Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Treasure, this time in a Margarine Tub and 'The Right People'.


Another year, another launch of a Treasure report, more silly narrativisation of selected finds to shift attention away from the wider issues (Mark Brown (Arts correspondent), ' Forgotten statue kept in a margarine tub is 2,000-year-old treasure' Guardian Tue 11 Dec 2018)
The British Museum on Tuesday revealed the details of 1,267 finds across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, more than there has ever been since the Treasure Act was passed in 1996.[...] About 78,000 archaeological objects, some of it treasure, were recorded in 2017 on a voluntary basis with the portable antiquities scheme. Metal de[te]ctorists found 93% of the items, with the biggest numbers in Norfolk, followed by Lincolnshire and Suffolk. Lewis said the rising figures were down to greater engagement between archaeologists and hobby detectorists, two communities which have not always got on. In the 1970s and 80s there was a campaign by some archaeologists to stop metal detecting. Lewis said:
“There was a misunderstanding on both sides about what the other was up to. There was an idea that metal detecting was all about finding things for financial gain and ruining archaeology. Over the years it has been realised that there are a lot of people interested in the past, quite happy for the objects to go in to museums. We’re still on a journey, don’t get me wrong … it is very important that the right people are doing metal detecting.
The finds by metal detectorists were welcomed by the heritage minister, Michael Ellis, who has announced a consultation on how the system could be improved.
Mike Lewis tells only half the story, the concerns about collection driven exploitation of the archaeological record were not all focussed on the monetary aspect, but the conservation issue - damage to the archaeological record by random hoiking of collectables with no proper recording of associations and context of deposition, and the artefacts ending up in scattered ephemeral personal collections without proper documentation. Those two problems have still not been solved, but Lewis skips around admitting that by simply ignoring the problem, turning his Bloomsbury back on it. That's the kind of dumbdown and under-informed public that gets you a Brexit.

The fact that more and more Treasure found each year means only one thing (because we are constantly told that the "vast majority" of those engaged in Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record are law abiding, so illegal non-reporting cannot be the explanation). It means that on the PAS watch the number of people going out there and searching sites for such objects (in their 'interest in the past') is quite rapidly increasing. That means the damage to the finite number of accessible sites is also increasing at the same rate, from year to year.

Mr Lewis seems not to have told the journalist how the PAS intends to fix it that with all the people coming into this hobby, only the 'right people' have access to the machines and land.
 
Mr Lewis says these history-hunters are 'quite happy for the objects to go to museums'. He forgets two things, first of all the ultimate decision in the case of non-Treasure items is not that of the finders but the landowner's and theirs alone. Secondly in the case of Treasure it is clear that the only thing that makes collectors 'quite happy' to part with 'their' Treasures is in the (vast) majority of cases - whatever the Treasure Registrar may for some reason best known to himself pretend is the situation - is a ransom equal to its full market value.

Official: US, France Excavating Sites Illegally in Northern Syria


 A senior Syrian official says the US and France are carrying out illegal excavations in ancient sites in northern Syria with the help of Kurdish militants (Press TV, ' Official: US, France looting artifacts in northern Syria'', Mon Dec 10, 2018) 
Much of the digging work is conducted on the Um al-Sarj mountain near Manbij, head of Syria's Directorate-General for Museums and Antiquities Mahmoud Hammoud told SANA news agency Sunday. Manbij is controlled by Kurdish militants who are heavily armed and supported by US and French troops illegally deployed to northern Syria. According to SANA, the Um al-Sarj mountain in the northern countryside of Aleppo is rich in artifacts. US troops and their allies, it said, are carrying out similar excavations in the ancient souk of Manbij. "The excavations, looting and robbery are also taking place in the archaeological tombs in the eastern side of Manbij," he said. Hammoud said the diggings are a criminal act and a violation of the Syrian sovereignty. His department, he said, is contacting international organizations to condemn the looting of Syria's cultural heritage.
The US has been conducting airstrikes against what it calls Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

Monday, 10 December 2018

UK Artefact Hunting: Most of it Already Robbed Out


Note this is a site under permanent grassland, most likely unploughed in recent times, yet even here some oik has hoiked as many of the diagnostic and other artefacts out that they take a fancy to. And where are they (and any  records they made) now?:
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PeaceHavens published 19 mar 2011
Metal detector hints. Even in the wilderness I am walking in the footsteps of some detectorist who has been there before me ... but with a bit of lateral thinking I find a new site that they missed ... nothing spectacular ... but new sites are still out there ... but it ain't easy.
"Someone's had a dig virtually everywhere" (Yorkshire dales 2011). So, in fact, if we were to STOP metal detecting tomorrow and concentrated on getting ll those old dug-up finds and their findspot details documented, we'd still be getting a lot of information about new sites, just the ones that have been dug-over by previous detectorists and not (yet) reported. The Ixelles Six (on pp. 323-34 of their recent joint article) claim that this hoiking on sites like this and the non-reporting of the material and information from them is "not cultural damage" because all that knowledge is not lost, it is just zero-gained, it's not been retrieved from them yet. The FLO says (The Foucault of Baz Thugwit?)  that the 'liminal potential' of these data has yet to be actively utilised through the application of 'the complex of relationships that comprise the 'discursive formation' of Archaeology'. The FLO says that non-recording is not a final denial. Let's see. Time to put those words to the test. Responsible detectorists - all of you - let's get the unreported material on record before any of you dig up and pocket any more!

Is the Crown Estate now Supporting Artefact Hunting?


Searching history....for the Crown Estate.

Scandal.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

The Archaeological Values of the PAS Database (VI): Hauntings, Heads on Poles, Imaginary Data and Clipping, Reporting Archaeological Artefacts PAS-Style


The PAS dumbdown of archaeological outreach continues on the British social media. Several FLOs seem to feel that Brits really need to know the biographies, family relationships and Daily Mail style showbiz tidbits about those fascinating Roman emperors in far-off PASt-celebrity land. There is no end to this superficial show-and-tell using ancient coins to illustrate their gossippy potted histories. Here is one of them from up North:
"A rather haunting portrait of Western usurper Emperor Eugenius on this silver siliqua He ruled for just 2 years, AD392-4, until defeat in battle and execution led to his decapitated head being displayed in the camp of victorius Eastern Emperor Theodosius I" PAS record: DUR-4D6A9E
Yup, just the gory bits folks. Of course the FLO will claim that Twitter character limitations did not allow him to mention the more important features of his reign, as he and the Battle of the Frigidus were not without significance in the wider picture of things. But that is not what the FLO dumbdown version gives you - not even a wikipedia link. Just the 'bloody severed head on a stick' version of the history of Theodosian times.

The first question is why? Why does Joe Bloggs the Twitterer need a picture of 'the head-not-yet-on-a-stick on this coin I've got' to make a tweet to say, 'hey there was this emperor, right and he's really cool, but in the end he got his head cut off and there was blood everywhere'? Why is the coin there? Is it just so you can see what he 'looked like'? Why is this portrait said by the archaeologist to be "haunting"? Is the FLO Twitterer doing this because "I've got a computer full of pictures of other people's artefacts, what can I say about them? I know, a silver coin, the proles will like that", is that it? What is this actually about?

