Friday, 27 February 2015

Friday Retrospect: The Cold Brayfield Fiasco

A few weeks ago, the Buckinghamshire FLO was moaning to her colleagues "[I] prefer not to have any dealings with PB. I wasted ages explaining myself over the Cold Brayfield Hoard and was ignored and misunderstood!". I am at a loss to know to what she is referring and, quite frankly resent that - if she cannot explain a hole in the ground to a fellow archaeologist, what hope is there that she can explain best practice to artefact hoikers? There was some coverage of this rather disturbing incident on my blog, and just to put Ms Tyrrell's allegations in some sort of context I give here the links to all the posts I made so readers can see just how much time Ros Tyrrell devoted on this blog to "explaining"  this situation to my readers. It is also worth returning to Cold Brayfield as it is quite a symptomatic case, raising a number of issues which are still unresolved today, seven years later. One of the reasons for that is the failure - indeed refusal - of the PAS to discuss these issues openly, as we have seen in the case of Lenborough.

'English Detectorists Say They Dug a Metre into Roman Site in the Dark'
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
'The Washington Lawyer and the Metal Detectorists' Thursday, 30 October 2008
'What would the PAS say?' Thursday, 30 October 2008

'Treasure Annual Reports: just "inconvenient"?', Sunday, 2 November 2008

'Cold Brayfield Questions that will not go away', Thursday, 6 November 2008

'Having a Chat with Central Searchers?' Thursday, 6 November 2008

Incidental mention here: 'Some Thoughts on Illegal Artefact Hunting in England', Saturday, 8 November 2008

This Coroner is helpful: 'Inquest' Wednesday, 12 November 2008

More questions raised, 'The New Treasure Report' Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Incidental mention, 'Welsh Treasure System Failure' Thursday, 8 January 2009

Incidental mention, 'Central Searchers Dislikes Breeches and Will Avoid Them in Future', Wednesday, 9 June 2010.

Roger Bland Talks @CurrentArchaeo Live

The last talk of the Current Archaeology Live session was by Roger Bland:  'Recent finds and research from the Portable Antiquities Scheme'. So nothing new then. Heritage Action was there to listen. Dr Bland started off with the shiny Staffordshire Hoard (no mention of later nighthawking in field after excavators went). He pointed out that although archaeologists wince at 'bling' publicity, there is a vast public interest in the shinier finds. He seemingly forgets that the original aim of the PAS was to show the public what archaeology is really about - instead it has let the side down and largely gone for the easier task of presenting the "Britain's Secret Treasures" bling, trite narrativisations and self-gratulatory spin. Then he does an overview of the main points of Treasure Act 1997 (it strikes me that if there is anything new to the audience in that, the PAS has not been doing its job very well). Then passed on to the MicroPasts crowd sourced project and mentioned a list of 416 research projects using the PAS data available. 
Heritage Action's correspondent noted that it was an 'upbeat' presentation without any mention of any problem areas such as the issue of artefact hunting and artefact collecting, transfer of title documentation, verification of findspots etc. On a personal note, it was reported that he was not a very, um... 'dynamic' speaker, "very sleep-inducing, reading everything from a script. I'd expected something a bit more dynamic, to be honest". There were no public questions allowed, but a member of the audience apparently cornered him afterwards and our correspondent overheard the conversation. Asked if he thought it was right that individuals should get such large rewards, reportedly "his only answer was that it encourages reporting, and that rewards have been enshrined in law for over 100 years, andwould be difficult to rescind". Dr Bland was busily "defending his position about how wonderful the PAS is, and what would we do if we didn't have it. He insists that other countries without a scheme are suffering greater loss, that FLO's are doing a good job of outreach etc..." On the other hand he then started saying how the "new volunteer scheme will help reduce the effect of anticipated funding cuts etc." I really do not see this if the volunteers are metal detectorists, how are metal detectorists going to do archaeological outreach to finders? Unfortunately Dr Bland avoided this question and at this point turned away from the questioner and "turned to others who wanted to praise him. I really wanted to ask if he personally visited any of the Detectorists forums, but didn't get the chance". 

It is a shame that instead of all the usual "wottalotta-good-stuff-we-got" that the PAS churns out every time, Dr Bland did not present a talk on the future directions of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and heritage policy in England and (for the moment) Wales.

