Tuesday, 18 January 2022

UK's NCMD Excited to be Invited

After six week's silence following the internal turmoil that seems to have recently visited the National Council for Metal Detecting, the NCMD proudly announce:
NCMD visit British Museum for PAS Annual Report
The executive committee members of the NCMD were invited to the British Museum on the 14th December, for the launch of the 2020 Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) Annual Report and the 2019 Treasure Report. The event was launched by Arts Minister Lord Parkinson and he was joined by Hartwig Fischer, Head (sic) of the British Museum and Michael Lewis, Head of the PAS. Photos below include the NCMD Chair Wendy Howard and Communications Officer Dave Crisp, along with Lord Parkinson and Hartwig Fisher. There were some fantastic items on display, every one of them was a testimony to the hobby and the important role that Detectorists play in finding and recording of our heritage. For more information visit https://finds.org.uk/documents/annualreports/2020.pdf
14 January 2022
So, who represented the millions of people in the public of England and Wales who are not exploitive artefact hunters and were told how much of an important contribution the public reporting of chance finds has made to the finding and recording of our heritage? Eh, PAS?

Interestingly, this report of the results of spending hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money on this Scheme is just 21 pages thick.

Meanwhile, on a metal detecting forum near you, just a mouse click away, member crastinblack moans and then can't decide if he's making a statement or asking a question (Mon Jan 17, 2022 2:09 pm:
"I read the PAS editorial in last month's Treasure Hunting magazine. The impression I got was that PAS had a really negative view on metal detecting.
Have you seen the new PAS code of conduct video at https://finds.org.uk/ brought to you by Mr. Westcott? He seems to be promoting it via his Youtube channel. Isn't this basically exactly the same code of conduct that the NCMD have had for the last 40 years just with an AoD badge slapped on the front? I suppose it shows the power of good PR and networking?
He receives a response from one "Jungle" (Mon Jan 17, 2022 10:05 pm):
No, NCMD have only just followed IOD in endorsing the latest version.
Wow. First of all, Jungle is totally wrong. There has been no change on this page for yonks (and certainly pre-IOD). There is no endorsement there. This is the statement the NCMD put there when they withdrew their endorsement in 2017/2018. And nobody should be forgetting that the NCMD WITHDREW THEIR ENDORSEMENT of the multilaterally agreed Code of Best Practice (maybe Wendy Howard might like to take a look at this again).

I don't as a rule read Treasure Hunting Magazine and really do not feel inclined to buy it on the say-so of a bloke that cannot even work out how to use question marks and what the difference between the NCMD Code and any others is. But if the PAS has developed a "really negative view on metal detecting", I'd be very pleased they've finally (but 20 years too late) discarded the institutional blinkers and are addressing the issue as they should be.

The video needs promoting not just by the Institute of Detectorists, but everyone with any contact with metal detectorists. Has the MDF got it pinned as the top post for 2021? (Don't bother registering to check, they have not). The code itself is a (2017) update of the existing official Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales that the NCMD was consulted over and endorsed for a while when it suited them but they withdrew their endorsement in 2017. The screenplay of the video diverges from the printed text in several places... why?  

Monday, 17 January 2022

US Coineys Moaning Again

Shock-horror: " Any Greek coin struck prior to 1830 is now forbidden to be exported, according to the updated U.S.-Greece Memorandum of Understanding" wails hapless coiney churnalist Richard Giedroyć ('Greece Extends Memorandum of Understanding'). Leaving aside the tortured numiscentric syntax, the MOU was extended by the United States of America, as the way they set up the CCPIA, it's a one-sided process of a wannabe global-police superpower. He whines on further, echoing I am sure a certain lobbyist that he tends to quote (actually mentioned lower down his text):
Can you claim something is your cultural patrimony when your country didn’t even exist at the time the artifact or coin was produced? This minor detail isn’t an issue for Greece, which has recently extended its agreement with the United States through a Memorandum of Understanding to cover relics, art, and coins dating from the fourth century A.D. to 1830.
Some mixed up and simplistic thinking there (is he one of Trump's voters?). The cultural property of a territory on a bit of the landsurface and in territorial waters of our planet is protected by the state now exercising authority over that territory. So Stonehenge was not built by inhabitants of any "Kingdom of England" (let alone a UK), yet English Hweritage looks after it. Poland has a history of a thousand years, yet Iron Age sites like Biskupin were not built by inhabitants of any "Kingdom of Poland". Hoards of gold solidi buried in a field near Dresden was not buried by citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany (or even German Democratic Republic or Kingdom of Prussia). What nonsensical argument is this that the coineys are trying to drag up? Is coin collecting as bad for the brain cells as I sometimes suspect?