But to come back to that PAS record, here's a thing:
A clipped and worn silver siliqua of Eugenius AD 392-394, Reece period 21. The obverse shows a diademed and draped bust of Eugenius facing right. [DN EVGENI]VS P[F AVG] The reverse shows Roma seated on a cuirass, facing left, holding Victory on a globe and a reversed spear. [VIRTVS RO]MA[NORVM]. RIC IX, 106d: RSC 14b possibly from the Trier mint. Thickness: 1.11mm Weight: 0.7g Diameter: 13.04mm
Then further down we get a duplication of much of the same information, labelled 'coin data (numismatics)' [sic - the reason for that qualifier is unclear] - except there the place of minting becomes 'probably' Trier (not possibly), we get the information that the spear (if we could only see that since both ends are missing on the discssed object) is 'reversed', the issue is stylistically a regular issue (though that's a bit of an odd term in the case of a usurper), the die axis is 12 o'clock and the 'Degree of wear' is 'worn: fine'. And in the section 'Coin references', the reader is told ' No coin references available'. Translated that means, 'I cannot be bothered to explain to you proles why instead of writing in longhand in a public database so you understand, I use the abbreviations above "RIC IX, 106d: RSC 14b", and if you don't know what that means, it means you are unworthy to know, hoi polloi, eff off'. That's how it reads to me (even though I know what those abbreviations mean).

 I'd like to go back to this description of an archaeological find, and look at it as such. Look at the photo. Where do you see a cuirass? Despite what the description says, the guy on the coin in front of us has a neck, but no cuirass. His bust (which we cannot see) is 'draped'. What an odd description of what we see on that coin. What's he 'draped' with? an old curtain, a towel, bedsheet, or flowers? Or is he draped over an imaginary chaise-longue in his imaginary cuirass? An odd verb to use in any context (I presume its supposed to refer to a military cloak or regal stole but these are worn, not draped) - but especially so as no 'drapes' are visible on the object being described. What we have here is a description, not of the object in front of the recorder but an imagined idealised type. This is a coin catalogue entry (in fact the missing parts of the inscription are probably copied from one) rather that an objective record of what the observer can actually see - this is not preservation of that object by record. So what is the point?

The issue becomes more annoying when it comes to the one place in that record where the actual object in hand differs from the idealised iconographic 'coin-as-it-should be' that the recorder has written about. One word, in the description. 'Clipped'. From the photo one can see this, there seem from face-on to have been six cuts, five straight and one smoothly curved. That's what it looks like, but only the recorder who had the coin in his hand can confirm, and document, that. The corners between the straight cuts are rounded. Is this due to wear, or were they filed down, or both? The 'wear' the recorder notes in passing, did it happen all before, both before and after or all after the clipping of the coin? We cannot tell from his photos, but a careful examination of the edges of this coin would probably have revealed this, which is again important information. Again, the recorder should be looking at the tool marks and recording the full biography of this, specific, object - the one in their hand. That's what a description of an archaeological object is, an actual description not an imagined idealistic picture like Inigo Jones' rectangular Stonhenge, becase 'everybody knows' Roman temples were not (generlly) circular.

Numismatists, not karaoke ones, have been discussing this clipping, how when and why this was done. Here is one piece in the puzzle, where an archaeologist had the coin in their hands, and failed to properly observe and record this phenomenon. This means that this object fails to supply the information about this aspect of its use - but this is not because that evidence is missing, but because the recorder did not look, observe, and document it. This coin is now in some unknown private collection - divorced from the fact that it was found (somewhere) in assocition with material that we will never know about in Richmondshire in North Yorkshire. Heap-of-coins-on-a-table numismatics, based on the myriad decontextualised items they use for their tabletop studies, might say something about clipping of Theodosian siliquae but without recording of items like this in their geographical and archaeological context, no progress will be made in knowing the contexts of this activity. A wasted opportunity by the Durham FLO and his team to make a contribution to the knowledge of this phenomenon. This is by no means an isolated case, the PAS database is full of skimpy descriptions where the opportunity was not taken to look at an object more carefully before handing it over to private collectors.

And in the PAS dstabase, can anyone show me the kind of tool that was used to make those cut marks? Nah, or course not because collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record is about kings and battles, named groups, and rusty old iron tools are just not collectable. Do a search for Roman Iron Tool on the PAS database and see how many search results you get out of nearly a million and a half collected artefacts. About as many as you'll find offered by most antiquities dealers. That's what trying to 'do archaeology' through the medium of harvesting information from Collectio-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record gets you. Nothing.

I queried the dumbdown presentation of this coin (its often coins, archaeologists in the PAS seem to spend a lot of time fondling coins) writing:
But volunteer"PAS5970ADF70017BD's"description is a copied and pasted version of the cataloge entry for the type, not actually a detailed description of the current form of that particular object you (plural) are 'recording' before it disappears again into private hands. 'Draped'?
I got the reply
It's a standard coin record. This is how those coin people like them. You'll find most will be similar.
but of course the PAS records are not made only for use by one class of people, an elite that dictates what the rest of us cn have and not have. They are supposed to be a public medium for archaeological outreach and archaeological data gathering, not yet another resource for coin fondlers like Wildwinds, OCRE, Coinproject and all the rest. Coins are archaeologicl artefacts and should be treated by an archaeological organization like PAS as such. The fact that other FLOs are doing the same as we see here is really no comfort. There are 660,948 coins on the PAS database (about half the database!) . If it is true as the FLO says that 'most' are the same kind of description of an idealised imaginary 'type' ('how those coin people like them'), rather than a truthful objective description of the actual piece of metal in front of the observer, that means that potentilly a large part of teh PAS database contains imaginary 'data'. That's food for thought. Rather more than what happened to Eugenius's head.


Never mind the Bollocks, What Happened in Skeeby in 394?


Trier Virtus coin of Eugenius (Wildwinds)
A PAS FLO deems it fit to fob off his public audience with tales of celebrity life in distant Vienne 1090 km to the southeast in his show-and-tell of an archaeological find from a charming place called Skeeby in Yorkshire. I think what the aim of (real) archaeology is instead to tell about the lives of the people in the past community living in that region, around the bloke that carried that coin around on his person at the time the emperors were battling each other and (if we are to believe the tales), the elements on the river Frigidus,* ten years after the earlier bid for power of Magnus Maximus.

We all know the book history, the FLO can use his scissors and paste to put the coin in the context of kings and battles histories. But the objects dug out of the archaeological record are far more than trophy items that can be used to illustrate an external history. They tell their own story, through the material evidence that derivs from their presence, use, reuse and deposition as part of cultural processes. It is the task of archaeological methodology to read that evidence to interpret the material correlates of those past behaviours. That is what archaeology is. 'Artefact hunting' cannot do that.

