Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Just This Week...

Go to EBay.uk ("monitored by the PAS", they claim), go to "British Antiquities (all listings)", select UK dealers only (5,063 items this week), select the material filter gold that gives you today 31 items, not all of which are "antiquities" (either because they mislisted, are not very old, but metal detecting finds, and others are fakes). But, this week, as every week, there are not a few there that if someone were actually properly monitoring eBay to "ensure (sic) that no illegal objects falling under the 1996 Treasure Act were being laundered there, would be questioned. Trouble is nobody is, nobody can be bovvered, and when even some of them are thrust into the face of the British archaeological authorities they wiggle and whine that its not fair, and "its not worth it". Really. Try it. See what British archaeologists are made of.

There are ten items there right now that I would say qualify, not one of them supported by citation of any documentation or due process, making the seller's title to them questionable. So that's one third of the listings for 'gold' today (there is no material filter for 'silver' on eBay.uk - but a simple search produces 32 items, including a similar proportion of ancient, potentially TA-reportable objects), that's before we even consider coin finds.

And detectorists, how amazing that despite a massive growth in metal detector use after 1970, ALL of these objects on sale were (the sellers assert) found eyes-only before that date, so - conveniently - do not fall under the Treasure legislation. Let's remind ourselves of current eBay.uk stated policy regarding such claims:  ebay policies prohibited restricted items/artefacts cultural heritage grave related items policy Stated of course, not, it seems, actually in any way enforced or upheld.

And UK archaeologists stay silent, not rocking the boat.

A Bit of What is Needed to Fight Antiquities Trafficking

As per 1970 UNESCO Convention, a bill currently making its way through UK parliament could require antiquities dealers to report even small transactions to the government, alert authorities of suspicious activity, and maintain extensive records of their sales. Oh, no, not in Bonkers Britain, that's in Donald Trump's America. Britain still has nothing of the kind to fight trafficking.

Shouldn't it have by now? PAS? CBA? CIfA? Rescue? Heritage Action?

"Most Reasonable", if you don't get Caught

Apparently, from the dealer's point of view, 'British Treasure Trove (sic!) laws are some of the most reasonable anywhere (Richard Giedroyć, 'Crime Doesn’t Pay', Numismatic News November 12, 2019):
Unfortunately, even in Great Britain, there are treasure hunters who don’t abide by the rules. In June 2015 George Powell surrendered three “not particularly valuable” coins to home and property tenant Yvonne Conod near Eye Court Farm, Leominster, Herefordshire. Powell had asked permission from Conod to sweep the land with a metal detector. The 208-acre dairy and crop farm belongs to Lord Cawley. In Worcester Crown Court testimony in early October, Conod said George Powell at one point told her he had found “something valuable” in her field, but she heard nothing further about it.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Potential Unknown Parts of the Staffordshire Hoard on EBay?

We know that the Staffordshire Hoard findspot was not fully explored at the time of discovery in July 2009, the original keyhole 'excavation' in autumn of that year and subsequent work in 2010 and in December 2012. Almost certainly in that time, objects from the hoard and associated with it have found their way into private collections in Europe and the US. Now the full (?) report of the objects found to date has appeared there is renewed interest in the hoard, so perhaps we might expect some of those items now to resurface. They would hardly likely to be labelled with a collecting history that specifically states them to be from this find. We should look very carefully at anything appearing that does not have proper and explicit provenances that looks like it could be some of this material. Obviously, dealers - knowing we are on the lookout for this kind of material - if their stock comprises licit artefacts would be at pains to present every scrap of evidence they have that places a distance between what they are selling and the Staffordshire Hoard. What are we to make of dealers that do not do this?

For sale on EBay this very moment by the dealer 'wear-the-past' (2819 ) [yuk!] based in Bath, United Kingdom (165km from the Hoard findspot) for a cool $1,185.00, despite it being - like the Staffordshire Hoard items, plough damaged:
Rare 6th - 7th century A.D. Anglo-Saxon Period Gold and Garnet Ring Bezel Stud ' This is a wonderful Anglo-Saxon or Frankish gold finger ring bezel (or stud), dating to the 6th - 7th century A.D. It is decorated with Cloisonné cells, set with garnet gemstones in a cruciform design. It appears to have been either used as a cap, to cover an object or scabbard stud (similar to pieces found in the Staffordshire hoard) or set as the bezel of a gold finger ring. Today the jewel has survived, with minor scuffing from its time buried in the ground. The gems are original and still securely set. An interesting piece of Saxon treasure, worthy of a fine collection. OBJECT: Finger Ring bezel or scabbard cap etc.
CULTURE: Anglo-Saxon / Frankish
DATE: c. 6th - 7th century A.D.
MATERIAL: Gold and Garnets
SIZE: 12mm x 7mm
WEIGHT: 1.25 grams
PROVENANCE: Ex. B. Jones collection, Kansas. USA
This item is unconditionally guaranteed to be an antique original and to date from the period described. A certificate of authenticity will be supplied on request.
Now, I do not know who "B. Jones of Kansas" is, still less how he or she obtained this item, and when - and whether it was disclaimed as Treasure under the 1996 Treasure Act or exported from the UK with an export licence or not. The seller simply does not say - as if they think nobody really cares, or should care. These matters are however not by any means without meaning... especially as (coincidentally, no doubt), the same seller has this with the same ability to supply a certificate of authenticity on request:

6th - 7th century Saxon / Merovingian gold gilded chip-carved armour fitting

This is a wonderful Saxon period chip-carved belt fitting, dating to the 6th - 7th century. It is decorated with a complex interlaced design, some of the gold gilding has worn off giving a nice contrast with the patina. It retains four rivet holes with traces of the iron rivets. This was presumably riveted to metal (rather than leather) using the iron rivets for strength, as such would have formed part of an armour or helmet decoration with the design suitable for a leather strap. A rare object, comparable with finds from the Staffordshire Hoard! OBJECT: Strap Fitting
CULTURE: Anglo Saxon / Merovingian
DATE: c. 6th - 7th century A.D.
MATERIAL: Bronze gold gilded
SIZE: 34mm x 12mm
WEIGHT: 3.19 grams
PROVENANCE: Ex. [sic!] European Private Collection
The same comments about this "ex European Private Collection" (Old Swiss?). And on just what grounds can one honestly issue a CoA if you do not actually know whether it is 'grounded' as you do not know the details of the beginning of its collecting history (for if one did, why is it not presented n the sales offer?). Would a CoA rely on the issuer's connoisseurship (we know how dodgy a guide that can be) or "looks like" grounds? Above all, since the Staffordshire Hoard field has been looted for the last ten years, it becomes important to note when the object entered that collection, and really what that 'collection' consisted of. That it is a European one means nothing at all. Why are details so (deliberately) scanty?  Then there is
6th - 7th century A.D. Anglo Saxon Period Gold & Garnet Scabbard Button RARE  This is a very rare Saxon gold jeweled scabbard button, dating to the 6th - 7th century A.D. It is an impressive piece of early Saxon jewelry, set with a large flat-topped garnet gemstone. The garnet is held in a rubbed over the bezel, decorated with beaded wirework. Similar flat-topped garnet can be found on the Anglo-Saxon gold pectoral cross, found in the Staffordshire Hoard. OBJECT: Scabbard Button CULTURE: Saxon Germanic Migration. DATE: c. 6th - 7th century A.D. MATERIAL: Gold & Garnet SIZE: 18.13mm x 13.66mm x 8.41mm WEIGHT: 4.82 grams PROVENANCE: Ex. [sic!] European Private Collection, Dublin, Ireland
It's actually still got soil on it...  What kind of self-respecting "private collector" wold have a grubby piece like that in the collection?  And what about this piece? Dating? origin? Its description as a 'scrying' piece is dealer's crap:
Rare 7th century A.D. Anglo Saxon Gold and Rock Crystal Scrying Pendant Jewel. This is a superb Anglo Saxon period gold and rock crystal pendant, dating to the 7th century. It is intact with a suspension loop on the back, the crystal is very clear and of a fine quality. The Saxons called rock crystal ðurhscynestan - literally ‘through shine stone’. It is thought the lens was used for scrying but also for magnification (of lettering, or for viewing intricate detail by craftsmen). Rock crystal was considered a very magical material, used to peer into the future, see visions by seer's [sic], psychics and mediums - who were known as "Völva" to the Vikings and Spákona to the Saxons. This is a beautiful ancient pendant, intact and in good excavated condition.
OBJECT: Pendant - Scrying lens
CULTURE: Anglo-Saxon / Frankish
DATE: c. 7th century A.D.
MATERIAL: Gold and Rock Crystal
SIZE: 17mm x 6mm
WEIGHT: 2.88 grams
PROVENANCE: Ex.[sic] European Private Collection
Note here how narrativisation is extended, more than anything that is said about collecting history.  There is some more interesting AS goldwork which arouses our interest too.  Like this: Rare 7th - 9th century A.D. Anglo Saxon Period Gold Pendant Sun Wheel Pendant and 6th - 7th century A.D. Anglo Saxon Period Gold Concentric Ring Shaped Pendant and a ring... you get the picture.


Absolutely ZERO real information required or given of where this material is coming from, and how it is getting onto the UK market. A nighthawk's dream.

The seller, wear-the-past (2819) has 98.4% positive feedback and claims:
I am a fully qualified Archaeologist and small finds specialist, working in research and acquisition of ancient jewelry (sic), intaglios, and gems. All items for sale are guaranteed ancient. Further stock can be found on my website www.wear-the-past.com
From the website we get a little better picture:
Our company is founded on 'expertise' headed by Adam, a fully qualified archaeologist, and small finds specialist. After a lifelong passion for ancient history, coin collecting, and metal detecting, Adam graduated in Archaeology with Honours, from the University of Wales, Lampeter in the year 2000 and has been actively dealing in antiquities and coins ever since.  
Another PAS 'success story'? Metal detectorist turned archaeology student...  So, Adam, one archaeologist to another, where did that Anglo-Saxon gold come from?

More on Wear-the-Past Antiquities Sales

A reader has sent me the results of some online sleuthing they've done. Most interesting. The proprietor of 'Wear-the-Past' antiquities turns out to be a character that from 2004 to an unknown date was 'director' of an entity called angloantiquities, apparently a Microsoft Network shop. An address in Church Street Tewksbury is associated with it, and the same address appears in a leaked list of BNP members where the director is identified as: 
'Lord Adam Murray [...] Gloucestershire GL20 5RZ 01[...]  angloantiquities@msn.com, Activist, Business owner (antiquities). Pubic [sic] speaker. Has two suits of medieval 14th and 15th century armour and can joust for rallies
Presumably BNP political rallies are meant rather than commercial artefact hunting ones. Jousting by yourself cannot be much fun. On his Facebook page, Mr Murray gives his DNA results, itemised by 'nationality' (!) - apparently treating it like some kind of racial (?) pedigree. 

Here is their eBay logo

Excavate, and "invest".

'Christian' Museum at end of a criminal chain

Roberta Mazza of Manchester has a text 'The Green Fiasco in Context' (Nov 7th) in the latest number of Eidolon ['Classics without fragility, makes the classics political and personal, feminist and fun'] . In it, she identifies five important issues that apply to antiquities collecting in general:

Problem 1: Researchers in text-based disciplines don’t think of texts as objects.[...]
While archaeologists deal with the materiality of the objects they excavate and study, papyrologists and more broadly classicists and those in other textual disciplines often do not grapple with this reality, because these fields have been mainly preoccupied with the inscribed contents of the manuscripts rather than their materiality. More often than not, these specialists produce knowledge that separates the text from where it belongs (i.e. the object) and from the collection process through which the text reached them[...] This break from reality and refusal to grapple with materiality has set these fields back — this problem must be addressed because it has undermined the ability of scholars to understand the very nature of these things and, as a consequence, has fostered a scholarship that has not properly reflected on the legislation and ethical norms regulating the handling of ancient artefacts, let alone the [...] epistemology of the disciplines at stake.
This is our problem with the coineys of course (and the cunie-fondlers), it is also what Elizabeth Marlowe discussed in her 2013 book 'Shaky Ground: Context, Connoisseurship, and the History of Roman Art'. The issue here is the difference between 'addressed' sources (objects created with the intent of transmitting a message/information) and 'non-addressed' ones, what archaeologists more generally are dealing with.

