Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Peter Campbell Stops "Stolen Heritage"

Stolen Heritage:
I have decided to stop updating this account. Several years ago an independent source was needed for antiquities news.There are others now doing this better, such as and . You can find my personal discussions
I think, while dealers and collectors attempt to get the upper hand to maintain the damaging status quo, there will always be a need for independent sources of antiquity news and sites commenting on it. But thank you Peter for all your hard work.

Gimme-Gimme Collectors With no Conscience?

integrity, responsibility

ISIS Militant holds out hand
for collectors' cash
In today's media offerings we find two recent texts: Hyperallergic's  '' and SAFE's 'UK adopts resolution to ban the import of antiquities from Syria' (with the question "will the massive market of the US follow suit?). We also find over on the blog of a lobbyist working for the International Association of Professional Numismatists and the Professional Numismatists Guild  an attack on the idea of the enforcement of trade sanctions relating to Syrian cultural property. Let me remind "professional (sic) numismatists" what is involved:

It shall be prohibited to import, export, transfer, or provide brokering services related to the import, export or transfer of, Syrian cultural property goods and other goods of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific or religious importance [...] where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the goods have been removed from Syria without the consent of their legitimate owner or have been removed in breach of Syrian law or international law, in particular if the goods form an integral part of either the public collections listed in the inventories of the conservation collections of Syrian museums, archives or libraries, or the inventories of Syrian religious institutions.
The ANS has yet to make their position clear, but since many ANS affiliated dealers sell numismatic material potentially of Syran origin, it would surprise nobody to see them siding too with the lobbyist representing the IAPN and PNG. At a time when the US is putting resources into stopping the post-2003 human rights tragedy unfolding in northern Syria and Iraq, it seems downright un-American for US collectors, dealers and international trade associations to be attempting to hold out for their 'right' to put money blindly into the hands of those responsible for it.

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: (Non-) Participation in the Heritage Debate

PACHI  :  'Focus on Metal Detecting: More Entitlement on Show' Friday, 22 August 2014 (UPDATE)
"More happy-slapping nuisance posting from the tekkies. Obviously the intent of 'Anonymous' was merely to annoy, rather than contribute. This is another example of the same old tactic typical of UK's tekkies. They are not a bit interested in debating the heritage, but have every interest in trying to disrupt and derail any such discussion by whatever cheap tactics they can think of employing".

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  

Abandoned Antiquity Recognized not a Moment too Soon

Stephen Drake and the mummy case he found in empty house
A Cambridge auctioneer has found the lid of a Late Period (25th dynasty?) Egyptian coffin in a house in Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex.
 He said: “It really was quite bizarre. I’d been asked to look at the house by relatives of the previous owner, who’d died. “When I got there the renovation work was fully under way, and a large hole had been smashed in one of the outside walls. When I stuck my head through and looked inside, I was surprised to see the coffin lid leaning up against a wall in the corner, covered in dust and cobwebs. There was a painted face on it and some hieroglyphics. “It was just like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie.” Mr Drake said the new owners of the house had no idea what the coffin lid was, but imagined it had been part of a collection of ancient items. He said: “I believe the previous owner may have collected old artefacts. There were other very old items in the house.” 
Donna Yates is suggesting the object is a fake, though on what grounds I do not know. The object looks genuine to me, in very bad condition, water damage on one side, soot deposits all over it, except the face, which some jerk has repainted with what looks like yellow ochre emulsion paint, going across the missing area of the nose. Possibly under the paint is some gap-filling to tart it up. I presume this was done by the previous owner, who mercifully stopped at the comedy mask. This is a good reminder of what can happens to archaeological artefacts in private hands. Collectors suggest that all collectors 'preserve' the past and 'look after it'. This piece has lost its lower half, contents and any associated items and information about findspot, has been been mistreated terribly and ultimately abandoned - with it seems the present owners of the building and its contents totally unaware of what it could be (they probably live in a hole in the ground with no TV). They could easily have dumped it in a skip, but called in an estate clearer instead. Oh by the way, there is no "seaside" at Bradwell, just hectares of mudflats and marsh - and a nuclear power-station.
Chris Elliott, 'Raiders of the Lost Sarcophagus: Cambridgeshire auctioneer amazed to find ancient Egyptian coffin in seaside house' 26th August 2014.