The world of the man who had that coin in the 390s was not the book-history that the FLO sees. Whever he was, he may have no knowledge of who currently was emperor in Vienne, or Milan, Rome or anywhere else.  He probably had no concept of where the Frigidus river was, even if somebody had told him that 'his' emperor had lost a battle there and was soon to be replaced by a ten-year old boy who'd nominally be in charge of Britain and its interests for a while. But then, did he know that, did he feel the need to know that? The Daily Mail 'celebrity interest' and a feeling of wider-than-local identity are features of our own times. At some stage that coin crossed the La Manche channel and arrived in northern England. How long did it circulate there and how, before it was dropped? At some stage that coin was clipped, somewhere. Who had done that and what did they do with the silver clippings? It was worn and clipped, but nobody was much bothered by the fact they could not read the inscription. When the coin was finally lost in northern Britannia, how had the lives of the Skeeby community changed since the times when it was minted? What was happening there, precisely there in this formative period?

Archaeology - when properly done - could tell us.

Metal detecting cannot, it only destroys the archaeological assemblages that are our only source of information. Why does the PAS FLO not tell that side of the story?

* the Vipava Valley in Slovenia, a pass between the Friulian lowland and central Slovenia.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

The Great Damascus Antiquities Bust?


Two days ago, there was a lot of Internet traffic about a reported major new discovery with regards to antiquities trafficking in Syria. These reports came from the leaders and media of the Syrian opposition, and they stated that a government raid had discovered 'two metric tons of antiquities' in a house in the Mezzeh 86 neighborhood of Damascus belonging to Brigadier General Suhail al-Hassan, the commander of the Syrian Army’s elite Tiger Force unit. Several archaeobloggers helped disseminate this information, but I decided not to (despite the claims of those this blog discomforts and who have no other arguments, I do not deliberately peddle "fake news"). I held off because this news was unconfirmed and aroused my suspicions. Now it seems that I was correct to do so. Christopher Jones (Department of History - Columbia University NY) considers on his "Gates of Nineveh" blog  (8th December 2018) this "Great Great Damascus Antiquities Bust?" and concludes that the reports were a propaganda gambit. In his text he details the role of militias in today's Syria and says that 'the story remains interesting for what it can reveal about the inner workings of the Syrian regime and the role played by archaeological artifacts in the war in Syria'. He sees this report as an attempt to discredit Suhail al-Hassan by his rivals
Due to his popularity, in order to take him down, his rivals must first take down his reputation. Allegations of criminal activity are a good way to do that. Allegations that he is profiting from the destruction of the ancient past while Bashar al-Assad has presented himself as fighting to preserve civilization against the forces of barbarism are even better. The fact that many members of the regime are likely profiting from the same sorts of enterprises is irrelevant – those who survive will cover it up while those for whom the knives are out will have their misdeeds exposed.
Jones states the fact of which we are all aware, that it is 'entirely likely that senior members of the Assad regime are trafficking in antiquities as well as weapons and oil'.
Many sites in regime-held territory, most famously the site of Apamea, have been looted. A great deal of antiquities trafficking takes place through Lebanon, which almost entirely borders territory held by Assad loyalists for most of the war.
He points out that even though the civil war in Syria is becoming less newsworthy as it reduces in scope and intensity, the militias remain a problem and a cause of conflict between the old and new guard in Syrian society as individual militia leaders struggle to retain influence 
The trafficking in antiquities and other looted property may well be one part of these power struggles. Financially, the impact of antiquities will be small, but as a propaganda weapon it may have an effect many times greater.
I think though that the 'small' financial impact of any antiquities smmuggled out of Syria today may have, they are still conflict antiquities and should not be being bought by any 'responsible collectors'.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Losing the 'Idea of Archaeology' II: The Foucault of Baz Thugwit?


George I shilling 1723 
with a story (Chards)
Yesterday, I commented on the manner in which an employee of the PAS was, instead of using archaeological finds as archaeological evidence, narrativising one of them (a misidentified George I shilling) as he would if he were a coin collector. The loose coin was used to illustrate history rather than as an independent piece of evidence from its own physical context and associations (undocumented it seems). In his use of the coin, the FLO was duplicating and reinforcing the collectors's treatment of archaeological artefacts as a vehicle for the emotional experience of holding 'a piece of the past in your hands' - making something that for those 'challenged by formal education' is an abstract concept tangible, graspable. In this, the whole notion of how we use archaeological data is lost, and I think this should be a matter of concern and discussion.

I likened this approach (relating trophy items from the past to a 'kings and battles' scenario) to the concept - coined years ago by R.G. Collingwood - of 'scissors and paste history', which is what this is. This is what the FLO was doing with that artefact (and habitually does with others in his recent social media outreach, such as here last night). As such, I think this is part of the phenomenon of  how we as archaeologists currently go about projecting archaeological values to the public, and that is a topic I think needs constant review and should be the topic of wider and more intense discussion.

The FLO in question merely saw this as the opportiunity to continue the irrational vendetta he has against this blog and, it seems, this blogger. So instead of talking bout public archaeological outreach he first tries an ad hominem, saying that my post is the product of:
...or 'archaeologist' with a processual 1970 mindset uses Culture History to accuse PAS/FLO of Antiquarianism....
(see the update to my earlier post for my brief discussion of that attempt to brush aside the question). He seems to think that a habit identified by a historian seventy years ago will have ceased to be relevant today (sadly people are still writing in the way Collingwood noted). What is more interesting, however, is the long twitter development of that attempt to insultingly label me as some kind of conceptul dinosaur, where the Durham FLO apparently tries to establish his own credentials as a 'post-processualist' by quoting 1960s Foucault (!) and then adding his own FLO mumbo-jumbo. This is quite interesting as a specimen of text where a PAS attempts to rationalise what they do in collaboration with artefact hunters. Such texts are in fact rare in the literature, so it is worth attention.

This is what he wrote, together with a chunk screenprinted from Chapter 3 of an English translation of Foucault's 'Archaeology (sic) of knowledge'  (p. 49 here talking of the formation of objects of knowledge).This is compiled verbatim from four Friday evening tweets on (here, here , here and here) - punctuation as in the original, I have only added an inline link to Deckers et al:
love this bit of the 'archaeology of knowledge' particularly: [The object] "... does not pre-exist itself..." etc., Strikes me that this can be contextualised within the 'zero-gain'/cultural damage arguments of Deckers, Lewis et al in that it is only by applying to these liminal objects, and understanding them through the prism of, the complex of relationships that comprise the 'discursive formation' of Archaeology (of which PAS is in this sense a facilitatory element): 'zero-gain' is thus a potentiality of persistant liminality; cultural damage occurring only through cognisant dispossession of objects of their physical context, and thus consequent failure to become a discursive component or archaeological 'find' Speaking very personally, I'm not sure i completely concur, as while failure to report to the PAS, to enable that discursive transition, may not always be an abrogation it is arguably at least, a derogation of that liminal potentiality
Now I sincerly doubt (a) that the FLO would get anywhere at all speaking to the average member of the British public about archaeology (and non-recording) in such an utterly uncommunicative way, and (b) that the FLO actually believes what he himself wrote here. I  (c) would also question whether he has actually understood Foucault at all (which to save space here, I'll not go into in any detail as it is marginal to the question the FLO raised about Deckers et al.).