Mazza's next three identified problems are:

Problem 2: The purchase and publishing of papyri that have recently emerged from the market and are of questionable legal status.[...]
Problem 3: Private collections have accessibility problems.[...]
 Problem 4: Accessibility is also problematic in institutional collections.[...]
I like the way that the fifth one is particularly strongly-formulated and refers to the entire no-questions asked antiquities market:
Problem 5: The black to grey market is a serious threat because it involves criminals.As documented by research and UNESCO reports, crime in art and antiquities is the business of dangerous people and organisations. The products of such endeavours are later laundered through transit countries, the grey market, and also academic expertise and publications that make any illegally-sourced antiquity more acceptable to the public. Given this last point, I am appalled by the fact that in 2019 some academics still think that publishing unprovenanced materials has no consequences on society. The idea that scholarship lives in a vacuum, in a separate universe from the rest of the world, is not only unrealistic–it’s unacceptable. In Egypt, criminals are taking advantage of the socio-economic climate: looting, theft, and trafficking are thriving. These activities have harmed local communities deeply and in many ways, and not only because they destroy archaeological evidence: children employed to pick up antiquities from shafts have been seriously injured and killed, and guards of archaeological sites have lost their lives protecting objects and places. Would you pay the price to be at the end of this crime chain just for the sake of adding another line on your CV?

She concludes with a challenge for the greedy collectors like the Greens:
This brings me back to the episodes addressed in the rest of this special issue. As the Green collection includes many more fragments than those at the center of the current scandal, can I finally receive an answer to the question I have been asking since 2014: where the hell are these other papyri from?

The 'Provenance' of Sappho?

In her text on the potential dodgyness of the papyri in the 'Christian' Green Collection, the astute Roberta Mazza raises the question of just what Bettany Hughes knew about the provenance of the recently surfaced 'Sappho' manuscript:
Collecting, even if done responsibly, presents obstacles to scholarship. Collectors do not like publicity — for reasonable reasons (privacy and security) — and tend to establish a privileged relationship with specific scholars. Let us take for example the “elderly” gentleman (as historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes defined him), who has provided private access to his Sappho fragment to Dirk Obbink. That “elderly” gentleman, in London at that time and who knows where now, cannot be approached by anyone wishing to check the text other than the first editor of his papyrus; Obbink is the only person, to my knowledge, who knows his identity and whereabouts. Not to mention the fact that the owner might have sold the Sappho fragment in the time since, as this “elderly” gentleman in fact sounds more like a dealer than anything else. I am of the opinion that the adjective “elderly” is a play on the dealer’s name rather than a reference to his age. Am I wrong? Perhaps I am, but as long as the owner stays anonymous, we will never know, and the new Sappho text and its whereabouts will remain a mystery. 

In case it disappears, the link goes to a discussion by Candida Moss of  the firm 'Oxford Ancient' (Clarendon House, 52 Cornmarket street Oxford) that records show is 'headed by Dirk Obbink'. (She notes that 'Oxford Ancient' shares an office with something called Museum of the Bible Fellowship which seems to be affiliated with the Museum of the Bible). There used to be another antiquities advising and trading company called "Castle Folio" based at the same address (Clarendon House). The company dissolved in April 2019. According to its incorporation docs (dated Oct 31 2014) Castle Folio was jointly and equally owned by Dirk Obbink and Mahmoud Elder. According to its Facebook page, 'Castle Folio "works with... experts and collectors to help identify, preserve and monetize (sic) private collections"...'

'Adopt a Tomb in a Hot Country full of Dead Brown-skinned Folk'

US archaeologist thinks she can use her credentials to provide a “physical sponsorship certificate for your tomb” in exotic Egypt
Robyn S Lacy, M.A. ⚰ @robyn_la Heeyyy please don't do this. Those are peoples' graves, and pretending ownership over them is colonial and not ok. Signed, a burial ground specialist. https://twitter.com/indyfromspace/status/1192554340738691072
Ten Tweet jest niedostępny.
Donating to the research is one thing, but donating to pretend ownership over a person's literal grave is not ok.

Monday, 4 November 2019

British Museum, "World's Largest Receiver of Stolen Goods"

BM promotes looting by another name
In a new book, due out today, the British Museum has been accused of exhibiting “pilfered cultural property”, by a leading human rights lawyer who is calling for European and US institutions to return treasures taken from “subjugated peoples” by “conquerors or colonial masters” (Dalya Alberge, ' British Museum is world's largest receiver of stolen goods, says QC’, Guardian Mon 4 Nov 2019). The book's author, Geoffrey Robertson QC prepared a report on the reunification of the Parthenon marbles for the Greek government with Amal Clooney and the late Professor Norman Palmer. “We cannot right historical wrongs", he says "but we can no longer, without shame, profit from them”. In the case of the Parthenon Marbles he accused the museum of telling “a string of carefully-constructed lies and half- truths” about how the marbles “were ‘saved’ or ‘salvaged’ or ‘rescued’ by Lord Elgin, who came into possession of them lawfully”. Robertson says:

“The trustees of the British Museum have become the world’s largest receivers of stolen property, and the great majority of their loot is not even on public display.” [...] He criticised “encyclopaedic museums” such as the British Museum, the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan in New York that “lock up the precious legacy of other lands, stolen from their people by wars of aggression, theft and duplicity”. [...]  He writes: “This is a time for humility – something the British, still yearning for the era when they ruled the world, ie for Brexit, do not do very well.

