorists rather than a few stone walls bulldozed into view by a few so-called academics. [...] I was present and watched my friend on a a few of those 'digs' observed all of them closely, a nod and a wink from those in the trench to their friends observing, are you so nieve [sic] that you, and your fellow inhabitants of the planet Academia cannot see through the mist of ignorance and prejudice which surrounds it? [...] If the British Museum was full of photos of dry stone walls, trenches and bulldozers, do you thin the public would frequent it? No, of course they wouldn't they wish to see the treasures unearthed by people such as they, METAL DETECTORISTS.....
What kind of archaeological outreach are artefact hunters from the North of England, so far from Bloomsbury, getting? To what extent are Mr Hall's views characteristic of the whole up there? And what archaeological authorities are authorising the use of bulldozers within the scheduled areas of Ribchester? As for the cheapskate archaeologist, if he wants to collect coins they are pretty cheap and legal to buy on, no need to steal them from the archaeological record. Name and shame is what I would suggest - and then (if this is true) prosecution. 

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