EBay seller dartmoorpixie (215) offers what he or she says is a complete human burial for sale on the auction site 'Extremely rare Prehistoric Iron Age Pottery Urn, British' (spotted by Graham Taylor @ ). Well, yes Iron Age burials from Britain are in general rare Here's the description ("Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing"):
An extremely rare Iron Age Pottery Urn. Of typical Urn shape with feint vertical line decoration around the lower half. This wonderful artefact is virtually complete, the Rim is intact. Theres an area of roughly 7cm x 7cm that has been restored but otherwise intact. This piece was acquired from a Museum sale, I will provide details to the winning bidder. In line with EBAY POLICY, this has been shown to a Museum and a provenance of its recent history can be provided. Unfortunately theres no find spot but it is almost certainly South Eastern British. The contents of the Urn appear to be original and I see no reason why they werent there when discovered originally. 15cm tall, maximum diameter is 21cm. Rim diameter 19.5cm. Rarely is a complete large Pot like this offered on the market. Please see my other auctions for more Ceramics and early items.The listing was reported to eBay - who seem rather sluggish in taking it down, there is one bid (a hundred quid for an ooo-ahhh dead body trophy and pot). Looking at what the photo shows that pot contains, I would suggest that the "museum" was not all that competent in saying what was actually in that vessel. It is difficult to be sure due to the way the material is presented but it looks to me as if the pot contains (also?) animal bones. I think one can see bird bones there. Like most eBay artefacts described by collector, dealers and amateurs, the seller's description cannot be relied on to be a proper representation of what is actually on offer.
Neither is "Iron Age" an adequate description of the pot. Looking at it with a critical eye, that squared off and inturned rim is neither very "Aylesford-Swarling" not "Little Waltham" in concept. I have a sneaking feeling that this is continental and quite a bit later than advertised, but you'd have to see the fabric to judge.
There really is no reason why the seller of the pot cannot supply upfront the details of the museum which deaccessioned the items, IF that was done in accordance with the law and Museum Code of Ethics. Presumably the museum has closed and nobody wanted the entire collection and there were no constraints on its splitting. I would say however knowing in advance of making a decision that these three conditions were fulfilled would be a requirement of ethical purchase (and or course sale). So why the coyness about the precise details? The buyer is being asked to shell out money for a 'cat in the bag', only when the buyer has pledged that cash will change hands will this seller reveal where the item came from. That should be illegal, and against eBay policy at least.
The seller has a rather eclectic collection of artefacts on sale alongside these human remains, ceramic lamps, post-Medieval glass, a Sumerian bone inlay figure ("has been shown to a local museum"). The seller asserts:
All the ancient Pottery pieces and Lamps have come from a private collection and in line with EBAY POLICY they have been shown to a local museum"- which "policy" would that be, and what did the museum say after the things were shown to them, that "Sumerian figure" for example? There is no such "eBay policy". Why can that "collection" not be named?
What do people do with such things? Here's what I think will more likely than not be the fate of this one:
Meanwhile in a sitting room in East Tilbury, the floor strewn with sports papers and crisp bags, Baz asks his mate Nobby and his little girl, "d'ya want ter see me Ion Age burialurn, wot I got th' other day, then?" "
"G'on then, let's 'ave a shuftie..." say the other man.
As Baz draws out a battered cardboard box from behind the sofa, ash from the fag dangling from the corner of his mouth falls onto the lid. Baz flicks it onto the carpet. Placing the box on the coffee table among the empty TV lunch boxes, Baz opens it and with a dramatic flourish takes out the pot, after first removing from it a discarded sweet wrapper and doggie-treat that have found their way inside.
"It's got bones innit, I fink a kid's bones, look" he says, putting on his I-know-what-I'm-talking-about voice.
"Cor!" says Nobby, wishing he had one.
"Eeeek! Is that real?" shreiks nine-year-old Chelsie, as she hid her eyes behind her father.
Both men guffawed as Nobby took another swig of beer from the can. Nobby luvs 'istry.