A string of carefully-constructed lies and half- truths is of course what the same institution concocts for continued support of Britain's lootier lassez faire antiquities legislation and collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record. The parallel goes deeper:
 A British Museum spokeswoman [...] said the Elgin marbles were acquired legally, with the approval of the Ottoman authorities of the day. “They were not acquired as a result of conflict or violence. Lord Elgin’s activities were thoroughly investigated by a parliamentary select committee in 1816 and found to be entirely legal” she said. 
Maybe it's time to take a second look, not just the "it's legal innit?" arguments of other British looters. 

Geoffrey Robertson's 'Who Owns History? Elgin’s Loot and the Case for Returning Plundered Treasure' will be published on 5 November by Biteback

No Legislation to Protect Looters in EU

From FB Fudgeworld metal Detecting Hideout:
Tibor Lengyel 22 years,1000 brooches..... 
he shows 20 images, just one of a blizzard of brooches gives a good enough idea.

The "responsible metal detectorist" response on Mr Fudge's group's page? Horror at the destruction of so many archaeological contexts to generate the bragging rights to a table-top of unlabelled archaeological artefacts? A reflective observation that in brooches alone, that's 150% of the figure that Heritage Action established for their artefact counter as an average annual recordable artefact haul for a UK metal detectorist?* Not exactly:
Gabriele Negro in Italy with all those pieces you would be accused of being responsible for the black traffic of archaeological goods, here there is no legislation to protect those who practice this hobby, everything and everything is forbidden and it would take many authorizations, moreover all the objects found with more than 50 years must be delivered to the authorities. 
No "legislation to protect Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record" in Negro's Italy?  Are our hearts bleeding when we see the scale of damage that an individual with a metal detector and spade can do?

* Now see here

BBC will, it seems, now believe and promote anything "Metal detectorists find treasure in a field in Northern Ireland

Leprechaun lookalikes Paul Reynard and Michael Gwynne were allegedly: "Looking for a lost wedding ring" - in a socking deep hole in pasture. Yes. The BBC will, it seems, now believe and promote anything. Comments underneath are divided between those decrying the BBC promoting this kind of treasure hunting (illegal without a permit in Northern Ireland) and those congratulating the treasure hoikers.

PAS Pretend to be Watching Illicit Sales. Are they?

Re the post "JoJo and the Essex Treasures"
The PAS 'monitoring' was a short-lived extempore pose. It was discontinued soon after it began. When I reported a few weeks ago several apparently undeclared Treasures from eBay to them, they refused point blank to send an official request from the BM to the seller to provide information on title (despite the fact that the monitoring programme still featured as online as though active). I was told by the head of the PAS to contact the seller's local police office myself (from Warsaw, Poland, you understand). Scandalous indolence.
So even recent textbooks (here too) have been led astray.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

The Damaging Legacy of PAS

Heritage Action with their characteristic ability to cut to the core of an argument (Brexit looms. What now for metal detecting?), quoted verbatim:
It may well be that PAS will soon be swept away (or replaced with a decorative "shell" of itself.) Not what Sir Anthony Grant hoped for in the Commons in 2001: “I trust that we will now join the great majority of other civilised countries in passing a law to protect our rich and important heritage of portable antiquities” nor what Baroness Blackstone hoped for in the PAS Annual Report: "It is the long term aim of the Scheme to change public attitudes to recording archaeological discoveries so that it becomes normal practice for finders to report them”.*

20 years later there is no "law to protect heritage" and no major change in "public attitudes to recording archaeological discoveries". All must agree that what was a great and generous offer to detectorists has failed. Soon they won't have PAS to use as their figleaf but they'll have another, equally effective one: the widespread belief held by the public (put around for 20 years by PAS to get their annual funding) that most detectorists are responsible and metal detecting is mostly fine.

The public belief that detecting is mostly "a good thing" has caused incalculable damage yet will survive long after PAS has gone, like cockroaches after a nuclear war. It's not a good legacy. Will the PAS employees, free of their employment, start saying it's wrong? We'll soon see.
I think HA are rather too optimistic about the ability of many archaeologists to get involved in critical thought.  While to us it is obvious that what was a great and generous offer to detectorists has failed, it is far from clear that in archaeological circles "all would agree". The Ixelles Six/Helsinki Gang for example don't, they've collectively got a lot of grant money hinging on believing the opposite. So the produce a fuzzy smokescreen of a text denying the existence of a serious problem that has been completely swallowed by the unreflexive archaeological community instead of being called out for the self-interested twaddle that it is. But then twaddle seems to be what the pro-collecting case thrives on.

*Foreword to the PAS Annual Report 2000-2001

Such a Shame, Who Should be Ashamed?

Such a shame writes a FLO on Twitter:
(Baffled Prehistorian) Peter Reavill@PeterReavill·1 lis
Such a shame the headline isn't: "metal detectorist discovers an amazing 2000 year old coin, records it with @findsorguk so we can all share the knowledge and excitement".
We all need to work at changing this narrow agenda where novelty and money drive public perception of archaeology
James Dilley@ancientcraftUK · 1 lis
Metal detectorist finds an Iron Age coin depicting an intricate noble horse worth £380 just hours into his first search https://dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-7634659/Metal-detectorist-finds-Iron-Age-coin-depicting-noble-horse-worth-380-hours-search.html
For goodness' sake! "We all need to work at changing the public perception of archaeology?" Surely what we need is a special archaeological organisation, employing about 50 people to work with the public and do precisely that. Maybe it'll take 20 years? Oh, wait a moment.... there's the @findsorguk [Portable Antiquities Scheme]! Mr Reavill, you need to contact them!

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Archaeological story telling? "Anyone can do it"

Common problem:
Robert Boessenecker 🐳 @CoastalPaleo 15 godz.
Fossil collector: I've had these for twenty years, I'm pretty sure these are rocks used by cavemen to carve arrows and make bows and [some other rubbish here]..." goes on for another minute.
Me: "so this is a broken Phosphate nodule that's been worn"
him "I really don't think so"
Archaeological story telling? Anyone can do it. No?

