Sunday 7 June 2009

"Job Lot of Ten PAS-Identified Objects"

“Buy it Now” price eight quid for:
200336679876 Lot of 10 artefacts from various periods all identified with PAS information slips. Postage and packaging is £2.00 inland UK and £4.00 USA and worldwide.
They seem mostly to be buckle elements. The seller Antiquebottledigger based in Nottingham UK has been on eBay since June 1998, now registered as a ‘business seller’ and has 2572 transaction points. He has been mentioned here before as the vendor of one of the group of shabtis I was querying here earlier – still no buyers.

The seller currently has on offer 503 auctions of metal artifacts (77 of which are coins, and a number of which are multiple objects offered as a single lot), probably the overwhelming majority of which are metal detector finds. But they are not his own, some are labelled as being from Lincolnshire, others from the Thames foreshore. To this the seller has added other items bought somewhere on the market, as evidenced not by the shabti, but also a Dark Age belt fitting are of southern central European type.

While it is nice to see that some of the items dug up in the UK have been recorded by the PAS before they were sold on, it is notable that this only applies to ten objects sold as a single lot out of the five hundred. While some of the items offered are old-timey pieces of no great age or archaeological significance, so not particularly PAS record-worthy, scattered among them are a sizable number of items which certainly are. The ten items out of more than 500 lots means that this dealer is showing that only a fifth of a percent of the metal detected finds on offer have been reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. This is pretty typical of what we see on eBay in general. All the rest of the items on sale by this seller have been removed from the ground without any kind of record (as we have seen in this blog, in the case of the Balkan and Egyptian finds also probably found their way onto eBay by illicit channels). Still, I am sure if a foreign buyer purchases one of these items Mr Antiquebottledigger will be sending any items which are the direct products of excavation abroad with the export licence sorted out, apparently (since he makes no mention of one) for no extra charge.

Several factors lead us to the conclusion that the items being reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme are only a relatively small proportion of those being removed day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year from archaeological assemblages all over Britain. The most British archaeologists and policy makers can do is shrug their shoulders.

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