Thursday, 29 March 2012

Portable Antiquities Scheme On Show in America

Dr Roger Bland OBE, head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme has been awarded the Archaeological Institute of America's Metcalf lecturership for 2012. He will be travelling across America from 11th April to 26th April 2012, mostly to centres near ACCG members with three titles: Coin hoards and hoarding in Britain: buried with the intention of recovery or votive deposits? (Berkley CA, Springfield Ohio, Boston Mass, New York (twice), Yale Conn.),  New light on Roman gold coins found in Britain (just in Boston) and - most interestingly - A licence to loot or archaeological rescue? The Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales (San Diego, Los Angeles, Kansas City).
The last of the three is disturbing. It seems Dr Bland is going over there (since I do not think for one second that he's going to betray his "partners" by saying that British legislation is a "licence to loot") to tell the coin collectors of America that hoiking metal artefacts out of the ground is some warped kind of "archaeological rescue". Oh yes, the abstract announced joyfully that: "England and Wales have developed a unique system of protection". It would seem Dr Bland has a rather different idea of what archaeological "protection" is from the rest of us. His approach is apparently entirely artefactocentric, rather than archaeological. I bet lots of "artificial fertilisers" and "plough damage" will be involved in his arguments, just like the tekkies do. Maybe he's getting his slides of battered hammies and green crusties together as I write. Dr Bland suggests that: "This lecture looks at the problems surrounding these issues and the concerns of archaeologists", actually I rather doubt that he does that, look at the bibliography he cites, where are those "archaeological concerns" referenced there? Why is David Gill's recent forum piece not included for example? Perhaps he will find a few sceptics who've read this blog and thought about the issues more deeply in his audience. Unlikely though, isn't it? They'll probably mainly be coineys who in the US tend to do neither.Still, Dr Bland will have a nice opportunity to meet all his "friends" from the ACCG.
The Metcalf Lectures are on the subject of numismatics and their role in archaeological research as well as in art and historical research. The donors [Robert D. Taggart and his wife Anna Marguerite McCann] believe that coins, with their images and legends, are an essential source for any archaeologist dating a site or studying portraiture, architecture, religion or history and desire that numismatics be a part of the lecture program being provided by the AIA. Although much of numismatics is related to the ancient world, the lectures need not be limited to the ancient world as coins are relavant (sic)  for other areas and times as well. 
As a medievalist I would rather take exception to the idea that "much of numismatics is related to the ancient world" or indeed that coins are only usable for "dating sites".

Anyway I hope "buried an edge of battlefield" diehards like Dealer Dave manage to get over to one of the "hoard" lectures to learn that their simplistic boy-scout interpretations are just that, though I find it bit odd that Insular numismatists like Dr Bland would be promoting the idea of votive coin hoards as some kind of novelty when such interpretations have been around in the literature Central and Northern Continental Europe (where there is obviously closer contact between numismatists, archaeologists and anthropologists) for a long while - and I know that some of the texts in the subject have had English abstracts, as I produced them for the authors...

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