Collectors' Corner: JoJo and the Essex Treasures

All-Capitalising EBay seller jojosjewellery (180 Feedback score) Weston-super-Mare, United Kingdom has some interesting stuff on sale. Like this GOLD ROMAN FOB SEAL INTAGLIO metal detecting A STUNNING RARE HISTORIC ITEM,  yours for just (!) £3,995.00. Oh yes, all perfectly OK they say: "A STUNNING EXTREAMLY RARE FIND GOLD ROMAN INTAGILO (sic) SEAL ROMAN HEAD CARVED INTO RED GEM STONE AS FOUND METAL DETECTING IN ESSEX WITH OTHER ANCIENT TREASURES SELLING AS FOUND NO RESERVE AND FANTASTIC LOW START PRICE (which is an odd thing to say of a 'Buy it now, ONO' sale). The accompaying p[hotos tell us more that the seller needs to spend more time on their manicure than inform us about the object, though the fuzzy photos do not inspire much confidence that the carving is stylistically ancient, and the battered gold mount is not Roman. The other treasures include another intaglio (this one just £1,250.00), RARE ROMAN INTAGLIO SET FOB metal detecting FIND STUNNING RARE HISTORIC ITEM. Another fuzzy photo of the stone itself, it may have been metal detected in Essex, but the mount is not Roman. It is described as 'A STUNNING EXTREAMLY RARE ROMAN GOLD GILT ON SIVER? MOUNTED INTAGLIO SET CARVED GEMSTONE WITH A WOLF? AS FOUND METAL DETECTING IN ESSEX IN THE 1970s WITH OTHER ANCIENT TREASURES'. Yeah, the other one has bells on it. The intaglio stylistically would fit in with a series of cheap modern gems carved in Thailand with carborundum grinding wheels in imitation of ancient ones. It looks more like a set of bagpipes than a wolf. If you have a spare 2.5k to throw away, you might be tempted by a RARE SILVER ANCIENT TUDOR RING metal detecting FIND STUNNING RARE HISTORIC ITEM (another Essex find  'found with other treasures'). I doubt it is 'Tudor', and it is  a shame that JoJo did not proffer an identification of the blue stone (dyed howlite, perhaps?). There is a gold posy ring  ('A STUNNING EXTREAMLY RARE MEDEAVAL LOVERS  RING  GILT? WITH INSCRIPTION OLD ENGLISH NO I N GOMASOV DARTE? I GIVE YOU MY HEART? SIZE L HAS HAD A GOLD 9CT INNER STRENGTHENING BAND FITTED AT LATER DATE AS FOUND METAL DETECTING IN ESSEX WITH OTHER ANCIENT  TREASURES').  [no 9ct band is visible in the photos- actually quite clear]. Then there is a RARE SILVER ANCIENT TUDOR HATPIN METAL DETECTING A STUNNING RARE HISTORIC ITEM. Yes you guessed it, this machine stamped item was not pulled out of granny's hat box but was a metal detecting find "from Essex" and guess what? It was "found with other treasures".

Convenient that all these things were "old finds" before the Treasure Act, eh? But what a lot of "treasures" we are asked to believe that this Essex artefact hunter had stashed away out of sight for half a century... How many more collectors have had similar stashes? And how when they surface after a collector's death can we sort out true provenances from dealers' blague (and cover-up lies)? 

How when items like this are put on sale is one to verify that they were indeed found before the Treasure Act was passed (and do they not fall under the preceding Treasure Trove legislation anyway)? Can the seller pass documentation on to the buyer to prove that the object is legal to own according to the laws of the place it was found (like a dated and signed protocol assigning title from the landowner to the finder)? 

Finally, how were these prices established by this seller? Are they just "off the ceiling" prices? This is significant because a treasure hunter finding similar objects may be disappointed that the TVC gives lower values than the ones they can see online for similar-looking items. 

Deep Digging at Detectival 2019

Mega-rally, 1000 (!) participants (they say). If you skip to here, Mr Aquachigger (1.06M subscribers) has a deep target, deep hole dug, finds anomalous soil conditions, target still deeper, obviously some kind of feature, what to do? The Code of best practice for responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales is pretty unequivocal... but Mr Aquachigger decided to hack blindly down into it regardless.

This is the kind of blind digging that damages sites, here we see it in progress, and can see how limited are the opportunities for any kind of archaeological observation of the material being dug through and relationships that are being trashed by this activity every time a target is dug out. This case is particularly telling as it turns out to be a modern feature, one that would be immediately identified for what it was had the layers been explored properly by someone who knew what they were doing and 'reading the soil' in the process. Note at the end when he finds the valve to the irrigation pipe in a cement-lined pit, he decides to interfere and then fails to replace the cover properly, probably a townie. 

Note the bragging about the "find of a lifetime" later on in the video and the way it's handled. Also been dug out in the same way (from what?). 

Friday, 1 November 2019

Attacked with a Metal Detector; God Hates Topless Women?

Metal detectorists are a rough lot, recently there was a case in the US that suggest another reason why they go for the carbon-fibre shafted tools (Madeleine Marr, 'She attacked him because he was watching porn. He told cops it was just Cinemax' Miami Herald 14th October 2019).  US law enforcement deputies responded to a domestic disturbance call on a Sunday night. They found an injured 70-year-old man in the house who claimed that [...] his 77-year-old girlfriend, attacked him, and he claimed it wasn’t the first time. The woman was arrested for battery:
According to an arrest report reviewed by the Miami Herald, the couple had gotten into an argument Friday night after Galitello said she caught him watching porn. Deputies said the man claimed he was only watching a show on Cinemax that just happened to feature a topless woman. Even so, he said the distinction didn’t matter to his significant other. The man said she left a mark on him after hitting him in the head with a metal detector. Investigators found no signs of trauma on the man’s head, but they did see a metal detector propped up next to the entertainment console in his home. [the woman] admitted to arguing with her sweetie [sic] about watching porn [and] said she may have "accidentally tapped him” with it, but didn’t hurt him. She believed she was only doing “God’s work,” deputies said.
Here's a text on 'Women and Metal Detecting'. This (and the 'jokes' pages of some forums) is also worth looking at to determine the view of the average detectorist on women: how does your wife view your time metal detecting?. It seems there are a sizeable number of misogynists in the milieu.

