Saturday, 14 December 2013

Numismatists and Academic Enquiry

The leitmotif that collectors are in some way all engaging in some kind of scholarship and "research" is a common thread running through their propaganda. It is interesting therefore to see what some of them understand by the term. In reply to criticism (to which he gives no link) of the over-hasty accusations he addressed a few days ago to Jewish archaeologists, coiney Wayne Sayles suggests
My questions were numismatic concerns,not an attack on archaeology, but some people in their myopia are probably not able to understand that [...] This blog post was not critical, it was exploratory — is that not the nature of academia? And, did it not ultimately allay reasonable and demonstrable concerns?
Mr Sayles seems to be confused about the nature of academic enquiry, considering his "exploratory" blog-post in some way to be "academic". Quite in what way, he does not explain. What he has in fact done is pose a "what if?" question. That is basically what Erich von Daniken (say he) does. But "what if? is not academic enquiry, it's like Sayles' earlier post on the "zodiacal symbolism" of a certain series of coins. What he needs to do is then follow through and test his hypothesis. Von Daniken says pyramids "look like" they were built by aliens, Sayles says the two sides of the coin "look like" different coins. Is there any evidence that contradicts both propositions? Well, actually it's not all that difficult - on closer examination - to find evidence against the "what if?" proposition in both cases. Alternative interpretations need to be examined and dismissed before advancing even a tentative proposition. Mr Sayles did not do that, he just wanted to cast doubt on the archaeologists and their numismatic credentials, about which he seems to have a fixation ("Mr. Barford is not a numismatist by any definition of the world [sic]"). One does not have to be a coin fondler to see the logical faults in a coiney's argument.

Is it not highly comical to see Sayles justifying himself, writing "did it not ultimately allay reasonable and demonstrable concerns"? Concerns that he himself made-up (when the rest of us can see that the problem is a storm in a teacup agitated by its author's very clear ill-will towards Jewish archaeologists). The way to resolve such a "numismatic concern" would be an email direct to the Israeli numismatist cited in the article (Dr. Robert Kool) and not splashing it all over his blog that Jewish archaeologists might be trying to pull a fast one, only spotted because the expert numismatist Wayne Sayles is cleverer than Jewish archaeologists and " in 50 years as a professional numismatist" he has gained the experience so that "it doesn't take a monumental change in content for me to sense that something may be out of place". Hooray for US numismatists saving the world, eh? Except when they are wrong and making a fuss about nothing (quite a common trait among them I believe).

Mr Sayles still has not corrected his confusion about which side is the obverse and which the reverse of this coin. But then, what do I know? "Mr. Barford is not a numismatist by any definition of the world [sic]"

Vignette: A book for the wannabe academic

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