Friday, 16 November 2018

Syrian Artefact Laundered by PAS Database?

For a long time I have been arguing that before PAS handles any artefacts brought to them by anyone other than the landowner (as was in effect recommended by the Oxford Archaeology 2009 Nighthawking Report), they need to be shown a signed protocol of transfer of title for that specific item. Despite that, they have consistemntly ignored the duty to verify that a finder coming to them with objects has the landowner's confirmation that the object was found on their land and the bearer has the right to possess it. Without it, the PAS have no way of ascertaining whether or not they are handling stolen goods and storing them in their offices.

David Knell knows more about Roman lamps than me, and it seems more than PAS staff Andrew Rogerson and Ms Ellen Bales [001425255EB0184B] who used a 1930 (!) typology of Mortimer Wheeler to identify a lamp supposedly found in Norfolk in 1986 as a 'Gaulish or German' firmalampe. Here's what Knell says ( How reliable is the PAS database? (Part 2) Ancient Heritage Friday, 16 November 2018) about the record NMS-7EF821 (made by Ms Bales  11 years ago Updated: 2 years ago):
It has nothing to do with Romano-British culture.

"known as a 'factory lamp' or firmalampe"
It does not even remotely resemble that type of lamp.

"Probably made in Gaul or Germany."
It was made in northern Syria, at the opposite end of the Roman Empire.

"2nd or 3rd century."
It is not earlier than the 5th to 6th centuries AD.
Knell adds that 'artefacts of this type are very well known (Kennedy Type 20), extensively recorded in the literature' and are common on the modern antiquities market but that 'it is extremely unlikely that they ever formed part of Britain's ancient archaeology'. So how secure is this findspot? What do we know about the finder? What else have they brought to the PAS before and since? Unfortunately the database cannot be used to determine this unless one has special access. But, more importantly, this record has been up on the public face of the database undetected (no pun intended) for eleven long years. Once upon a time the records were supposed to be verified by specialists who do not get their knowledge from outdated books of 1930. This is no longer a priority and junk identifications like this are getting into and remaining undetected in the PAS database (currently one million three hundred thousand items to be checked). Is this Syrian lamp an old loss by an antiquarian collector, or is a dealer trying to launder smuggled artefacts by passing them to somebody to get them registered by PAS as 'British found'? (see here)

 Now the PAS FLOs make a point of not reading blogs like mine and David Knell's about portable antiquities issues (no time they say, busy recording, too busy to read). let us see how long that entry stays up on the PAS database.

Hat tip: Thanks to David Knell for spotting this out-of-place-artefact

The Future for Baz Thugwit and his UK Mates?

After the devastating putdown in Rescue's future policy guidelines of artefact hunting with metal detectors and the inefficiencty of the PAS in rectifying the underlying problems, more canny detectorists may be wondering whether social attitudes may turn against self-centred Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record when funding for the PAS finally dries up. This could start happening as soon as March 2019 with the end of the PASt Explorers programme coinciding with the onset of Brexausterity in the same month. Some may feel that the end of a golden age of detecting is nigh, and will want to try and hang on as long as possible. With the PAS gone though, it may be difficult to do that. The Scheme gives the hobby an air of legitimacy by making records of a small percentage of the artefacts pocketed by collectors available to the wider public (albeit in less-than-transparent form).

The PAS is having meetings about the funding issue and growing tensions with some of the host institutions for the regional branches which will only increase under the pressures of Brexausterity. What is the future of 'metal detecting' in the UK?  The wind of change is blowing harder.   