Posted on Metal Detecting Facebook Page

No site is safe from Collection-Driven exploitation, that is looting for collectables, that's the message from a boast recently posted on a Metal Detecting Facebook Page a mouse click away concerning targeting of archaeological sites
Jonathan Addison shared a link (Bronze Age monument discovered in Forest of Dean, 31 October 2019 ) 31 October 2019
A comment under it:

Location is "secret". Why? Does the archaeolgist imagine the lads haven't found it on Lidar or hundreds of others and dun them over long ago? They chase up marks a thousand [times] more subtle than that.
If they are the traces of archaeological sites in the forest, 'The Lads' (UK detectorists) would be doing so illegally, as the Forestry Commission have a blanket ban on artefact hunting on their property. Note, no mention is made in the article of the discovery of ANY metal objects on the site. Perhaps 'the (good old?) lads' had already paid this archaeological site a visit - perhaps in broad daylight, to plunder away any diagnostic artefacts that they fancied taking. The targeting of archaeological sites like that would be punishable by law in most other civilised countries. In Britain, artefact hunters feel entitled and empowered to boast about doing it on their Facebook pages.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Another Call for "Respect" for Looters

Another detectorist attempts to tilt at windmills (a comment by one 'Chrisg' from Macclesfield, Cheshire in the UK under the post of Monday, 16 September 2019 "Cornovii Discoverers" Pay-to-Take Artefact Hunters' Club: Call for landowners to "help uncover Shropshire's history" (aka "fill our pockets")'). Note that he does not actually address the points made in the text, just says that it is disrespectful to raise them:
You have a total lack of respect of what metal detectorists have contributed to the knowledge of many coins and artifacts found. If it wasn't for detectorists, archaeologists wouldn't know half of what they know. The items found in farmers fields would never see light again if they weren't dug up. Most finds made are from land that has been ploughed over the ages so no ruining the strata. Be grateful and not against. All I can think is that you are extremely jealous that you are not discovering these artefacts yourself. You sir are a grave robber. How's that back at you.
My reply:
"How's that?" is playground talk.

But "coins and artEfacts" are not "knowledge" any more than spotting a Maserati in the high street adds to our knowledge of engineering or metallurgy or the demographics of who drives them. Who told you they were?

"If it wasn't for detectorists, archaeologists wouldn't know half of what they know"... that is baseless rhetorical ignorant bollocks. In reality, it reveals that you have not the first idea of what archaeologists know and how they know it. How could you find out about that, I wonder, before making pronouncements like that which only reveal your ignorance?

Conservation is not about shooting all the rhinos so we can see their horns in foreign shops, is it? Why do you think the archaeological resource is not something that requires conservation? Because YOU want to get your hands on all the goodies for yourself, hang the information lost every time when contexts are trashed by keyhole digging by artefact hunters? Context is not just "strata" (a term, you should know, used more in geology than archaeology).

Nothing to be "grateful" to the rhino poachers and bird egg collectors for.

"Jealous" of those who think it's OK to be an immature, disrespectful and ignorant oaf, gaily destroying what others value, for personal entertainment and profit? No, jealousy does not come into it. I think here you are ascribing your own emotions to others.
I find it very ironic that the comment appears below a text that exhorts:
"Now, when, oh when, will British archaeologists get up off their backsides and explain that artefact hunters cherry-picking the archaeological record for collectables to have or sell, is not (in ANY way) "helping archaeologists and historians" (sic) and hoiking collectable bits out of the archaeological record is damaging it, not "preserving" it. When will we see archaeologists explaining that to folk instead of the usual dumbdown? "
The reality is that of course ChrisG did not even READ the post before shooting off a comment on it. This was not comment ON the content of the post above it, but a reaction to its mere existence. 

 When are we going to see British archaeology responsibly explaining to these people what their 'arguments" miss? We've had an attempt to instil "responsible detecting", let's have now some responsible archaeology, dealing responsibly with artefact collecting issues.

The Eye/Leominster Hoard Saga So Far

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Leomister/Eye Hoard, Finder 'In it Fer the Munny'

