Saturday, 13 April 2019

Collectors' Corner: Clacton's Bazaar (Bizarre) Modern EBayPalaeolithic


UK EBay seller emilbal-y0jmlc4z (314) from Clacton-on-Sea in Essex is challenged by punctuation and spelling, and has problems walking across a gravel beach, he keeps seeing animals, but he has decided to profit from his ability:
Here a[re] two Upper Paleolithic Portable Zoomorphic Rock Art stones. The first example on the left of picture one Resembles a rhino, which has been worked in a toffee coloured flint. The second example looks to be a cow or similar type of animal. These were discovered within deep north sea bed dredge material that was dredged from an area of the northseabed that was land at the end of the last ice age. Known as northsealand this area of land is bigger than the UK and once connected to Europe via a landbridge. Early humans lived here hunting woolly mammoths woolly rhinos and pygmy hippos to name just a few. Evidence of there (sic) lives have been discovered within the dredge material including fine flint tools rock art pottery and worked bone. Also masses of animal bones and teeth. At the end of the last ice the ice caps began to melt due to climate change this caused northsealand to melt which slowly became submerged the remaining land was devastated by a mega tsunami approxamately 8,000 years ago.
I wrote about this seller before, but there was (as usual) no reaction from the archaeological community and the seller is still very active. They've got many more items on sale right now - ten at the moment, including:

Here is a duo of Upper Paleolithic/mesolithic Portable Rock Art animals. This nice duo consists of a deer type of animal and a cow or auroch (sic). Both are nice examples and are well worked considering there (sic) size. I believe that these were created for education (sic) purposes as well as being creative. I believe such items were needed at a time when language was certainly in its infancy Although this is a speculation.
Certainly a speculation. Emilbal has been trading for a while on EBay (Member since: Apr-23-15 in United Kingdom), mostly jewellery and bric a brac, but half way up their feedback profile woolly mammoth teeth and bones appear, and then we get the 'zoomprphic stones', 'more than a year ago' according to EBay (viewing 201-225).

* * * 

They have a local rival on EBay, also from Clacton-on-Sea, a real hotbed of lithic "artefact" acquisition and sales these days it seems. They may even have gone to the same school. This  second guy  (dvdad123_7 (83  ) appears to be a detectorist, has capslock problems, can't seem to work out how to turn it off, but has somewhat more ambitious pricing, for example his offer of an 'EXCELLENT PALEOLITHIC ANTHROPOMORPHIC SHAPED FLINT TOOL' can be yours for just $1,308.79
A CLEVER PALEOLITHIC / NEOLITHIC ANTHROPOMORPHIC
SHAPED FLINT TOOL
EARLY ROCK ART
FOUND IN THE UK
DVDad's offerings include some choice phrasing:
A very early stone hand axe From the early Palaeolithic period Possibly Clactonian Found in clacton essex uk This item Contains both Human and animal imagery A good example of early rock art Free postage;
PALEOLITHIC VENUS BIRTH STONE WITH EGGS A REMARKABLE EXAMPLE OF THESE EARLY PALEOLITHIC IDOLS FOUND IN CLACTON ESSEX UK FREE POSTAGE'
A very nice Palaeolithic Zoomorphic shaped scraper A well worked example Of this early rock art Found in Clacton-on-Sea Essex uk Once home to Clactonian man And the clactonian tool industry Free postage;
EARLY PALEOLITHIC FLINT ROCK ART AXE WITH HUMAN / ANIMAL FEATURES FOUND IN ESSEX UK;
This one is interesting, with mention of a vanished race, note the "detectorists' dermatitis" in the photo:
PALEOLITHIC HUMANOID / BIRD SHAPED FLINT TOOL GBP 29.99 A VERY UNUSUAL ROCK ART FREE STANDING FLINT TOOL FROM THE PALEOLITHIC / NEOLITHIC PERIOD FANTASTIC ONE EYE OPEN ONE EYE SHUT THIS PIECE ALSO REPRESENTS A BIRD FORM AND WAS USED AS A CHOPPING TOOL FOUND IN CLACTON-ON-SEA ESSEX UK ONCE HOME TO AN ANCIENT RACE CALLED CLACTONIAN KNOWN FOR THERE UNIQUE FLINT KNAPPING TECHNIQUE. FREE POST
Then there is this: 'ONE OF PALEOLITHIC NESTING BIRD / ANIMAL FLINT BLADE (. UK ) Price: GBP 15.99
FANTASTIC PIECE OF EARLY ARTWORK EARLY PALEOLITHIC FLINT SCRAPER / BLADE SUPER GRIP WITH A STUNNING /BIRD ANIMAL IMAGE FOUND IN CLACTON ESSEX ONCE HOME TO CLACTONIAN MAN AND THE CLACTONIAN TOOL INDUSTRY THIS ITEM WAS FOUND IN DREDGED NORTH SEA MATERIAL WHEN OUR LOCAL BEACHES WERE RECHARGED SOME YEARS AGO THE MATERIAL WAS DREDGED AND PUMPED ON TO THE BEACHES FROM A AREA THAT WAS ONCE LAND AND AN OASIS CALLED DOGGERLAND ONCE HOME TO THIS ANCIENT RACE WHO FLOURISHED FOR HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF YEARS DUE TO GLAZIERS (sic) MELTING AND SEA LEVELS RISING THIS LAND AND ANCIENT CIVILISATION IS LONG GONE THIS ITEM WAS FOUND ALONG WITH THOUSANDS OF MAMMOTH TEETH ANIMAL BONES AND STONE TOOLS / SCULPTURES PLEASE CHECK OUT MY OTHER AMAZING ITEMS IM ALWAYS HAPPY TO COMBINE POSTAGE
I bet he is. He's got 56 stones on sale as artefacts in the 'Neolithic and Paleolithic Antiquities' section. He's sold 99 items already (Member since: Aug-26-17 in United Kingdom), and has only had happy customers - among the stones he has had some fossilised mammoth teeth on sale too.


