Monday, 17 December 2018

An 'Alien' Detectorist, A Vanished Detectorist and A Lost Minerva Statue Found Masquerading as Flora

Minerva boxed as Flora
Len Jackman's been hunting for buried treasure for 20 years and now he's found a priceless statuette (Jayne Fryer, 'Bleep bleep! I've detected a real national treasure: Daily Mail 17 December 2018). Len is a metal detectorist.
Ms Fry saw the comedy show 'Detectorists' and cannot get it out of her mind, the whole article is framed around it:
there is an entire metal-detecting community out there. ‘The programme is very, very true to form,’ says Len. So there are websites, Facebook groups, YouTube channels (Len’s personal favourite is iDetect, by a chap called Harry which has over 28,000 subscribers) and two dedicated magazines, The Searcher and Treasure Hunting.

Twenty-eight thousand? Sounds a bit like Hardy's estimate for the number of detectorists in England and Wales. Hmmm. Anyhow, as Ms Fryer notes, there are a lot of people doing Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record, and decontextualising millions of objects from the archaeological record. While some six academics have recently produced the object-centred assertion that pilfering archaeological evidence from sites with metal detectors and spades is not a form of damage ("In order to be considered 'cultural damage', a find and/or its associated information would have to be irretrievably lost."), they are quite obviously wrong. Anyhow, back to the hero of this story:
For more than 20 years now, Len Jackman, 66, has been searching for buried treasure. Every day, come rain, sun, sleet or storms, he buckles on his knee pads, pops on his collecting pouch and wellies and picks up his coffee flask, lunch box, spade and his trusty Minelab Equinox metal detector, complete with customised carbon fibre shaft for better handling. He then waves his wife Denise farewell and heads out into the fields surrounding his home near Witney, Oxfordshire. And there he’ll be for the next few hours, walking up and down the furrowed fields, his £600 gadget swooping backwards and forwards, headphones on and ears cocked and straining for the magical bleep, bleep, bleep of ancient buried gold.  Which, mostly, has proved rather elusive.
But, as attendees at the Treasure report launch know, Mr Jackman instead 'came across a 2,000-year-old Roman figure sitting in a large Flora margarine tub'. 
It all started last December when Len was hunting a new stretch of fields near his home. He was chatting to the landowner who then showed him a small broken statuette, found on the land 15 years earlier by a fellow detectorist, dismissed as a copy, dumped in the Flora tub, and left in a room off the kitchen [...]  when, six months later, he’d unearthed a few bits and bobs himself, he asked the farmer if he could take her along with his own hoard, to be identified and dated at the Museum Resource Centre in nearby Standlake [...] The minute the expert saw it, she was on the phone, one thing led to another and, last week, Len and Denise were up at dawn to attend the big unveiling ceremony at the British Museum.
It is interesting to note that nothing is being said about the several bits of this item having been found  in c. 2003 (NB right in the middle of the 'foot and mouth' outbreak when people were discouraged from going into the countryside) by someone that had been hoiking some fields and getting out substantial metal items like this one and not reporting them (there was no Oxford FLO until 2003). Fifteen years later, Mr Jackman is going over the same area and taking out what was left behind - how many other detectorists have 'done' this area over in the meantime? Where are all these finds? A search of the PAS database for Roman finds made in 2003 shows there are none from even remotely near Whitney. This is exactly what the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter is telling s about. One item survived, because the landowner took it and curated it, what the metal detectorist walked off with in 2003 went into his collection, and thence... a skip headed towards the landfill, a car boot sale maybe, perhaps bought up as a bulk lot and then used to 'seed' a field prior to a commercial artefact hunting rally maybe? But it seems that very little of it entered the PAS database. It's all hidden from the public, whose heritage this is.
 like many detectorists, Len is rightly obsessive about secrecy. His number is ex-directory. He makes me promise not to divulge the name of his village, or include photos of his car, in case he’s followed. The location of the Minerva is top secret and must remain so. He even has a detectoring alias: ‘Alien.’ ‘Last week, a drone was following me!’ he says. ‘You have to be careful.’
Careful indeed that sweet lady journalists who you've sworn to secrecty does not write a caption like the one in the Mail: 'The Romano-British statuette of Minerva which was found in a margarine tub in Hailey, Oxfordshire'. Yep. But actually, Mr Jackman, the public have a right to that information. The past is not yours alone to have and hide.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.