Hoodie-wearing fag-puffin dealer in court
A metal detectorist accused of stealing a £3m Anglo-Saxon coin hoard and priceless jewellery was "in it for the money", a court has heard (BBC, '£3m Saxon coin hoard theft accused 'in it for the money'...' BBC 28 October 2019). Four men are accused of conspiring to conceal the find of a hoard dug up in Herefordshire in June 2015, Worcester Crown Court heard by George Powell and Layton Davies. In a statement in court, reportedly "co-accused Paul Wells said Mr Powell did not want to declare it treasure, instead wanting money". The court heard that the four disregarded the law about reporting such finds and attempted to sell the items in small batches
West Mercia Police officer Det Con Gareth Thomas told the court he spoke to coin dealer Mr Wells, 60, at his home in Newport Road, Cardiff, three months later. He was not under arrest at the time, but was detained after unexpectedly producing a key fob-type magnifying glass and then showing officers five Saxon coins concealed in the lining of the glass's case. He said he had been given them after meeting Mr Powell and Mr Davies in the summer and had been trying to give them back. He told police that Mr Powell rang him to meet up, along with Mr Davies, to show him more of the haul. He claimed Mr Powell told him the 10-12 coins shown at the meeting were all the pair had found, but he then produced three items wrapped in kitchen roll. One was a gold ring, "a bangle with a dragon or a lion eating its tail" and a "rock crystal sphere, an inch-and-a-half in diameter, with a gold attachment". "I realised why George had been so excited," said Mr Wells. He told Mr Powell they must be put into a museum, and felt Mr Davies agreed, "but George said it would be worth at least £30-£40,000" and was "in it for the money". 
The Worcester News has more information about the coins hidden in the magnifying glass (Charlotte Moreau, ' Detector men in court over Herefordshire buried treasure' 29th October):
Giving evidence on Monday, Detective Constable Gareth Thomas told how he spoke to coin dealer Wells at his home in Newport Road, Cardiff, on September 10 2015, leading to an unexpected discovery. At that meeting, Wells, who at that stage was not under arrest, was making a written statement to assist the criminal investigation. But he was detained after producing a key fob-type magnifying glass in front of police. He then showed officers that concealed within the stitched lining of the glass’s leather case were five of the Saxon coins. Wells claimed he had been given the items after a meeting with Powell, 38, and Davies, 51, that summer, and had been trying to give them back. On arrest, he told the detective: “I knew it would come to this.”
There is also more information on how Wells came by the coins before then:
Describing how the two metal detectorists came to hand over a larger sample of coins and three priceless artefacts, Wells recalled the day a “very excited” Powell had rung him some time that June. Retired builder Wells agreed to meet Powell and Davies at a basement cafe, with his business partner, Jason Sallam. Wells described how “Layton and George started pulling stuff out of their pockets” at the meeting. “I do recall the utter disrespect in the way the items - the coins - were produced,” Wells’ statement read. He described them as hammered coins, thin, small and dull grey, looking “extremely rare”. “I knew straight away they were something special,” said Wells. 
The Mail continues the story (Alexander Robertson, 'Metal detectorist, 38, accused of stealing a £3m coin haul and priceless jewellery was 'in it for the money', co-defendant tells court' Mail Online, 28 October 2019):
He [Wells PMB] claimed Powell told him and Mr Sallam that the 10 to 12 coins produced at the meeting were all the pair had found. It was then he had alleged Powell showed him three items wrapped in kitchen roll. One was a gold ring, 'shaped like a 50p', 'a bangle with a dragon or a lion eating its tail' and a 'rock crystal sphere, an inch-and-a-half in diameter, with a gold attachment'. 'I realised why George had been so excited,' said Wells. 'I said to them, they had to immediately be declared so they could go into a museum. 'But George said it would be worth at least £30,000 to £40,000. 'Layton was of the same opinion as me, but George remained focused on the money to the point I had to swear at him to quieten him down. 'We were sat in the cafe, surrounded by people, and I remember saying to George "shut the f*** up".' He added: 'I think Layton was intimidated by George. Both Jason and I were of the opinion Layton wanted to declare the items, while George was in it for the money.' The men agreed the items would be taken for detailed examination by Mr Sallam, who then returned them to Wells. 'Jason explained to me they were so rare it would change the rules of metal detectoring and again relayed the importance of their being declared to the correct authorities,' said Wells. Wells added that when Davies subsequently collected the objects, he passed five coins back to the dealer for safe-keeping, and 'explained to me they had' reported the finds.
Powell, of Kirby Lane, Newport, Davies, of Cardiff Road, Pontypridd, Wells, of Newport Road, Cardiff, and Wicks, of Hawks Road, Hailsham, East Sussex, deny any wrongdoing. The trial continues.

Monday, 28 October 2019

UK Detectorist Suddenly Closed You Tube Account Full of Videos Showing What He's Done

Oh dear dear, why could that be?

But, as they say, nothing in the cyberworld disappears for ever...

Tattooed Harry may be taking a break from posting over-long candid videos of his exploits on You Tube, but the sites he's trashed are trashed for ever.

How Did This Come on the Market?

Cyprus is to ask UK why a vase given to Margaret Thatcher by former Cyprus President George Vassiliou three decades ago was sold at at Christie’s auction house in May for €7,000 ($7,700).

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Tattooed Harry: "You Fink I'm Fick? Nah, I'm Just Having a Laugh While Trashing the Past"

Tattooed Harry digs on grassland
On another of his ego-stroking over-long videos Tattooed Harry Moore asks 'YOU THINK IM THICK ?.. Metal detecting uk' (posted on You Tube 4 Dec 2018 - on the 'iDetect' channel). Well,... the guy found a fragment of a Bronze Age palstave, but did not recognise it (though has been in metal detecting for three years), made a film and this is the follow up.

"After my prev's video quite a lo'a people came to'th' assumshun that I was, absolut'ly fick', he says by way of introduction. Hmm. You can skip the superfluous 'I-got-a-drone' shots to hear why (here). You see, the tattooed guy explains, there are two types of people in UK artefact hunting, there are those who take their intervention with the fragile and finite archaeological resource with some seriousness, and those just out to have a laugh while out there trashing the archaeological record and filling their pockets with historical objects. He is denigrating the 'diehard' serious ('responsible') detector users, and seems unlikely to ever consider joining their ranks.

He did not know what he had found and when he showed the FLO (Katie Hinds), he discovered that he'd found a "free-fousand, foive-hundrid year old weppin" ... well, actually it was not the FLO (the object a year on is not in the PAS database) who enlightened him, but a fellow metal detectorist. Harry had just put the unrecognised "fing" in his bag. Which is good because he candidly says "Oi fought this wuz a piece uv scrap, and I (sic) am very lucky I kep' it [...], if oi wuz close t' a bush, wen I first foun' this, I would'da frew it in the bush, 100%". "So please..." he goes on, "when your findin' stuff an' your not shore, make shur yer savin' it and taking it home wiv you". Hmm.  I think if they are finding and removing archaeological evidence they do not understand, they have no chance of properly recording the site that they are trashing. 'Tattooed Harry' is just hoiking stuff to tick off items in his 'bucket list' of trophies to exercise bragging rights over. He is not, in any way, helping extend out knowledge of the past.

His videos are also crap, he needs to do a course on editing. Anyway for what it's worth here's more 'from their own mouths' evidence of just how far from on-the-ground (in-the-field) reality the pro-PAS spin actually is. Just a mouse click away.