* * * 

It is difficult to see if these two beachcombers (mudlarks?) work together, they use different terminology for the part of the seabed they speculate the items came from (which was not an 'oasis' as it was never a desert). They do not seem to have (or claim to have) much archaeological knowledge, neither of the period, nor - in particular - flint knapping techniques or lithogenesis of silaceous nodules. Otherwise they would not make these elementary mistakes of identification. The question is whether they are doing so in ignorance or full cynical knowledge. That the reader can decide. However, given that there are (many) texts on telling worked from unworked lithics, is a seller who specifically calls certain surfaces on the object they are selling 'worked'  guilty of fraudulent behaviour if they cannot use those texts to point to the characteristics that make that stone an artefact other than 'wot my imaginashun  sez it is'? EBay stresses each time: 'Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing', so what responsibility does somebody have who represents something as an ancient artefact that in fact is not, when representing it as such entitles him asking a higher price than for 'an odd-shaped pebble wot I pikked up on the beach'?  Because that is what it seems to me these people are selling.

And where is the Portable Antiquities Scheme in this? Surely they are there to share archaeological information and educate the wider public on the difference between artefacts and odd-shaped stones. The PAS database has just four Clactonian artefacts on their database - none from Essex. There are 42 Palaeolithic artefacts from Essex on the PASdatabase, far less than these two sellers claim to be selling just this week (and probably have been selling since 2017) from one locality just down the road from the FLO's office. So why has no contact been made with these searchers? The only Palaeolithic object from Clacton on the database was recorded by the Sussex FLO. Yet there have been a number of amateur searchers that have been combing the foreshore of Northeast Essex for artefacts, since the pioneer work there of Hazzledine Warren in the early part of the 20th century. 

So what's going on? There are large numbers of artefacts being removed from the archaeological deposits and surface scatters of this sensitive region, and items are being misidentified and immediately being put on sale by finders and once again the PAS database is not capturing even a fraction of the data. Where is the PAS in this situation, how come people are buying artefacts that have not been PAS vetted and as a result losing their money on a load of crap? 

Where is the archaeological community as a whole? Everybody who's done an archaeology course at university will have had at least 'stone tools 101' and every single one of us can see these stones for what they are (or are not) and it would seem a vary large number of them are quite OK with that, and the misrepresentation of the past that is going on here in the UK. Why? Why does nobody care enough to raise this issue with EBAy, the PAS or the seller (or indeed the police)? Is this not like our general carelessness about the popular 'ancient aliens' and 'lost knowledge of the ancients' para-archaeologies ? A general public fostering and holding false and sensationalist pictures about the past (here about an alleged secret ability to shape geological processes to produce stones that 'look like' something else)  is not one that will need true archaeology with its mundane stories.  Why are UK archaeologists and academics unconcerned about this aspect of the democratisation of the trade in portable antiquities?

Have you found an odd-shaped stone - what's stopping you from selling it on EBay as John the Baptist's petrified foreskin?


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