Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Farmers Get Informed About Market Value of Portable Antiquities

It only took farmers and landowners three decades to learn that those "old bits of metal" detectorists were coming to them and asking if they could look for and take away for free actually have a, not inconsiderable, market value. Possibly Farmer Silas Brown of Grunters Hollow had something to do with it, perhaps it was the door-knockers and forum-advertisers representing the commercial artefact hunting firms that were doing it, but we may well be seeing an end to the free-for-all that has encouraged the growth of the hobby so far. Good.

500 quid a year is offset by finding just thirty objects worth 16 quid each. Perhaps farmers can charge more and the keen tekkies can still afford it.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

UK Looting: The PAS and the Elephant in the Room

Heritage Action 'Tick, tick, tick. The country that let its heritage be removed' (24/07/2021)
Our Artefact Erosion Counter recently ticked over 14 million. [...] No doubt most detectorists will seek to rubbish the figure. Let them. They should know that the 14 million figure is based on our original estimate that there were 8,000 active detectorists whereas now there are 27,000.
My updated version here operates on the basis of the same HA figures for finds rate, but compensates for the number of tekkies we now think there are. It takes as its starting point the beginning of the attempt to mitigate this loss by the PAS. According to HA figures the sum of objects removed and pocketed by artefact hunters since this time is a shocking-enough 7,134,019. My counter shows it is more likely to be 9,349,336. Where are all these artefacts coming from? Where are they going? And how much archaeological information about the past of the UK has been simply obliterated by these diggers? And what, pray PAS, have you actually replaced that with? A dot distribution map of Snodling Type 1A thingamyjigs? Please.

In the same period, the PAS has created just 985,289 records of some of these missing finds. , just over a tenth of them. Nine in ten of them have disappeared without trace.

Friday, 16 July 2021

NCMD Fracture Reported [Updated]

                  Geriatric isolationists              
 Readers of this blog will know there is no love lost between myself and the UK's National Council for Metal Detecting. The latter live in the past, cannot accept that detecting has moved on since the 1980s, and consistently block initiatives for co-operation with heritage professionals (like over the Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting - Petulant NCMD Leaders Won't Follow the Code, "Unworkable" PACHI Monday, 20 April 2020; The NCMD and Institute of Detectorists : Responsible Metal Detecting a "Potential Threat"? PACHI Sunday, 9 August 2020). They constantly see themselves as beseiged by critics and ill-wishers, when in British archaeology nothing could be further from the truth. They seem to me to be just a complete load of wallies. 

Peter D. Spencer has been following some of the internal politics of this group of individuals and discovered some worrying things. He has produced an interesting account of what he has established so far (Is the NCMD falling apart? Detecting Finds blog July 16, 2021). This begins with presenting the rather cumbersome internal 1980s structure of the NCMD. The executive committee is composed of representatives of eight regions: Anglian, Scottish, Yorkshire, North West, Midlands, Western, North East, Southern, plus something called the Central Register. It seems, however, that members were not kept in touch with the split that has developed in this Executive Committee over the past year, apparently exacerbated by the Covid crisis and the necessity to adopt remote working rather than face-to-face meetings. Not only has there has been a significant difference of opinion on a number of points, but also questions of financial transparency. According to Spencer:
Four of the regions, Yorkshire (Syd Hallam), Western (David Rees), Midland (John Wells), Southern (Clive Sinclair), were unhappy with the way in which the NCMD seemed to be heading. They believe that decisions have been made that are outside the rules set down in the Constitution of the NCMD [...] One area that the four opposition regions are particularly concerned about is the finances of the NCMD. There are reports that the NCMD has cash deposits of between £300,000 – £500,000. The problem is, no one seems to know for certain. Members of the Executive Committee have asked several times to view the full NCMD accounts for the last five years. They have not been made available. Every member of the NCMD is entitled to see the accounts, let alone members of the Executive Committee.[...] They also fear that the NCMD could end up as a business run by directors, rather than a body run by experienced and dedicated volunteers.
I know some of these names from previous interactions with the detecting community. Anyway, things are now developing fast according to Mr Spencer:
Breaking News – Opposition region delegates expelled from NCMD Executive Committee
Last night, I was made aware of an Extraordinary Meeting of the NCMD which took place on 12 July 2021. At that meeting, it was decided that the majority of the Executive Committee will no longer recognise Brian Vaughan, David Rees, John Wells, Clive Sinclair, and Sydney Hallam as members of the Executive Committee. The meeting was arranged in haste, with the agenda only being circularised on 10 July 2021. It is not clear what the decision means in practice or whether such a course of action is possible within the constitution of the NCMD. I hope to bring you an update on this breaking news in next Friday’s update.
I note that there are some interesting deletions from the internet records referring to the NCMD that seem to have taken place. Is this material archived somewhere? Are we getting the full story? 

Mr Spencer himself is of the opinion that "metal detecting" is [somehow] "under threat", and "A united front is needed for the NCMD to continue to promote, protect and encourage the hobby of metal detecting". First of all, perhaps this debacle shows that this "body run by experienced and dedicated volunteers" really is unable to cope with actually representing anything. Secondly, with a hobby that has apparently exploded to some 27000 members in England and Wales alone, most of whom do NOT follow the Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales, and most of whom do NOT report anything like the number of artefacts they hoik out of the archaeological record and walk off with, does this exploitive hobby need any more promotion, encouragement and protection? Does not "metal detecting" now need protecting against itself? Certainly the diminishing archaeological record of the British Isles needs protecting against IRRESPONSIBLE (ie not in alignment with the Code in any way) artefact hunting, precisely the type of artefact hunting promoted and encouraged by this NCMD. 