New Self-Recording Site for Metal Detectorists

One of the ways it seems UK detectorists are contemplating dealing with an uncertain future for the legitimating PAS is apparently setting up their own recording schemes. One new one, created in the past few weeks is the Metal Detecting Finds Artefacts Database (MDFAD) 
This FREE website has been set up as a place for metal detectorist's (sic) to upload and show their finds within an easy to use public searchable database. This database is open to view by everyone BUT your details and find spots will always remain completely protected and anonymous. The more people that participate and contribute to this database the more useful it will become as a reference point helping everyone to identify their own finds and get the best out of the hobby we love. [...] To use the database as a non-registered user you can use the basic or advanced search, just type in a relevant word and click search to filter down the results, alternatively you may do the same but with just the images with a link to the main record where more information is supplied. 
It is free, in contrast to the other one, the UDDFD that is now fully accessible to subscribers. There seems little point in having such a database without basic location information to the same sort of level as the PAS. It also seems that this facility is seen as a showcase and a place for show-and-tell rather than a public record of losses from the archaeological record. the PAS after twenty years has failed to get even that fundamental message across. There is a caveat (renamed from 'please note' to 'PAS NOTE', though I would be disappointed to learn that PAS actually is responsible for this wording):

Any finds classed as treasure, hordes (sic), or has archaeological importance must be submitted through the official channels in the normal way. is a self-recording site and is not an alternative to the Portable Antiquities Scheme administered by your local Finds Liaison Officers when registering items covered by the Treasure Act 1996
It is not an 'alternative to the PAS when registering items covered by the Treasure Act', but items that are not Treasure.... (?) On the 'How to use' page we learn:
Detecting Code of Conduct (We promote the use of the code of conduct in respect of Metal Detecting and recommend you read and observe the recognised simple rules to help protect our hobby)
Unfortunately, there is no link, so we are left guessing which 'code of conduct in respect of Metal Detecting' they are talking about, but note that adherence to it is only seen as necessary to 'help protect our hobby', rather than it being a matter of pride or a measure of actual responsibility to be engaged in best practice.
There are some oddities in the description of some of the data fields:
Culture Type: (Required) This is used to identify the people of the time that used the artefact if known, else use “UNKNOWN?”.
Location: This is for your own personal reference and is not made public, so for example you have a permission and the find or finds have come from that permission, you might want to put a name or reference here to group the finds from that area.
County: (Required) We ask that you provide the County the artefact was found, for helping to get a picture of geographical find concentrations.
Discovered: (Required) This is the year only that the artefact was recovered for reference.
[...] Remember all personal information is kept private and not shared with others. [...]
Artefact Location Map This is an optional section and can be used by people who wish to pin point the exact location the item was retrieved from. This information is never made public and is for your reference only. There are two fields Latitude and Longitude that are in decimal degrees [...] [reference to Google Earth].

A Map that Seems to Show the PAS Fluff is Just That

I am sure one of the supporters of PAS and collection-driven exploiters of the archaeological record can explain this to us. Here is a map of a rather large European island. In one part, artefact hunting with metal detectors is banned. In the other, in the UK, artefact hunting with metal detectors is not banned. Who can show use where the recovery of information about otherwise unknown sites by metal detectorists is reflected on this map?  Ixelles Six/Helsinki Gang here is an actual case study you can use to test your ideas about liberalistion of legislation on artefact hunting... Go on.

IRELAND OF ARCHAEOLOGY. It's a map of Ireland composed almost solely of 167,293 dots, representing all of the Ireland's recorded archaeological sites. The IWTN asked archaeologist Richard Clutterbuck to draw the map.

Even comic books laugh at Pseudo-archaeology

Even comic books laugh at pseudo-archaeology:


Spotted by  in Issue #3 of the supernatural series 'Border Town', that features Mesoamerican flashback scenes. Preview pages here:

Thursday, 15 November 2018

The PASt is not Such a Foreign Country After All?

More PAS dumbdown masquerading as cutting edge archaeological outreach
 13 lisWięcejJust finished the record for this exquisite little medieval mirror case, complete with glass fragments. These are fairly common finds and suggest that the medieval individual was just as vain as the rest of us:
and they ate bread and cheese, and went to the toilet, just like the rest of us. "Amazing innit, nuffink's changed..". One day perhaps the FLOs will get it into their heads that this is not the kind of patronising guff we need to get archaeology across to the general public, not all of whom have the minds of eleven-year olds.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Remember: Iraq 2003

This gem from Max Boot illustrates the scale of the nonsensical arguments used to get public support for the Iraq escapade of Bush, Blair and the others:

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