Focus on Metal Detecting: Simpletons

On a metal detecting forum very near you, "Liamnolan" (Re: Percentage of 'Keepers' - Tue Aug 26, 2014 3:04 pm ) is another one who attempts to explain away the doubts some of us have about the relationship between what metal detectorists in the UK are showing the PAS and what is actually being hoiked out of the archaeological record. He's decided to go for the name-calling tactic:
[...] There is always the chance that a simpleton =)) browsing this topic will not have a clue about metal detecting realities and thus not realise that the 99% of finds that are not coins etc are in fact RUBBISH such as tin foil, blobs of molten lead, shotgun cartridges, fragments of all sorts of domestic appliances, hot rocks ... the list is endless [...]

Simpletons are the people that write such crap, imagining that it will end the debate. Simpletons are the people who listen to them too. Mr Nolan does not name the "simpleton" whom he is addressing, but perhaps should be aware that in some of our cases (my own for example) we've been looking at metal detecting since the 1970s, when it started, have been to club meetings, out with detectorists on a number of occasions in more than one country, and have made a close study of the problem for a decade and a half. Anyone who's ever been involved in fieldwork of any kind (fieldwalking, earthwork surveying, hedgerow dating, excavation) in the heavily-littered English countryside is well aware of what gets into the fields in dirty Britain. I would say the accusation that people like that still "have not a clue about metal detecting realities" is clutching at straws. Certainly, I know enough about metal detecting argumentation to know that this very same argument has been trotted out regularly over the years.

This was the case in March 2005 when on another forum, the tekkies decided to put their money where their mouth is. They actually set out to demonstrate it. Thirty of them did, in different parts of the country. a total of 112 detecting hours, they turned off their discrimination and determined to "dig every target", ostensibly for a three hour session and log the results. They were going to show that - as Liamnolan puts it, "99% of finds are in fact rubbish".

They dug 1521 "hits". Of these only 493 were very modern finds (so to list the categories mentions by Liam Nolan: tin foil 61 pieces, ringpulls and drink can pieces 111, shotgun cartridges 173, fragments of domestic appliances and electrical waste 14). Hot rocks accounted for 14 dug hits.  There were 15 very modern coins (plus '14p in coppers').

The 'blobs of molten lead' may be "rubbish" to a collector, but could equally be archaeological evidence, deriving from reuse of Roman bath house fittings, roof lead flashings, medieval came manufacture, silver refining waste and so on (dating it would depend on the recording of distribution pattern taken with those of other artefact types). The 2005 survey found 262 pieces of lead 'scrap'. 

Apart from that there were 456 artefacts falling into the group categorised by Nigel Swift and myself as 'Old Timey' (collectable - and saleable - items between c. 300 and c. 90 years old  but not recordable by the PAS). Among these were 71 coins.

What is significant is that there were 55 PAS-recordable finds found in this exercise (one 'keeper' per two hours' detecting in this case).* Of these 30 were coins.

Those figures break down to
Recordable collectables: 4%,
Old Timey collectables, 30%,
Very Modern 32%,
Unattributed and scrap (by the finders) 34% 
 This is a far cry from the "99%" rubbish claim. If we are talking about modern items, the figure shown by this survey is actually 32%.** am sure that had the items not attributed by the finders been examined properly more archaeological items would have been recognized among them.

These are the sort of "metal detecting realities" we are talking about. The ones that induce detecting forum moderators to delete posts or entire threads when they are pointed out.

*Actual rates will be higher, these people had discrimination turned off and were deliberately spending time digging signals they knew were duds. 