It should however be noted that the Durham FLO, Benjamin Westwood, confusingly conflates above the philosophical concept of 'object of knowledge' (used throughout Foucault's work of this period using clinical psychology as an example) with the physical things the FLO himself works with ('objects'). So it is either a play with words or just complete confusion that leads him to use the quote from chapter three as an excuse for not seeing collection-driven exploitation of the archeological record as a destructive activity.

Westwood's approach (like that of many of the FLOs as well as supporters of the private collection of archaeological artefacts like postage stamps) is 'object centred' [which I term 'antiquitism']. But the whole point is the 'object of knowledge' for archaeology - as in clinical psychology - is not merely the description of the symptoms, but the attempt to describe the underlying causes. The coin is a symptom, and not a past process in itself.

And it is indeed true in archaeology (as in clinical psychology) that the object of knowledge "does not pre-exist itself..." and is constructed - but the artefacts which are part of the basis of the evidence used to create a picture of that object do, of course. In the case of the loose collectables that have been hoiked by a collector from the archaeological record, by the time they reach their personal artefact stash, they have lost their ability to be part of the evidence on the basis of which that object [of knowledge] can be attained. That is the problem of artefact hunting that is discussed, among other places, in this blog.

To label a loose random artefact hoiked from the patterning of its physical asocitions in the archaeological record a 'liminal object of knowledge' seems to me to be a perverse twisting by the FLO, attempting to rationalise his (own and institutional) partnership with exploitive and destructive collectors, of the nature of the object of knowledge that archaeological methodology strives for. Getting artefacts themselves out of the ground may be the rationale in the 'let's see wot I kin find today'  ideology of the artefact hunt, but the goal of archaeoological use of the record is - always, surely - somethng else.

The Ixelles Six/Helsinki Gang ('Deckers, Lewis et al') argued that artefact hunting that does not report what has been taken is not 'cultural damage' as the rest of us think (and indeed was the rationale for setting up a PAS in the first place) but that it is merely 'zero-gain' (sic). They do not see it as a depletion of the archaeological record. I find that in itself pretty inexplicable. To take a simple pattern (like this closed deposit - right) , I do not think (would hope) there is not anyone reading this blog that is unaware of the information value at many levels of the proper documentation of the context of deposition of the individual artefacts in that deposit and in relation to other phenomena in that deposit. That is archaeological evidence and its methodological dissection, observation and recording is what differentiates archaeology from mere relic-hunting. On the left of the figure is the deposit, on the right the two boxes show what happens to it in Collection-Driven Exploitation. First the actual deposit is damaged by detectorist Baz Thugwit's removal and pocketing of those artefacts to which he took a fancy for his collection. The deposit is riddled by holes (which may or may not be entirely visible upon any excavatione artefacts) and what is left behind is not only depleted of random pieces of associated evidence, but also the deposit itself is damaged by this clumsy disturbance. This makes it impossible to read - the object of knowledge cannot be attained. But over in Baz's home is an (unlabelled) box of 'stuff'.  That's the box on the far left. There's a bit of skull (he calls it "skully the skelly" when he pulls it out of its box with a flourish to impress his mates and scare the little kids he invites upstairs to see it. There are some copper alloy finds (top row). But most detectorists have their machines set to filter out iron signals, and many when they find the brownish lumps of corroded crud throw them into the hedge and do not take them home even, so some of the metal objects that were in that context (bottom row) may not be in Baz's box. Metal detectors detect metal, and not bone, stone or glass (two middle rows). If Baz had grubbed around a bit he might have hoiked out some, or more of the glass beads, the 'cool' bone/antler comb or whatever.

I think however that you get the picture, Baz's box tells us very little about the  context of deposition (obliterated by the nature of the context of discovery) of that archaeological assemblage, and the actual remains of that archaeological assemblage are rendered illegible. (I've used a grave here as a readily understandable example to make the point, but the same goes for removing randonm finds from a patterned surface scatter.) I do not see that as in any way 'zero gain', I see that as wanton destruction, just the same as if someone had cut up a thousand-year old illuminated manuscript ('boring prayers') for the sake of the coloured pictures in some of the initials to display on the wall. Destruction, and nothing else. To be frank, I really cannot see how one could convince oneself that from the point of view of the object of knowledge implicit in 'doing archaeology' that it can honestly be seen as anything else.

That is why I would characterise the FLO's attempt to dismiss these concerns as largely mumbo-jumbo that misses the point (apart from the fact that as I noted above, he misconstrues what was meant in the source text he uses by the word 'object'). Here he attempts to 'foucaultise' the position of Deckers et al. on 'zero-gain':
"it is only by applying to these liminal objects , and understanding them through the prism of, the complex of relationships that comprise the 'discursive formation' of Archaeology (of which PAS is in this sense a facilitatory element): 'zero-gain' is thus a potentiality of persistant liminality; cultural damage occurring only through cognisant dispossession of objects of their physical context, and thus consequent failure to become a discursive component or archaeological 'find'[.]"
I would question whether the object-focussed approach of the PAS as it exists today actually is anywhere near a 'facilitatory element' that brings its audience (the public) to an understanding of even the basic elements of archaeological discourse (especially if it is going to express itself in such wording as Westwood uses above). The cultural damage caused by artefact hunting (Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record) is not (pace Deckers et al and now FLO Westwood) merely the 'potentiality of persistant liminality' (ie, in normal language, non-recording), but precisely in the very cognisance of not only the 'dispossession of objects of their physical context' and their 'consequent failure to become a discursive component or archaeological 'find'. Above all, the problem with what the rest of the world (both archaeologists and the public) has no qualms calling looting (and its cognate terms such as 'Raubgrabung') is that it  is the deliberate (cognisant if you like) 'dispossession of the physical context of its integrity, and some of its elements' - and whether or not the physical objects (finds) resulting from that destruction are in some sketchy database divorced from unobserved information about their original physical context, they consequently have been deliberately prevented from being any kind of 'a discursive component' in any but the most simplistic archaeological analysis of the deposit and site they came from.

Mr Westwood then goes on, he says, to disagree with the position of Deckers et al.
while failure to report to the PAS, to enable that discursive transition, may not always be an abrogation it is arguably at least, a derogation of that liminal potentiality
But in fact, it seems to me that - using different words - Mr Westwood is saying more or less the same as the Ixelles Six did. So I really do not know how he thinks he does not 'completely concur', when his version is the same as theirs. But anyway, let us turn to what he says, he claims that pocketing of random collectable artefacts by artefact hunters is somehow a derogation of 'their' 'liminal potentiality'. To do what? At a detecting club meeting ner Durham, Baz Thugwit shows his mates and the visiting FLO a tenth century strapend he found when detecting one weekend with his mate 'Scotty' near the latter's distant island home a few weeks earlier. It was once in the place marked '10' on the figure above, we have a location accurate to a metre square  ('X marks the spot'). I'd like to know the FLO's view on what archaeological 'potentiality' that loose find has. Maybe Mr Westwood will take up the archaeological discourse he's started and now finish taking us through how that 'liminal potentiality' of the little piece of corroded metal proffered in Baz's outstretched hand can now be in real archaeological terms. Can he?