Friday, 25 October 2019

Uncertainties about Parwich Hoard

Earthworks? Forest? Pfff!
Nigel Slater, 'Hoard of Roman coins found in Derbyshire field by treasure hunters' They date back almost 2,000 years Derby Telegraph, 25 Oct 2019
 A hoard of over 260 coins dating back almost 2,000 years has been found near a Derbyshire village. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th century coins were discovered by two people during an excavation of land in Parwich, near Ashbourne. The find was revealed during a series of treasure inquests at Derby and Derbyshire Coroners' Court. The 12 different types of Roman coins were found scattered in woodland by Thomas Dobson and Robbie Wilson who were metal detecting in the area last year. It was heard at the inquest how the pair had contacted authorities once they had found the coins, the majority of which are believed to be dated between 330AD and 340AD. [...] Exact locations of the find have not been released by authorities but it was heard how the finders dug down to solid rock to recover the hoard. Alastair Willis, finds liaison officer for Derbyshire, urged the pair not to dig any further due to the site being a suspected burial site.
Another case of artefact hunting in unploughed land ('Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting, anyone?'). It is not clear why this report mentions the woodland, while an earlier one - apparently the same hoard says something else: Sophie Wills and Gareth Butterfield, 'Ancient buried treasure dug up in Derbyshire field', Derby Telegraph 28th Jan 2019.
A hoard of buried treasure featuring hundreds of ancient coins has been unearthed in a Derbyshire field. Metal detectorists made the astounding discovery in a village near Ashbourne. The hoard of 260 coins, dating from 194 to 378AD, have been legally classified as "treasure" at an inquest. They were found by metal detectorists Thomas Dobson and Robbie Wilson at the side of a bronze-age barrow, in Parwich, in March 2018. The Derbyshire Times reported that the inquest, held at Chesterfield Coroner’s Court, heard the coins were buried two and-a-half feet underground [...]  The hoard was initially reported to the county's finds liaison officer Alastair Willis[...] He told Derbyshire Live: "The hoard is fascinating because it was found buried in the side of what may have been a Bronze Age barrow (burial mound). "The discovery of the coins indicates that the site probably had a sacred significance to local people during the 4th century AD. "The site is still under investigation by archaeologists, so more information about the hoard and the site might become available in the future."[...] Most coins in the hoard were [...] from the AD330s and 340s, but there were a handful of earlier and later coins. It was not clear if the coins, which could have been a votive or ritualistic offering given the nature of where they were found, formed a single deposit or were placed at the site over a number of decades.
The journalists missed the point that NO information about the context of the find comes from 'metal detecting' (collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record). The FLO may have been 'fascinated' by metal detecting partners digging down to bedrock through the side of a prehistoric earthwork, the rest of us think his job should consist of publicly and loudly condemning such selfish vandalism. 

Liechtenstein Raider with metal detector Caught in the Act and Deported

In Liechtenstein, a foreign Raubgräber ('thieving digger') with metal detector has been caught in the act on an archaeological site at Schellenberg and deported (Raubgräber mit Metalldetektor auf frischer Tat geschnappt,  23. Oktober 2019 12 ).
Als ein Mann in der Burgruine Schallenberg mit einem Metalldetektor auf die Suche nach archäologischen Gegenständen ging, erwischte ihn die Liechtensteiner Landespolizei auf frischer Tat. Der Mann war ausgerüstet mit Handspaten und Metalldetektor. Offensichtlich suchte er das Gebiet rund um die «Burgruine Schellenberg» ab und führte auch illegale Grabungen durch. Der Mann suchte nach archäologischen Gegenständen. Die Polizisten verwiesen den Mann nach einer Befragung des Waldes und nahmen im sein Werkzeug ab. Er wird angezeigt.
As the local media points out - something the British press would never do - Rabgräuber stehlen nicht nur Gegenstände, sondern zerstören auch Spuren und Fundzusammenhänge. Archäologische Objekte gehören dem Land und müssen dem Amt für Kultur gemeldet werden, schreibt die Liechtensteiner Landespolizei. [Thieving diggers not only steal items, but also destroy archaeological traces and find contexts. Archaeological objects belong to the state and must be reported to the Department of Culture, writes the Liechtenstein National Police].

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Metal Detecting Ancient Woodland

I was alerted by a reader to some metal detecting videos on the "iDetect" You Tube channel that shows a bloke hoiking aarttefacts out of what passes for ancient woodland in the UK: He says:
all the idiots/the uneducated/ the oafs of the world of Metal Detecting [should] have their contact with the outside world cut off. I refer specifically to a video from 'YouTube Superstar' iDetect uploaded on Sunday 20 October 2019 which very clearly shows him pilfering antiquities from [ancient woodland] These idiots need to be stopped before further damage to the record is caused. [...] Behaviour of this 'idiots' type hurts me to my soul. Where is the education? Where is the drive to learn about the area, where is the ambition to share their findings? All disregarded to increase their following. What is English Heritage doing to properly protect these sites and stop such oafs rampaging through British history?
The video (below) is pretty shocking, detecting in ancient woodland where there is no ploughing and the coins are within inches of the surface (No gates to shut as per NCMD, but "UKMetal Detectorists' Code of Best Practice for Responsible Treatment of the Archaeological Record" anyone?). ? He also notices that once he's stripped the artefacts out, no more are being brought to the surface, the site is simply trashed and 'gets more difficult to get fings from'. He says right at the beginning that he'd been metal detecting there a year earlier and spent a lot of time there. Refers viewers to the "fallen over tree' that he'd been hoiking stuff from earlier. He said he had the gamekeeper's permission - no mention there of the landowner that I heard. Near the end of this over-long look-at-me exercise in ego-stroking we hear the bloke say "Oi've got a bucket full of Roman coins, they don't do anyfink for me". I reckon listening to the way the man talks "educating him" would be a bit of an uphill battle.


TREASURE IN THE ANCIENT WOODS??? posted on You Tube by iDetect 35K subscribers ( 6,272 views) 

But it gets worse, my reader is convinced the Roman material coming up here is from a known and protected site:
Sparsholt Roman Villa. [...] I know this for two reasons. Firstly I spent a lot of time on that excavation and as it was one of my first it is in my memory as if it happened yesterday. Secondly another archaeologist I keep in touch with from that area walks their dog on the country park where the villa is sited. She sent me the link immediately, she is 100% sure it is that location. She is going there tomorrow to take images which match the exact location they filmed from to pass to Winchester City Museum who are the custodians of the artefacts discovered. 
The video channel has lots of films, how many of them are made on the same site?

Some pasture detecting ("double dipping") too:

WTF! FIRST HOLE TREASURE FOUND..posted on You Tube by iDetect 27 May 2019 

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