Giedroyć also mixes "export" and "import". The MOU he is referring to concerns the passage of artefacts from the international market into the USA. In this case, an attempt to restrict them to items documentable as having been exported legally from the source country. What actually is unreasonable about that, keeping potentially illegally exported material off the US market? Isn't there enmough of that already on the US antiquities and numismatic markets? Giedroyć does not explore that aspect.

The 1970 UNESCO Convention, to which the US is a half-hearted party (de facto only explicitly acknowledges one of its 23 articles) has as one of its fundamantal postulates that states in general, and states party in particular have the inalienable right to self-determine what material from their territory comprises its cultural heritage. The USA might exhibit Native American artefacts in "natural history" museums (seen it with my own disgusted eyes in Florida) and fail to control its export by any kind of permit system, but that does not mean that all states will treat certain groups of artefacts and other historical material from their territory with the same disdain.

Sunday, 16 January 2022

Wot, too much "metal"? Or Not Enuff Archaeological Loot to Loot?

A metal detectorist's review of Woburn Detecting rallys(sic) today.
"I really feel like we got mugged off today worst green waste, builders crap ever it was obviously clearly visible just laying on the top no refunds were ever mentioned. 70 people £1400
Wait a second, that's "green waste" with or without bits of metal artefacts in it? When is "metal detecting" not detecting metal? Serious question. You give a hobby a name that describes it, not one that misdescribes it. If we call it collection-driven exploitation of the ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECORD then the above comment makes sense. Otherwise it's nonsense. Innit?

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Lost Archaeology: Is Hearsay The Best We Can Do?

From a papyrologist that attended an online presentation about the trade in ancient material by Prof Erin Thompson... It seems that there are some ancient wooden writing tablets floating around coming (it seems) from Byzacena, and this group (?) of material has been on the market for "a while". Apparently most European and US academics are not willing to touch them and so nothing has been published, "although one can always find obscure journals of course ready to host shady objects". 

I have recently seen photos of what seem likely to be part of this group of objects, and it is my opinion from a number of visible characteristics that the ones I saw were most likely fakes. 

And where are these objects now? The ones I saw were on offer by a dealer.

But here we have a pretty typical situation, some hearsay tales of what would be really important finds if we knew more about their context ("from Byzacena" - still less "thought to be from Byzacena" - is not any form of archaeological context of deposition or discovery). There is some doubt that the objects are part of a closed single find, some characteristics suggest some are inserted fakes. And there is no firm documentation by which that context will ever be reconstructed with any certainty (that is the reality behind the soothing assertations of the Ixelles Six academics that this sort of situation is "merely zero gain")* 

The papyrologist even states: "as usual, very hard to find any solid information, only hearsay...". This is totally unsatisfactory. And what are archaeologists "doing" (I use the term loosely) about it? comments open, below.