Losing the 'Idea of archaeology': PAS Antiquitism as Scissors and Paste Archaeography [UPDATED}


In the UK, the PAS is supposed to be doing value-for-public-money archaeological outreach to the British public. What it does in its social media use is (gatekeeping other people's finds) concentrate largely on show-and-tell use of loose artefacts as illustrations of historiography, rather than as a contexted source in their own right. Here we have another egregious example:

The text: "An unusual George III shilling, issued by the South Sea Company 
(see initals on the reverse) and made c.1722 from silver they discovered
and shipped from Indonesia. The SSC is famous for South Sea Bubble 
economic  collapse and it's [sic] involvement in the 
This is scissors-and-paste artefactology and nothing else. I see a parallel with the discussion in his seminal The Idea of History (1946) by R.G. Collingwood of what constitutes historical evidence. He criticised “scissors and paste” historians. These are those who construct history merely by "excerpting and combining the testimonies of different authorities" (p. 251). Such historians are those who first “decide what we want to know about and then go in search of statements about it, oral or written, purporting to be made by actors in the events concerned” (p. 257). Collingwood then goes on to discuss the fact that historiographers who engage in this practice fail to ask why a particular statement was made at the time and take it as self evident that it relates to the historiographer’s own ideas. These historians are not seeing the context of the items they are using as evidence, merely picking those that fit preconceived ideas about the past. Furthermore, in order to facilitate fitting recorded words into a pre-existing scheme, the scissors-and-paste historiographer always wants more 'testimony' to bolster up the picture they want to paint (p. 279):
So, however much testimony he has, his zeal as an historian makes him want more. But if he has a large amount of testimony, it becomes so difficult to manipulate and work up into a convincing narrative that , speaking as a mere weak mortal, he wishes he had less [...]. The scissors-and-paste historian protects himself from seeing the truth about his own methods by carefully choosing subjects which he is able to ‘get away’ with [...]. The subjects must be those about which a certain amount of testimony is accessible, not too little and not too much; not so uniform as to give the historian nothing to do, not so divergent as to baffle his endeavours to do it. Practiced on these principles, history was at worst a parlour game, and at best an elegant accomplishment .
The FLO here is mimicking the coineys and duplicating their efforts. His 'archaeological' text differs in no substantive way from theirs. We don't need this.

Perhaps PAS might spend less time on parlour games and pandering and more time on a more substantive archaeological outreach.

UPDATE 8/12/2018
Instead of actually answering the point made about how he is using loose artefacts in social media outreach the PAS FLO merely tries an ad hominem:
...or 'archaeologist' with a processual 1970 mindset uses Culture History to accuse PAS/FLO of Antiquarianism....
First of all, he has failed to see the difference between antiquarianism and the term I used (and I do not know why it is capitalised in his non-reply), secondly I am totally at a loss to see where my blog post above 'uses Culture History' in any way or form. Thirdly, I would point out that in certain basic aspects, initiatives like the PAS database, like the CCI and others that it is based upon, are indeed reflections of the processual data-accumulation mindset and all that goes with. Note the scare quotes, obviously an archaeologist that questions the PAS and its consequences cannot be a 'real' archaeologist for this FLO.

UPDATE UPDATE 
The FLO in the end (past midnight it seems) thanked David Knell for his correction of "George III" to George I, allowing teh story he told to make more sense.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Explore ISIL Tunnels in Mosul


A virtual journey through tunnels carved out by ISIL that revealed an ancient Assyrian Palace under a mosque in Mosul. The tunnels have been sealed now to avoid looting. But with the help of this resource you can 'explore' them Read the full article

Italy's Court of Cassation rejects Getty Museum's Appeal Against Court Ruling on the Getty Bronze


Getty Museum
Italy's Court of Cassation rejects the J. Paul Getty Museum's appeal against the lower court ruling on the Getty Bronze. The statue, known as “Victorious Youth,” should be returned to that country by the Getty Villa (Gaia Pianigiani, 'Italian Court Rules Getty Museum Must Return a Prized Bronze', The New York Times, December 4, 2018)
The bronze was retrieved from Adriatic waters by Italian fishermen in 1964. After a decade-long legal battle, Italy’s Court of Cassation ruled Monday that the statue should be confiscated and brought back to Italy, rejecting the Getty’s appeal. The decision had not been published Tuesday but a message from a court official describing it was provided to The New York Times. “It was a very, very long process, but we now hope that we will be able to have it in Italy as soon as possible,” said Lorenzo D’Ascia, a lawyer representing the Italian government. 
Italian officials now plan to ask the United States Justice Department to enforce the ruling by seizing the statue. That would be likely to lead to another court battle in the United States. The statue is one of the finest original bronzes from the Classical era, probably fashioned in ancient Greece and lost at sea after being stolen by the Romans. The Getty, who acquired the bronze in 1977 for $3.95 million, has long argued that the statue was probably created outside Italy and was discovered in international waters after thousands of years, so it is not an Italian object subject to repatriation.
In response to news of the ruling, Lisa Lapin, vice president for communications at the Getty Trust, said in a statement on Monday: “We will continue to defend our legal right to the statue. The law and facts in this case do not warrant restitution to the Italian government of a statue that has been on public display in Los Angeles for nearly a half-century.” She added, “We believe any forfeiture order is contrary to American and international law.”
 

Norwegian Nail Find Unlikely in UK



Dr Cat Jarman
1 godzinę temu
A metal detectorist may have found yet another Viking ship in Norway! He discovered a large number of iron nails in a field, of a type consistent with those from a large ship. The archaeologists plan to investigate with radar next year.
It probably would never happen in England, most 'responsible' detectorists there filter out iron signals.  Among the 1,300,000 objects in the PAS database, there are only 228 nails in total, and 3 clench nails.So, how representative is that of the assemblages of all those 'productive' sites that are hoiked?

Friday, 30 November 2018

Universal Museums and a Changing Climate


Tom Flynn ‏ @Artnose 45 min. temu
One positive outcome from the recent flurry of museum repatriation stories is that they might encourage people to think more critically about how our universal museums evolved and to question their sustainability in a rapidly changing world.


Thursday, 29 November 2018

Who Did You Say You Bought That Antiquity From? Why?


CSIS Transnational Threats (TransnationalThreats.org, formerly he Global Organized Crime Project) state that Islamic State and Al-Qaeda militants still in Syria (between 70,550-70,550), Afghanistan (64,060 - 27,000), Pakistan (39,540 - 17,900), Iraq (15,000 - 10,000), Nigeria (6,900 - 3,450), and Somalia (7,240 - 3,095).

Read the report: 'The Evolution of the Salafi-Jihadist Threat: Current and Future Challenges from the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and Other Groups' Washington.