**"Oh, what about Green Waste?" you can almost hear them screaming. What's the betting the next such survey will be done only on "Green Waste fields" to boost the "Very modern" category - you know, the ones the detectorists would normally avoid for that very reason

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Building material

pantiles for detectorists (Builder Bill)
It's damage control time on a metal detecting forum near you, obviously (Percentage of 'Keepers'). Now we have another tekkie extolling the virtues of keeping artefacts instead of binning what is not wanted for a personal collection. This one ("Timesearch" from Staffordshire - Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:21 am) begins by telling us: "My interest in metal detecting came out of 25 years working in the heritage sector". I guess we are supposed to be impressed by the non-specific use of the H-word. He is careful to point out that he does not dig deep holes to take items away, claiming that this therefore is: "no threat to underlying archaeology". Missing the point totally of course, since surface sites are also a major subject of archaeological research. Odd though that for a heritage professional he is ignorant about basic facts and terminology. he announces:
I'm about to work on a site where pantiles have been found, indicating Roman occupation [which is going to be] steirlised by being turned into a car park.
Hmm, if it's being sealed by a car park, then there is no need to do anything, it will be preserved under the asphalt. But, "Timesearch" is of course thinking a site which is no longer available for his and his mates' hoiking is in some way being damaged rather than preserved.

But then this collector seems not to have learnt very much about the things one can find in fields anyway. He's far off the mark in thinking pantiles are an indicator of a Roman site (what do they teach "heritage professionals" with metal detectors these days?). They were and are used mainly on the eastern side of England and Scotland and were first imported from Holland in the early 17th century. But then, this is wholly typical of these collectors who say they are hoiking stuff, chucking what they don't want and walking off with the nicer collectables in order to study the past. They are not, are they if they are chucking away, totally disregarded, the stuff they do not want, to the degree that this numpty apparently cannot even tell the difference between Romano-British and post Medieval ceramic building material. Most artefact hunters do not collect anything other than metal (and primarily non-ferrous metal) objects  to "study the past" (sic). You cannot study the past on the basis of discarding most of the evidence for it. In the same way as you could not say very much about our own society on the basis of just going through the yellow bins into which residents have segregated all the plastic. What the PAS is collecting data on is not "evidence of the past" it is evidence of the scope of today's collecting activities and collectors like this one cannot even recognize a very common and diagnostic artefact type - how reliable is this person's recording of the context of deposition of any artefact he hands in?

Of course if the PAS would produce 'a guide to common building material types worth recording' like they did the COINS  they after seventeen years, we'd be getting somewhere.

Builder Bill has photos of Roman tegulae and imbreces and a brief text in simple English: Imbrex and tegula.

Metal Detecting and the Heritage Debate: "Disappointed this is happening again".

Metal detectorists apparently consider that what they do happens in a vacuum. They take stuff, the rest of us are expected just to turn away and let them. The very idea that there might be some kind of debate about what we do to the heritage, what we allow to happen to it seems an anathema to them, indeed the possibility apparently never crossed their minds. So artefact hunter Kris Rodgers of 'National Geographic' and Greg's Bedroom fame "Addicted to Bleeps"adds his latest to the 'Re: Percentage of 'Keepers' thread (Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:17 pm:
Since I wrote my post, I've learnt about the underlying politics concerning this thread. Some people are great with political spin, and loaded questions, but surely healthy debate is the best way to come to a positive conclusion? Disappointed this is happening again.
He cannot make up his mind whether the penultimate sentence is a statement or a question, which probably is symptomatic of a certain confusion in thinking typical of the milieu. It is rather pathetic that these people do not recognize that heritage in general is 'political'. There is a heritage policy (or mixture of policies) in the UK, and this is and should be the subject of debate. My questioning what artefact hunters do to the archaeological record under the umbrella of a vague policy is part of that public debate. Metal detectorists Greg, Baz and Liam may not like that, they may not wish to take part, they may even wish to avoid even thinking about it (even to the extent of avoiding mentioning the names of people debating the issues) and they may be "disappointed" that others want to discuss it - with or without them - but yes, the rest of us will continue to expect a healthy debate to come to a positive resolution. That is not a question.  

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