Antiquities and Weapons Smuggling on the Syria-Turkey Border

Sam Hardy reports on new evidence that a Turkish intelligence agent not only smuggled weapons from Turkey into Syria, but also smuggled antiquities from Syria into Turkey ('State arms-for-antiquities trafficking between Turkey and Syria?' Conflict Antiquities 27th Feb 2015). He also questions a number of reports which serves as a caution and a demonstration of how incorrect information becomes a part of public understanding.

Preservation-Biased Blogging

Heritage Action spotted this one, but I thought I'd repost it as it goes well with what the BM "partners" train-wreck of a response to my FOI reveals about them and the attitudes of fifty professionals towards issues raised here. HA comment that the "massive irony completely escapes artefact hunters!":

Re: History Destroyed.

Postby Nailman » Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:17 pm
Mod Edit:
Links to that persons biased blog are not permitted on this forum
Of course metal detecting forums which ban even mentioning certain points of view are not in any way "biased" are they? I think it is a fair bet whose blog they do not want fellow "passionately interested in the history and only want to preserve it" artefact collectors linking to. To what extent is all the talk on these forums about being keen on preservation just talk, for show -0 because its what makes detectorists look good? It is all a facade, isn't it.

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".  

Statement by British Museum on the Destruction of Objects in Mosul Museum

What goes on behind closed doors here, few
know, but when the time comes to speak out for the
portable heritage, the doors should not remain closed.
The 'encyclpaedic' British Museum apparently failed yesterday to deliver a statement about the portable antiquities destroyed in Mosul Museum and deliberate destruction of archaeological monuments of Northern Iraq to match the elegance of this one from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays the arts of ancient and Islamic Mesopotamia, we strongly condemn this act of catastrophic destruction to one of the most important museums in the Middle East. The Mosul Museum’s collection covers the entire range of civilization in the region, with outstanding sculptures from royal cities such as Nimrud, Nineveh, and Hatra in northern Iraq. This mindless attack on great art, on history, and on human understanding constitutes a tragic assault not only on the Mosul Museum, but on our universal commitment to use art to unite people and promote human understanding. Such wanton brutality must stop, before all vestiges of the ancient world are obliterated.
Even the Association of Art Museum Directors in America (jointly with the Archaeological Institute of America, Society for American Archaeology, and the American Schools of Oriental Research) managed to issue a similar statement - which sits very uneasily with their recent opposition to CCPIA MOUs attempting to deal with the problem of US dealers importing objects from places affected by 'pillage'. They, like the BM, need to get their act together.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Glasgow Scholar Challenged

Donna Yates has several times expressed her belief that a lot of the reporting on Syrian antiquities is wrong. Recently she has said several times (most recently here) that she doubts that "Syrian antiquities are coming to UK" adding "the bigger picture is I am getting media calls about this today". Professor Gill, fresh from a further visit to London dealers with a BBC reporter responds succinctly ('Hypothetical commentary on Syrian antiquities?' Looting matters,Thursday, February 26, 2015) 
Can we ask if this is a 'hunch' from Clydeside? Or has Dr Yates been round various London galleries to look? What is the basis of her 'authoritative' claim?
What do the folk who work in the BM's PAS think about any of this? Are they following this debate?

IAPN and PNG's "Cultural Property Observer" Again Attacks Professor Gill

According to a comment published on the blog of the paid lobbyist representing the IAPN and PNG,  lobbyist:
neither should we get too het-up by Gill... who in this debate at least, is for my money, simply a Barford clone on steroids. Having read Gill's critique of Maupin, I'm quite sure Maupin's stinging rebuke has seriously undermined Gill's position; doubtless Gill realizes his campaign is founded on sand and is desperate for a face-saver. Gill, Barford, et al, ad nauseum, eagerly climbed aboard the wrong bandwagon and are deservedly, looking increasingly stupid and marginalized.
I really do wonder at the IAPN and PNG financing a lobbyist whose main visible activity is publishing such texts full of ad hominem attacks on archaeologists and conservationists. Mind you, if we have the pro-collecting PAS engaged in such name-calling too, one wonders just where the heritage debate is going. I have looked in vain for this reported rebuke of Gill by "knowledgable antiquities dealer" Chris Maupin. No link was provided. Also I wonder just what "campaign" of Professor Gill is being referred to here by this "Cultural Property Observer". Here though is Gill's succinct reply to paid lobbyist Tompa (Washington lobbyist with axe to grind).

Apparently this is what the International Association of Professional Numismatists and Professional Numismatists Guilt think the most effective lobbying looks like. It is so much right up their street that they continue to support Peter Tompa year after year of this sort of thing. What does that tell you about coin collectors and dealers?
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