Now, where did you say that vanload of antiquities were from, Mr Brenchley?

TEFAF Challenged, Will They Step up and Accept?


Egypt trolls TEFAF (in letter obtained by American Cmte for Cultural Policy), asks the participating antiquities dealers to prove legality by asking to review collecting histories for Egyptian artefacts if the artifacts were legally acquired it should be an easy request to fulfill. Katie A. Paul ‏@AnthroPaulicy notes, 'It seems that TEFAF isn't a fan of the bad press around looted artifacts. On Nov 5 it announced a new vetting policy - one that leaves dealers an auction houses out of the equation'  "The change followed a review of legal issues relating to vetting, particularly good governance and assessment of liability, which led to advice that vetting panels should comprise experts with as little commercial interest in the art market as possible".

Dodgy and careless dealers are at a bit of a disadvantage because Egyptian antiquities (though found outside the modern country) are pretty distinctive, making them easy to identify even if dealers and collectors have thrown away every piece of the paper trail to anonymise them. The next step would be for TEFAF, put in a corner by demands like this from source countries, not to allow dealers to peddle antiquities at the event that do not have a full dossier of legitimising paper trail. Keep up the pressure.

Hat tip, Katie Paul

DW Documentary: Fakes in the art world - The mystery conman


An important documentary that every collector of antiquities should watch. This explains how lack of provenance can often mean 'fake' and that many art dealers know that before they offload it to auction. What is not explained is how this forger (one probably cannot say master forger when you look at some of the pieces once they are under suspicion) actually managed to get them on the market, while getting the profit from their sale making it worth the not-inconsiderable effort (and research) that has obviously gone into designing new pieces, paying for the material ('melting down ancient coins'? Bought as a bulk lot from someone like Dealer Dave maybe), casting and workmanship, then the 'distressing' and finally some pretty convincing patination. It suggests to me that there might be a close financial relationship between the maker and the middlemen who supply them to the dealers, rather than the usual stereotype of a starving artist in a garret paid a pittance for works a dealer then shifts at an inflated price. Also what actually is the evidence that he is 'Spanish'? But if the film is right, this has been going on quite a long time and has caught out a number of well-known figures mentioned in this blog. Good.

Im am not too happy about the loose way the word 'archaeologist' is used here.
.

" Fake art sits unnoticed in galleries around the world. A talented fraudster has been playing the art market and ripping off collectors for years. Who is the mystery conman? Discover more in THE MYSTERY CONMAN - THE MURKY BUSINESS OF COUNTERFEIT ANTIQUES. Museum curators and art collectors want to sweep the topic of counterfeiting under the carpet. But archaeologist Stefan Lehmann is on the hunt for the elusive figure whose counterfeit antiques are in some of the world's biggest collections. Around 40 fakes have been discovered and Lehmann believes this is just the tip of the iceberg. Alongside antique dealer Christoph Leon, Lehmann follows the forgery trail through Europe and to the US."

FLO as the Last Resort


A member of a metal detecting forum near you has a problem, he or she needs help identifying an artefact they've found (mini armour suit ?Post by DingDong » Sun Nov 25, 2018)
New to the hobby have managed to identify most bits so far but last dig got 3 bits i couldn't here is the 1st one, any help appreciated before i decide to clean it. When I dug this out back and front were in position but cleaning the dirt off showed they were no longer joined [...] any one got a clue please [?].
The reply? (littleboot » Mon Nov 26, 2018 2:27 pm)
I don't know myself but the patina looks nice and it has a pre-vicky look to it. If you don't get a positive ID this time then you can always FLO it.

The Leominster Haul Court Case


Four metal detectorists have denied illegally dealing in tainted cultural objects after reportedly uncovering a haul (sic) of Anglo-Saxon and Viking treasure in a village to the north of Leominster'' (Anon, 'Four in court accused of dealing "tainted cultural objects'' Hereford Times 28th November 2018)
Today the four men appeared at Worcester Crown Court where they spoke only to confirm their names during a 25 minute hearing [Three of them] pleaded not guilty to dealing in tainted cultural objects [while a detectorist from] Rumney, Cardiff, was not asked to enter a plea after requesting the prosecution to review his case on the basis he handed the coins to police before he was charged. If found guilty they could face a maximum prison sentence of seven years as well as a fine under the Dealing in Cultural Objects Offences Act 2003. [...]  Judge Jim Tindal told the quartet that their trial will last for four weeks and begin on September 30 next year. [...] The group were given unconditional bail and a pre-trial review will take place on March 15 at Worcester Crown Court.  
According to Judge Jim Tindal, trying ít, 'clearly this is a complicated case' and he suggests that the ten months between now and the end of September is a time the four men should 'spend with your lawyers to discuss the case' (I rather think that is what one does with lawyers in such circumstances). West Mercia Police are also stressing the complexity of their investigation. This article does not contain much more that was in the Police press release of 31st October  and so we learn nothing of the background and what is actually alleged to have happened.

 It is a shame the PAS was apparently not asked to comment as a 'go to' source of informnation on portable antiquities issues (does this journalist even know we have one?), as this could have been a good chance for them to explain to the reading public just what the law in England and Wales does and does not say, and why it is so complicated to bring charges in cases like these. Also it would be nice to see a term in use since the law was established fifteen years ago not appear any more in scare quotes. It is a shame the British public is not already well aware of the usage of the term tainted artefacts, and that they apparently are not is again a failure of the PAS.

Hat tip, Durham FLO Ben Westwood @FLODurhamFLO

Citizen Archaeology: 'Another Atlantis Found'


Citizen archaeologist gonna make discoveries: Laura Geggel, 'Atlantis Found (Again)! And Exasperated Scientists (Again) Raise Their Eyebrows', Live science November 28, 2018
Merlin Burrows pinpointed, two years ago, what may be Atlantis in Spain, Bruce Blackburn, the CEO of Merlin Burrows, told Live Science. The company, based in North Yorkshire, England, uses historical records and satellite data to find archaeological sites. [...] Merlin Burrows and Ingenio Films have made a 2-hour documentary called "Atlantica" about the finding, and Blackburn said he expects the companies to make more documentaries. "What we really want to do is we want to franchise the find," Blackburn said. "We want to make an awful lot of money out of it. And with that money, we want to support the archaeological community."
That sounds familiar, they have a film, too:

[UPDATE: The film has gone now,  but it was very reminiscent of the one of the rival Genesis project Atlantis seekers, same kind of music, same film clips of derring-do, same emphasis on 'we have the technology' and the same claims that if only they can ghet the money together they'll be very happy to finance some archaeologist to work with them [prompting the question whether they imagine an archaeologist will sell his soul to get his hands on the profferred cash in return for supporting them?]. All very odd].
  

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Karma: Artefact Hunting in UK Caught up in Winds of Change


Bank of England's scenarios under a "disorderly" Brexit:
Britain's GDP drops 8%• House prices plunge 30%• Commercial property falls 48%• Pound slides 25%, beneath $1• Unemployment rises to 7.5%• Inflation accelerates to 6.5%

I think we may legitimately add: Heritage spending slashed and PAS collapses.