And where are the 300+ thousand quid and what are they being used for? Let us recall that a sum of 50000 quid was recently given from public funds to look into setting up an Institute of Detecting (run by detectorists for detectorists) when the NCMD seems from what is reported in Spencer's text to have had the funds to set it up themselves. Is that so? Take, take, take.

UPDATE (17.07.2021):
The NCMD has now issued a statement about these events and their background, which shows some of this in a somewhat different light. We note that though most of the western world has shifted to remote-working, the people recently expelled from the Executive Committee are reported to have had a long-term aversion to online meetings (by Zoom) during lockdown that affected their ability to function, the 330,000 quid "fighting fund" is explained. But I note 
Online banking – The NCMD Exec. Committee unanimously agreed to the Treasurer’s recommendation that we move to online banking at an Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) in February 2020. This allowed greater oversight of our finances and access to live banking activity, as a number of observers could now see all our bank accounts 24/7, minimising risks of irregularities going unnoticed. These 5 individuals objected to this 9 months later.

Could this just be that the Quartet simply distrust computers?
Audit – In January this year, the NCMD Officers proposed a full audit of NCMD accounts to check our accounts and to get expert advice on actions we should be doing to protect your money for the future. The 5 individuals blocked this.
Odd. The very same accounts they say they want to learn more about. There is perhaps more to all this than meets the eye. To be honest knowing the NCMD and the fractious type of people that it attracts and supports, it’s pretty amazing they’ve hung together so long, but this has been achieved mainly by inventing a “common enemy” that “has to be fought or we lose are ‘obby”.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Sheffield Archaeology Killed


"Colleagues in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield have today been informed that the University of Sheffield Council has decided to endorse the proposal of the University Executive Board to close our Department. This means the unequivocal end of Archaeology in the University of Sheffield. We received this information in a presentation by the Vice Chancellor, which lasted 13 minutes. There was no ability to engage or respond as our microphones and cameras were kept off the entire time. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the decision taken by the university as well as the rudeness and lack of professionalism of the form of communication chosen by the VC. This is a decision that harms both the University and the City of Sheffield, within which our Department is strongly embedded. Our campaign to oppose this calamitous decision will continue."
Umberto Albarella
Department of Archaeology
University of Sheffield
But the metal detecting goes on.

Monday, 12 July 2021

Greco-Roman and Egyptian Antiquities Valuations


Collectors: Got any loose Graeco-Roman or ancient Egyptian "stuff" at home? Wanna know how much it's worth?

"Valuemystuff" seem to miss out questions about collection history and any paperwork you may have for it (as unimportant to value or anything else?)
It is a common misconception that only archaeologists find antiquities and in fact 80% of antiquities are discovered by private collectors who are amazed at the treasures they have uncovered. The category is very closely linked to scholarly research and most associated through stories told by museums who continue to preserve and invest in the remaining rare artefacts that are found. Get an online Ancient Art and Antiquities valuation from our specialist in less than 48 hours! Our Greco-Roman & Egyptian Antiquities Experts
Our expert has been involved in the Antiquities trade since 1989, working for Bonhams; as well as conducting valuations for other organisations, both government and trade. She has been involved with and kept abreast of developments in legislation relating to this field.
Garbled ghost of a PAS press-release there? Its not clear how many experts they have nor why "she" has a beard in the photo.

So, is it true that 80% of the archaeological record (of the UK, presumably) lies in private hands just waiting to be evaluated - though in primarily financial terms, hoping to find a museum that will "invest" by buying them off you?

That's the ones of course where the seller can demonstrate legality of excavation and export and that they therefore have title. Yes, "valuemystuff"?

The Looting And Illicit Trafficking Of Antiquities

The Looting And Illicit Trafficking Of Antiquities
An interesting piece on Soundcloud in which Majdolene Dajani in
terviewing Professor Erin Thompson does a great job summarizing the relevant laws and giving examples:

The looting and illicit trafficking of antiquities is an issue that has gained considerable attention, especially over the last few years due to the impact of several armed conflicts on the tangible cultural heritage of several countries in Western Asia. An interview with professor Erin Thompson provides some insight into the various aspects and complexities of this topic including the sale of looted artifacts in legal art markets, law enforcement, repatriation, and fakes.
I think this is a really cleverly-constructed, well-balanced and interesting piece that covers a lot of different aspects. I was pleased to see the inclusion of Native American artefact looting (and UK "metal detecting") tucked in alongside the classical antiquities that tend to be treated as a separate issue. The emphasis however is very much that of the US. Perhaps some might find the music a bit intrusive (?), but I thought it was perfect for the topic and treatment.

Who'd love to see a UK version produced with the same coverage and panache? I'd not hold your breath though.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

"Mystery Find" or Unknown Context?

     PAS pleased as Punch about a buckle
BBC Mystery North Norfolk treasure 'could be sword-related' 10th July 2021

A mystery object found by a metal detector in Norfolk could be linked to a sword, an expert has said. The gilded silver early Anglo-Saxon object was found in Field Dalling in Norfolk last September and declared to be treasure this week. [...] A report sent to the Norfolk coroner said it was reminiscent of a buckle from Proosa in Estonia
So why is this not a left-over from the "seeding" of venue of a long-forgotten commercial metal detecting event 3 decades ago with bulk-buy "partifacts"? A mere "X-marks the spot" findspot in a "database" is not data. What counts is the site context of the find - which the PAS "database" simply does not record.

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