By the way, for those not keeping up with the ancient world, Byzacena - more or less Tunesia.
Hat tip Prof Erin Thompson

Mr Beazley's Floral Suppository

 This has everything, Treasure, coprolites, "amateur archaeologists" and was written by a British journalist who it looks like just scraped through his CSE English (Freddie Webb, 'Amateur Archaeologists find 'extraordinary' Roman artefact dubbed 'paranormal paracetamol' near Havant' Portsmouth News Friday, 14th January 2022)

Amateur archaeologists have discovered what they call an ‘extraordinary’ Roman artefact and have dubbed it the ‘paranormal paracetamol’. They think the silver find is predicted to date back to the Emperor Constantine (306-337 AD) and is suspected to have healing properties. Waterlooville resident Peter Beasley, 80, and fellow enthusiast Lee McGowan, found it while metal detecting near Rowlands Castle. Mr Beasley said in all his years of ‘history hunting,’ he has never seen anything like it. He told The News: ‘We’re calling it the paranormal paracetamol, it’s incredible. [...] ‘It’s made of silver, about three quarters of an inch long and is shaped like a paracetamol tablet. ‘We found it at a site which we suspect to be a Roman temple, and the coins coming out of there date back to Constantine [...] Mr Beasley and Mr McGowan say they have also discovered 800 ‘offering coins’ at the site of the tablet, and they want to research the area in more detail. Mr Beasley said [...] ‘We’re going to very carefully record everything and we’ll see where we go from here’.
Note the use of the future tense there. This silver item is 19mm long:
After cleaning and recording the artefact, which was found five weeks ago, the treasure hunters found the symbol of the Chi Rho. [...] Lilies and daisies are also engraved on the artefact, which Mr Beasley said is common symbology for the Virgin Mary. ‘We’ve come to the conclusion that people would have swallowed it to cure them of sickness.’ The amateur archaeologist explained the artefact was jet black when it was found. He predicts that was due to the oxidisation of the silver, or it was preserved in a fossilised coprolite.
First of all, it is methodologically incorrect to project medieval symbolism back onto the Classical past, secondly no evidence is presented for interpretation of this as an item to be inserted in the body (swallowed or used as a rectal suppository?). Thirdly, the loose use of the adjective "paranormal" is nowhere justified.

This is pretty appalling, more so that a "professional treasure hunter" should know he has 14 days to report a potential Treasure item. He's overshot that by three weeks already.
Jenny Durrant @Durrant_Jenny 4 g.
As the local FLO I am waiting to see this item as potential Treasure, and then examine it for decoration and date. Apparently also 800 coins of which I was unaware [...].
One wonders how long a British archaeologist determining that the law was broken would "wait" before reporting it to law enforcement authorities and why. In any case, waiting gives ample time for evidence to be tampered with or deleted. Mr Beasley is well-known to this blog.

This is what the item looks like (finders' photo):

It does not look much like a silver artefact to me, still less one engraved with a chi-rho or daisies and lillies. How was it "cleaned" to end up with this appearance? This should have been seen by an archaeologist before poorly-worded and demented claims were made about it. Will the FLO confirm this is silver?

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Dumbdown Britain's Perpetual Problem of Public Ignorance


I suppose it is worth pointing out that palaeontologists are equally annoyed about another discipline taking all the glory.

Steinhardt's Veiled Head from Cyrene Returned from USA

Unpapered art enters... and leaves USA
The sites remain destroyed.

American prosecutors and law enforcement officers have announced they are to return an ancient antiquity to Libya after investigators concluded that smugglers had stolen the marble artefact from its country of origin (Ahmed Maher, 'US to return looted Veiled Head of a Female antiquity to Libya' MENA Jan 13, 2022).
A long investigation last month concluded that New York billionaire Michael H Steinhardt bought the antiquity in 2000. It came from a tomb in the ancient city of Cyrene, modern day Shahhat, in north-eastern Libya. [...] [reportedly,] Mr Steinhardt – whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $1.2 billion – has owned and traded more than 1,000 antiquities since 1987 and his art collection has been valued at about $200m.[...] “I’m committed to ensuring transactions in the art industry are legal and those peddling in stolen or looted antiquities are shut down," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said. "While the million-dollar price-tag on this relic is impressive, you can’t put a price on a country’s cultural heritage".[...] New York state laws allow prosecutors to return stolen property such as antiquities to its rightful owners irrespective of when the theft took place. 

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