At the moment, the only thing that legitimises Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record in England and Wales is the existence of the PAS (which is why tsome want to introduce one in other places such as Ireland). If the PAS collapses, some 27000 grabby metal detectorists are left without a leg to stand on. That is karma, because their texts on UK forums suggest that 90% of them voted to leave the EU.

But of course who needs 'expert opinions' on the efects of Brexiting? Clive (65) from Chigwell is sure everything will be OK, once Brussels stops telling him what to do.

The Legacy of the Portable Antiquities Collecting Fad


Harrappan (?) pot (Hansons)
What is "responsible collecting" of portable antiquities? The BBC has a story today which indicates what it is not (BBC 'Derby man's car boot toothbrush holder is ancient pot' 28th November 2018 )
 A pot bought for £4 at a car boot sale and used as a toothbrush holder has turned out to be 4,000 years old. Karl Martin said he picked up the jar, featuring an antelope, at the market in Willington, Derbyshire, five years ago. The 49-year-old said he now "feels a bit guilty" for keeping the "genuine ancient antiquity" in his bathroom. Auctioneer James Brenchley said the Indus Valley Harappan civilisation jar, which sold for £80 at auction, was made in 1900 BC.
Mr Martin, from Derby, works for Hansons Auctioneers, said:
"I was helping to unload a van and noticed some pottery which was similar to my toothbrush pot. "The painting style looked the same and it had similar crudely-painted animal figures. [...] It's amazing, really. How it ended up at a south Derbyshire car boot sale, I'll never know."
I think we can guess, this material started flooding European markets in recent decades, as one dealer rather too candidly admits (the webpage has gone, it seems, but is still cached):
A great deal of pottery and many terracotta figurines, (and also countless numbers of fake terracota figurines!) , have come out of Balochistan provence and North West Pakistan near the Afghanistan border since the recent conflict there. Whether this material is truly of Indus Civilization "outpost" origin or is from autonomous civilizations is still something which is undecided. Similar material came out of this arera in the early and mid 1980s during the Soviet Afghanistan period of turmoil.
There is every likelihood that if it's real, Mr Martin's pot was a conflict antiquity, and if so, it's got more than toothpaste marks on it, it'll have blood on it. That was why the previous buyer had no paperwork for it. It was as dodgy as you can get. So when he got rid of it, nobody would take it and it ended up in a car boot sale being flogged off for the price of a beer or two. But Mr Brenchley got rid of it for him, despite there being any evidence that it had been exported from Pakkistan or Afghanistan legally - and with the very strong probability that it had not. He also seems from the account above to have previously shifted a van-load of similar material (was it connected with this?) There are several British dealers selling pots and figurines very similar to this on eBay. To my eye, quite a lot of them are fake, which is possible evidence that the heavily-looted region has been almost looted out.

We are going to get a lot more of this as collectors die, material will be either discarded by heirs or will be passed on without any papers (often because the collector kept none). A lot of them will be looted, a lot fake, but the whole lot is tainted. What should happen to it?

Naughty Treasure Finders


Treasure finds going up
There is now a new page on the Treasure section of the PAS/Treasure website listing the abatements of Treasure rewards recommended by the TVC since 2007. There were 20 in a total of 3418 found 2007 and 2015 (the last year for which figures seem available).* Reasons are given for these abatements. 12 were for detecting on land and taking finds and not subsequently reporting them where there was no 'search and take' permission from the landowner (trespass and theft) in one case the land concerned was a SAM, four rewards were abated because of cases where the authorities became aware of finds that were simply not reported, two for situations where it was found out that a misleading location had been given. Two were for ovrcleaning an object or inexpert restoration (damage to property). In no case is any mention made of any legal sanctions being applied to the person declared guilty of these offences. There are no cases of Treasure abatement  being applied to landowners, it is only Treasure hunters that are mentioned. Neither are there any cases mentioned where the finders refused to stop digging and call in archaeologists, that led to loss of archaeological information.


* with about 1000 being found now annually, the total will be about 6500 in the period after 2007.

The Archaeological Values of the PAS Database (V): The so-called Crosby Garrett Helmet


Archaeology and commerce
 (Seattle Times)
The revelation by a FeudingFLO from Durham that the PAS has been obscuring findspots of items from a cemetery excavated this year in Scremby in East Lindsy brings to mind another case of the same kind. A few years ago there was huge publicity about a campaign to save for a public collection the heavily reconstructed helmet being offered for sale by Christie's that the auctioneers insisted had been found by an unnamed detectorist (whose identity still remains unknown) on a farm in May 2010 in a little place far from any former Roman cavalry fort at Crosby Garrett. The object was at once dubbed 'the Crosby Garrett Helmet', the name by which it was publicly known from the beginning (Christie's (London) 7 October 2010, lot 176). Yet When eventually the PAS was shown the place the finders said it had come from and the place was excavated, as many questions remain as before. It is interestng to note that, even though we now know the precise pit in which the finders reported they'd dug the object from (and this too is public knowledge), the PAS record is extraordinarily vague about the findspot ( County or Unitary authority: Cumbria (County)/ District: Eden (District) / To be known as: North Cumbria) . Is the fact that illegal metal detecting took place on adjacent Little Asby Common in some way related to this? Or is it not a fact that almost anywhere you can get to that has earthworks and nobody living right next to it is probne to looting of this type? No, there has to be a reason that the PAS are refusing to say that this object actually was found at Crosby Garrett, what is it?


Men in court over Leominster Anglo-Saxon treasure charges


Reportedly, four men will appear in court today, charged with dealing in tainted cultural artefacts that were discovered by metal detectorists. This relates to a collection (hoard?) of Anglo-Saxon and Viking artefacts (gold and silver coins, a gold ring, gold arm bracelet, crystal sphere, and silver ingots) found in 2015 in a village near Leominster, Herefordshire, in 2015. According to West Mercia police, the men that will appear in court are George Powell, 37, of Coulson Close, Pill, Newport; Layton Davies, 50, of Cardiff Road, Pontypridd; Paul Well, 59, of Newport Road, Cardiff; and Simon Wicks, 56, of Hawks Road, Hailsham, East Sussex.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Archaeological Values of the PAS Database (IV): Scremby in the Early Middle Ages [Updated] [Updated]


