Sunday, 28 May 2017

Collection-driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record Now Occurring on a Massive Scale

The archaeological record is being exploited on an ever-increasing scale to feed the demands of artefact collectors and the no-questions-asked antiquities trade:
Conflict situations and natural disasters increase the risk of theft and trafficking dramatically. Many instances of plunder, theft and trafficking of cultural objects go unseen or unsolved. Help stop illicit trafficking of cultural property by spreading the video.
But it is not under conflict or disaster situations, or even in the poorest countries, that this is happening on a massive scale. A search for 'British Antiquities' on this morning reveals 3,151 results for British antiquities being sold by UK dealers (many of them in multiple lots), the vast majority of them are likely to have been metal detected objects taken from the archaeological record. Yet a search for 'Portable Antiquities Scheme" in the same section gives only 56 hitsSo it looks like that today 3050 lots of portable antiquities are being flogged off (many abroad no doubt) by their finders and middlemen dealers without them being recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Just so there is clarity on the scale of irresponsibility that these figures would reveal (and let us note that this is for just one day of the 365 this year!), the following bar chart might be helpful, The column on the left is the number of objects being flogged off apparently without any PAS record being mentioned in the descriptions (coins are NOT included in this total). the column on the right the number apparently reported to the PAS. That's pretty thought provoking, especially when we also take into account the tendency for some of those who send these finds abroad  to be less than forthcoming about what exactly it is they are putting in those envelopes sent out of the country.

Oh and by the way, if you do a search for ancient coins sold by British dealers on, the total is 9636 results (three times the artefacts) and while there is no indication how many of these are British finds, the 160 Medieval coins offered in the same category are more than 90% British-struck items. 

This collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record is occurring now on a massive scale, yet nothing at all is being done to deal with this problem.

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