Artefacts removed from graves
 'somewhere in Lincolnshire'
Photo: Danny Lawson/PA
The BBC is carrying an article about a new Anglo-Saxon cemetery (BBC, 'Lincolnshire Anglo-Saxon cemetery burials unearthed',  27 November 2018).
About 20 graves dating to the fifth and sixth centuries [...]  were found in the Lincolnshire Wolds. The cemetery was discovered after a metal detectorist uncovered artefacts at the site in Scremby, near Skegness. [...]  Hugh Willmott, a senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield who led the dig, said: "These women wore necklaces made from sometimes hundreds of amber, glass and rock crystal beads, used personal items such as tweezers, carried fabric bags held open by elephant ivory rings, and wore exquisitely decorated brooches to fasten their clothing. "Two women even received silver finger rings and a style of silver buckle commonly associated with Jutish communities in Kent
The photo accompanying the article shows a burial in a very shallow, presumably plough-truncated, grave. So, if it was fond after a tekkie reported his finds, one might legitimately expect to be able to examine those reported finds in the Portable Antiquities Scheme's Database and find out how that site appears there. What I found is interesting. The parish name is Ashby by Skremby (note: two - by names) in East Lindsay 12 km from Skegness. There are 39 finds from Ashby by Scremby but only three are Early medieval, they are: PUBLIC-572D46 ('Middle Anglo-Saxon' pin  Date circa 720-850 found before May 2017),  PUBLIC-E6EC11 ('Middle Anglo-Saxon' pin  Date circa 720-850, found before March 2017) and LIN-B7A328  (possible late Saxon or early Medieval copper-alloy mount of mid-11th century date found before April 2016).  It's impossible to find out from the public database whether they were found together or scattered across the whole parish (which rather makes it impossible to say anything at all about 'local history' if you lived there...).

So from the database, the only Early Medieval finds from the parish would indicate something was happening there between the early eighth and early ninth centuries before the area became part of the so-called Danelaw (in the 880s), but 'two pins do not an anything make'. Perhaps Dr Wilmot was looking for something like the site he excavated two years ago at Little Carlton. But certainly the data in the database from reported metal detecting finds does not give any signal that there is a rich cemetery there, and even if one or two of these reported finds had been sixth century brooches and an amber bead,  it is quite obvious that a few random objects gives nothing like the sort of information that properly excavating even twenty features on that site will yield. I hope when it's written up, we learn the context of discovery, that is just what it was about those metal detector finds that led to this excavation. Was any significant Middle Anglo-Saxon activity detected during excavation on the site?

So, basically, the few reported items on the PAS database give a very partial and indeed totally distorted view of the early medieval archaeology of that parish. If excavation shows that the third hand recording of random items reported by collectors searching in unknown patterns can miss a site like this (apparently under active plough erosion), how many sites of equal interest and significance are slipping through the net?

UPDATE 27th Nov 2018

The Guardian has some other information ( Haroon Siddique, ' Burial sites from 5th and 6th centuries yield unexpected treasures(sic)', Guardian Tue 27 Nov 2018)
The dig of the cemetery, containing 20 burials, was carried out over the summer by international volunteers, Sheffield University students and members of the RAF. Its existence came to light last year when a local metal detectorist discovered a number of Anglo-Saxon artefacts, including copper gilded brooches, iron shield bosses and spear heads.
These objects found at Scremby before the excvavation are not however in the PAS database, unless they have been 'anonymised' by being assigned to a different parish than the one the BBC reports the cemetery is in. The Guardian article is marred by a photo of the archaeologist disrespectfully posing with a skull as if its some kind of trophy.

UPDATE UPDATE 28th Nov 2018

The Feuding FLO Benjamin Westwood from Durham seems determined to prove his dismissive thesis that this blog is "fake News". It seems now to have become an obsession . So when the rest of us are asleep, he puts out this tweet in answer to a tweeted link of mine to this text:

"This is incorrect. They are in the PAS database (see below), when a search is correctly executed. For example: "

Durham seems to have become recently a hotbed of accusations of "incorrect", indeed at times hysterical ones.  Mr Westwood supplied a screenshot showing that he's apparently searched for "Anglo-Saxon" and "girdlehangers" and he'd found some in East Lindsay to which he triumphantly gives a link, girldlehangeras and sleeve clasps. But if you follow that link through (how could one not?), you'll find it goes to record LIN-D1172C and down at the bottom we learn (apart from 'no references so far', when mention is made of some typology of Hines in the entry, cite your sources!), that the findspot is: 'County or Unitary authority: Lincolnshire (County)/ District: East Lindsey (District) / To be known as: Alford area'. Well, it is therefore not 'incorrect' of me to say above that these objects found at Scremby before the excvavation 'are not however in the PAS database, unless they have been 'anonymised' by being assigned to a different parish than the one the BBC reports the cemetery is in', because that is precisely what Mr Westwood in Durham with his privileged acess to the database data says that the Lincolnshire FLO has been doing. That would mean, in other words, that the public 'data' in the database have for some reason been deliberately misreported to hide their real origins. 


There is no sign of those 'shield bosses and spearheds' mentioned by the Guardian, the only Anglo-Saxon iron object from the whole of East Lindsey thrown up by the databases advanced search is apparently a knife from 'near Louth'.

The distance from Scremby and Alford is nine kilometres.  A circle with a radius of 9km has an area of 254.47km² . Saying something from 'Area X' could have been found anywhere at all in at least 254 square kilometres in that general region is not assigning an object a findspot. It is not informing the public (who pay for this vague nonsense) what has been found in their own 'small homeland' - which was supposed to be the purpose of the PAS database when it was set up. It treats the public as contempt-worthy hoi polloi who (unlike the arkie elite) do not 'need' to know what is happening to the heritage in their region - and who cannot be trusted with that information. Surely, however, the PAS database is as much - if not more - about findspot (and thus context) as it is about antiquitist typologies. That is one of the things that differentiates the archaeological approach to artefacts from that of the mere collector, and doing archaeologial outreach and showing that is - for goodness sake - precisely what the PAS was set up to do and stuill proclaims as one of its aims.

Does obfuscating the findspots of these objects mean that the three Anglo-Saxon finds discussed above that the database says are from Scremby cannot be assumed automatically by a member of the public using this database to actually be from Ashby and Scremby but somewhere in the general vicinity, for example from Alford? How can they tell the difference? How can they tell when the FLO or one of a number of various public recorders is concealing something from them? And should they be being confused and deceived like this in the first place in a public database (one they pay for)?  If this is what is going on, this seems to add totally unneccessary confusion and distrust. I hope when Hugh Willmott publishes this cemetery, he will provide a detailed map showing just where the cemetery he excavated is in the cultural landscape, and not just a dot on a map which in scale is a circle eighteen kilometres in diameter. Anything less would be 'incorrect' to use the terminology of Durham's Feuding FLO.  And the question is, if the excavating archaeologicst does that, why can the surface data archaeologists of the database not do the same? Bonkers. 

Mapped search for Anglo-Saxon finds in East Lindsey using PAS database 'advanced search': How many of these dots mean anything at all if we now know that a FLO's privileged access to a public database shows that finds from Scremby are listed as Alford area? This is ridiculous.

I cannot see how one searches for the other finds from this site on this 'database' that have been anonymised by being entered there as from 'Alford area', there is a 'district' of Alford among the dropdown boxes, but there are '0' EM finds listed under it, and if you search for it under a parish name, it seems you apparently only get artefacts from the civil parish itself, so (unless the FeudingFLO can tell us an un-user-friendly  'wrinkle' that I do not know of) this seems to be yet another area where the 'advanced search engine' is unable to show us the other finds from the same findspot. 




 
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